Medicine has evolved to the point where now man has a plethora of options to explore when dealing with varied ailments. Science has enabled humankind to tackle diseases and afflictions that have long plagued us. As a society, this acceptance, or more accurately, the reverence of medicine has spilled over in all domains except for one; cosmetic. While individuals have no qualms about seeking treatment for other medical maladies, cosmetic procedures are still looked down upon with that judgmental look of disgust. Individuals undergoing cosmetic procedures often resort to hiding the enhancements that they have had done, rather than flamboyantly showing them off. What normally should be a badge of empowerment has morphed into a practice that is seen as shameful and therefore shunned by the wider community.
It is very important to note how ‘cosmetic procedures’ are the centre of attention of this article because a very common misconception seeks to unite the fields of cosmetic surgery and plastic surgery while reality begs to differ. The procedures, techniques, and principles of cosmetic surgery are entirely focused on enhancing a patient’s appearance. Improving aesthetic appeal, symmetry, and proportion are the key areas of interest. Cosmetic surgery can be performed on all areas of the head, neck, and body. Because the treated areas function properly, cosmetic surgery is an elective surgery. While on the other hand, Plastic surgery is defined as a surgical specialty dedicated to reconstruction of facial and body defects due to birth disorders, trauma, burns, and disease. Plastic surgery is intended to correct dysfunctional areas of the body and is reconstructive in nature. While many plastic surgeons choose to complete additional training and perform cosmetic surgery as well, the basis of their surgical training remains reconstructive plastic surgery. Major plastic surgery procedures include: breast reconstruction, burn repair surgery, congenital defect repairs, lower extremity reconstruction, upper limb surgeries, scar revision surgeries etc.
However, since cosmetic surgeries are the sole focus here, in lieu of that ideal, we have curated a list of the most common cosmetic procedures and the way that each of them functions.
i) Anti-Wrinkle Treatment: Anti-Wrinkle Treatment is a popular injectable that is intended to temporarily reduce or altogether eliminate facial wrinkles and fine lines. It is derived from the botulinum toxin which is a purified substance that is derived from bacteria. Injections of this toxin block the nerve signals to the muscle in which it was injected, this prevents the muscle from being able to contract which in turn leads to diminished unwanted facial wrinkles. Basically, the injection of botulinum toxin into the muscles under facial wrinkles causes relaxation of those muscles, resulting in the smoothing of the overlying skin. Smoothing of wrinkles is usually visible three days after treatment and is maximally visible two weeks following injection. The treated muscles gradually regain function, and generally return to their former appearance three to four months after treatment. Muscles can be treated repeatedly to maintain the smoothed appearance.
ii) Liposuction: There are two types of liposuction, a surgical procedure that suctions fat from specific areas of the body to provide a slimmer and shapelier silhouette. In tumescent liposuction, the most popular type, a solution of saline, a drug to constrict blood vessels and a numbing agent are infused into the area to be treated. This liquid, along with fat, is suctioned out of the body using small hollow metal instruments called cannulas. The infusion of liquid can cause short-term fluid retention that diminishes over the next few days. In Ultrasonic-Assisted Liposuction (UAL), the cannula releases ultrasonic energy to melt fat so that it can be suctioned out of the body. UAL has more risks than tumescent liposuction, including the risk of internal and external burns and a lengthier surgery. The average patient is able to return to work in one to two weeks depending on the area(s) selected for the treatment.
iii) Breast Augmentation: The surgical enlargement of women’s breasts has become enormously popular with over 350,000 procedures done every year in America. Surgery is done for many reasons, to enlarge both breasts, to replace a breast that is absent or to make asymmetrical breasts equal in size. Other women opt for surgery when their breasts do not develop during puberty, a condition called congenital micromastia. Since a bustier, fuller look is associated with a more sexually appealing one, such surgeries have been on the rise for quite some time. Silicone implants, once banned as a health risk, are increasing in popularity. Almost twenty percent of women choose a silicone implant over saline, citing the more realistic feel of silicone. Most patients have a one or two weeks of recovery before they can return to normal activities. High impact activity, such as running, may require additional healing time.
iv) Blepharoplasty: Eyelid reshaping surgery is can be done for cosmetic reasons or to improve vision in patients where the eyelids obstruct vision. Too much skin or sagging skin can cause the vision to be impaired and contributes to an older, wrinkly appearance. Lower eyelids with chronic puffiness or wrinkling are often reduced during the procedure for a more youthful appearance. Fat pads under the eyes causing the appearance of “bags” are removed as necessary in the lower lid procedure. The average recovery after this surgery is about ten days, with the swelling becoming less noticeable for weeks or months.
v) Abdominoplasty: Commonly known as a tummy tuck or a lower body lift, abdominoplasty removes excess skin from the abdominal area and tightens the skin that remains. This surgery is growing in popularity, primarily among women who have excess skin after being pregnant or after losing significant weight after bariatric surgery. The ideal candidate does not have excess fat deposits in the abdomen to remove but too much skin hanging from the abdomen. Most patients are able to resume normal activities in two to three weeks but may have limits on physical activity for a longer period of time.
