The weird side effect from Zoom meetings everyone will be talking about soon

Zoom meetings have become the new norm during these COVID months when it comes to keeping up with your colleagues about the latest things that are happening work-wise.

Something that has become a trend within this commonly used app is a surge in people who are seeking cosmetic procedures as a result of seeing themselves on camera at least once a day.

Yes, this is what is referred to as a “Zoom Effect”, where people are taking care of the pesky things that bother them like their double chins, wrinkles, and eye bags which have become an oft problem whenever they connect with their co-workers from a virtual point of view. 

Is this something that will simmer down after COVID hopefully becomes a thing of the past, or will it surpass its trend status in the years to come? We chatted with New York Board-Certified Plastic Surgeon Dr. David Rapaport about it all where his answers to the above and many more might surprise you.

For those who are unaware can you explain what the “Zoom Effect” is? What is the most common procedure that is being asked for? 

A Zoom Effect that I have been asked about frequently refers to the recent uptick in demand for cosmetic procedures that many plastic surgeons including me are now seeing.

What we are seeing is increasing demand for a variety of aesthetic procedures, at a time when we may have expected people to want to avoid elective office visits during an ongoing pandemic.

In light of this phenomenon, I have taken the opportunity to ask my patients how they feel about having procedures these days. I’ve tried to determine whether these are people who are simply risk-takers or if something else is going on.

What I’ve learned is that with many of my patients there definitely is something else going on. These people by and large are not risk-takers. To the contrary, they are generally extremely careful and making great efforts to remain safe during the pandemic. In fact, I’ve had countless patients tell me that they are only leaving home for absolute necessities such as essential outdoor shopping and doctor’s appointments.

They clearly see visits for cosmetic treatments as essential for their mental well-being. Interestingly, although I have seen a sharp rise in people looking for facial injectables and Morpheus8 (a new and impressive minimally invasive treatment with can tighten skin) for the face, I am also seeing an increase in people seeking body contouring both in the form of CoolSculpting and liposuction.

So I don’t think this is entirely caused by the fact that people are always displaying their own faces and looking at other people’s faces while having conferences on Zoom.

I believe there often may be other factors involved. While I am sure that each person’s experience is different, I think there may be some lessons I can draw from my own emotional experiences during the pandemic that may be more widely applied. I believe this is true even though my experience was a bit unique.

My last international travel was my return from Tel Aviv on March 9, leaving Israel before the lockdown but traveling through a nearly totally deserted Ben-Gurion airport. I arrived in a pre-lockdown New York but passed through a similarly empty JFK airport.

I worked and was very busy for about 2 1/2 weeks, and then my practice was legally closed during the last week of March. This is because cosmetic plastic surgery and other treatments are appropriately not considered to be essential when one is dealing with a pandemic-related lockdown.

For two weeks, staying largely in my apartment in Manhattan, I felt helpless and increasingly frustrated and eager to do something even though it seemed there was nothing I could do. Finally, I was able to volunteer at the Bellevue Hospital Covid wards through a New York City program called the Medical Reserve Corps for which I had signed up during the early days of the lockdown.

The last time I had been at Bellevue was during my residency and fellowship in plastic surgery and microsurgery from 1990 to 1993. My new Bellevue experience was far different but equally important. Early in April when I started, the disease was peaking in New York and at Bellevue we encountered people crashing and dying multiple times every day.

By the end of April, things were much different and while the disease was still the same disease, the lockdown had its effect and there were far fewer severely ill patients and fewer deaths.

This whole experience taught me to treasure every day of life and to be sure to do the things that I felt important in my own life because I could not know how many more days or years I have left to live. Simple as that.

I think to some extent many people have been making their own reckoning of what is truly important in their lives. On a bigger picture level, I believe people have learned the true value of family and close friends.

Are you surprised at the uptick in patients who are requesting cosmetic surgery procedures as a result of this?

When it comes to discretionary spending, I have always been of the belief that once someone decides to change something on themselves, such as a facial enhancement with fillers, or body contouring with CoolSculpting or liposuction, then that change becomes a priority much higher than other forms of discretionary spending. The reason for this I think is simple. Our physical possessions come and go, but our face and body stay with us always.

Based on this reasoning. I expect that the increasing demand we are seeing now for cosmetic services will continue and grow even more after the pandemic is behind us. I am convinced that for every patient that does come in there are several patients who would love to have treatment now but are simply too scared because of the pandemic

Do you think these sorts of requests would’ve taken place at such a high volume if COVID wasn’t a thing?

In addition to my somewhat philosophical explanation, there are other more simple reasons to explain the recent boom in people seeking cosmetic procedures. These include the fact that so many forms of discretionary spending are currently severely limited due to the pandemic.

People generally cannot spend money on travel, they hesitate to purchase retail such as clothing and have little reason to buy expensive clothes when there is nowhere to go. Even our dining options are severely limited. This all leaves people who do continue to have income with limited outlets for spending.

Wearing a mask can be beneficial for those in recovery after said treatments. What else do you recommend they do to minimize the swelling and bruising?

The fact that we are wearing masks when in public makes it extremely easy to cover the effects of treatments to the lower face. These include lip fillers as well as fillers to the marionette folds under the mouth and treatments to tighten the skin of the jawline and neck such as Morpheus8. With Neograft hair transplantation, the fact that the back of the head is generally shaved and would contribute to downtime, becomes a non-issue in Zoom calls, as nobody can see the back of your head.

You just opened a second location in NYC, congrats! Do you think plastic surgeons thrived during quarantine? 

Indeed Coolspa opened a second Manhattan location about three weeks ago in the Flatiron district, on Fifth Avenue between 17th and 18th St. Although office space occupancy in Manhattan currently remains in the 10 to 15% range, I have every expectation that this new space will be extremely busy in months to come, as people seek out cutting edge treatments for self-improvement.

We focus on non-invasive and minimally invasive treatments including CoolSculpting for permanently reducing stubborn fatty bulges, Morpheus8 for facial remodeling and skin tightening, miraDry, which can permanently eliminate underarm sweat and odor, Neograft follicular unit hair transplantation,  and other cutting edge treatments of the face and body.