Business is booming for the country's plastic surgeons as Kiwis suffering from lockdown blues and Zoom shock have decided to have cosmetic surgery.
Cosmetic plastic surgeons spoken to by the Herald all reported an increase in inquiries and bookings for surgery, mainly from women, since Covid-19 forced New Zealanders into lockdown and sealed the borders.
Auckland surgeon Stephen Mills has seen clients propelled to do something about their appearance on the back of the "Zoom component" and says inquiries for cosmetic surgery have increased by about 20 per cent.
"As you know when you look at yourself on Zoom you get a bit of a shock," Mills said.
There's little doubt that Zoom-style images on a laptop are far from flattering. Celebrity chef Jamie Oliver had to ask fans to stop being mean after he was criticised for his scruffy and unflattering appearances on his lockdown cooking show Jamie: Keep Cooking and Carry On.
Hamilton surgeon Stuart McNicoll has had that feedback from clients, too. But it's not just the Zoom-zone procedures – face and neck lifts, eye-lift surgery, nose job, Botox and lip fillers - that are demand.
Surgeons report inquiries and requests for surgery are across the usual range, just more of them. Clients are booking in for tummy tucks, liposuction and breast enhancement procedures.
The theory is that people who spent time in lockdown tidying their cupboards and re-evaluating their lives have been spurred to get something fixed that's bothered them for a long time. Added to that is the disposable income accumulating because Kiwis can't travel overseas.
Covid-19 had made people a little more "fatalistic," Mills said, and without travel they now had more time on their hands to get things done.
"They have always had some issue with their body that has bothered them but now Covid has given them a sense that life is for living and if something bothers you then do something about it. "
McNicoll said that before Covid-19 struck, inquiries had slowed down, particularly in the second half of last year. But once alert level 4 lockdown ended, inquiries for cosmetic surgery were noticeably higher.
"They (clients) seem to be having a real spend up."
With a facelift costing between $20,000 and $45,000, depending on whether extras like eyes and brow lifts were included, inquiries often didn't go any further in the past.
"Probably the big difference is how many went ahead, saying 'book me in and do it' rather than 'I'm just thinking about it.' Everyone I talk to in Auckland is finding the same too. "
Mills, too, is finding clients want to go ahead more quickly than usual.
"They say 'well, let's just crack on while we're going through this time where we can't really do much. Now is the perfect time.'"
Although international travel restrictions mean medical tourism – having cheaper surgery in places like Thailand, Bali, Sri Lanka and the Gold Coast - is harder to access, top surgeons in New Zealand don't think they're picking up much of that business.
"They're not people who would have normally gone to Asia. They're patients who would probably not have gone there anyway," McNicoll said.
Auckland surgeon John de Waal has also experienced an increase in the amount of requests for cosmetic surgery, as opposed to reconstructive surgery. He, too, thinks he's not picking up business as a result of the difficulties of accessing medical tourism options.
"Most of the clientele we see in here New Zealand tend to be a different group of people. I suspect the ones who go to have cosmetic tourism are the ones we wouldn't see here anyway. They're a bit more price conscious, their expectations are a bit different."
He's not sure what's driving the increase. "Maybe people have had a bit more time to sit around and look at themselves. There could be a number of reasons. Who knows what drives people."