Plastic surgery demand spikes during pandemic over Zoom insecurity

Demand for plastic surgery has spiked dramatically in recent months, and experts say it is because many workers are experiencing 'Zoom Dysmorphia' after seeing their own faces on video chat software for hours every day. This change in workflow has ultimately changed the frequency with which we see our own faces, potentially spurring insecurities that weren't there before.

Many people were transitioned to a work-from-home workflow months ago in an effort to reduce exposure to the coronavirus behind COVID-19. Key technologies have made this possible, not the least of which are webcams and video conferencing software — meaning, of course, that many people are staring at their own face for hours a day.

There's a good reason to believe that many people will continue to work from home — at least part-time — even after the pandemic ends, underscoring a potential new health issue that wasn't anticipated: increased demand for plastic surgeries that people otherwise may have never felt was necessary.

That's the subject of a new editorial published in Facial Plastic Surgery & Aesthetic Medicine, where the authors detail the new phenomenon dubbed "Zoom Dysmorphia" — the name, of course, referring to the popular video conferencing software Zoom.

"The authors have noted a surge in patients citing their appearance on Zoom as a reason to seek care, particularly concerned with acne and wrinkles," the editorial states, pointing out that Google Trends data likewise shows an uptick in searches for things like hair loss and acne during the pandemic.

Distorted perception

Though many people share pictures of themselves online, 'selfies' offer a degree of control over one's own appearance, enabling individuals to modify or obscure aspects of their appearance that they may find undesirable. Video conferencing software, however, offers no such control, instead presenting an unedited version of the person in real time.

The authors point out some technical issues that may be driving this insecurity, including the fact that one's appearance on a video chat may not be accurate. The wide-angle lenses often found in webcams and smartphones, for example, can cause a distortion effect that makes one's nose appear larger than it is and face more round.

There are multiple potential things that may explain the insecurity caused by video conferencing, the authors say, including the possibility that seeing one's own wrinkles may give one the appearance of being depressed, leading to feelings of depression. Alternatively, the increase in plastic surgery demand may simply be due to seeing one's own imperfections daily.

The authors sum up their report, stating:

This becomes a major concern when an individual becomes excessively preoccupied with real or imagined defects. A life disproportionately spent on Zoom may trigger a self-critical comparative response that leads people to rush to their physicians for treatments they may not have considered before months confronting a video screen, a new phenomenon of "Zoom Dysmorphia."