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The Changing Face of Beauty: An Evolution of Plastic Surgery.

Updated: Mar 2, 2023

Dr Srinjoy Saha, Clinical Associate Professor in Plastic Surgery and Consultant Plastic Surgeon, Apollo Hospital Kolkata.


Cosmetic plastic surgery has emerged as a significant change in recent decades, where individuals can change and improve their appearance. This article explores the history of body modification, the rise of plastic surgery, its popularity, its effects on individuals and society, and the evolving definition of beauty.

A woman checking her beauty in a mirror.
Mirror, mirror, on the wall...

First, 2 Examples of Prominent Entertainers:

One example of plastic surgery's impact on a person's life is the case of Cindy Jackson. After feeling self-conscious about her appearance for years, Jackson underwent over 50 plastic surgery procedures to achieve what she believed to be the ideal beauty standards. Her transformation was drastic, and she became a Guinness World Record holder for the most cosmetic procedures. While some may view her choices as extreme, Jackson's story illustrates the power the pursuit of beauty can have on a person's self-esteem and self-image.

Another example is actress Renee Zellweger, who sparked a media frenzy in 2014 when she appeared on the red carpet with a drastically altered appearance. The speculation about whether or not she had undergone plastic surgery highlights the cultural obsession with beauty and the pressure placed on celebrities to maintain a particular appearance. Zellweger later spoke out about the scrutiny she faced, stating that she had not undergone plastic surgery but had taken a break from the industry and aged naturally. Her story sheds light on the unrealistic expectations placed on women, particularly in the entertainment industry, to maintain a youthful and flawless appearance.

Trying to Define Beauty (and Failing!):

Most of us think of beauty as a fixed, innate attribute. But the definition of beauty is constantly changing, which is most evident in plastic surgery. In Hollywood's golden age, beautiful actresses had natural curves and small breasts. They looked normal and healthy. Today's standards of female beauty are far different. Looking at the photos of actresses from the 1940s, you can see they have a healthier appearance than most women in film today. To many people, the actresses of yesteryears looked real, while those of today appear fake. The definition of beauty keeps changing.

The field of beauty has undergone a complete makeover in the last decade, with people from all walks of life opting for plastic surgery. Plastic surgery procedures are no longer reserved for celebrities and socialites; they are becoming more common in everyday life. As more and more people undergo plastic surgeries and share their experiences on social media, we can see that the definition of beauty is growing to include a wider variety of shapes and standards.

The History of Body Modification:

The practice of body modification has a rich history that dates back thousands of years. Ancient cultures worldwide have engaged in various forms of body modification for religious, cultural, and aesthetic purposes. For example, the ancient Egyptians used tattoos to identify and adorn. At the same time, the Maori people of New Zealand practised facial tattooing as a sign of social status and cultural identity.

Body modification was also used in many cultures to indicate social hierarchy, gender identity, or marital status. Some of the most well-known forms of body modification include scarification, piercing, and tattooing. These practices have evolved and continue to be popular today, with new techniques and trends emerging in the modern era. While the motivations behind body modification may vary from culture to culture and individual to individual, the practice remains a powerful form of self-expression and personal identity.

The Rise of Plastic Surgery:

Plastic surgery is increasingly growing in popularity over the years, with more and more people opting to go under the knife to enhance their physical appearance. While plastic surgery has been around for centuries, we can trace the rise of modern plastic surgery back to the First World War. During the war, plastic surgery was used to reconstruct the faces of soldiers disfigured from fighting. Correcting their faces led to the development of new techniques and technologies that improved a person's appearance.

In the years following the war, plastic surgery continued to evolve, with new procedures being developed and refined. One of the most significant developments was the creation of silicone implants, which were first used in the 1960s. These implants allowed surgeons to reshape and augment various body parts, including the breasts and buttocks. The rise of plastic surgery has been driven by a combination of technological advances, increased acceptance of cosmetic procedures, and the desire to look younger and more attractive. Plastic surgery is a multi-billion dollar industry, with millions of people undergoing procedures yearly to improve their appearance and boost their self-confidence.

The Reasons Behind the Popularity of Plastic Surgery:

The popularity of plastic surgery can be attributed to several factors. Firstly, advancements in medical technology have made it safer and more accessible. Procedures once considered risky and only available to the wealthy are now commonplace and affordable for the general public. In addition, the stigma surrounding plastic surgery has decreased as more people openly discuss their procedures and celebrities publicly endorse them.

Another reason for the rise of plastic surgery is the influence of social media and the desire to present a particular image online. With the rise of platforms like Instagram, people are constantly exposed to embodiments of the "ideal" body and face. Increased social media exposure led to more people seeking plastic surgery to achieve these beauty standards. Additionally, with the pandemic forcing people to spend more time at home and on video calls, many have become more self-conscious about their appearance and turned to plastic surgery as a solution. The desire for physical perfection and the pressure to conform to societal beauty standards will likely continue driving the popularity of plastic surgery.

The Effects of Plastic Surgery on Individuals and Society:

Plastic surgery can produce both positive and negative effects on individuals and society. On the one hand, it can boost a person's self-esteem and confidence, improving overall mental health and well-being. Such improvements further enhance the person's chances with relationships and professional opportunities. Additionally, plastic surgery can correct physical abnormalities or injuries, improving physical health and functionality.

However, plastic surgery can also have adverse effects. It can create unrealistic beauty standards and contribute to body dysmorphia, a mental health disorder characterised by obsessive thoughts about perceived flaws in appearance. Dysmorphia can lead to repeated surgeries and dissatisfaction with one's appearance. Moreover, plastic surgery can perpetuate harmful societal norms, such as valuing physical appearance over other qualities and promoting a narrow definition of beauty. It can also contribute to social inequalities, as it is often expensive and inaccessible to many people.

The Evolution of Beauty Standards:

The evolution of beauty standards has been a complex and ongoing process throughout history. It has been influenced by various factors such as culture, media, and social norms. In ancient times, beauty standards were heavily influenced by symmetry, proportion, and physical strength. In many cultures, a fuller figure was considered a sign of wealth and prosperity; in others, thinness was ideal.

As time progressed, the beauty standards began to change, emphasising youthfulness and skin tone. The media has significantly shaped beauty standards, with advertisements and popular culture often promoting unrealistic and unattainable beauty ideals. The immense popularity of social media in recent years has also contributed to the pressure on a person to conform to specific beauty standards. However, there has been a shift towards more inclusive and diverse beauty standards in recent years, with people embracing a more comprehensive range of body types, skin tones, and features. This shift towards inclusivity and diversity is positive, allowing individuals to feel more comfortable and confident in their skin.


In conclusion, cosmetic plastic surgery has emerged as a prevalent phenomenon, allowing individuals to modify and improve their physical appearance. The definition of beauty is continually evolving, and plastic surgery has played a role in shaping it. Innovative technology and techniques have allowed plastic surgeons to provide physical features that nature has not. The multitude of effects of plastic surgery on individuals and society have significant implications worldwide.


This article and the information contained within it are for educational purposes only. It should not be construed or used as a medical opinion or advice. This article does NOT intend to supplement the advice of a trained, licensed medical professional in your area.

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