Over the last decade, the number of both surgical and nonsurgical cosmetic procedures performed in the U.S. has grown — from 1.6 million in 1997 to over 4.8 million in 2018. But like so many industries, the plastic surgery sector has been drastically impacted by the coronavirus pandemic. Still, the threat of COVID-19 transmission hasn’t discouraged everyone from getting a little nip and tuck. But if you do plan on moving ahead with an upcoming procedure, you’ll want to stay on top of the latest updates to reduce your health risk.

How COVID-19 is Changing Plastic Surgery

The healthcare sector has certainly gotten its fair share of publicity over the last few months. But there’s a big difference between essential care and non-essential treatments. In areas that have not yet fully reopened, cosmetic procedures have been canceled or rescheduled. Although online consultations and emergency visits can still take place, elective surgeries have undoubtedly been delayed.

Still, it’s not all bad news for surgeons or for patients. Although procedures like otoplasties (which cost an average of $3,154) or other major work may be put on hold, the consumer demand for certain improvements remains — and may even increase. Despite the fact that some are predicting that a more natural look will soon be en vogue, many patients who currently use Botox and facial fillers are all too eager to reschedule their appointments as soon as possible.

One surgeon who spoke to People noted that, even though his offices closed in mid-March, he actually had to hire additional staff members during that time to keep up with call volume. A few even suggested a bribe, offering to pay double for their procedures, in order to have their work done during the pandemic. And in Seattle, which has already allowed plastic surgeons to reopen their doors, there are reports that facelift and Botox consultations have already doubled in volume.

What to Keep in Mind For Upcoming Procedures

It’s clear that many Americans aren’t deterred by the idea of undergoing plastic surgery as our nation recovers from a pandemic. But it’s essential for patients and doctors alike to use an overabundance of caution to maintain safety. In certain COVID-19 hot spots, surgeons may not be allowed to conduct non-essential procedures for some time — and even if you’re in an area that permits it, you’ll likely be subject to a pre-procedure screening to determine whether you might have any symptoms of the coronavirus.

It’s also important to remember that patients and physicians alike may be recommended to postpone elective surgeries even if these procedures are technically allowed.

As Dr. Constance Chen, a board-certified plastic surgeon, explained to the Hong Kong Tatler: “Surgery and other procedures place a patient in an immunocompromised state, which is not the right condition to be in to fight a global pandemic. While weeks of self-isolation and quarantine might present a unique opportunity to undergo a procedure and recover in private, without the pressure to return to work or public life, it is overshadowed by far by putting a patient unnecessarily into an immunocompromised state. Furthermore, approximately 50% of people affected by the coronavirus are asymptomatic, so there is no guarantee that the surgical team in the hospital is virus-free.”

The average hospital owns or rents over 35,000 SKUs of equipment at any one time, but taking up valuable space and equipment in a hospital may not even be possible nor recommended right now. Keep in mind that even outpatient, non-surgical procedures like chemical peels and injectables will disrupt the skin — the body’s major protective barrier. It may not be what you want to hear, but many experts would caution you against undergoing any kind of elective cosmetic procedure right now.

But even if you can’t undergo some type of cosmetic procedure, you can at least experience a virtual consultation to prepare. And once you have been given the go-ahead from your plastic surgeon, you should make sure to inquire about how they’re using office waiting areas, whether all staff members are outfitted with gloves and mask, whether your surgeon has test kits on-hand, and how staff members have increased their efforts to clean and sanitize.

It’s clear that most Americans are impatient about getting back to their normal way of life. But without taking the proper precautions, we could be setting ourselves up for a particularly nasty second wave. Until there’s an effective vaccine developed, both patients and surgeons should be prepared for massive changes — and possible denials of service. While that might mean more wrinkles and fewer payments, you can never be too careful.

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