What You Need to Know About Cosmetic Surgery
An Overview of the Most Common Cosmetic Procedures
Cosmetic surgery is one of the best-known types of plastic surgery, which is why the two terms are often confused and used interchangeably. However, cosmetic surgery is just one type of plastic surgery, along with other types such as reconstructive surgery, microsurgery, hand surgery, and burn treatment. Also known as aesthetic surgery, cosmetic surgery is differentiated from the other types of plastic surgery in that it involves procedures done primarily to maintain or restore normal appearance, or enhance it to fulfill some aesthetic ideal. It does not necessarily aim to restore or improve function, which is the primary purpose of reconstructive surgery. However, reconstructive surgery may also try to achieve normal appearance, but as an aim only secondary to restoring function.
In the United States, the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery has recorded that a total of over 9 million cosmetic procedures was done in the year 2010. This number continues to rise exponentially, as an increase in the use of cosmetic procedures is seen all across racial and ethnic lines—from the Caucasian Americans, to the African-Americans, to the Hispanic Americans. In Europe, cosmetic surgery is a $2.2 billion industry, making the continent the second biggest market for cosmetic procedures. In Asia, there is also a flourishing of the industry, as cosmetic surgery becomes more and more acceptable to more cultures and practices. In Asian countries such as Thailand, medical tourism is booming as international patients from all around the world flock to them for affordable cosmetic procedures.
The following section features an overview of 7 of the most popular and commonly done cosmetic surgeries today: liposuction, varicose and spider vein treatment, breast reduction, eyelid reduction, laser skin rejuvenation, facelift, and wrinkle and sweat reduction by injection.
1. Liposuction or Liposculpture
Also known as fat modeling, this is a cosmetic procedure done to remove fat from certain parts of the body, usually the abdomen, hips, flanks or love handles, thighs, buttocks, backs of the upper arms, and the neck area typically below the chin. Liposuction is also called suction-assisted lipectomy, as this surgical procedure involves the sucking out of the fatty tissue using a hollow metal tube attached to a suction device, typically a pump generating a vacuum. Although the contouring effects of this procedure may cause the appearance of more weight lost than the actual amount of fat removed, liposuction in itself is not to be considered a weight-loss method. There is a limit to how much fat can be safely removed in a single session, and this amount depends on several factors such as the particular method being used, the condition of the patient, and the recommendations of the cosmetic surgeon. Surgical risks and likelihood of complications increase when too much fat is removed, giving rise to the appearance of dents or lumpiness in the skin of those who have been “over-suctioned”.
2. Varicose & Spider Vein Treatments
There are several treatment options for varicose and spider veins, depending on the size and depth of the veins being treated. For both spider veins and smaller varicose veins, sclerotherapy may be done to fade the veins. This procedure involves the injection of a liquid chemical directly into the vein, causing its walls to stick together, seal shut, and visibly disappear gradually over a few weeks. For large varicose veins, the treatment option is usually surgical ligation and stripping, which involves tying veins shut (ligating) and completely removing long vein segments from the leg through small incisions in the skin (stripping).
3. Breast Reduction
Some women suffer from back pain or shoulder discomforts due to very large breasts, and want to relieve their physical discomfort by having their breast sizes reduced. Others feel not only physically but also psychologically uncomfortable having breasts that are too large, and want their breasts remodeled to a more natural size. For these women, breast reduction surgery is a viable option. Also known as reduction mammoplasty, breast reduction involves removing excess fat, skin and glandular tissue from the breasts to reduce their size, as well as transposing the nipple-areola complex higher to provide the new breasts a more natural look and contour. Traditional breast reduction techniques used to produce long surgical scars across the breast hemisphere, but modern techniques employ minimal-scar incision surgeries that produce only a periareolar scar camouflaged by the skin-color transition around the areola.
4. Eyelid Reduction
Eyelid reduction is a form of blepharoplasty or eyelid surgery wherein excess tissue in the upper or lower eyelid is surgically removed. Removal of the excess skin and fat tissues of the upper eyelids is usually reconstructive in purpose, to improve vision for patients with drooping eyelids. On the other hand, removal of excess fat and skin from the lower eyelids is almost always done for cosmetic purposes, to smooth out wrinkles and get rid of puffy lower eyelids or eyebags. For lower eyelid reduction, incisions are typically done from the inside surface of the eyelid, to allow removal of excess eyelid fats without producing a visible scar.
5. Laser Skin Rejuvenation
Laser skin rejuvenation or resurfacing is a skin treatment that involves the use of a beam of laser energy to remove damaged skin and promote new skin cell production. It has applications for the treatment of acne scars, stretch marks, spider veins, wrinkles, sun spots and other areas of uneven pigmentation. In the procedure, activated laser is passed back and forth over the skin surface, vaporizing the damaged upper skin layers at controlled levels of penetration and making scars or wrinkles less visible. This process thereby induces some sort of controlled skin wounds, stimulating the skin to heal itself by producing new cells and revealing healthier skin layers underneath.
Aging causes skin to become less elastic, particularly in the facial area. This gives rise to sagging, wrinkling, creases below the lower eyelids, loss of muscle tone, loose skin, and displaced or excess fatty deposits in the lower face. To address these problems, a facelift can be done. Also known as rhytidectomy, a facelift is done primarily for the purpose of making the face look younger. There are various methods of carrying out a facelift, but the most popular technique involves making an incision along the front of the ear extending to the hairline and also curving to the bottom and back of the ear. After separating the skin from its underlying layers, deeper tissues are then tightened and excess tissues are removed. Finally, the skin is redraped, excess skin is cut away, and the incisions are sutured, giving rise to a firmer, more youthful appearance.
7. Wrinkle and Sweat Reduction (by injection)
Wrinkle relaxing and sweat reduction treatments are carried out via the injection of the botulinum toxin, a neurotoxin produced by the Clostridium botulinum bacteria. The botulinum toxin has been purified to be safe for cosmetic use, and its use in the cosmetic industry is popularly known as botox injection or simply botox. The botulinum toxin acts to diminish wrinkles by reducing the release of acetylcholine, a chemical messenger responsible for the stimulation of muscle contraction. Injecting the toxin into strategic parts of the face temporarily puts certain face muscles to sleep, breaking the habit of squinting or frowning and thereby reducing facial lines. Botox injections are also effective for sweat reduction, as acetylcholine is also the chemical messenger that stimulates sweat glands. Injecting the toxin into the sweat glands blocks acetylcholine release and thereby effectively reduces sweat production.