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Aesthetic Trends from Annual Facial Plastic Surgery Survey Revealed

As Americans Return to The Office, AAFPRS Unveils Aesthetic Trends

The American Academy of Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery (AAFPRS), the world’s largest association of facial plastic surgeons, recently released its 2022 member survey outcomes. With in-person work, events, and socializing moving towards a return to pre-pandemic levels, 2022, like 2021, saw an increase in demand for facial plastic surgery and cosmetic treatments. In fact, 58 percent of AAFPRS facial plastic surgeons report an increase in bookings and treatments over the past year, with more than 75 percent indicating they have seen a bump of more than 10 percent in patient demand.

Back to Reality

“As people returned to the office and eased back into the routine of daily life without quarantine, interest for elective surgeries and non-invasive ‘tweakments’ remain high,” says AAFPRS president Theda Kontis, M.D. “In 2022, our members continued to see the impact of the ‘Zoom boom,’ with 79 percent of respondents pointing to the ‘Zoom effect’ as a major contributing factor in patients’ desire to seek treatment.” A second source of motivation, following closely behind the Zoom effect at 60 percent, was an increase in disposable income. “Many patients reported spending money saved during the pandemic on cosmetic procedures,” says Kontis.

According to the new data, 82 percent of the total number of procedures performed in 2022 were minimally invasive; the remaining 18 percent were surgical. Of these, the three most common treatments were neurotoxins, fillers, and topicals (think chemical peels), while the top three surgical procedures were facelifts, blepharoplasties, and rhinoplasties. Perhaps unsurprisingly, rhinoplasty continues to be the single most requested surgery among patients under 34 years old.

It is still no surprise that women continue to reign when it comes to undergoing facial plastic surgery. In 16 of the 18 procedures tracked, surgeons indicate more of their patients are women, with the exceptions of hair transplantation, which skews toward men. Otoplasty, surgery to diminish ear prominence, has the highest gender equality.

The Buzz About Buccal Fat 

2022’s resurgence of Doc Martens, crop tops, and wide-leg jeans paved the way for an equally ‘90s facial trend: Sharp, prominent cheekbones a la Cindy, Kate, and Naomi, the famed supermodels who made headlines in the 1990s. Indeed, the sculpted, chiseled look is in vogue once again, with 15 percent of facial plastic surgeons reporting an increase in buccal fat removal to achieve a slimmer facial appearance. The most headline-making trend of 2022, the intentional removal of buccal fat has taken Hollywood (and those who take a cue from its A-listers) by storm. This was followed closely by the hollowed-out “Ozempic face,” trend, a side effect of the diabetes weight-loss drug Semaglutide.

While popular, all of this cheekbone worship certainly has many surgeons scratching their heads, as the procedure delivers the opposite effect of filler and fat injections, a common request of middle-aged women hoping to re-inflate the cheeks of their 20s. The moral of this story? Consider the long-term effects of any surgery—buccal fat removal included—very carefully before proceeding. “Buccal fat surgery is not reversible–so while you may love the look in your 20s and 30s, as you age, your face naturally loses fat, and therefore volume,” says Kontis.

In regard to “Ozempic face” specifically, she adds that rapid weight loss can actually accelerate the aging process. “Like any massive weight-loss treatment, Semaglutide treatments can cause fat pads to shrink, depleting facial volume and making the skin can appear lax and saggy,” she says. “Of course, we can treat these unwanted side effects with everything from fillers to facelifts, but the point is, there’s no such thing as a magic pill.”

Selfie Satisfaction

The media has been quick to brand the phrase “Snapchat dysmorphia” in regards to Gen Z seeking treatments and tweakments aimed to mimic Snapchat filters. In reality, though, Gen Z’s influence in the aesthetic marketplace is not yet generating leaps in facial plastic surgery procedure numbers (and that’s probably a good thing). Consistent with 2021, close to 75 percent of facial plastic surgeons report increases in the number of patients under 30 years old requesting cosmetic surgery or injectables, representing a consistently higher plateau over the five previous years. But pre-juvenation and low-to-no downtime is still top of mind for these age groups; 78 percent of AAFPRS members believe there will be a greater emphasis on earlier maintenance and age prevention starting in the 20s to 30s to forestall bigger procedures and surgeries for later down the road. In fact, this year’s survey indicates that surgical procedure activity significantly increases once patients reach the 35 to 55 year age group.

So, while there isn’t much credence behind “Snapchat dysmorphia,” patients have indeed taken 2020’s Zoom effect a step further; in 2021 and 2022, a desire to up that selfie game took center stage. In fact, a whopping 79 percent of facial plastic surgeons agree that looking better in selfies continues to trend upward. To that end, lip lifts, a new category for the 2021 survey, were up 3 percent in 2022; at least 73 percent of AAFPRS members performed lip lifts in 2022 versus 70 percent in 2021. As facemasks continue to become less and less prevalent, this intel doesn’t really come as a surprise. The trendy procedure aims to remove some skin under the nose to shorten the skin of the upper lip, overall increasing the amount of visible pink lip. “We lose bone under the nose as we age, which can cause the nasal tip to droop and the upper lip to elongate; in other words, ‘the table becomes too small for the tablecloth,’” says Kontis. “By removing this excess upper lip skin, it shortens the upper lip skin and everts the upper lip, which results in a more youthful appearance.”

Another selfie-boosting procedure, blepharoplasty has seen an upward climb in popularity, with blephs sitting just behind rhinoplasty as the most-requested procedure of 2022. “Upper blepharoplasty removes the excess skin above the eyelid, reducing that hooded appearance that can occur naturally with age, while lower blepharoplasty targets the fat pads below the eye, restoring a smoother, more youthful look,” says Kontis. “Both are relatively minor procedures that lend themselves to tremendous patient satisfaction.”

The Bottom Line

Whether patients are considering significant surgery or a trendy tweakment, choosing a qualified surgeon is a non-negotiable. Steve Jurich, CEO and executive vice president of the AAFPRS says, “Finding the right, most qualified, physician to perform any procedure is priority number one. Always select a surgeon specifically trained in procedures of the face, head, and neck, and make sure the physician is qualified, experienced and board-certified in the procedure you want.”

The good news? Just 20 percent of surgeons report patients referencing celebrities when coming in for consultations, which points to a more educated consumer base, thanks to the multitude of candid plastic surgery depictions on social media and the prevalence of data driving individual research.

The 2022 AAFPRS annual member survey was conducted in December 2022 by ACUPOLL Precision Research, Inc. through an online survey from a select group of the organization’s 2,200 members.

By:  Julie Keller Callaghan for Well-Defined

Julie is the co-founder of Well Defined and a longtime influencer and advocate in the wellness world. Along with her work at Well Defined, she is an executive recruiter and marketing specialist for Hutchinson Consulting.