Endless video calls have taken their toll on the way we feel about our appearance, with more people than ever booking tweakments to fix 'Zoom face'. Hattie Sloggett explains why she's one of them

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I recently caught my reflection in the mirror and was not pleased with what stared back at me. I looked exhausted beyond my 31 years and was prefacing every new conversation with "oh, I'm really tired, by the way, that's why I look so rough". I put it down to awkward lighting, to the distortion of Zoom, but it kept happening. I would clock my reflection and the face looking back at me made me feel unbelievably sad. The stress of this year had taken its toll on my skin; my under eyes looked puffy, my cheeks were gaunt and my jowls were lower than I would have liked. I started to hate looking at myself.

I reached out to aesthetic doctor Dr Pradnya Apte, who I'd met last year when I'd had a filler called  Ellansé,  at her Harley Street clinic. Ellansé is a bio-stimulator, which means it promotes your body's own collagen production while plumping you up. I loved the way it refreshed my cheeks, temples, midface, lower face and jaw. People said I looked well. They didn't ask me what I'd had done. The effects were subtle and grew over time as my own new collagen growth kicked in. Although Ellansé is a relatively long-lasting filler, after 12 months it had worn off. I felt - and looked - deflated.

I'm not the only person who has beaten a path to their aesthetician's door in recent months. Many clinics are reporting a 'Zoom boom' in people seeking treatments to fix the parts of their face they are unhappy with (Zoom's 'touch up my appearance filter' notwithstanding). A third of people surveyed by filler brand Teoxane revealed that following lockdown they would now consider getting a cosmetic tweakment, with one in ten saying that they had noticed more 'flaws' in their appearance while on video calls or with family at home. After the first lockdown, Dr Pradnya's experience bears this out. Her clients more than doubled with most requesting wrinkle-relaxing 'tox' injectables, Ellansé for volume as well as tear trough fillers to fix eye bags and dark circles.

Dr Benji Dhillon has noticed a rise in particular treatments following lockdown. “I have definitely noticed an increase in the number of patients requesting jawline and tear trough treatments. These are definitely areas of the face that look more pronounced during video calls, even if the call quality is bad or there is low light Having a hollow tear trough can make you look more tired, something that is often easy to pinpoint on your own face," says Dr Dhillon, cosmetic doctor and Teoxane opinion leader.

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Dr Pradnya confirms that Zoom meetings are making people aware of how tired they look, with hollows under their eyes. And it's affecting how we feel about ourselves. "Many patients have been feeling underconfident and suffered from low self-esteem so are seeking facial rejuvenation to help them to feel better about themselves."

By profession, I'm a confidence coach. I help people to realise and embrace their truest selves. On my own self-esteem building journey, I've tried everything from self-medicating to meditation and I've learned that you have to find what's right and healthy for you. There are many ways in which we can reboot our self-confidence: for some it is coaching, working with someone like me for instance, others require more specific help such as counselling. And some just want to tweak those parts of themselves that make them feel uncomfortable or that they don't feel represent who they are.

For most people, it’s a little bit of everything. For me, I have my therapist, I take time for myself, I journal, and I have learned to be softer with myself, if I want the cinnamon swirl, I’ll eat the god-damn cinnamon swirl. Self-esteem comes from inside our mind, however, our mind is triggered by things we see, hear and feel in the outside world or see in the mirror. To my mind, a great outfit, a fresh haircut or the right makeup can be our armour and tweakments can be the chainmail that sits under that armour. If you feel beautiful and confident in the way you look, then you will look beautiful and confident in the way you are.

Dr Pradnya explained that this time around, we would use a form of Ellansé that would last up to two years because it takes longer to break down. Unlike many fillers such as Juvederm, which are hyaluronic acid-based, and which tend to last months rather than years, Ellansé is made of a derivative of cellulose (aqueous carboxymethylcellulose) with synthetic polycaprolactone microspheres (PCL). "The longer the chain of PCLs the longer it takes to break down," she says. I wouldn't have to come back for two years.

Dr Pradnya knows how to make an injectable as pain-free as possible. She used a combination of numbing injections and cream before the treatment. She talked me through the procedure as she went, even going as far as to explain where I had tendons that might push back against the needle causing it to sting a bit more. I never feel uncomfortable when I'm in her chair. I had four injections in my midface, nose to mouth lines (nasolabial folds) and mouth to chin lines (marionette lines).

Thirty minutes later, I'm back in my car on my way home and the only soreness I feel is some minor bruising from the needles. I saw immediate results, my skin already looked plumper, although long-term volumising effects take three months as your own collagen starts to kick in.

In the weeks that follow I find myself glancing at my face to check that I am writing the truth, because as strange as it might sound, visiting Dr Pradnya has brought my confidence back. My self-esteemed has improved. I no longer look or feel deflated.

The funny thing is, not many people can see the difference, but I can and that is all the matters. I'm presenting to the world the image that I feel best represents who I am. And, if being true to yourself isn't the most confidence-boosting thing in the world, I don't know what is.

Ellanse costs around £400 for a 1ml syringe. The average facial treatment cost is £1200 to £1600.  Find out more about Dr Pradnya here .

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