Human beings have always been fascinated with the concept of self-improvement. More often than not, this falls more on the aesthetic side of the spectrum. So it’s perhaps unsurprising that plastic surgery has taken off in such a significant way over the past few decades.

But did you know it’s actually one of the oldest treatments in the world? Indeed, cosmetic and reconstructive surgery has been a part of our society for thousands of years.

Plastic Surgery Man

The origins of cosmetic surgery

While it is seen as the height of western decadence by many, plastic surgery is actually an eastern invention. It is thought that the practise can be traced back to ancient India, where rudimentary skin grafts were used to treat burns and other afflictions. Skin grafts continued to be used sparingly for hundreds of years, with the practice also spreading into Europe.

However, progress in the field of plastic surgery was very slow over the new few thousand years. While there are Roman writings to suggest that facial reconstruction was carried out in that era, it wasn’t until the Middle Ages and the Renaissance that things really started to pick up.

Middle Age cosmetic surgery

After the fall of Rome, the advancement of plastic surgery stalled for a while as science took a backseat to religion. Indeed, one Pope around this time declared all plastic surgery was illegal under Church law. There were some subtle advancements made during this time though.

For example, a procedure to repair cleft lips was pioneered and advances in technology meant existing techniques were safer than before. It was during this period that the treatment for gynecomastia was also pioneered and this still forms the foundation for breast reduction surgeries to this day.

The rise of plastic surgery in the 20th century

In the 17th and 18th centuries, there was very little in the way of medical advances to shout about. However, in the fallout of the First World War in the early 20th century, many military physicians began pioneering facial reconstruction surgeries for war victims. This was the period that paves the way for the plastic surgery of today.

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While plastic surgery was at first thought to be something of a necessity only for patients that had experienced severe injuries and deformities, in the 60s and 70s, the creation of silicone spurred on lots of excitement in the concept of cosmetic surgery for aesthetic reasons.

In 1962 the first breast implant was created and throughout the 80s and 90s, the perception of plastic and cosmetic surgery began to shift. Today, it’s hardly even seen as a serious surgery in many instances and has even been made light of by the media. But who would have thought it all started thousands of years ago in India?