Brazilians Turn to Botox to Wipe Away That Quarantine Frown

SÃO PAULO—With face masks obligatory across many Brazilian cities, the wealthy are relying ever more on Botox to get the perfect, wrinkle-free forehead. Beauty clinics say demand for the cosmetic treatment has as much as doubled here since the pandemic began.

“People now look each other in the eye more, in the eyes and the forehead—just where their wrinkles are,” said Aline Medici, who owns a franchise of 21 beauty clinics across Brazil, Ad Clinic, with her husband. Over the past few months, they struck deals to open another nine clinics, even as the country plunged into recession.

While face masks have brought scrutiny to the forehead and region around the eyes, the traditional areas for Botox injections, dermatologists also attribute the boom to videoconferencing. After months of staring at themselves during Zoom calls, Brazilians—many only in their early 30s—have emerged from lockdown convinced they need cosmetic help.

“I couldn’t bear looking at my face any longer,” said Deliza Costa, a 32-year-old sales executive, who had Botox injected in June. “It seemed like I was frowning the whole time. I ended up paying more attention to my face than the call.”

Ms. Costa says seeing herself on videoconferences led her to Botox: ‘It seemed like I was frowning the whole time.’


Deliza Costa

Brazil was a world leader in cosmetic treatments even before the pandemic. With a fraction of the per capita income of rich nations, Brazil performed more plastic surgeries than any other country in the world in 2019, according to the International Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgery. For nonsurgical procedures such as Botox, it ranked third, behind the U.S. and Japan.

While data on Botox injections this year in Brazil isn’t yet available, dermatologists and beauty clinics in major cities such as São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro say they are carrying out around 20% to 100% more treatments a month than they did before the pandemic. It is partly due to pent up demand, they say, after many establishments closed down in March and April. However, they are also seeing an influx of Botox first timers. Many of them are men.

“I’ve never done so much Botox as I have during the pandemic, and I’ve never seen so many men coming in,” said Eliandre Palermo, head of the São Paulo branch of Brazil’s Society of Dermatology, who has her own clinic in the city. The number of new clients increased by 60% during the pandemic, she said.

Many men were cajoled into getting Botox by their wives after spending months cooped up together during lockdowns, dermatologists said.

Márcia Rosita Garcia says many patients at her beauty clinic sought Botox treatment after suffering painful break-ups during lockdown.


Márcia Rosita Garcia

“I was worried my friends would make fun of me,” said Luis Ferreira, a 32-year-old pharmaceutical representative, who got a Botox treatment in July. He said he had never spent so much time with his girlfriend before the pandemic and had learned a lot about cosmetic treatments during their lockdown. He now recommends it to his male friends. “I tell them: ‘Do it, dude! It’s important to look good!’ ”

Men now account for about 20% of Ad Clinic’s Botox patients, compared with 5% before the pandemic, said Ms. Medici.

“When you take a photo, you pose to look your best,” said Ligia Kogos, a dermatologist in São Paulo who has been injecting Botox into Brazilians’ faces since the 1990s. But in videoconferencing, “you see your face there at the bottom of the screen, you see yourself speaking, working, your facial muscles contracting.”

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With many beauty clinics closed during the height of the pandemic, Brazilians turned to dentists. In Brazil, dentists are authorized to administer Botox as the substance can be used to treat conditions such as jaw clenching. In reality, many use it to treat their patients’ wrinkles—the subject of a long-running judicial dispute with dermatologists who say the dentists are unqualified.

“I closed for three months and my patients would hassle me every day, asking me to find a way to inject them or go to their house,” said Márcia Rosita Garcia, who has a beauty clinic in São Paulo. “A lot of them ended up going to orthodontists.” She said many of her patients had gone through breakups during lockdown and saw Botox as a way to feel good about themselves again.

The stress of the pandemic itself has also worsened patients’ wrinkles as high amounts of the stress hormone cortisol can affect the skin’s collagen, said Kaliandra Cainelli, who has seen demand for Botox rise 20% at her two clinics in Rio de Janeiro.

Luis Ferreira had Botox after his girlfriend badgered him.


Luis Ferreira

Dermatologists elsewhere in cities such as Los Angeles and London have also reported rising interest in Botox, but the trend has been particularly pronounced in Brazil. Demand for beauty treatments and products has grown even as the economy shrunk by a record near-10% in the second quarter and the country became a global hot spot for the disease, registering more than 150,000 deaths from Covid-19.

Producers of eye creams, used to reduce wrinkles and dark circles, sold 30% more in the first six months of this year compared with 2019, according to data compiled for the Journal by the Brazilian Association of the Cosmetic, Toiletry and Perfumery Industry. Google searches for “skin care” surged 66% between February and April, while online sales of beauty products between January and August doubled from the same period a year earlier, according to the Brazilian Association of Electronic Commerce.

For some image-obsessed Brazilians, face masks and videoconferencing have also provided the perfect way to hide bruising and bandages from more serious treatments. Google searches for rhinoplasty, or nose jobs, have skyrocketed in Brazil since March. Plastic surgeons say other patients have made the most of working over Zoom to get liposuction and other work done from the neck down.

“I did lipo on my stomach and legs and got breast implants,” said Zoe Gardini, a 45-year-old architect, adding that the lockdown meant that she didn’t have to take time off work to recover. “I’ve wanted to get implants for a while but when else can I go three weeks without driving?”

Write to Samantha Pearson at [email protected]

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