by the WSJ Magazine
“People are predicting it’s going to be like the Roaring ’20s,” says New York–based facial plastic surgeon Andrew Jacono of the idea that this summer will mirror that decade’s freewheeling spirit. And as Covid-19 quarantine restrictions loosen and more people get vaccinated, the promise of a summer—a real summer—is looming large in our collective imagination. And some people are preparing to re-emerge by booking a plastic surgery appointment.
“I’ve been opening up additional surgical days to accommodate the requests because I just don’t have anywhere to put people,” says Jacono. Facing a similar deluge of requests, plastic surgeon Melissa Doft, whose practice is on New York’s Upper East Side, has been operating on weekends to keep up with the demand. Despite that, her next available appointment isn’t until June. “Some patients are so excited to have surgery before the summer, they’re booking the surgery when they call for a consultation before even meeting me,” Doft says. Michele Koo, a plastic surgeon in St. Louis, says the pent-up demand is due both to patients’ realization of the pandemic’s impact on their appearance, including weight gain and fatigue, and the reappearance of a social calendar, with postponed weddings and family reunions suddenly on the docket. “The dam has burst,” she exclaims. “People are looking for a total refresh.”
Doft, Koo and Jacono all report an increase in face-lift requests from both women and men. A combination of factors is driving this rush: a Zoom-born hyperawareness of facial imperfections and, thanks to mask-wearing and an empty calendar, an easy way to recover incognito. These days, the gold standard is the deep-plane face-lift, which lifts the supportive layer beneath the face’s muscle instead of just its superficial layer (or SMAS, the superficial muscular aponeurotic system). The effect of a deep-plane face-lift is generally more natural, less pulled and taut than superficial lifts. However, Doft says she’s not a fan: “I prefer to stay more superficial, as it is less dangerous with regard to possible nerve damage.”
Doctors are also stacking multiple procedures at once. “For a lot of people, making the decision to go under anesthesia is a big deal, so why not take advantage by doing a few other things?” says Doft, who has been coupling face-lifts with upper-eyelid surgery, injectables or neck liposuction.
In addition to face-lifts, body liposuction is another procedure patients are booking in haste ahead of the summer. “Most people have put on anywhere from five to 20 pounds over the past year,” says Howard Sobel, a dermatologist and dermatologic surgeon at New York’s Lenox Hill Hospital. A recent Journal of the American Medical Association study confirmed just that, finding that adults in lockdown over the past year put on an additional one and a half pounds a month. The typical pre-summer interest is now compounded by a year of lapsed workouts and compromised diets, says cosmetic dermatologist Paul Jarrod Frank, who recently opened a new practice in Manhattan’s West Village. Noninvasive body-contouring technologies, like CoolSculpting and Emsculpt, can address small pockets of fat, but for those areas with more than an inch of fat, Sobel says liposuction offers more significant reshaping. The procedure favored by both Sobel and Frank, called tumescent liposuction, is performed under local anesthesia. “Tumescent liposuction is more popular than ever because people are willing to make the time and the monetary investment,” says Frank. “The majority of patients now get a minimum of two to three different treatments on the face and body at the same visit,” he says. “People want to be one-and-done.”