Objective: During the COVID‐19 pandemic, Australia implemented widespread closure of beauty and cosmetic services to control the virus spread. The effect of these restrictions is unknown, given that beauty services are widely used for stress relief or to enhance confidence. The current study explored the relationship between engagement in appearance‐focused behaviors and distress regarding beauty service closure. Participants with high and low levels of dysmorphic concern were compared to determine whether COVID‐19 restrictions may affect these groups differently.
Method: An online survey was completed by 216 participants living in Australia. Questions addressed engagement in appearance‐focused behaviors during the COVID‐19 pandemic and attitudes toward beauty service closure. The Dysmorphic Concern Questionnaire (DCQ) was used to group participants by low and high dysmorphic concern.
Results: Appearance‐focused behaviors decreased in the low DCQ group (n = 163) during the COVID‐19 pandemic, while such behaviors in the high DCQ group (n = 53) remained unchanged. Individuals who were living alone, younger, reported higher dysmorphic concern and greater distress over beauty service closure engaged in more frequent appearance‐focused behaviors (R2 = .57, p < .001). The high DCQ group reported greater distress over beauty service closure and increased desire to obtain future beauty treatments.
Discussion: While COVID‐19 restrictions may have provided a break from societal appearance pressure for those with low dysmorphic concern, appearance‐focused behaviors persisted in individuals with high dysmorphic concern. A greater understanding of the long‐term impacts on appearance‐related distress is needed to determine mental health priorities emerging from the COVID‐19 pandemic.
Keywords: body image, body dysmorphic disorder, cosmetic surgery, COVID-19, beauty industry, appearance