Zoom-inspired face corrections lead a boom in cosmetic procedures requested of surgeons who report high demand as the nation emerges from months of working at home.
Staring into a screen for hours throughout the working week prompted some to turn to plastic surgery to address a perception of how they look as well as "pandemic worry lines".
Surgeons in Dubai reported an unusual number of requests for procedures last year, driven by unflattering reflections during conference calls, they said.
“During Zoom calls, not only are you scrutinising your own features, but you are also looking at other people’s faces and comparing yours side by side,” said Dr Nicholas Bennett, a consultant plastic surgeon at Mediclinic Welcare Hospital, in Garhoud.
“We might notice more crow’s feet, facial asymmetry, thinning hair, double chins and much more.
“This has given rise to a surge in bookings for surgical and non-surgical cosmetic treatments, known as the Zoom Boom.”
The most commonly requested treatments in Dubai are injectables such as Botox, facial and lip fillers and skin resurfacing. Doctors also reported an increase in requests for surgery.
With an increased emphasis on exercising at home, clinics said more people were seeking help with stubborn areas of fat or excess skin on their arms and abdomen after weight loss.
"It will be interesting to see if the increased popularity of cosmetic treatments will continue after the pandemic or whether the Zoom Boom will disappear," Dr Bennett said.
The UAE surge in cosmetic procedures is reflected elsewhere.
The British Association of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons (BAAPS) reported a 70 per cent increase in requests for online consultations during lockdown periods as patients prepared themselves for surgery once restrictions eased.
In the US, surgeons reported a 90 per cent increase in demand for injectable procedures such as Botox and fillers compared with the same period in 2019.
Cosmetic specialists in Australia said clinics in Melbourne recorded patient-load increases of 200 per cent, while in the UK one plastic surgery group reported a 520 per cent surge in demand since June.
The Pall Mall Cosmetics group performed 10,000 operations in 2020, with breast augmentation procedures up 110 per cent.
“Working from home and limitations on going out gave people time to consider plastic surgery privately, that has contributed to demand,” said Dr Sanjay Parashar, founder of the Cocoona clinic in Dubai.
“Every business struggled in 2020, but we saw a very positive outcome.
“The government was efficient in managing the pandemic and we had a shorter lockdown than other countries, allowing businesses to stand back on their feet earlier.
“While the overall demand in the market reduced, the quality of patients we saw was good.
“We could focus more on people serious about treatments and our overall conversion went up.”
Home working was a major contributor to the sharp rise, doctors said, with people able to recuperate at home after a procedure while continuing to work.
"Sad-face" was a common issue doctors were asked to rectify.
Marionette lines, called so in reference to puppets by the same name with downturned mouths, can create a permanently sad expression.
They often develop after the age of 40 and are usually caused by drastic dieting, weight gain or excessive sun exposure.
“These lines or wrinkles run vertically down the sides of your mouth down to your chin, leading to sagging in the lower half of your face, giving you a sad face,” said Dr Majd AlZoughbi, a dermatologist at the Aesthetica Clinic, Dubai.
“People with these lines often get asked why they are feeling sad when they are not.
“Marionette lines alter the way a person looks in a photograph by making them look downcast.”
Corrective happy-face treatments such as fractional laser or chemical peels are options, as is the use of radio frequency for tightening skin. In some cases people opt for facelift surgery.
Wearing face masks in public disguised post-operative swelling and could have contributed to more demand.
Doctors said a backlog of appointments made at the height of restrictions when clinics were closed also contributed to busy clinics at the end of the year.
“Surgeries like liposuction, tummy tucks, breast augmentation, hair transplants and treatment like Botox and fillers continue to be on-trend,” said Dr Parashar, who insists his clients wait 15 days after an initial consultation before surgery is considered.
“But we have seen a decline in non-surgical business, such as laser hair removal and facials.
“Not everyone is comfortable in stepping out of the home for these services and they need to come for multiple sessions.
“Once a surgery is done, it can’t be undone.”