Even after dropping 25 pounds, Megan Gilbert still had some insecurities when she looked in the mirror.
"After breastfeeding two kids and losing weight, my breasts no longer looked how I wanted them to," she said. "And I thought, 'Why be unhappy with this one part of my body after working so hard to make all these other improvements in my life?'"
So Gilbert, 35, did something about it, joining a fast-growing group of American women under 45 who are getting cosmetic surgery.
Nearly 30% of practices that specialize in cosmetic plastic surgery have seen demand for their services double since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a survey by the American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS).
“With COVID, we prepared for the worst. But when we were able to reopen our office, we were pleasantly surprised with the incredible surge of demand for our cosmetic services, both surgical and noninvasive,” said Dr. Bob Basu of Houston, an ASPS officer.
“Now that the worst is hopefully behind us and people are traveling again and getting back to normal life, I initially thought that we would see some of that demand drop off, and that's not been the case. We're actually still seeing very high demand,” Basu added.
Doctors point to several reasons for the surge.
Thanks to the flexibility of working from home, many patients have had ample time to recover from cosmetic procedures, they say, while some used money saved on travel and eating out to make an investment in themselves.
"I think a lot of families and patients had a lot more disposable income," Basu said. "And so, they found that this is the right time for them to do a cosmetic surgery procedure."
An ASPS survey bears that out. It revealed that women between 31 and 45 were the most likely to inquire about common procedures like tummy tucks, liposuction and breast augmentation.
Basu said millennials — those born between 1981 and 1996 — are not only more aware of their options but are also more honest about their decision to have cosmetic surgery than previous generations.
"They share their experiences with other people through social media platforms or other methods, and so, these procedures are no longer taboo — they're actually relatable and accessible," he said in a society news release. "Because of this open sharing, patients also come in well-versed about the procedures of interest. And so it really allows us to have a really productive discussion about their options."
Basu said Gilbert was already well-informed when she arrived in his office on a friend's recommendation.
Gilbert got implants and a breast lift, and, she couldn't be happier with her choice, she said.
"Having that confidence back and feeling better about myself resonates in every part of my life, including with my family,” Gilbert said. “I want my kids to be happy and secure in their life and in who they are, and if they don't see that in me, it's hard for them to see it in themselves.”
Basu said he is seeing more patients of all ages and genders who are interested in cosmetic procedures to help them look and feel their best.
“We're seeing ourselves on a computer screen a lot more regularly and are much more aware of our appearance. And for a lot of people, that makes them recognize that they may want to look a little younger or to appear less tired, which has led to an increase in facial and neck procedures as well,” Basu said.
That dovetails with a cultural shift that he hasn't seen before.
“I think people are recognizing that it's OK to do something for themselves,” he said.
Experts suggest anyone thinking about a cosmetic procedure plan ahead as much as possible. The new survey found that more than 40% of plastic surgeons are reporting longer wait times between consultation and surgery than before the pandemic.
The American Society of Plastic Surgeons details the risks and benefits of many cosmetic procedures.
SOURCE: American Society of Plastic Surgeons, news release, Aug. 24, 2022