The Latest Cosmetic Surgery Trends in DC

Facelifts are up, as is ear surgery (blame masks!). Plus, what to know about Ozempic face.

Cosmetic surgery saw a big boost during the pandemic—a lot of time spent face to face with ourselves on Zoom, plus, according to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, money from canceled vacations and being able to recover while home all fueled the spike. Yet even now, as vacations resume and many people have returned to offices, demand continues. Here’s what’s popular, what’s fading, and what’s behind it all.

What’s In More Demand


Perhaps the pandemic and politics have aged us in recent years—face procedures were up 54 percent in 2021. “People are coming to me who understand that the issues affecting the appearance of their face and neck can only be addressed surgically,” says Chevy Chase plastic surgeon Philip S. Schoenfeld. Non­invasive devices such as the Lutronics Genius microneedling radiofrequency treatment provide some benefit, says Dr. Burton M. Sundin of the Virginia Institute of Plastic Surgery, but they’re “not equivalent to a facelift,” which he says can wind back the aesthetic clock ten or 15 years. Schoenfeld notes that while face­lifts once had a negative connotation (we’ve all seen photos, after all, of very obvious work), newer techniques offer a “much more natural” result.

Cellulite reduction

Cellulite has always been a popular topic during beach season, but until recently there’s been little that doctors could offer patients for the distinctive dimpling caused when age and genetics shorten connective fibrous bands that attach skin to muscle. But last year, the FDA approved Avéli, a device designed to smooth cellulite by cutting the bands that make skin dimple. “It is one of my favorite new things,” says DC plastic surgeon Troy Pittman, “because our results have been remarkable.” The procedure is usually done in-office with local anesthesia. One session is all you need, and it typically costs $5,500. Though some swelling and bruising may last a couple of weeks, recovery is minimal.

Ear surgery, or otoplasty

Pittman says that after years of staring at themselves on Zoom, some patients began to take note of their ear shape, and in some cases—blame ill-fitting masks—ears have changed. “How many times have you seen a person wearing a too-small N95 mask that was pulling their ears forward?” asks Pittman. Those people ended up warping their ears, because cartilage is “totally trainable,” he says. “Otoplasty used to be something we did on kids, and in our practice we didn’t do it a lot on adults—now I’m seeing adults [for this treatment] once a week. It’s insane.”


According to the Aesthetic Society, liposuction—in which fat is suctioned out—increased 66 percent in 2021, making it the leading cosmetic surgery performed and ousting breast augmentation from that spot for the first time in years—and Washington is no exception. “People want to slim down,” says Sundin. “People are still frustrated from their Covid weight.”

What’s Out

Brazilian butt lifts

It’s hard to believe these were ever trendy in our area—and to be fair, they didn’t quite catch on like they did in Miami and Texas, says Dr. Anita R. Kulkarni of the DC Plastic Surgery Boutique. But demand peaked nationwide in 2018. Now their moment is decidedly over. “Brazilian butt lifts have the highest death rate of any cosmetic surgery,” says Kulkarni. What also cooled demand: “Celebrities moved away from the exaggerated waist-to-hip ratio and large buttock,” so the general population did as well. “I absolutely detest body trends, because I believe that your body is not a trend and plastic surgery should aim to bring out the best version of your body, not attempt to turn you into some faux ideal,” she says. “But the reality is that people are influenced by what they see. My hope is that the recent focus on embracing diverse body types will move us, as a society, away from body trends.”

Faces full of filler

According to doctors we spoke to, filler has been improperly used over the years as a nonsurgical facelift. “Fillers are done by everybody,” says Schoenfeld—meaning you don’t have to be a cosmetic surgeon or dermatologist to administer them. Though one recent study concluded that some fillers can have lifting effects, Schoenfeld says another has shown they aren’t the solution. Still, explains Pittman, people can go too far in trying: “We see these overfilled faces. [Patients] go to injectors who don’t do facelifts, and they keep filling and filling and then the person looks distorted.” But that trend is waning.


What Everyone’s Talking About

Buccal-fat removal

There’s a lot of buzz these days about the removal of buccal (pronounced “buckle”) fat in the face. The goal: creating the look of high, chiseled cheekbones. Although removing this fat—the pad in the midsection of the cheek below the cheekbone—can be done safely, it’s not recommended for most patients. “It should be reserved for people who have very round, full faces,” says Schoenfeld. “If you have a moderately thin face and you start removing buccal fat, as you get older you’re going to look skeletonized.”

“Ozempic face”

The appetite-­suppressing drug Ozempic—originally intended for patients with type 2 diabetes—has taken the weight-loss realm by storm. (Thanks, Hollywood.) One possible side effect: sagging skin on the face. “Essentially, the fat comes out of your face either so fast or so much that the skin doesn’t have a chance to retract concordantly,” Kulkarni says. The effects on the face are not specific to Ozempic, though, says Pittman—the same sagging would occur with any rapid weight loss. Kulkarni adds that there probably aren’t a lot of people in DC who have been on the drug long enough to have it—yet.

This article appears in the June 2023 issue of Washingtonian.

Amy Moeller
Fashion & Weddings Editor

Amy leads Washingtonian Weddings and writes Style Setters for Washingtonian. Prior to joining Washingtonian in March 2016, she was the editor of Capitol File magazine in DC and before that, editor of What’s Up? Weddings in Annapolis.