When it comes to plastic surgery, most people think about patients trying to gain a more youthful and refreshed look to the face and/or other parts of the body. While plastic surgery often seems more popular than ever before, the desire to alter or enhance the appearance of the body has been around for many years. Let’s take a look at how plastic surgery has evolved over the years from ancient texts located in Egypt to California plastic surgery growing in popularity thanks to celebrities on the red carpet and reality TV shows.
The phrase “plastic surgery” derives its name from “plastikos” which is a Greek word that means to give form or mold.
The oldest recorded plastic surgery procedures are reported in an ancient Egyptian medical text that is known as the “Edwin Smith Papyrus”. The medical text is named for an American Egyptologist who purchased it in 1862. The text shows how ancient Egyptians treated wounds along with suggesting that nasal injuries could be addressed by manipulating the nose into the desired position through the use of wooden splints, linen plugs, and swabs to hold it in place.
Sushruta, an Indian physician from the 6th Century BC, is sometimes referred to as the “father of plastic surgery”. The treatment of the nose, listed above, was performed to repair the nose as well as to give it an improved and more aesthetically appealing look. One of the reasons patients in ancient India wanted to improve the cosmetic appearance of the nose was the practice of having the nose removed as a punishment for acts of adultery as well as other acts that were classified as being against the law at the time. Since the removal of the nose was a visible sign of shame on the part of the person, it was apparent to others that the person had done something wrong.
The technique used by Sushruta involved constructing a new nose by using skin that came from another area of the face of the patient (such as the cheeks or the forehead). The skin was raised by the doctor, along with the underlying fat, and it was then transported to the area of the face where the nose was located.
The first cleft lip repair surgery is believed to have been successfully performed in the 4th Century by Chinese doctor.
In ancient Rome, there is documentation of a surgical procedure where the excess skin located around the eyes of a patient was removed in a surgical manner. These days, this procedure is known as blepharoplasty.
The popularity of plastic surgery grew rapidly during World War I as the large volume of patients with facial injuries gave surgeons the opportunity to create improvements in techniques such as skin grafts, facial reconstruction, and bone grafts. While the needs of these patients, that were soldiers, generally involved improving the functionality of the injured areas (such as the ability to breathe or chew easier), there was also the idea that aesthetic improvements could also be performed.
The 1960s saw cosmetic procedures such as breast augmentation and rhinoplasty become more of a common choice among patients. Botox, which was used in the 1970s as a treatment for crossed eyes (strabismus), was later adopted by cosmetic surgeons for its ability to help smooth the skin. In 2002, the FDA approved Botox to treat issues such as fine lines and wrinkles on the face.
The 1990s saw a large growth in the popularity of plastic surgery with the number of cosmetic procedures being performed outnumbering the number of reconstructive procedures. The American Society of Plastic Surgeons reported, that by 2005, the number of cosmetic surgery procedures that were performed in the United States was close to twice the number of procedures performed for reconstructive purposes.
According to a 2020 report from the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, there were 15.6-million cosmetic procedures performed in the United States in 2020. There was a bit of a drop in the numbers from previous years. It was reported there was a 15% decrease in the total cosmetic procedures performed in 2020 (although this number is likely the result of COVID-19 shutdowns impacting the ability of cosmetic procedures to be performed for many months).
There is also the continuing “Zoom Boom” trend where patients want to make changes to their look after viewing their appearance on video calls while working at home. There are also more patients that are now willing to travel further than their hometown and visit other states, such as California, to have California cosmetic surgery procedures that give them a younger and rejuvenated look like they see on their favorite celebrities on TV and at red carpet events.