Technological Innovation Has Changed The Cosmetic Surgery Game

This is a guest post by Dr. Kimberly Henry, a cosmetic surgeon and member of the Amerian Board of Plastic Surgery, from Ravishly's special Conversation series on the cosmetic surgery debate. Have a story or perspective you'd like to share? Email

Over the course of recorded history, human beings have placed great value on personal appearance. Though standards of what is considered beautiful vary widely among cultures and time periods, and even among individuals, the desire for beauty has remained an unchanging constant. Chemical peels date as far back as Cleopatra, and surgical facelifts have been around for several hundred years, albeit in a much cruder form than what we have today.

It is no surprise, then, that plastic surgery is one of the oldest branches of surgery, dating back thousands of years. Advances in cosmetic surgery have increased, fueled by continuous, innovative medical research, as well as technological advancements making cosmetic surgery one of the most progressive and most studied fields in medicine today. This, to a great degree, is due to its widespread acceptance among women and men who openly seek to look their best, no matter their age.

Methods for facelifts, for example, have improved greatly. During the 1960's, plastic surgeons turned their attention from the face to the aging neck, and to develop techniques for correcting "turkey gobbler" necks and removing excess fat under the chin. The 1970s marked the beginning of the new facelift era with the development of techniques with odd names (SMAS) that produced great results. The 1980s introduced liposuction for neck contouring, along with new developments in undermining and muscle modifications. The 1990's sparked huge advances in laser technology and the development of endoscopic techniques that reduced the need for large incisions and subsequent scars. Now, in the new millennium, our options continue to expand as the risks decline.

Along with technological advances in the field, the last decades have brought about dramatic changes in society, including a major shift in attitudes toward plastic surgery. Once limited to movie stars and the wealthy, plastic surgery has become solidly mainstream. Statistics reveal that those who choose to undergo plastic surgery represent a wide spectrum of occupations, ages and income levels. Although women still comprise the majority of patients, men represent an increasing market segment, particularly when it concerns anti-aging procedures such as facelifts, eyelid lifts and hair transplants. Both sexes are choosing to have surgery at younger and ages to compete in the highly competitive workforce of today.

In addition to technological innovation and a growing shift of acceptance in society, we are becoming more informed as a society. The American Society of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgeons published A Delineation of Qualifications for Clinical Privilege in October 1994, a publication that outlines the specifications for choosing a qualified surgeon based on appropriate credentials and training in the field of cosmetic surgery. Doctors who advise as plastic surgeons may not have studied sufficiently to perform surgery, and to provide superb aesthetic as well as medically safe results. As a society we have access to and are armed with information as we consider plastic surgery as an option to enhance our physical appearance.

In over two decades of private practice as a plastic surgeon, I have heard the question "Should I have plastic surgery?" Many of my patients still ask the question "should I really do this?" However, I have recognized that overcoming fears and moving forward is done so with greater ease and comfort in an age where information is more readily available. We are becoming more informed about how to make the decision to have plastic surgery as we rely on resources such as More and more individuals are seeking cosmetic procedures and are recognizing the importance and value of forging ahead by consulting with an appropriate surgeon—a board-certified plastic surgeon.

As technology advances, and as we find ourselves in an age where we are living longer, it is no surprise that plastic surgery is on the rise. While it may be true that "you're only as old as you feel," it's hard to feel youthful when we look, well, old. And although some people still insist that it is possible to age gracefully and "naturally," the rest of us welcome whatever help we can find to keep time's ravages at bay. Magazines and the Internet are filled with articles on the subject, and the idea of undergoing cosmetic surgery is no longer a topic of secrecy or embarrassment.

Societal pressures to look young, thin and healthy have steadily increased the popularity of cosmetic surgery every year.

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