vi) Treatment of Gynecomastia: Surgery to reduce excessive amounts of male breast tissue, a condition known as gynecomastia, is performed over 20,000 times per year. The surgery is a permanent solution for most men suffering from this affliction, as long as the increased amount of tissue is due to the person’s genetics. Some men experience growth of their breasts after using steroids or marijuana habitually. For these men, breast size will increase if the use of the drug that caused the growth continues. It is essential that men who know that drugs are the cause of their gynecomastia stop using the drug prior to the surgery or the outcome may not be ideal. Men with very large breasts may require a longer surgery with an additional procedure to decrease excess skin; otherwise sagging skin may be noticeable. Surgeons typically make an incision around the nipple line so that the scar is not noticeable to the casual observer, allowing patients to go shirtless after recovery. Most men are able to return to work within a week and are able to return to normal activity within weeks.
vii) Rhytidectomy: A rhytidectomy, or facelift, is a surgical solution to the wrinkles and sagging that accompany aging. A facelift tightens the skin of the face to give a more youthful appearance by gently pulling skin tighter, smoothing deep lines and minimizing sagging. A facelift is frequently combined with another procedure, forehead lift, eyelid shaping or skin peels, to enhance the youthful appearance of the patient. Swelling, redness and bruising are normal after surgery but most patients can return to work within two weeks. Healing is complete and the final results are often apparent within twelve weeks.
viii) Rhinoplasty: A nose job, or rhinoplasty, reshape the nose, bringing it into balance with the rest of the face. The surgeon may reduce the overall size of the nose or refine areas of the nose for a more pleasing appearance. In some cases where breathing is can be improved through surgery, as in the case of a deviated septum, insurance will pay for some or all of the surgery. Bruising can be obvious after surgery but should fade over the next ten days, when most patients return to work.
ix) Breast Lift: A treatment for sagging or poorly shaped breasts, a breast lift repositions the breast for a perkier appearance. A typical patient will have this procedure after significant weight loss or pregnancy leaves the breasts looking deflated. Some women opt to have a lift and an implant procedure if the breasts are notably smaller than before weight loss or pregnancy. Most women are able to return to work within two weeks and resume full physical activity within a month.
x) Forehead Lift: Similar to a facelift, a forehead lift pulls the skin of the forehead tighter to remove wrinkles and smooth creases. The eyebrows are also elevated for a more alert and youthful appearance. Patients with deep furrows between the eyebrows also benefit from a forehead lift as the lines are minimized as the eyebrows are raised. Most patients are able to resume normal activity within ten days of surgery, but recovery can be significantly longer if combined with other facial surgeries.
xi) Dermabrasion: Dermabrasion uses a specialized tool that gently scrapes off the top layer of skin. Once the top layer of skin has been removed, the area heals and new skin replaces the old. This results in smoother, rejuvenated skin. Dermabrasion is used in cases of acne scars, age spots, lesions on the skin, sunburnt skin, wrinkles etc.
xii) Hair Transplant: Hair transplantation is a surgical technique that removes hair follicles from one part of the body, called the ‘donor site’, to a bald or balding part of the body known as the ‘recipient site’. The technique is primarily used to treat male pattern baldness. In this minimally invasive procedure, grafts containing hair follicles that are genetically resistant to balding (like the back of the head) are transplanted to the bald scalp. Since hair naturally grows in groupings of 1 to 4 hairs, current techniques harvest and transplant hair “follicular units” in their natural groupings. Thus, modern hair transplantation can achieve a natural appearance by mimicking original hair orientation. Donor hair can be harvested in two different ways: follicular unit transplant (FUT) and follicular unit extraction (FUE).
xiii) Laser Skin Resurfacing: Laser skin resurfacing is a proven way to help reduce wrinkles, age spots, acne scars, and other blemishes as well as tighten skin and balance tone. The technique directs short, concentrated pulsating beams of light at irregular skin, precisely removing skin layer by layer. This popular procedure is also called lasabrasion, laser peel, or laser vaporization. Generally, laser resurfacing is an outpatient procedure, meaning there is no overnight stay. Following the laser procedure, the doctor will bandage the treated area. Starting 24 hours after treatment, you will need to clean the treated area four to five times a day. Then you’ll need to apply an ointment, such as petroleum jelly, to prevent scabs from forming. This wound care is intended to prevent any scab formation. In general, the areas heal in 10 to 21 days, depending on the condition that was treated.
With this, we include our list of modern cosmetic procedures. It is indubitably clear that society does not reward what they term as vanity, since those looking for self-improvement are viewed with a sizeable amount of contempt and disdain. Cosmetic procedures have thus become a social taboo, not to be talked about. This is inherently fallacious since the cosmetic industry rakes in billions of dollars every year, so why is a near ubiquitous practice looked at with such embarrassment?
The answer to that question lies in acceptance, since the wider society and more pertinently celebrities do not showcase the cosmetic procedures that they have done, the practice is still brushed under the carpet. Looking back at the history of tattoos, it is clear to see that they were also initially looked at with the same measure of shame as modern cosmetic procedures. It was only through acceptance by those in prominent positions in the society that tattoos managed to permeate into everyday life. In these modern times, we need the same level of exposure and acceptance of cosmetic procedures if we wish to create a society that uplifts rather than puts them down.