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‘It’s a psychological fact that if you look well you’ll feel well’: the ‘Zoom effect’ in Ireland

How work video calls is inspiring a rise in aesthetic and surgical cosmetic procedures

With many people’s working lives moving from in-person to on-screen over the last couple of years, seeing themselves on camera every day has become a – not always welcome – reality. As a result, the “Zoom effect” – an increase in cosmetic and aesthetic procedures due to people seeing themselves on-screen all the time – has entered the lexicon.

“It does come up during the consultation with patients,” says Dr Peter Prendergast, director of Venus Medical.

“It’s that combined with people being out and about more. Before, they might not have been as concerned about doing treatments because they weren’t interacting with others, but now they’re being more social, meeting friends for coffee, and during work they may still be working in a hybrid model so still doing the video calls.”

Dr Ahmed Salman, clinical director of Auralia Medical Group, thinks that it’s more likely down to the fact that people weren’t making an effort to get dressed up during lockdown and so sees the increase in procedures due to people wanting to look and feel better about themselves, combined with having more time and spare funds to do so.

“If you think of the Covid era – we were sitting at home, working from home and not spending time on ourselves to look our best,” he says. “That was the main influencing factor in people trying to improve their appearance and feel better about themselves. It’s a feel-good factor. It’s a psychological fact that if you look well you’ll feel well.”

Dr Dallas Walker, non-surgical aesthetic doctor of Dr Dallas Clinic, says that people often took advantage of the mask mandates to have procedures like lip fillers done. “When the whole pandemic started there was a fear that people weren’t going to bother getting procedures as ‘nobody was going to see my lips’,” he says.

“But then people would see themselves on camera, and see sagging or feel like they’ve aged. People couldn’t go out and there was no point in buying clothes, so it was a good time to do it. Many people had been sitting on the fence, always wanting a little something done, and then it was required to wear a mask, so it made the decision easier.”

For Dr Walker, treatments to relax muscles and smooth lines and anti-wrinkle injections in the upper face and chin have always been popular, but the last four years in particular have seen a real push.

“People are discussing it with their friends and it’s become much more of a social norm and treatment. The stigma has settled.”

He has also seen an increasing number of men wanting procedures. “Husbands and wives come in together – often booked under the wife’s name – but both want treatments.”

Dr Prendergast says that there are an increased number of people wanting to treat the face and neck. “People are looking down into their computers more and they see themselves in the dreaded window looking back all day. So they’re focusing on these imperfections and areas they may not have seen before just looking in the mirror.”

They’re generally interested in less-invasive procedures, as there would be less downtime or recovery. “There’s probably been a 50 per cent increase in inquiries for those sort of treatments.”

Dr Salman says that tummy tucks and breast augmentations remain popular but haven’t increased in numbers.

“Facial surgery has probably increased, and Zoom may have had something to do with it. Especially before lockdown ended when people hadn’t seen others and wanted to look their best as things were opening up again.”

He says he did about 20 per cent more breast reductions and puts that down to people having time to exercise more. “A breast reduction is not really an aesthetic surgery. It affects your ability to move and to exercise.” He thinks people had time to do more exercise and found their ability to do so was impacted and wanted to do something about it.

He stresses that getting cosmetic work done is not a snap decision. “The path to surgery can take at least a year – sometimes as much as five,” he says. “None of my patients wake up in the morning and say, ‘I looked at myself on Zoom and now I’m going to get a tummy tuck’.”