Appearance is often the first impression that generates how others perceive — right or wrong — a person’s success and capabilities. Appearance is often believed to be important in getting a job, getting a promotion, and attracting a mate. Plastic surgery, cosmetic surgery, exercise bodyshaping, bodysculpting, weight management, laser treatment, tanning and many more methods are used to improve the image of an individual.
Plastic Surgery/Cosmetic Surgery
Plastic surgery is a medical specialty that uses a number of surgical and nonsurgical techniques to change the appearance and function of a person’s body. Plastic surgery procedures include both cosmetic enhancements as well as functionally reconstructive operations. When aesthetics are considered more important than functionality or a functionality improvement is not necessary, plastic surgery may be referred to as cosmetic surgery. Most procedures involve both aesthetic and functional elements. Cosmetic surgery, as defined by the American Board of Cosmetic Surgery, is a subspecialty of medicine and surgery that uniquely restricts itself to the enhancement of appearance through surgical and medical techniques. It is specifically concerned with maintaining normal appearance, restoring it, or enhancing it beyond the average level toward some aesthetic ideal. Cosmetic surgery is a multi-disciplinary and comprehensive approach directed to all areas of the head, neck and body.
Special skill and knowledge are essential and specialists in cosmetic surgery are competent in the anatomy, physiology, pathology and basic sciences. The educational profile of this specialty is unique in that it begins with a fully trained and certified physician. Through continued post-residency education, training and experience, cosmetic surgery is taught and learned across traditional disciplinary boundaries. The subspecialty fully incorporates the participation and knowledge from all contributing disciplines to attain a high level of skill and understanding. Contributing disciplines include dermatology, general surgery, plastic surgery, otolaryngology, maxillofacial surgery, oculoplastic surgery, and others.
Plastic and cosmetic surgeons offer specialized expertise in patient education and counseling, procedural skills, and the early recognition and treatment of complications. Regarding public awareness and confusion of plastic surgery or cosmetic surgery with other non-medical cosmetic practices, many physicians have to overcome preconceptions patients have about plastic surgery being simple and fast. While plastic surgery or cosmetics surgery is low risk when performed by knowledgeable, experienced plastic surgeons, it is still not ‘simple.’ As a specialty, cosmetic surgeons have advanced the knowledge and training of fellow physicians and directly benefited society through educational publications, scientific journals and in the development of safe and innovative techniques.
Competency in cosmetic surgery implies a combination of knowledge, surgical judgment, technical expertise and ethics in order to achieve the goal of providing aesthetic improvement. The largest plastic surgery specialty organization in the world is the American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS, plasticsurgery.org).
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Laser Hair Removal
Epilation performed by laser was performed experimentally for about 20 years before it became commercially available in the mid 1990s. Intense Pulsed Light (IPL) epilators, though technically not a laser, use xenon flash lamps that emit full spectrum light. Laser and light-based methods, sometimes called phototricholysis or photoepilation, are now most commonly referred to collectively as “laser hair removal”. One of the first published articles (Permanent hair removal by normal-mode ruby laser) describing laser hair removal was authored by Deirickx CC, Grossman MC, Farinelli WA and Anderson RR at Massachusetts General Hospital in 1998. The efficacy of laser hair removal is now generally accepted in the dermatology community, and laser hair removal is widely practiced. Many reviews of laser hair removal methods, safety, and efficacy have been published in the dermatology literature.
Electrolysis is an alternative permanent hair removal method that has been used for over 135 years. It involves treating one hair at a time and is an option for smaller areas (like eyebrows or upper lip) where precision is necessary, although even in these areas it has fallen out of favor because of the possibility of scarring and the pain of the procedure (unlike laser hair removal, local injection anesthesia is often required in order for patients to tolerate electrolysis). In addition it takes so many treatments compared to laser to complete a large area, and the extreme cost and discomfort are such that electrolysis is rarely used for large areas. At this time, it is the only permanent option for very fine and light-colored hair.
Dierickx, C.C., et al. Permanent hair removal by normal-mode ruby laser. Arch Dermatol, 1998. 134(7): p. 837-42.