The Covid-19 pandemic has changed nearly every aspect of our daily lives, and the way we look is no exception.
Somehow we still feel the pressure to look our best while stuck at home in the midst of a global health crisis. We're lonely, we're stressed, we're trying to work or care for children or simply hold on to our sanity - but we still feel the need to look put together.
I've personally hit the point at which sweatpants are the new work uniform, leg shaving is a thing of the past and the lockdown haircut is in a permanent messy ponytail - and yet I'll still put on makeup for a Zoom meeting.
Whether you're still putting on mascara and concealer every morning just to feel something or you're choosing to embrace your natural self, there's no denying that the pandemic has literally changed how we see ourselves.
We're constantly looking at ourselves on screens. Morning Zoom meetings, one-on-ones with your boss, a coffee with your mum in the afternoon, a virtual workout session, supervising a kids' Zoom class, or Friday drinks through the screen. It never ends. And unlike when we hang out with people in person, there's always that little box hovering in the corner showing us what we look like.
We're constantly analysing our expressions and movements on the screen - do we really look like that? This hyper-awareness can create feelings of low self-esteem as well as the desire to change something about our faces - and research shows we're not alone.
New data from Teoxane shows that "the Zoom effect" has made 42 per cent of Kiwi women more conscious of their appearance - and 40 per cent of them more open to cosmetic procedures as a result.
Auckland-based aesthetic physician Dr Teresa Cattin says Zoom has shown us a side of ourselves that we're not used to seeing.
"Usually, we rely on the image we see looking in the mirror or a selfie, which are static images and are often a bit 'posed' to show our best angles," she tells the Herald.
"With Zoom we are seeing our faces from all angles and with movement, just as others see us. This can highlight areas of the face which have changed over time in a negative way without our realising it."
Around 79 per cent of women in Aotearoa from the ages of 18 to 59 believe cosmetic procedures can help enhance their natural features. And while Cattin notes that this number is high, she adds that even subtle treatments can be a huge boost to self-confidence and self-esteem.
"In my experience, the vast majority of women want very natural, subtle results- they just want to look a bit "fresher" and age in a positive way," she says.
The research reveals that the top three areas where women are seeking procedures or "tweakments" are the eyes, neck and jawline, and lips and mouth. And those as young as 28 are including anti-ageing treatments in their daily beauty and skincare routine.
"Millennials are the most likely to include anti-ageing treatments in their beauty routine. This reflects the global trend towards ageing in a positive way as opposed to the distorted and unnatural results preferred by certain influencers and celebrities," she notes.
For those of us who have been in lockdown too long and are thinking about some drastic changes, she urges caution.
"DIY beauty treatments and good skincare can certainly be a helpful adjunct between regular professional treatments. However, the results achievable don't come close to what can be achieved with professional, in-clinic treatments," Cattin warns.
She's concerned about treatments that can now be purchased online, especially do-it-yourself dermal fillers.
"Sadly, we are seeing patients with permanent scarring and disfigurement after they have elected to treat themselves at home with products that appear safe and "easy" to use.
"I advise everyone not to try dangerous at-home treatments and wait to see your physician. My advice to anyone considering any cosmetic procedure, surgical or nonsurgical, is "Do your homework". Don't be swayed by social media opinion."
In this era of virtual "mirrors" and comparison on social media, it's easy to get caught up with how we look.
But whether you're considering dermal fillers once lockdown ends or you have a new-found appreciation for your natural face, it's important to remember to take care of yourself in whatever way makes you feel confident in who you are.
Beauty may be in the eye of the Zoom camera, but we're all just trying to survive a pandemic, after all - and you look great doing just that.