Coronavirus has caused devastating effects on our health and our society and it almost feels vulgar to even discuss what effect it is having on the cosmetic treatment industry. But you can’t help but notice the plaintive posts on social media such as “when can I get my next filler treatment?” or “OMG my Botox has worn off!” The lockdown has led to the closure of non-essential high street establishments including hair and beauty salons and clinics offering non-invasive treatments such as Botox, fillers and fat freezing. The NHS has temporarily taken over private hospitals throughout the country in case of the NHS becoming overwhelmed by Coronavirus, thankfully it hasn’t, which means that there is no cosmetic surgery taking place. We don’t know yet when clinics will be able to reopen or when normal(ish) services will resume in private hospitals.  But we can expect cosmetic surgery operations to resume more slowly whilst the backlog of more urgent procedures is got under control. For those patients that are awaiting their cosmetic treatment who may have this open-ended postponement is no trivial matter. Multiple studies have demonstrated that many patients suffer genuine psychological anguish because of their physical appearance and gain a great deal in terms of quality of life from their surgery. For example, patients with very prominent ears or marked breast asymmetry. 

So what can you do if you are somebody who is cursing the lockdown for its delay on your treatment? Well if it’s a non-invasive treatment such as dermal fillers or Botox you’ve got a bit of time. Fillers last at least 6 month and Botox starts to wear off after 3 months. Thread Lifts (dissolving threads passed under the skin that lift drooping skin, especially in the face) last 9 to 18 months. Whatever you do, resist the temptation to purchase products online for self-injection (yes, really). This may seem far fetched but fillers in particular, as non-medicinal products, are very easy to come by over the Internet. Self-injection is best avoided as inadvertently injecting a blood vessel can have disastrous consequences. Whilst you are waiting for your clinic to reopen you can focus on keeping your skin healthy by having a healthy diet, applying daily moisturiser and avoiding getting sunburnt. Lockdown may be a good opportunity for some to stop smoking which is known to accelerate facial ageing.  If you are awaiting cosmetic surgery, it is even more important to focus on your health. The fitter you are the less risk you will have of experiencing a complication such as delayed wound healing and you will recover quicker. Many cosmetic operations such as tummy tuck, breast lift or arm lift involve removing excess skin, so if you can reduce your weight the surgeon will be able to remove more skin meaning a better aesthetic outcome.

It is inevitable that the coronavirus pandemic will lead to changes, some permanent, in the healthcare and cosmetic surgery industries. In the short term clinics and hospitals will have to take extra precautions to prevent patients catching coronavirus and for some patient the added risk of coronavirus may tip the balance against having surgery. There will be less capacity in private hospitals to undertake cosmetic operations because they will be busy dealing with their own and the NHS backlogs.  The pressures on the NHS from the Coronavirus, which are going to persist for months if not years, mean that explicit judgements will have to be made on which treatments and operations are more worthwhile than others. There is no doubt that treatment for serious diseases such as cancer will be top of the list but it may mean that the waiting times for conditions that aren’t life threatening go up. In that environment it’s easy to imagine that society may view the cosmetic surgery as frivolous or unnecessary in which case fewer people may be inclined to have it. On the other hand the inhibitions on foreign travel will lead to fewer people going abroad for cosmetic surgery. Given the dangers of flying before and after surgery (blood clots) and the difficulties managing postoperative complications this is probably a good thing.  

Coronavirus will be beaten, there are already several promising vaccines being trialled. The human desire to look and feel as attractive as we can will persist. Ultimately this awful pandemic is unlikely to kill off the cosmetic surgery industry. So relax, that annoying wrinkle is living on borrowed time!

Richard Baker

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