Cosmetic Surgery

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edited by Bernadette Wegenstein


Plastic Reconstruction of Face, Red Cross Worker, Paris 1918 (National Library of Medicine, Bethesda, MD)
In this Parisian lab, facial parts are being plastered and put on a badly disfigured man (most likley a world war one veteran).


Denis Diderot and Jean Baptiste Le Rond d'Alembert: "Chirurgie," in:
Encyclopédie, ou Dictionnaire raisonné des sciences, des arts et des métiers

Bernadette Wegenstein


The listing of the three areas—medicine, culture, and beauty—in the subtitle of my Living Book on cosmetic surgery is not coincidental. The practice of cosmetic surgery—a surgical intervention into the body for merely aesthetic and not medical reasons—is a medical discipline, dating back to the times of the Hindu doctor Sushruta, who practiced rhinoplasty c. 500 BCE. The promise on which this medical discipline operates is, however, not only that of ‘health,’ but also that of ‘beauty,’ be it a restorative beauty that seeks to ‘repair’ what has been lost (due to age, accident, or illness)—hence reconstructive surgery—or a beauty that is yet to be born, or ‘carved out,’ with the help of an aesthetic surgeon's scalpel and with reference to the grounding pillars of beauty: symmetry and proportion. In both cases, the desire for such beauty can be defined as a cultural phenomenon: in the sense that it affects the way we humans look, what we want, and the way we define our appearance and correlate it to our inner qualities and characteristics.

To repeat after Meredith Jones, one of the authors included in this Living Book, cosmetic surgery is the quintessential expression of today's makeover discourse, a discourse whose primary dictum is bodily improvement—both moral and aesthetic. The concept of ‘makeover’ can be found in endless examples of today's western culture and its language: words and concepts such as rebirth, restart, new start, change, self realization, or new beauty are all indicators of what sociologist Anthony Elliott calls the ‘new individualism of instant change’. He holds the following factors responsible for this state of events: a) the importance of celebrity culture (on which we model our appearance), b) consumerism (the fact that we can buy makeover in different forms and fashions freely on the market), and c) the electronic economy of looking good (the fact that we can change appearances with computerized manipulation). This culture, which seeks improvement and progress on the macro- as well as on the micro-level of the individual experience, wants to achieve a state of being that another one of my Living Book authors, Carl Elliott, describes as ‘better than well.’ This is a state that the true authentic self had to work hard for, or at least search for (even on the internet), a self that was supposedly always meant to be, but had to be ‘discovered’ with the help of technologies such as liposuction or Prozac. Ultimately, these enhancement technologies give birth to a ‘new better self.’ As Jones points out, such a birth often takes place on the screen (see the format of the reality television makeover show)—where all of the above-mentioned sociological factors find themselves united: celebrity, consumerism, and electronic media. (more)

Public Health 

Joel Schlessinger, MD, FAAD, FAACS, Daniel Schlessinger, and Bernard Schlessinger, PhD
Prospective Demographic Study of Cosmetic Surgery Patients

Anne F Klassen, Andrea L Pusic, Amy Scott, Jennifer Klok, Stefan J Cano
Satisfaction and quality of life in women who undergo breast surgery: A qualitative study

Jamal M. Bullocks, M.D.
Cosmetic Surgery in the Ethnic Population: Special Considerations and Procedures

Sunishka Wimalawansa, M.D., Aisha McKnight, M.D., and Jamal M. Bullocks, M.D.
Socioeconomic Impact of Ethnic Cosmetic Surgery: Trends and Potential Financial Impact the African American, Asian American, Latin American, and Middle Eastern Communities Have on Cosmetic Surgery

Roberta J. Honigman, MSW; Alun C. Jackson, PhD; and Nicki A. Dowling, PhD
The PreFACE: A Preoperative Psychosocial Screen for Elective Facial Cosmetic Surgery and Cosmetic Dentistry Patients

Cosmetic Surgery of the Nose, Gaspare Tagliacozzi, 1597    

Gaspare Tagliacozzi: Plastic Surgery of the Nose
De Curtorum Chirurgia, 1597

Breast Reconstruction — Medical Discourse and Illustration

Michael A Martin, Ramona Meyricke, Terry O'Neill, and Steven Roberts
Mastectomy or Breast Conserving Surgery? Factors affecting Type of Surgical Treatment for Breast Cancer — a Classification Tree Approach

Chen JY, Malin J, Ganz PA, Ko C, Tisnado D, Tao ML, Timmer M, Adams JL, Kahn KL.
Variation in Physician-patient Discussion of Breast Reconstruction

Mal Bebbington Hatcher, Lesley Fallowfield
The Psychosocial Impact of Bilateral Prophylactic Mastectomy

Psychology and Sociology

Randy A Sansone, MD,  Lori A Sansone, MD
Cosmetic Surgery and Psychological Issues

Roberta J Honigman, BComm, BsocWork, AASW: Katharine A Philiips, MD; David J Castle, MSc, MD, MRCPsych, FRANZCP
A Review of Psychological Outcomes for Patients Seeking Cosmetic Surgery

Cressida Heyes
Diagnosing Culture: Body Dysmorphic Disorder and Cosmetic Surgery

Steven S. Platek, Devendra Singh
Optimal Waist-to-Hip Ratios in Women Activate Neural Reward Centers in Men

Victor S Johnston
Facial Beauty and Mate Choice Decisions

Dr. Stephen Marquardt's Beauty Analysis

Feminism and Cultural Studies

Nora Ruck
Beauty Normalized: Normalization and Optimization of the Human Body in Cosmetic Surgery and Psychological Attractiveness Research

Brenda R Weber
Beauty, Desire, and Anxiety: the Economy of Sameness in ABC's Extreme Makeover

Kathy Davis
Surgical Passing: Or Why Michael Jackson's Nose Makes 'Us' Uneasy 

Meredith Jones
Architecture of the Body: Cosmetic Surgery and Postmodern Space

Alicia R Ouellette
Eyes Wide Open: Surgery to Westernize the Eyes of an Asian Child

Philosphy and Ethics

Arthur Caplan, Carl Elliott
Is it Ethical that we Use Enhancement Technologies that Make Us Better Than Well?

Cressida Heyes
Cosmetic Surgery and the Televisual Makeover: A Foucauldian Feminist Reading

Joanna Zylinska 
Of Swans and Ugly Ducklings: Bioethics between Humans, Animals, and Machines

Meredith Jones
Makeover Culture’s Dark Side: Breasts, Death and Lolo Ferarri

Interview with Sander Gilman

The famous come-back video Spiegel by the all-female German Hip Hop group Tic Tac Toe came out in 2005.
It deals with female body image disorder, and the resulting desire to change everything about oneself, when looking into the Spiegel (mirror).
It is told through the voices of three participants of a group therapy session who come out rapping their self-hatred.

Selected Links

NIH Plastic and Cosmetic Surgery Info

The American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery

Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery: Journal of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons


New Beauty Magazine

Nasal "S" Implant for African American Rhinoplasty

Medical Illustration by Jennifer Gentry

Mastectomy and Breast Reconstruction Info from The Johns Hopkins University Hospital

Cosmetic Surgery Tourism Research Project

Reality TV Makeover Shows

Cosmetic Surgery and Film


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