how the injectable and plastic surgery industry will change after coronavirus

Experts in the field of aesthetic medicine, Dr Joseph Hkeik, Dr. Michael Molton, Dr Sean Arendse and Dr Naomi McCullum share their insight into what your next Botox, dermal filler or plastic surgery appointment might look like post-COVID-19. 

Every industry around the globe has been impacted by the coronavirus pandemic. From the fitness and wellness world having to shift to at-home workouts to hospitality and restaurants focusing on takeaway and delivery services. Every business and brand has had to readjust the way they operate.

But what does it mean for elective areas of health care like cosmetic dermatology and plastic surgery? Not only will the short and long term repercussions of COVID-19 effect innovation and day-to-day practices, but it’s popularity, too.

As beauty salons and cosmetic clinics begin to reopen across the country, we take a look at how your next appointment will change.

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For now, there won’t be a shift in popularity

Earlier this year it was stated that the anti-ageing market would reach $412 billion by 2024, with The American Society of Plastic Surgeons noting growth rates in procedures from 2000 to 2018 of up to 163% overall, pointing to an industry that showed no signs of slowing down.

According to Australia’s leading aesthetic physicians and cosmetic doctors it seems the pandemic has only added to this, with clinic phones ringing off the hook with eager patients.

“The general feelings of our patients has been excitement,” explains Dr Joseph Hkeik director and founder of All Saints Skin Clinic. “We receive calls, emails and messages through our social media channels about appointments daily.”

“We have been a lot of people’s first stop since quarantine, I haven’t noticed any unease as patients know we are a medical clinic and are used to infection control procedures,” says Dr Naomi McCullum founder of The Manse Clinic and Cosmetic Physicians College of Australasia (CPCA) board member.

So it seems safe to say expect to be placed on waitlists as clinics adjust to the increase in demand.

Virtual consultations could be here to stay

Much like dermatologists and skin therapists, clinics have had to turn to virtual consultations while their doors are closed. “We started to offer virtual cosmetic consultations, which we now find is great for those who live further away so that they can have an assessment before they come in for treatment,” says Dr McCullum.

However, according to Dr. Michael Molton president of the CPCA and founder of Epiclinic virtual consults may not be forever. “Telehealth has become a focus throughout COVID19 and GPs are now expressing concern they’re finding a lot more is going on now that patients are physically turning up at their clinics again.

“The RACGP have emphasised that Telehealth should only be used where the patient is known to the doctor, and while helpful in allowing people to stay home if they can, Telehealth doesn’t replace an in-person consultation,” he says.

Dr McCullum agrees, “Clients will have a face to face consultation before going ahead with any of our treatments with our doctors, but the virtual consult allows them time to ask questions and to spend doing further research.”

As far as skincare consults are concerned, they’re here to stay. “We started offering online skincare consultations with our therapists, and this did really well, so we’re going to keep it as a service.”

Expect things to be different at your next appointment

If you’ve been to the hairdresser during lockdown you would know the cleaning and protective protocols salons have had to adhere to. For clinics, it’ll be even more stringent.

“Patients will have their temperature taken when they enter the practice by the admin team, this temperature will be recorded on a COVID-19 consent form. The patient will be asked to complete the rest of the form and this will be given to the doctor when the patient goes in for treatment,” says Dr Hkeik.

“Gloves, masks, hand sanitizer and tissues will also be available at reception for patients to use and we’ll request clients wait in their car until their appointment time is ready to minimise the duration of their time in clinic,” he adds.

“Our clinic’s number-one priority has always been safety. Unlike the low end of injectable providers in Australia, our medical practice has always chosen to have a doctor onsite. Having a doctor onsite at a medical clinic becomes more important during a pandemic, with the associated increased risks to staff, patients and the community,” says Dr McCullum.

“Our new measures are quite thorough and time consuming. Our whole team uses PPE, we check temperatures at the door, and patients fill out a questionnaire and a consent form before they are allowed through our door. We don’t allow guests, only patients having procedures and we offer masks and gloves to patients.

