2020 has been one of the most challenging years aesthetic clinics have ever faced due to the COVID-19 pandemic, with many businesses changing the way they operate as restrictions, social distancing and regular lockdowns have become the norm. Despite it being a turbulent year, it has also been an interesting one for new trends, treatments and regulations in the aesthetics world. Here, we round up some of the key takeaways of 2020 for the aesthetics sector.
Although there have been two lockdowns in 2020, resulting in the closure of thousands of clinics across the UK, the BBC reported an increase of up to 400 per cent in cosmetic surgery bookings as the first lockdown eased. Since March, independent accreditation body Save Face has seen a surge of 40 per cent more traffic to its website, with people researching treatments, then going onto the register to find local practitioners.
Why? Many practitioners believe the ‘zoom effect (or boom)’ has been a key reason, with at-home workers becoming more self-conscious of their appearance while staring at themselves online every day – and the bad lighting, unfortunate angles, and awkward crops have not helped things either. Cosmetic surgeon and founder of Vindoc Aesthetics, Dr Vincent Wong, says, “People are more conscious than ever of their skin health due to the amount of time they spend using video conference tools, both for work and for socialising. The more that video thumbnail stares back, the more people start to notice things. In addition, people have more time on their hands to research treatments, which has resulted in an increased number of people making enquiries.”
Lockdown launched patients into a new era of DIY beauty, and with the latest technological advances, at-home skin tech has soared. LED face masks are a particularly popular choice, according to aesthetic nurse practitioner and founder of Facial Aesthetics Clinic, Julie Scott, who says, “Patients have been much more proactive at home with their skincare since lockdown began, with a big trend in at-home LED devices. It is appealing to patients as it is a non-invasive treatment that they can use in the comfort of their own home.” She adds, “Although at-home LED devices are not as powerful as those in clinic, patients can use them more regularly.” Different colours do different things, for example, blue light has antibacterial properties suitable for acne; red light helps with collagen production; green helps decrease pigmentation; and yellow improves lymphatic drainage – so there is an option for everyone.
Another trend as a result of the pandemic is virtual consultations, which have seen a huge increase in the aesthetics industry in 2020, enabling practitioners to maintain relationships with patients and keep their businesses afloat while clinics have been closed. According to the British Association of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons, doctors were reporting up to 70 per cent increases in requests for virtual consultations during the first lockdown. Similarly, a recent survey by the American Society of Plastic Surgeons showed that 64 per cent of its doctors had seen an increase in their virtual consultations since the start of COVID-19.
A ‘less is more’ mindset has become more evident in 2020, resulting in an increase in ‘tweakments’ such as hyaluronic acid treatments and ‘baby Botox’ to create an effective yet natural look. “A ‘tweakment’ is designed to be a subtle improvement rather than a major change,” says Julie, adding, “They enhance the patient’s appearance, while not changing their facial identity. We’ve noticed a big increase in patients seeking ‘tweakments’ in 2020.”
Non-surgical rhinoplasty, which uses hyaluronic acid to shape and contour the nose, has risen in popularity in both men and women recently as an alternative to a more invasive surgical nose job. “I have seen a big increase in non-surgical rhinoplasty treatments for both men and women in my clinic,” says Dr Wong. “It is an excellent, affordable option for those who do not want to go under the knife – the procedure balances the face, harmonising it with other facial features.”
With working from home and the effects of masks, skin health has been top of mind for patients in 2020. “I have found that the most popular treatments and trends this year have been around the skin and skin health,” explains Julie, adding “This includes a focus on microneedling, peels, skin boosters and bioremodelling treatments to refresh and rejuvenate the skin.”
“I have seen a 60 per cent increase in jawline enhancement in my clinic in the last year,” says Dr Wong, adding, “Men tend to want more chiseled jaws, and women want a tighter effect. I think this surge in demand has been another result of the ‘Zoom boom’ – the jowls, jawline and neck can often be presented on camera unfavourably, leading patients to seek treatment.”
There are numerous treatment approaches for jawline enhancement, and often a combination works best, such as lasers, skin tightening and injectables.
Like every year, 2020 saw new regulatory changes, guidelines, and campaigns for the aesthetics specialty. Some key changes and updates included:
COVID guidance – The Joint Council for Cosmetic Practitioners (JCCP) provided regular guidance throughout the year on COVID-19, updating them accordingly with the ever-changing restrictions from the Government. The JCCP provided a guidance document, which was updated in November following the announcement of the second lockdown, to assist aesthetic practitioners in delivering effective treatments as safely as possible in a manner aimed at minimising the risk of patients, practitioners, and employees contracting COVID-19.
Advertising prescription only medicines (POMs) – Back in January, the Committees of Advertising Practice (CAP) and Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) issued an Enforcement Notice to the beauty and aesthetics industry advising businesses to review ads relating to the promotion of prescription only medicines (POMs) such as botulinum toxin, and make immediate changes. In October, the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) provided practitioners with further advice for social media advertising to avoid having their adverts removed, including not using hashtags such as #botox and posting patient photos that could be seen as advertising a POM.
Improving diversity – In September, the founders of the Black Aesthetics Advisory Board (BAAB) provided practical tips on how the industry can band together to help improve diversity within the field, supporting both practitioners and patients with skin of colour. The BAAB’s aim is for the aesthetic community to make small improvements to implement big changes, thus becoming more inclusive of people from all ethnicities.
Children & Aesthetic Procedures Regulation – In October, MPs voted in favour of the Botulinum Toxin and Cosmetic Fillers (Children) Bill 2019-21 following its second reading at the House of Commons. The bill aims to make it an offence to administer Botox or filler for a cosmetic purpose to those under 18; make business owners liable if an unapproved person administers Botox or filler to those under 18; and make corporate bodies liable if the offence is proved to have been committed with the consent of ‘any director, manager or secretary of the body corporate or any person who was purporting to act in any such capacity’.
Although 2020 has been a challenging year for most aesthetic clinics, it is important to stay positive, as there will be a light at the end of the tunnel. In terms of coping as best as possible and being prepared for 2021, Julie says, “Our clinic managed to not only survive, but exceed our yearly targets, by remaining positive, consistently keeping in touch with our patients, and of course by focusing on retail products and at-home treatments during the lockdown period.” She adds, “My advice would be to not just shut up shop during lockdown – get even more active and ensure you maintain patient loyalty. Reach out to your patients by social media, email, text and phone calls. They will appreciate not feeling forgotten and will look forward to a sense of normality and book in with you again as soon as possible. Do not let this year define you or your practice.”
At Hamilton Fraser Cosmetic Insurance we’ve followed the challenges faced by aesthetic practitioners during this tumultuous time. Practitioners have shared their insights into how they have adapted their clinics, treatments and business management to come through the pandemic stronger and better equipped.