From even the earliest days of lockdown, there's been wild speculation about what the world would look like once we all reemerged. Now, more than a year and several major progress markers later, we're starting to get a clear picture as COVID-dormant industries start to wind back up. We suddenly have movie trailers again, tutorials for bright and colorful makeup trends are seeing outsized search volume, and making summer plans seems possible again.
The cosmetic surgery industry has also seen its peaks and valleys throughout the course of the pandemic. Initially, a concern over in-care spread and medical equipment availability outlawed elective surgery in many areas. But as we collectively settled into lockdown routines, many surgery restrictions relaxed and gave way to a wave of patients all trying to get in some pandemic plastic surgery—with some procedures' popularity spurred by platforms like Zoom and TikTok.
As the CDC says, fully-vaccinated individuals are safe to go mask-free almost everywhere, so it's no surprise cosmetic surgery and procedures are ramping up again. We spoke to a leading surgeon for an inside look at the year's most popular procedures, where those trends are going, and everything you need to know about them all.
Meet the Expert
Dr. Dara Liotta is a board-certified plastic surgeon and Byrdie Beauty & Wellness Board member based in NYC.
Plastic Surgery in 2020
"Plastic surgery was immediately on fire as soon as it was allowed," says Dr. Dara Liotta. She and her industry peers at first thought it would be a surgical slump through the year. But, those lucky enough to work remotely, save money, and possess spare time were back in the surgeon's office when regulations permitted.
The year's increased use of social media while at home played a significant factor in the pandemic surgery boom, too, Dr. Liotta explains. "Pre-COVID, most of us checked ourselves out in the mirror a few times a day at eye-level when we put on our makeup in the morning and maybe when we ran to the bathroom during the day and took a couple of selfies with the phone help up higher than our heads each day," she says. "Now, we're forced to stare at ourselves on Zoom, watch ourselves in animation while we talk, and worse still, look at ourselves at an unflattering angle." It's a principle familiar to anyone who's ever taken a selfie, felt cute, then deleted it later.
Dr. Liotta also points out that the pandemic meant much more time spent on social media as a stand-in for human interaction and connection. Along with the inevitable comparison that comes with seeing gorgeous photos of friends and strangers, the apps have become a surprising wealth of information for those curious about plastic surgery.
"Noses, in particular, are all over Instagram as before-and-afters," Dr. Liotta says. "People are seeing them more and more, and rhinoplasty is becoming very normalized." Plus, there was one huge bonus of getting a lockdown procedure: the mask, which Dr. Liotta calls the perfect post-rhinoplasty healing disguise. "No one will see your nose, so no one will ask questions, and by the time you reveal it, other people have probably forgotten what the old nose looked like."
Cosmetic Trends Today
As the face mask became the ultimate pandemic societal flashpoint, it makes sense that it would factor into the popularity of certain procedures. Dr. Liotta says that initially, the most popular procedures were focused on eyes—in other words, the only feature we can see with masks on.
Now, Dr. Liotta says, clients' focus has switched to everything under the mask—particularly rhinoplasty and chin augmentations—to capitalize on the final days of mass mask-wearing. "Most of my surgical practice is focused on rhinoplasty and revision rhinoplasty, and I‘m seeing now what I’m calling 'Rhino FOMO' now that we’re re-opening and masks are hopefully coming off," she tells Byrdie. "People seem desperate not to miss out on this perfect timing for rhinoplasty. Patients are coming in to book ASAP surgery with a sort of determination that is fierce."
For those considering a nose job, one of the most requested cosmetic surgeries of all time, you can expect to pay between $5,000-8,000 depending on your surgeon, your individual needs, and my importantly, your location. Patients can undergo open or closed surgery, though even open leaves minimal scarring these days.
And if you're looking to seize the final days of the mask as the perfect post-surgery shield, the worst of the bruising should be over within a couple of weeks—though it will be a month before you can do any exercise or strenuous activity. Rhinoplasties are often done in conjunction with chin augmentation to balance out the face's new proportions. A chin implant, made of synthetic material that feels very natural to the touch, typically runs between $2,00-6,000 and might take up to six weeks for swelling to subside and the results to truly reveal themselves.
Surgical lip lifts are another major procedure trend seen throughout social media, one way to get permanent results instead of temporary filler. Far less common (for now, anyway) than rhinoplasty and chin augmentation, a surgical lip lift involves cutting beneath the nose to remove a strip of skin between the nose and the lip, Dr. Liotta tells us.
"This physically lifts the lip border and rolls the lip outward and upward, shortening the distance between the nose and lip, increasing the volume of the lip, and accentuating the cupid’s bow," Dr. Liotta explains. And while the surgery is effective, the recovery period is three months long and will leave a small, red scar that may take your full recovery period to fade. The lip lift surgery should cost between $2,000-5,000.
No matter the procedure, the most important thing is to find a doctor you like and trust who makes you feel comfortable. Regardless of if it's elective or not, surgery is serious and your comfort and safety come before anything — even one architecturally flawless piece of cartilage.