Virtual reality: Zoom meetings causing an upsurge in cosmetic surgeries

It’s been months we have been quarantining. The lockdown taught me to bake banana bread, brew the perfect Dalgona coffee, gorge on healthy food to boost immunity, get back to my workout routine, amongst many other things. But, it still hasn’t helped me get over the anxiety I feel every time I attend zoom meetings. I am constantly thinking about how wonky my teeth are or how oily my skin looks or if my double chin is visible or if my acne is getting worse. And, this has resulted in me spending a lot on cosmetics as well as on dermatologist appointments,” says Neha (name changed), who works in a multi-national company in Mumbai.

A recent study in the journal Facial Plastic Surgery and Aesthetic Medicine says the lockdown has seen a significant increase in the number of plastic surgeries in the US. Are virtual meetings taking a toll on our faces and minds too? Or are these meetings leading to body dysmorphic disorder? Is it the same in Indian? We try to find out with the help of experts.

Change in self-image

Individuals who earlier used to find it difficult to visit a dermatologist or spend on skincare products are now not reluctant to spend money. “I don’t know if it is just the virtual meetings, but since now people get a lot of time at home, they are critically analysing their features,” says Dr Nirupama Parwanda, a Dermatologist associated with myUpchar and Zolie Skin Clinic.

Dr Apratim Goel, Cosmetic Dermatologist, Cutis Skin Studio, believes individuals are more conscious about their features when they are attending virtual meetings. She says, “There is a different set of problems that have come up post lockdown. People are spending more on the treatment on areas more visible such as face, neck, etc. For instance, a lot of people are more concerned about their double chin being visible when they place the camera on table and speak. We have also seen a significant increase in patients doing cryolipolysis during the lockdown.”

Rise in body dysmorphic disorder

Body dysmorphic disorder is a condition in which an individual thinks constantly about real or perceived flaws in their appearance. This may further lead to embarrassment, anxiety and other mental health issues. “Post lockdown people started to have very unrealistic expectations about the way they look and the way they should present themselves. Even with any kind of skincare applications or skincare treatments, people have now have very unrealistic expectations. It has become a task to educate them about the result one can get and also inform them that however they look, it is the best they could,” says Dr Nirupama.

She also adds, “Sometimes, individuals bring in pictures of themselves clicked using certain filters and ask us if they could look like that. I think some people are very harsh on themselves, and I definitely think body dysmorphic disorder is something we have been dealing with over years. And when somebody has unrealistic expectations it really becomes difficult for doctors al​​so to help them achieve their beauty goals.” In severe cases, when people find it difficult to deal with body issues, Dr Nirupama recommends seeking the help of a psychologist or a psychiatrist.

Decrease in self-confidence

Spending hours on virtual meetings is the new normal. Today, we live in an era where we rarely upload photographs without any filters, and this is when virtual meetings work as a reality check. This may further affect their self-confidence and cause anxiety.

“A lot of people, when attending a zoom meeting, probably wear sweatpants or shorts, so it is all about the upper body that is visible, like the face, neck, ears, etc. And if your skin goes dull, if you have acne, or if your make up is not on point of course it may drain your confidence. It happens with all of us and usually we compensate for bad skin by wearing a good dress or a nice pair of heels or a good hairstyle or wearing something bright which we can flaunt. Now, a lot of that is out and the focus is just on your face, so definitely your skin going dull affects self-confidence,” says Dr Apratim.

Taking care of yourself and with some preparation before the meeting such as taking a shower or using a face mask can help boost confidence. Dr Apratim shares simple ways to tackle the issue and have a good skincare regime in place.

“Start with good skincare in consultation with an expert or a dermatologist, because a lot of time you could be doing things that are not meant for your skin type. Pampering your skin is another important factor. Since most of us have a lot of time on hand, it is perfect time to pamper your skin. You may use a homemade, readymade or a sparkling mask. There are also different masks for calming or brightening your skin. Our skin just needs a couple of minutes of our time in the morning and at night. And then this is also the time when we can experiment with certain makeup and skincare products, which we always wanted to do. This may also boost your confidence,” she concludes.

What is Zoom Dysmorphia?

A disorder involving obsessive focus on a perceived flaw in body appearance — that has resulted in people seeking plastic surgery in record numbers in the US.

What is Snapchat dysmorphia?

Before Zoom took over as the metric used to value one's appearance, patients used selfies and an arsenal of photo editing apps to create filtered versions of themselves, says a report by IANS. Dubbed ‘Snapchat dysmorphia’, the influx of patients hoping to look more like their edited selves has caused widespread concern for its potential to trigger body dysmorphic disorder.

What is Cryolipolysis?

Cryolipolysis is also commonly known as ‘Cool-sculpting’ or ‘fat-freezing’. It is a relatively new procedure involving the non-invasive freezing of body fat. This helps the breaking down of fat cells without damaging other tissues and leads to reduction in body fat. It has become a popular weight loss technique among those who are finding it difficult to get rid of localised fat bulge despite being on diet and exercise.

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