“We do a thorough Viraclean cleanse of treatment room surfaces and door handles between every patient and have regular extra cleaning of the waiting areas throughout the day. We also have our normal pre-covid level of infection control, which was always rigorous. We have no magazines in our waiting area, we have an outside waiting area with adequate spacing between chairs. We have also decreased the available appointments per day so that there will be less people in reception.”

Injectables will be the most popular treatments

No surprise here, anti-wrinkle injections and dermal fillers are said to be the top choice post-coronavirus. In fact, the Australasian College of Cosmetic Surgery revealed an annual national spend of more than $350 million on wrinkle-reduction procedures.

“Anti-wrinkle treatments and facials,” says Dr Hkeik. “Anti-wrinkle [injections] have 99% client satisfaction and done the ‘All Saints’ way, refreshes your face without the stigma of Botox. Our facials are a mix of relaxation and performance and are also an escape. I predict many people will let go of the overdone look, too.”

Dr Sean Arendse CPCA board member and founder of Flawless Rejuvenation Skin Clinics agrees, “Many of our clients have missed their regular injectable appointments and we already have a long waiting list. Skin health and rejuvenation treatments such as peels, HydraFacial and Laser Genesis will be popular, too. These treatments are like going to the gym, they keep you looking and feeling good but require regular visits to get consistent long term results.”

Dr McCullum also agrees, “Anti-wrinkle injections and dermal fillers of course. Patients have been missing getting their beauty-fix. Lasers and IPLs will be super popular once our therapists are given the green light by government.”

As of April 30 the Australian Government recommends that before any laser, or light-based treatments, patients should be assessed physically by a registered medical practitioner to identify any suspicious lesions and to ensure the correct device is being used, and used safely. For more information visit ARPANSA.

A pause on plastic surgery for now

As elective surgeries were cancelled to free up space for hospitals, ‘non-urgent procedures’ like plastic or reconstructive surgeries were dubbed Category 3 placing them as a low-priority. In April the Australian government eased restrictions for all categories, but is yet to bring back plastic surgery.

In the US, the effects of COVID-19 are much worse, with New York’s top plastic surgeons revealing their wealthiest clients are begging to get work done, reports The Cut.

What does this mean for Aussie patients? With no clear date or timeline in place for when surgeries can go ahead, patients will just have to wait. But it may also mean a decrease in people wanting to go under the knife altogether and a shift towards a more holistic approach to health, wellness and appearance.

The future of the industry

It’s yet to be determined whether or not innovation or research and development will be affected, but for now experts believe smaller suppliers may be in trouble, as well as all business owners.

“I think skincare and homecare device sales will continue to skyrocket. Injectables will continue to grow as it has done in the last two decades. I can’t see a recession stopping that, as we are nowhere near the peak,” says Dr McCullum.

“Possibly surgery case numbers will reduce. I think the recession will hit the providers hard who compete on price rather than service. The pandemic will have shown recent business owners the serious risks involved and they may choose to go back to being contractors for larger businesses. Our injectable suppliers are decent sized pharmaceutical companies, I think they’re going to be fine. The smaller suppliers will be in big trouble though.”

However, there are positives, too.

“I think we will see a lot more businesses focusing on their digital assets such as online shops, social media and high quality clinical software. Consumers may be more wary about choosing a provider as health and safety is going to be an important factor to consider when selecting a cosmetic clinic. We hope that this will help raise the bar on education, quality and health and safety in the cosmetic industry,” says Dr Arendse.

Thank you to our experts: Dr Joseph Hkeik director and founder of All Saints Skin Clinic, Dr Naomi McCullum founder of The Manse Clinic and Cosmetic Physicians College of Australasia (CPCA) board member, Dr. Michael Molton president of the CPCA and Dr Sean Arendse CPCA board member and founder of Flawless Rejuvenation Skin Clinics.

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