Beyond the ravages of the virus, the COVID-19 pandemic poses challenges for the body – weight gain, loss of exercise venues with gym closures – and the mind as many perch for hours  watching their own face in the video grid of Zoom meetings.

“There have been many body image struggles as a result of the pandemic,” said Dr. E. Sterling Craig, a board-certified plastic surgeon with Hartford HealthCare at St. Vincent’s Medical Center in Bridgeport. “As a result, cosmetic surgery is definitely booming.”

People, many of whom are still working remotely so do not need to worry about taking time off to recovery from procedures, have been seeking consultations and surgery for months, she added. What they’re finding is a very sophisticated, affordable option for self-improvement.

“In the 1980s, plastic surgery was for people with expendable income. Now, it’s more affordable and commonplace. It’s also a response to increased societal pressure to look our best,” Dr. Craig said.

Consultations do not always lead to surgery, however. Dr. Craig says her approach is complete honesty as she and a patient work through their concerns and determine the best route.

“I think patients appreciate honesty,” she said. “We need to figure out the root of what drives their concern, what their goal is, and then what we think we can do to get them as close to that goal as possible, which is sometimes nothing.”

Procedure cost can often be minimized by pairing cosmetic surgery with another procedure, such as performing a tummy tuck at the same time as a hernia removal.

Dr. Craig said the pandemic has brought more professional women to her office than ever, after months of video meetings while working remotely.

“The camera can be quite unforgiving, and there’s increased cosmetic pressure as a result,” she said. “We talk about what is driving their concern and how other things – like a halo light – might be the answer. But Zoom is not a temporary thing and they may, indeed, need our help to feel more confident in their career.”

Working in plastic surgery – Dr. Craig also does microvascular breast reconstruction surgery for breast cancer patients and teams with Hartford HealthCare’s bariatric surgeons to help weight loss patients address extra loose skin – is rewarding for her as well.

“I gain more than I ever give by following these patients through the experience. I see how it can boost their confidence so they are a completely different person!” said Dr. Craig, who shifted her career focus from cardiothoracic surgery after going on a mission trip in medical school and helping to rebuild a child’s deformed ear. “Plastic surgery can be life-changing in a different way. It’s very creative and offers different ways to approach problems.”

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