Despite what people might think today, plastic surgery is not a 20th-century invention. Historically, plastic surgery has been practiced in some form for centuries, even as far back as at least 800 B.C. when Indian physicians were using what we call today’s skin grafts to help patients regrow damaged skin areas. The first cleft palate was performed in the U.S. in 1827, sealing up an otherwise very common malformity in a child’s face at the time.
Dr. Joel Aronowitz notes that it was the brutality of mechanized war that triggered the widespread need and growth of plastic surgery for reconstruction. Once the rifle and cannon were made more efficient, especially as seen in the large battles of the 1800s, those who survived came up with horrible disfigurements. At first, many injured veterans were just hidden away from the public eye by relatives and family. However, once the numbers increased, prosthetics and covers were used to at least take the immediate shocking images out of sight. Unfortunately, Dr. Joel Aronowitz points out sadly, these tools simply created more curiosity. So, physicians started experimenting with what was possible in terms of actual physical reconstruction, particularly for skin restoration and facial reconstruction. By the end of World War II, plastic surgery had started to become professionalized and common, especially with so many soldiers coming home again and needing the ability to adjust back to civilian life.
In terms of elective surgery for appearance improvement, Dr. Joel Aronowitz agrees that necessity dictates new markets. By the 1950s, physicians who had learned their skills with war patients realized they needed an active market to continue the trade. That meant using what was learned for soldiers and applying it to civilians. At first, elective plastic surgery was a discrete matter handled by specific offices in big cities and not really advertised. Yet, by the 1960s, plastic surgery had started to become a household term, most notably due to the use by Hollywood stars and celebrities focused on maintaining their appearances for further income and extended entertainment careers. The business had long used the help of plastic surgeons behind the scenes, but with a more liberal social perspective, the profession became more mainstream.
By the 1970s, plastic surgery was a commonplace elective service offered by medical experts as we know them today. And this is where the industry began to broaden itself, going well past just nose jobs and face tucks and into additional areas of eventually, liposuction, as well as dozens of other procedures and treatments. Dr. Joel Aronowitz points to one of the most recent ones, Botox, which is technically plastic surgery by category. The science of plastic surgery will likely continue to advance, especially as people are living longer and have a greater demand to retain their appearance as a result. And that’s where high-quality expertise will make a difference for patients going forward.