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Plastic Surgery

A Snapshot of Plastic Surgery Trends Through the Decades

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Plastic surgery is bigger than ever, and this upward swing is unlikely to be curbed anytime soon. While we think of these procedures as recent developments, in truth, plastic surgery has a long history — and plenty of trends that have come and gone, and then come back again. 

What are the past plastic surgery trends by decade? And what can we expect in the decade to come? From nose reconstruction to mommy makeovers, let’s take a look at the procedures that have made plastic surgery a beauty mainstay. 

Pre-20th Century

Believe it or not, plastic surgery did exist before the 20th century. Though back then, you could hardly point out any trends. Overwhelmingly, procedures before the 1900s were reconstructive in nature, with a few cosmetic surgeries peppered in for good measure. But reconstructive or cosmetic, these surgeries were rare and experimental. However, they laid the foundation for what was to come, making them more important than most people realize. 

The World Wars

When did plastic surgery start to go mainstream? Most point to World War I. While this wasn’t mainstream in that your average person could access procedures, the government began to embrace reconstructive surgery for service members injured in battle. 

By World War II, the military was operating its own plastic surgery centers to address facial trauma and burns. During the intervening years, cosmetic procedures had also started to gain prominence, especially in Hollywood. Many stars had work done, from less invasive procedures like electrolysis to raise hairlines (Rita Hayworth) to actual implants for the breasts and face (like Marilyn Monroe’s chin implant). 

The 50s and 60s

During the 1950s and 1960s, the plastic surgery scene didn’t change all that much. It continued to be relegated mostly to reconstructive surgery and the rich and famous. While the average woman was embracing more cosmetic procedures, these were more along the lines of electrolysis, permanent makeup and other “med spa” treatments, not actual surgeries. 

The 70s and 80s

Things really started changing in the 1970s. By this time, women’s undergarments had changed a lot, and things like girdles and other forms of shapewear were looked down upon. But at the same time, body standards remained quite ridged, and perhaps more explicit than ever before given how pornography went mainstream in this decade. During this decade, breast augmentation and liposuction were the go-to procedures.

This was also the decade where the FDA began to step in more, regulating things like implant materials. As a result, more and more people felt comfortable getting work done. 

However, it wasn’t until the 1980s that plastic surgery truly entered the mainstream, thanks to a few celebrities being more open about the work they got done, as well as every tabloid speculating about who did what. It was also during this decade that more men began to embrace cosmetic procedures as the media began to shift the focus on perfection to them as well. 

The 90s

While the 1980s saw more people talking about plastic surgery, it wasn’t until the 1990s that you really saw celebrities out and proud about their work. And perhaps no one did more for the visibility of the practice than Pamela Anderson. 

At the same time, Pam and models like her introduced a lot of misconceptions about plastic surgery — from how plastic it looked to implant sizes. Still, that didn’t stop the rapid growth of the industry, with breast implants, tummy tucks and liposuction being the most in-demand procedures.

In the background, doctors and scientists were developing better techniques and materials for plastic surgeries, making them safer and more natural than before. 

Plastic Surgery Trends in 2021

So, what do trends look like today?

For nearly all of plastic surgery history, breast augmentation and liposuction reigned supreme, but 2021 is seeing major changes. Due to the pandemic, video conferencing and face masks, people are focusing on facial procedures, both surgical and non-surgical. 

There is also a focus on combination procedures, like the mommy makeover. With these, you address multiple areas of concern with the surgeries that most appeal to you. 

Of course, breast augmentation, liposuction and tummy tucks all remain incredibly popular. And whether or not a procedure is trending, if it interests you, it’s worth investigating. 

A Snapshot of Plastic Surgery Trends Through the Decades
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A Snapshot of Plastic Surgery Trends Through the Decades
How have plastic surgery trends changed by decade? Dr. Francesco Campanile of Campanile Plastic Surgery in Denver takes a look at trends of the past.
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August 11, 2021
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