Zoom Dysmorphia Results in Increase of Cosmetic Consultations

Patients are referencing video conferencing as the reason for seeking cosmetic consultation since the beginning of the pandemic.

Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, there has been a swift increase in the use of video conferencing. Zoom estimates that participants in daily meetings grew from approximately 10 million in December 2019 to more than 300 million in April 2020.1

Dermatologists have also seen a rise in patients who have expressed negative self-perceptions related to this increase in video conferencing,2 according to Shadi Kourosh, MD, MPH, FAAD, in a presentation at the American Academy of Dermatology Association Virtual Meeting Experience 2021.

Kourosh is an assistant professor of dermatology at Harvard Medical School in Boston, Massachusetts; director of community health, department of dermatology at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston; and director of the Center for Laser Surgery and Aesthetics at Brown Dermatology in Rhode Island.

“Society quickly transitioned to a remote way of working and socializing during the COVID-19 pandemic, communicating largely through video calls during a stressful and isolating time,” Kourosh says. “As reliance on video calls increased, we started seeing the consequences of how prolonged time staring back at yourself significantly impacted our patients in a phenomenon we call ‘Zoom dysmorphia.’”

Zoom dysmorphia is defined as an altered or skewed negative perception of one’s body image that results from spending extended amounts of time on video calls.

In a recent survey Kourosh helped conduct, over 100 dermatologists were asked how the shift to remote work affected patient self-perception. Results of the survey showed that more than 50% of dermatologists reported a rise in cosmetic consultations, despite being in the midst of a pandemic.

“What was alarming about our research results was that 86% of dermatologists surveyed who were fielding these cosmetic concerns reported that their patients referenced video conferencing as the reason for seeking cosmetic consultation,” she says. “The increased time on camera, coupled with the unflattering effects of front-facing cameras, triggered a concerning and subconscious response unique to the times we’re living in. In addition, many people were also spending more time on social media viewing highly edited photos of others—triggering unhealthy comparisons to their own images on front-facing cameras, which we know are distorted and not a true reflection.”

Additionally, she says, “This is the lens in which people are viewing themselves today, and it’s not accurate and can eventually become unhealthy. Technology has certainly helped us navigate this pandemic in many ways, but it’s also important to be aware of its limitations and potential to impact how we feel about ourselves.”

Kourosh offers the following tips to help battle Zoom dysmorphia:

  • Assess your technology: Consider using an external, high-resolution camera for quality video and adding a ring light to control how you illuminate your face, which will also improve how you appear on camera.
  • Adjust your camera: Try positioning the screen a further distance away from your face and keep the camera at eye level, which can help to minimize the distortion of the camera and improve appearance.
  • Protect your mental health: Find opportunities to reduce the amount of time spent looking into a front-facing camera, such as by turning off your video on calls when it is not required. Limiting social media engagement may also be helpful. Photo editing is so pervasive on social media and comparing your own distorted images from front-facing cameras with augmented photos online is unhealthy. Consider talking with a mental health professional, who can help you take a healthier approach to your appearance and offer strategies for redirecting your focus away from perceived physical flaws.
  • See a board-certified dermatologist: If you’re concerned about your appearance, see a board-certified dermatologist. They can help identify whether a problem truly needs aesthetic intervention and, if so, can recommend appropriate products or treatments to help you look and feel your best.

References

1. Zoom revenue and usage statistics (2021). Business of Apps. Updated May 24, 2021. Accessed June 9, 2021. https://www.businessofapps.com/data/zoom-statistics/

2. New research focuses on a growing pandemic problem — “Zoom dysmorphia.” News release. American Academy of Dermatology Association. April 23, 2021. Accessed April 24, 2021. https://aad.new-media-release.com/2021/aadvmx/pages/zoom.html