Considering a cosmetic procedure? Have you wondered how plastic surgery and medispa services have evolved throughout history?
Humans have pursued the improvement of the self since the beginning of recorded history. By extension, cosmetic surgery is one of the world’s oldest medical procedures. Documentation exists for different types of cosmetic surgeries throughout various times and places throughout human history–from early procedures in India to modern medispa services to freeze away fat.
Beginnings of Cosmetic Surgery in Ancient India
As early as 800 B.C, physicians in India were developing early skin graft procedures. Medicine in Eastern countries took readily to cosmetic surgery, and there are many recorded incidents of reconstructive surgery throughout these parts of the world.
The techniques were originally developed in India, then introduced to the West where they would be further adapted and refined. In the text De Medicina by Aulus Cornelius Celsus, the Roman physician laid out some of the earliest known surgical methods for reconstructing facial features, such as the ears, nose, and lips.
During the Byzantine period, another physician named Oribasius compiled one of the first medical encyclopedias, entitled the Synagogue Medicae, which also had chapters dedicated to repairing facial features.
Cosmetic Surgery in the Middle Ages and the Renaissance
After the fall of the Roman Empire, science gave way to mysticism for several centuries, to the point where Pope Innocent III declared that surgery in any form went against the laws of the Christian Church. The pursuit of knowledge was replaced by a focus on the personal and the spiritual, and the safety of surgical patients was comprised by lack of hygiene standards.
When the Renaissance began in the 15th century, there began a new era of scientific discoveries that led to newer, safer, and more effective surgical techniques. Serafeddin Sabuncuoglu penned a text called Imperial Surgery, which included material on facial and eyelid surgery. That text also includes one of the earliest treatments of gynecomastia, the foundation for modern methods of surgical breast reduction.
Cosmetic Surgery Progress via Conflict
The next major advances in plastic surgery came in the early 20th century. World War I brought plastic surgery to new levels within medical circles, driven by the number of soldiers returning injured from the conflict that made reconstructive surgery a necessity. The weaponry of the time brought a whole new realm of face and head injuries that had never been seen before. Physicians in the military needed new innovations to improve the procedures already established. During and after the Great War, Europe’s top surgeons dedicated their studies to restoring their soldiers to wholeness.
Around this time, surgeons began to realize the influence of personal appearance upon the degree of a person’s success in life. With this understanding, pure aesthetic procedures began to command more attention, development, and respect. With this progress, surgeons began to perform a wider variety of procedures, such as the first-recorded purely “cosmetic” procedures, such as rhinoplasty and breast augmentations.
Cosmetic Surgery in the United States
Doctor John Peter Mettauer used surgical instruments of his own design to perform the first cleft palate operation in 1827, a surgical stride made entirely in the United States. Almost a century later in 1907, Doctor Charles Miller pinned the first book specifically written on the subject of cosmetic surgery, The Correction of Featural Imperfections. Other books followed in the years after, such as Surgery and Diseases of the Mouth by Doctor Vilray P. Blair and Plastic and Cosmetic Surgery by Doctor Frederick Strange Kolle.
Perhaps the most important institution regarding America’s contribution to plastic surgery history is Johns Hopkins. There, Doctor William Stewart Halsted established the first general surgery training course in the country. He published The Training of a Surgeon in 1904, a text that serves as a basis for all modern surgical training programs. The Johns Hopkins facility was also the base of Doctor John Staige Davis, who was the first America dedicated to solely practicing plastic surgery.
Plastic Surgery in Today’s World
In the 1960s and 70s, plastic surgery began to resemble the practice we know today. In 1969, a plastic surgeon was appointed as Surgeon General, proof that plastic surgeons were moving to the forefront of medical sciences.
The development of silicone changed things drastically. Initially used to treat skin imperfections, the first breast implant was created in 1962 by Doctor Thomas Cronin, leading to the development of implants for just about every part of the body over the next several decades. The 1980s brought a push to improve public awareness of cosmetic procedures, which combined with the economic boom of the same decade, to make it more accessible to mainstream America. The demand for cosmetic procedures kept increasing into the 1990s, despite some controversy over procedures like breast augmentation.
Now, recent medical advances have made incredible feats of reconstruction possible. The biggest recent trend is minimally invasive procedures with the purpose of staving off the signs of aging. Injectable substances, such as wrinkle fillers and Botox, continue to be used more often with a reported 1.1 million Botox injections administered in America each year. As non-surgical treatments for fat reduction become more common, people will become more and more comfortable with medispa services that can help improve their self-image and quality of life.
The best use of cosmetic surgery remains improving one’s life. Whether that improvement comes in the form of facial reconstruction for those with debilitating birth defects or just helping to improve one’s self-esteem, it is clear that cosmetic surgeries are here to stay.