New Survey Finds There Was A 40 Percent Increase In Facial Plastic Surgery In 2021

Here’s what else we learned from the annual AAFPRS member report.
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Written by Meg Storm
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New Survey Finds There Was A 40 Percent Increase In Facial Plastic Surgery In 2021Brooke Cagle/Unsplash

Much like 2020 before it, we don’t need to tell you that 2021 was a unique year. Even so, new data from the American Academy of Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery (AAFPRS) – the world’s largest association of facial plastic surgeons – finds that lingering pandemic-related concerns couldn’t thwart the demand for aesthetic procedures. “After lockdowns ended and vaccinations rolled out, our patients who had been postponing reconstructive work, upkeep, maintenance, or surgery were eager to schedule treatments to help them feel refreshed, confident, and ready to take on work, events, playdates,” says Corey S. Maas, MD, a double board certified facial plastic and reconstructive surgeon and president of the AAFPRS.

Based on reporting from some 2,200 AAFPRS members, the total number of facial plastic surgery treatments was up substantially, with an estimated 1.4 million surgical and non-surgical procedures completed. On average, facial plastic surgeons performed about 600 more procedures in 2021 than they did in 2020. That amounts to a 40 percent increase. So, what did the uptick in bookings mean for treatment trends and patient motivations? Below are some of the key takeaways from the 2021 AAFPRS Annual Survey.

Surgery Reigns Supreme

While there was a return to in-person gatherings at certain points of 2021, the hybrid nature of the year had patients opting for surgical intervention at a higher rate. Of those AAFPRS members who experienced an increase in appointments, 92 percent indicated it was because people had more time and flexibility to recover. “With more time still being spent at home, there was less concern about the recovery time for surgical treatments,” Dr. Maas notes. Similarly telling: 83 percent of AAFPRS members say 75 percent or more of their work is facial plastic surgery – up from 75 percent in 2020.

But that doesn’t mean everyone was going under the knife. More patients than ever were interested in ‘tweakments.’ Neurotoxins (63 percent) and fillers (57 percent) were among the top procedures performed most often on women in 2021. Rounding out the top three? Rhinoplasty at 62 percent, which is also the top surgery for patients under the age of 34.

The top procedures for male patients were rhinoplasty (79 percent), neurotoxins (58 percent), and blepharoplasty (42 percent). While women still make up the large majority of aesthetics patients, more men than ever are seeking treatment. Hair transplants may be the only procedure for which men far surpass women as patients, but it is part of a larger development. Blepharoplasty and neuromodulators are trending towards more balance, with a lower percentage of surgeons indicating these procedures are performed on “mostly females.”

Patient Perspective

In 2020, an AEDIT survey found that millennials and gen Z accounted for the largest age group interested in aesthetic procedures. The AAFPRS survey continues to bear this out. Patients age 56 or older represented a lower percentage of overall procedures in 2021 than previous years (the organization notes that this may be because of COVID-19 concerns).

Social media and our continued reliance on video conferencing remain key motivators for patients seeking treatment. In fact, 79 percent of facial plastic surgeons identify patients seeking procedures for an improved appearance on video conferencing as a rising trend, compared to only 16 percent the previous year. “The use of video for business, social media, and self-promotion is now so ingrained in society that it provides an easy and ever-present lens for self-scrutiny,” Dr. Maas explains. “We’ve slowly moved from static image filters to ‘Zoom dysmorphia’ being the major patient motivator as the pressures of a virtual lifestyle continue to impact the way we view ourselves and the way we present to peers.”

And then there is the ongoing influence of face coverings. We deemed ‘eyes the new lips’ back in June 2020, and the upper third of the face continues to take center stage. More than 70 percent of AAFPRS members indicated that more and more patients were asking for eyelid procedures to look less tired (up 17 percent from 2020). Interest in brow lifts also saw a jump, as did face and neck lifts.

A newer but notable lift trend: The rise of lip lifts (i.e. the surgical procedure that addresses the distance between the base of the nose and top of the lip for a fuller, more youthful effect). A new category for the 2021 survey, 70 percent of surgeons report that they performed the pout-enhancing procedure last year. It serves as a longer-lasting and more natural-looking alternative to the overly augmented look that recently dominated patient requests. Curious to see what you would look like after a lip lift? You can ‘try on’ the procedure and instantly visualize results with The AEDITOR. Download the AEDIT iOS app now.

All About Expertise

Perhaps one of the most encouraging findings is the emphasis on expertise. The 2021 survey indicates that patients’ primary concern is finding a surgeon they can trust (36 percent), followed by worries about an unnatural result (30 percent). While no procedure is without risk, the likelihood of a safe and successful outcome is greatly influenced by the qualifications (think: board certification) and specialty of the provider. Increasingly, patients seem to be valuing and prioritizing this. “For most procedures, effective communication between surgeon and patient is the number one key to a successful outcome,” Dr. Maas notes. “This includes a mutually agreed upon, reasonable expectation for improvement and what is realistically possible for individual patients and their goals.”

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MEG STORMis the editorial & content director at AEDIT.

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