The History, the Psychology and the Future of Cosmetic Surgery

I hid behind the sheets with one eye covered and the other glued to the TV screen. “Don’t go in there!” I yelled. But she did. The scene was unimaginable. Her body was limp and lifeless, just lying there covered in a pool of her own blood. What horror film was I watching, did you say? I wasn’t. And no, it wasn’t a crime documented murder scene either. I was actually watching a tv series about plastic surgery, and the woman lying there was having her nose reshaped. It was terrifying!

After indulging in enough of these programmes to suffer PTSD, I thought now would be the best time to write a little article on the matter. Firstly, because it’s something that’s highly popular nowadays and advancing constantly, and secondly because there’s something psychologically baffling about why people do and want such extreme physical changes.

Firstly though, let’s explore a little historical insight on the subject.

As early as the 1400’s the original “nose job” has been historically recorded, although far more frightening than by today’s measures. It involved creating a nose shape from parchment or leather and then used as a template on the patient’s arm. That template on the skin would then be cut away and sewn onto the patient’s face. For 8-10 days they would have their arm attached to their face until the tissue had healed enough for the arm to be freed. Gruesome, right? Later techniques of the nose jobs have been accounted in the 1800’s using ancient Indian methods from as early as 8BC. This method comprised of making a leaf-shaped skin graft on the patient’s forehead. This skin flap was then used to reconstruct the nose. However, surgical techniques truly began to advance in the 1900’s. Some of those who fought in the World Wars suffered severely and were left disfigured from the horrors of it all. But, thanks to pioneering techniques in surgery , these could be corrected with far better results and far less scary processes.

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Throughout the 20th century plastic surgery has progressed in its methods and capabilities, and through such advancements has grown in popular demand. Historically it was used to correct severe deformities, but it is now used to enhance, change or reverse what is considered aesthetically “imperfect”. Aside from the rhinoplasty (nose job) being one of the most popular surgeries, it is hard to deny the prevalent presence of others, such as  the breast enlargement, face-lift, tummy tuck  etc. Smaller and less invasive cosmetic procedures have been introduced to the current market too, still aimed at “correcting” what isn’t considered perfect. The acceptance of wrinkles, for example, is a no-no, so we have Botox injections to keep the face taut. Another is the glycolic peel, which is used to smooth the surface of the face and remove uneven tone. But we can go beyond changing the skin. Surgery has enhanced its skills so far that we’re now able to modify teeth, hair and even genitalia. With surgical competences this far advanced, the possibilities are endless.

As a woman of the modern era, I have also been swallowed by the influence of surgery and subjected myself as a guinea pig to some of these contemporary procedures. From the socially accepted brace to straighten my wonky teeth, to the slightly more invasive hyalauronic acid filler under the eye to eradicate dark circles and even follicular unit extraction to correct my dodgy hairline. Despite my parents thinking I was beautiful just the way I was, I begged to differ and still do! They gave me a template, one of which through the visions of the modern age was not considered “perfect” so I set myself out on a mission to correct what genetics got “wrong”.

The following images are both of me, even though I look very different now! The first picture is when I was 15 (all dressed up for an Iron Maiden gig), and the one underneath is me now at 25 (at a recent modelling shoot). 10 years has changed my look a lot, but the person inside still remains in tact.

age 15 2               DSC_1441

After experiencing a plethora of health issues in my early teens, I was mentally scarred from the youth it stole from me. A lot of the time I felt awful, therefore I looked awful too. Once I regained my physical health I finally had hold of the reins to my body again and I took it upon myself to take control. I had been ridiculed for my teeth over the years, so they were the first things to change. That and a diet, because that puppy fat was something else that I just couldn’t pull off. But, it didn’t stop there. Once I had reached one goal I moved onto the next. And here I am at the age of 25 and I still am not fulfilled with my appearance. But, is this a never-ending quest to fill the void of mental scarring? Most probably.

Now these procedures have crossed the line of beautification and more to modification. Faces and bodies are no longer in need of perfection correction. Instead these surgical skills are used as the means to expressing any unique look that the human mind can conjure up, and that means the sky’s the limit.

Once upon a time women who inflated their chests to the size of beach balls were seen as outrageous, but times have changed. Surgery was initially used to reconstruct what had been left deformed, then it advanced to correct the imperfect, but now it is being used to alter what was normal and “boring” and create the “shock” factor; this is where the scary stuff really begins. From supersized booties (sported by such stars as Kim Kardashian), altering your natural iris colour (which is not legal in the UK due to high risks of blindness and serious complications) to mutilating the cheeks with holes for a tribal-like look, the craziness just keeps on coming.

holes

But why does it occur to such an extreme? Possibly for similar reasons to my own. Psychological wounding appears to be the source for such decision making; the more traumatising the event/s, the more it affects you mentally. It is almost a way of relinquishing ties to that person, a former self, if you like. Plus, having a predisposition to such emotions is most likely a contributory factor that enables building and maintenance of such beliefs. I.e. I dislike the way I am naturally and nothing you can say will change my mind. Although I would never go to such extremes myself, I would say the aetiology for these processes is very similar. When watching most of these surgical documentaries you see the candidate of such modifications has experienced a something personally emotive which has worked as a catalyst in initiating this process of radical alteration. Whether it be a loss of someone important to them, being bullied for looking “different” or experiencing constant rejection, there is usually a reason behind the action and depending on which reason that is will depict which surgical route they choose endeavour.

I guess the moral of the story is to never judge what’s on the surface, even if it looks a little insane, because there’s usually a story behind it. And whether you agree or disagree with some of the procedures, there’s a person underneath it all using their bodily canvas to express what is in their heart.

So, if anyone out there is one of the few who read this and said “I’d never change myself like that” then count yourselves as one of the lucky people who accepts you for being you. But, remember to cherish those who haven’t felt that way and encourage them to believe that they are beautiful. The more we accept one another’s differences, the less they’ll be seen as “flaws” and there’ll be less need for such extreme methods to express how we feel inside.

love-yourself

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