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Have You Ever Wondered Why They Call It Plastic Surgery?


Plastic surgery seems like a funny name for something that you undergo to improve some aspect of your appearance. Although the term means the same thing as cosmetic surgery, its origins go back much further.


History of Plastic Surgery as a Word Choice and Procedure

The word plastic originates from the Greek language, just as many of our English words do. The original Greek term plastikos means to shape or mold something. That makes sense when you think about plastic surgery as a cosmetic enhancement. On the other hand, plastic surgery as a term has no relationship with a synthetic polymer that we call plastic here in the United States.


The first physician to use the term plastic surgery was Carl Ferdinand von Graefe of Germany. In 1818, he used the words plastic surgery to describe the process of reshaping or molding the body tissues of his patients. The first known use of plastic surgery as a procedure dates to prehistoric times. In the country of India, a person caught committing a crime could have his or her nose cut off. Surgeons in prehistoric times used a wax replica to reconstruct and replace the nose and held it in place using skin from the forehead or cheek.


Plastic Surgery Today

It’s common to confuse reconstructive and plastic surgery, but they are quite different. A person who undergoes reconstructive surgery typically has a congenital or acquired deformity that he or she wants to correct. In contrast, the purpose of plastic surgery is primarily aesthetic. For example, you might choose to undergo a tummy tuck if you feel dissatisfied with the appearance of abdominal fat that didn’t respond to diet and exercise.


Typical Reasons for People to Choose Plastic Surgery

You are a unique individual and have your own reasons for considering plastic surgery. Perhaps you relate with one of these common reasons stated by people who responded to a survey for Cosmetic Procedure Guide:

  • Anti-aging: Even when you consume a healthy diet and take great care of your skin, you can only fight back the effects of aging for so long. Plastic surgery involving the face, eyebrows, mouth, and nose are popular to reduce or eliminate wrinkles, crow’s feet, deeply-set laugh lines, and other common appearance issues associated with aging.
  • Career advancement: Certain careers are more difficult to advance in once you show visible signs of aging. This is especially true for those with heavy public contact, such as the performing arts. Plastic surgery helps to soften the effects of aging so you can maintain a youthful appearance for as long as possible.
  • Genetic traits: As much as you love your father, you might not love the fact that you inherited his large, bumpy nose. With a plastic surgery procedure such as a rhinoplasty, you can alter your inherited traits to something that you prefer instead
  • Scars: When you received a scar in a traumatic way, having to see it every time you look in the mirror can fill you with anxiety. It can also make you feel self-conscious when the scar is visible on a part of your body that you can’t cover with clothes. Some people who struggled with severe acne in the past may have scars from that as well. Common procedures used to eliminate or reduce the appearance of scars include microdermabrasion, dermal fillers, and laser skin resurfacing.
  • Sun damage: It has only been in the last several years that we have learned the extent of skin damage from long-term sun exposure. Perhaps you have issues such as unwanted freckles, age spots, or sagging skin directly related to spending time in the sun. A facelift and microdermabrasion are two common procedures to treat sun-related skin problems.

Now that you know the history of plastic surgery and many of the common reasons for it, consider giving yourself the gift of an improved appearance in the new year.



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