The coronavirus has, in a relatively short time, completely upended our perspective on a lot of things, including ourselves. After a few months of daily Zoom meetings and missed nail, hair, and filler appointments, many of us have discovered new reasons to feel insecure about our appearance—while trying to fend off all-too-familiar ones.
When dermatologists across the Mid-Atlantic region like myself reopened their offices, we were confronted with long patient waitlists and complex new safety protocols. And while the future remains anything but clear, with several weeks of consults and calendars packed with patients behind us, some clear trends have emerged, giving light to the new contours of the aesthetics landscape this summer.
A cautious approach for safety’s sake
Despite the demand, some dermatologists are limiting the number of patients they’re seeing and/or certain kinds of treatments. Frustrating as it may be to not secure an appointment as soon as you’d like, remember that it’s being done for safety’s sake.
Yes, we’re adhering to both state-mandated and industry-recommended guidelines, but within those, every doctor needs to find their own comfort zone. One of the most unnerving parts of this pandemic is that we’re learning about the virus as we try to defend ourselves from it, and each week seems to bring about a revelation that partially undermines our prior course of action.
Over recent weeks, ablative lasers have come under scrutiny because they produce what’s called a plume. That’s the vapor and particle debris that’s released into the air from skin ablation. Some dermatologists are refraining from offering laser treatments, even as their patients ask for them, because an ablative laser in an infected patient may lead to further spread of such particles.
The likelihood of laser-induced plumes posing any additional risk is small because, unlike other viruses which target skin cells, COVID-19 resides in the respiratory tract. The trouble is, as is so often the case these days, we don’t know for certain because the research regarding laser treatments and their capacity to transmit COVID-19 is lacking.
Injectables will see us through
But there’s a treatment—or, rather, a category of treatments—that’s rushing in to fill the void. Injectables represented the fastest-growing segment of minimally-invasive cosmetic surgery before the pandemic. That position appears likely now to solidify even further. Many of us emerged from a months-long quarantine looking a bit frayed and perhaps even significantly older. Injectables, and neuromodulators like Botox, specifically, offered one of the quickest ways to feel better about ourselves with the least downtime.
Others are seizing the social-distancing dictums and new work-from-home arrangements as a unique opportunity to finally try out that filler they’ve been considering but were too self-conscious to attempt before now. Some are motivated to revive the upper half of their face after too many unflattering Zoom meetings. Others are seeking to remedy dull skin, shadows on their necks, and suddenly-prominent frown lines, all accentuated by unflattering lighting and camera positions.
Between the loyal regulars and the influx of so-called “filler virgins,” more injectable-driven procedures will be done this summer than any other kind. Dare I say, they’ll help see us through this.