Doctor on plastic surgery boom amid COVID-19 pandemic

Demand for plastic surgery is booming as coronavirus pandemic restrictions ease up. Board-certified plastic surgeon Dr. Jeffrey Ditesheim joined CBSN to discuss the uptick in patients seeking elective procedures.

Video Transcript

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ANNE-MARIE GREEN: In “Healthwatch,” demand for plastic surgery boomed during the height of the coronavirus pandemic. And as restrictions lift, Americans are continuing to go under the knife. According to the world’s largest plastic surgeon organization, there’s now a more positive attitude toward cosmetic procedures like nose jobs, lip fillers, and laser treatments. And although most elective surgeries were halted last year, the Aesthetic Society reports Americans spent more than $9 billion on nips and tucks. So earlier on “CBSN AM,” I spoke to Dr. Jeffrey Ditesheim, a board-certified plastic surgeon, about the uptick.

JEFFREY DITESHEIM: It’s really something that we’ve never seen before. With the pandemic and people being home, they found that the limitation of the recovery time and taking time off of work were all of a sudden was different. And instead of taking a week or two weeks of their whole vacation, they were now able to do a procedure that they had thought about for a long time, and recover at home, and get back on Zoom calls even within a week, or even a few days, or even the next day. That made a big difference in their ability to do plastic surgery that they wanted to do.

ANNE-MARIE GREEN: They can recover while they work. And I’m sure a little extra stimulus money here and there probably also helped. We learned that a lot of people use that stimulus money to pay down their credit cards. And perhaps that left them with extra free financial space to spend on cosmetic surgery or whatever.

You talk about the COVID 20. What is it? And how do you believe it contributed to the demand?

JEFFREY DITESHEIM: You know, I think that people– the COVID 20 is sort of the social media term that people label the weight they gained by being at home, and not commuting, not getting out, not going to the gym, and being on lockdown or quarantine. And so many people did find that they gained some pounds– as much as 20 pounds.

And then they had to wrestle with, OK, I was thinking maybe I would like to get a little flatter tummy, or a little better definition, or a little less fullness in my neck, and now they had a little bit more weight on, and those things were more noticeable to them. So I think it really has made people so much more aware of their appearance and their frustration. And they wanted to feel better. And so something that they were thinking about now was something that they wanted to do.

ANNE-MARIE GREEN: Here’s a little bit of a challenge with that– we call it the Zoom boom, because people were suddenly sort of seeing themselves through these Zoom cameras and didn’t like what they saw. But you know, sometimes these cameras are not– they’re not accurate in terms of how you actually look. You know, sometimes the lenses are bent so they can be wide angle lenses. And you look at the camera and go, do I actually look like that?

I want to ask you if there’s any concern about what people sometimes call body dysmorphia or sort of having a warped view of how you really look, prompting people to pursue some sort of cosmetic surgery or cosmetic intervention. Is this something that doctors are sensitive to and they’re aware could also be a factor?

JEFFREY DITESHEIM: Absolutely. It’s a great question. You know, one of the things that we experienced for the first time with the pandemic and with Zoom calls is that we were seeing a mirror image of ourselves. We all have an image of what we think we look like. But for many of us, particularly guys, they may only look in the mirror for 30 seconds in the morning. Women, of course, getting ready in the morning may spend more time looking in the mirror.

But how often do you spend a large part of your day looking at a picture of yourself? And on Zoom with a picture in picture, you’re seeing yourself as you’re doing the meeting. So it can be really frustrating, even dysmorphic, to see a picture of yourself all the time. Secondly, the picture that you’re seeing is not really the picture that you see when you look in the mirror or when you see photographs.

So it is a mirror image of what you think you look like. That’s why when you see pictures on social media, and they don’t look like you or it’s a bad angle, frequently the iPhone or the picture that’s being taken will flip the image and give you the mirror image, so you’re seeing something different than what you think you should be seeing. Remember that what we think we look like and what we see is really complex. We’re taking a two-dimensional image and then translating that in our brain to a lot of visual memory and a three-dimensional image.

So many times, 80% of what we’re seeing is from our memory. And so if the lighting is different or the level of the camera is different, that can make everything look different, and then make it look like, wow, that doesn’t look like me.

ANNE-MARIE GREEN: That is fascinating– that we’re sort of making it up– portions of it. And that makes a lot of sense. Doctor, before I let you go– listen, one of my guilty sort of indulgences is to sort of surf the internet and look for before and after pictures when it comes to plastic surgery– also plastic surgery gone wrong is always really interesting for me too. And what I have seen a lot of is people who get an awful lot of work done for a fraction of the price in another country. Can we just speak to that? Because I think it’s happening way more often than we are even aware of.

JEFFREY DITESHEIM: Yeah, I’m so glad you brought that up. It is so frightening that people will choose to go out of the country or to a hotel room, even in Miami, and get something done at a fraction of the cost with the idea being not for the best result, but because they want to save the money. The truth is that if you went to South America in countries like Brazil and Colombia, because plastic surgery is so, so popular, the fees are really less.

Sometimes they could be a third as much as what they might cost in America. But having plastic surgery is a permanent change in your body and your appearance. And you want to be in the best hands for the best result. It’s for a lifetime. Many times, the results that go bad can’t be fixed. And so it’s a big decision, and you want to do it in the best hands. Traveling outside the country can be really dangerous. And many times, the way they cut the costs is to cut the care.

ANNE-MARIE GREEN: Really good advice, doctor. It is surgery, so it’s a serious decision. We really appreciate you spending time with us this morning.

JEFFREY DITESHEIM: Thank you very much.

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