The Evolution of The Plastic Surgery Industry


Believe it or not, plastic surgery wasn’t invented to smooth the aging faces of celebrities or increase the breast size of strippers and desperate housewives…

The very first person to officially undergo plastic surgery was actually a wounded World War I soldier who suffered horrible facial injuries during combat, including the loss of his upper and lower eyelids while manning the guns aboard a battleship. In 1917, Walter Yeo put himself in the hands of “the father of plastic surgery” Sir Harold Gillies – the first man to use skin grafts from other, undamaged parts of the body – and became the first patient to benefit from Gillies brand-new skin grafting technique called “tubed pedical.” In the aftermath of the First World War, Gillies was credited with treating “an unprecedented number [of soldiers] with horrific facial injuries,” using innovative techniques that have slowly evolved into what we know today as plastic surgery.

Walter Yeo before and after having plastic surgery in 1917:
first plastic surgery walter yeo

There’s no doubt that war was the driving force behind most plastic surgery advancements during the late 1800s and early 1900s. However, even before Walter Yeo and Sir Harold Gillies, skin grafts were used to treat facial injuries more than 4,000 years ago, by physicians in ancient India who practiced reconstructive procedures as early as 800 B.C. Despite its long and varied past, it wasn’t until the 19th and 20th centuries that plastic surgery was recognized as a means of aesthetic improvement. In the words of the 19th century American plastic surgeon John Orlando Roe, “how much valuable talent (had) been…buried from human eyes, lost to the world and society by reason of embarrassment…caused by the conscious, or in some cases, unconscious influence of some physical infirmity or deformity or unsightly blemish.”

Today, plastic surgery isn’t so much about saving lives as it is a means for vain self-improvement – mainly for those aging celebrities, strippers and desperate housewives we mentioned above. Instead of treating horrific facial injuries, shattered jaws and gaping skull wounds, plastic surgeons today are shaving down noses, plumping lips, lifting breasts and sucking out the fat of celebrities too lazy or ignorant to lose weight the good old-fashioned way. And so, plastic surgery has evolved from a life-saving procedure to a means for that “valuable talent” Dr. Roe spoke of to rid themselves of “unsightly blemishes.” Plastic surgery has grown into a thinly regulated billion dollar industry whose marketing campaigns prey on the insecurity and vanity of women, ultimately leaving them disfigured in their own oddly wrinkle-free, frozen-faced way. Sounds more like regression than evolution to us…but it sure is profitable!

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