Skilled surgeons today can reconstruct, repair, and reshape the human body, from head to toe, in ways that were unimaginable just a hundred years ago. The first record of reconstructive surgery occurred in Ancient Egypt approximately 5,000 years ago but the medical specialty gained rapid momentum in the last century.

The desire to reconstruct damage caused by injury or illness led to an evolution of technique as medical technologies advanced. As surgical techniques, antibiotics, and anesthesia were perfected throughout the ages, this form of surgery became less experimental, producing outcomes that were increasingly positive and predictable.

Many people enjoy the results of cosmetic procedures to enhance the body and improve physical appearance even when no injury or illness prompts it. Today’s cosmetic procedures run the gamut from subtle to miraculous.

Plastic Surgery

The reconstructive surgical procedures leading up to today’s wide array of cosmetic surgical procedures were called plastic surgeries because they allowed the surgeon to sculpt or reshape the surgical site. The term plastic was first applied to surgery in 1839; the Greek word plastikē refers to the art of modeling, including, in this case, the art of modeling the human body. Physicians who perform these procedures are called plastic surgeons.

Seventy years later, in 1909, the word plastic was used to describe a new chemical breakthrough that would revolutionize industrial manufacturing. This invention bears no connection whatsoever to plastic, or cosmetic, surgery.

Surgical Procedures

The most common surgical cosmetic procedures include reshaping of the face, breasts, abdomen, buttocks, and thighs. The surgical options for each part of the body vary and are customized to meet individual patient need. Cosmetic surgeons usually specialize in one area of the body or one type of procedure.

Many women choose surgical cosmetic procedures to slenderize and return the body to its pre-pregnancy shape. Breast surgeries can affect the ability to breastfeed so many women postpone this type surgery until after the last child is born.

Older women frequently turn to facial surgeries to erase signs of aging although women and men of every age turn to surgery to reshape facial features. Procedures to reshape the nose, chin, and cheekbones are popular for women of all ages.

Nonsurgical Procedures

Nonsurgical procedures for minor cosmetic enhancements are growing more common. Botox injections, microdermabrasion, chemical peels, and laser skin resurfacing smooth the complexion for men and women of all ages. Laser, radiofrequency, and ultrasound technologies are increasingly used to remove excess fat and hair, erase unsightly veins, and reshape the body. Cryolipolysis uses extreme, targeted cold temperatures to freeze fat cells for a slimming effect.

Nonsurgical cosmetic procedures usually produce more subtle, less permanent effects than surgical procedures but they are by far less expensive, less risky, take less time to do, and recovery time is minimal.

A survey conducted by the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery indicates that, in 2010, there were almost 10 million total cosmetic procedures performed in the US. Slightly more than 1.5 million of them were surgical procedures.