“I’m doing a syringe in each one of my cheeks and another syringe in my chin,” says Marcus. “I’m thinking about doing another one on top of that, possibly on my under-eyes but I haven’t decided yet. And I’m doing Botox, of course. Can’t forget Botox.”
Marcus, 28, who has asked to use a pseudonym for fear of reprisal from his sponsors and business partners, is talking about his scheduled appointment at Image Center, an aesthetics med spa in Huntington Beach, California, which is set to take place on May 4th, despite Gov. Gavin Newsom’s recently stated commitment to continuing the stay-in-place order for the state. Last month, a few days before the stay-in-place order went into effect, he also went to Los Angeles’ Koreatown to get a vampire facial, a term of art for a procedure that involves smearing your platelet-rich plasma (PRP) from your blood over your face.
To hear Marcus tell it, it’s not just vanity (or, OK, not only vanity) that has driven him to take such risks to get work done during this time. He’s a fairly prominent YouTuber — his primary channel has about 40,000 subscribers — and he feels he has a professional obligation to maintain his youthful appearance during this time. “It sounds so vain, but I’m on camera for a living when I’m doing YouTube,” he says. Perhaps more to the point, at a time when most non-essential businesses across the country are shut down, he’s had absolutely no problem finding providers willing to help him do so.
“I feel like if you called any office [in L.A. during lockdown] and was like, ‘Hey, I wanna get a syringe of filler,’ they’d be like ‘We’re closed,’” he says. “But if you’re an established patient or celebrity or influencer or actor and you have the money they’d be like, ‘OK, come on in.’”
Lip fillers and Botox fall into a class of cosmetic surgical procedures known as injectables, which have exploded in popularity in recent years thanks to the rise of Instagram Face (or simply Kylie Jenner Face), an aesthetic marked by full, cherubic cheeks and a hefty pout. Most clinics and spas have closed their doors and canceled such non-essential cosmetic procedures, particularly in cities like New York, which have served as COVID-19 hotspots. “When you’re injecting someone you’re inches away from their face. They are speaking to you. They can’t be covered in a mask when you’re injecting them,” says Dr. Michele Green, a cosmetic dermatologist on the Upper East Side, who closed her practice on March 13th. “So there really can’t be any social distancing.”
Yet even as the entire country has been under lockdown and most non-essential businesses have shuttered, causing the unemployment rate to skyrocket exponentially, spas and clinics across the country have remained open, offering cosmetic services to those with well-padded wallets or high follower counts.
Some, like Youthfill MD, a medical spa in West Hollywood, are openly and actively advertising on Facebook and Instagram, promoting such services as laser treatments, liposuction, Botox, and fillers at a discounted price. “We are open for business,” a reception at Youthfill MD, a medical spa in West Hollywood, California, chirpily said when reached for comment. “We’re not doing massage or facials but we’re still doing the medical side of things — Botox injections and whatnot.”
“Check out the quarantined lips on this babe,” reads a post from a nurse practitioner who works at a Balshi Dermatology in Del Ray Beach, Florida, underneath a photo of an attractive woman in a bikini. “Clearly not everyone has let it all go!” (Balshi Dermatology did not return requests for comment.)
Others are quietly operating under the radar, prioritizing longtime clients or VIPs even as they claim to shut their doors or only be open for emergencies (re: not Botox). “As we are social distancing and are confined to our homes and apartments for the upcoming weeks, it is an ideal time to do non-invasive procedures and recuperate at home,” another promotional email shared with Rolling Stone reads before offering 10% off of Botox and filler procedures in office.