The pandemic plastic surgery boom is old news, but lately, surgeons say that interest and demand have only grown. Americans spent over $9 billion on plastic surgery in 2020, according to The Aesthetic Society, despite about an eight-week elective surgery shutdown across the country. And 2021, surgeons say, far surpassed that revenue baseline, with one plastic surgeon even calling 2021 the "heyday" of plastic surgery. Historically, Halloween through Christmas is the busiest time of year for plastic surgery for many reasons, including insurance deductibles being met to parents having time off from work. But for many surgeons, the past year-and-a-half has passed at that same hectic, rapid-fire pace.
"This tends to be a huge time to get things done, but because of COVID and people working from home, the entire last year and a half has been kind of crazy for plastic surgery," says New York City-based double board-certified plastic surgeon Melissa Doft, M.D.
As we're entering 2022, we've asked plastic surgeons for their thoughts and forecasts — although all of them mused whether anyone could predict the future anymore — for the upcoming year in aesthetics.
Plastic Surgery's Ebbs and Flows Will Reflect COVID Outbreaks
The last two years have been filled with twists and turns, and the common denominator is the pandemic. "From what I've seen in my practice, so much of the want and desire for surgery has followed COVID trends," says Washington, D.C.,-based board-certified plastic surgeon Troy Pittman, M.D. "Whenever there was a spike in COVID and things looked like they were shutting down more, we saw more patients coming in for procedures."
Yet when the vaccine rolled out, Dr. Pittman says he saw "a real dip" in late summer, as vaccinated people started to pack their schedules with trips, hobbies, and friends — and delayed their surgeries in a rush to return to their former lives. Dr. Pittman says that "a lot of patients" who were booked for an August surgery "ended up postponing to November and December."
COVID's definitely not over, and Dr. Pittman doubts that the world of plastic surgery will ever go back to how it was pre-COVID. "We used to be able to kind of predict our year," he says. "There were breast augmentations ahead of spring break, and there were times when kids were out of school so parents would get surgery." And now, with hybrid work schedules, people are finding more ways to squeeze in procedures by taking a few days off and going back into the office if they need to, Dr. Sieber says of his recent patients.