The Evolution of Beauty
Advancements in cosmetic procedures have us pondering the age-old question: What is beautiful?
The ancient Egyptians were obsessed with beauty and cleanliness—not just in this life, but also in the next. They believed that cosmetics had healing, if not magical, powers. Clay and kohl were applied to the face in a uniquely ornamental way, and often left in tombs as burial offerings to the deceased.
Today’s woman doesn’t have time to worry about incense, Henna tattoos or assuring these things make it into her afterlife. Modernity has helped define beauty by manufacturing youth through a series of products and procedures that are both changing faces and the way people feel about their appearance from the outside in.
At some point, every woman becomes aware of her appearance and the gift of her temporal youth. She will learn to wear an underwire bra, put on makeup and judge her reflection with criticism: learned rituals that play part in the cerebral experience and social development of the feminine in our modern time. Thick lines of kohl painted across the eyes may not be ritual today, but whether Egyptians began a popular beauty obsession or not, even Cleopatra herself would be amazed at the procedures performed by the medical professionals injecting, sculpting, lasering, sucking and syncing beauty on women—and men—one procedure at a time.
The hallmark of past beauty trends can be seen throughout distinct decades of profound transformation that have shaped women’s bodies, fashion, faces and parts that are left unseen. And thanks to iconic celebrities and pop-culture saturation, the quest for beauty marches on, with beauty demigods Kim Kardashian, Blake Lively, Kate Beckinsale and CoverGirl princess Taylor Swift singing the war cry. From the Lesley “Twiggy” Lawson waif craze of the 1960s to current trends in uber-white dental veneers, the evidence of beauty evolution is apparent. But what is beauty—and where do cosmetic procedures fit in?
“The decision to consider cosmetic enhancements is a very personal one,” said Dr. Amir M. Karam of Carmel Valley Facial Plastic Surgery. “If there is a feature or aging-related change that troubles you, it may begin to impact your self-image, self-confidence and actually cause problems in your life.”
And unlike previous generations, we have access to procedures that can actually turn back the clock. If Cleopatra wasn’t dead already, she would have died to try some of these procedures.
“We live in exciting times for facial improvements and rejuvenation,” Karam said. “It is now possible to change features that bother you…even better, it is now possible to have procedures that prevent your face from aging.”
Though alternatives to invasive beauty enhancements are increasing, recent statistics reported by the American Society of Plastic Surgery reveal no slowing of invasive cosmetic procedures. Breast augmentation, liposuction, rhinoplasty, eye lifts and facelifts are still among the most common plastic surgeries on the menu.
While choice has always been an advantage, it can be confusing when it comes to beauty. Are my breasts big enough? Should my inner thighs touch? Is my smile perfect? These are questions that, when left to society, reveal brutal scrutiny. Who decides what’s beautiful?
Doctors throughout San Diego have provided amazing results for patients who are ready to take control of their beauty with innovative procedures and products to assist in answering these complex questions. But even doctors caution the physical perception of beauty as self-improvement.
“Looking wonderful is a great thing, feeling wonderful is everything,” said a well known La Jolla, a board-certified plastic surgeon.
Today’s advanced procedures are not as crude as they may seem juxtaposed against ancient practices. Many mimic customary beauty rituals that have been practiced for centuries. Microdermabrasion, or chemically peeled skin, is non-invasive and promotes a youthful glow.
But cosmetic dentistry is an altogether new kind of beauty. A beautiful straight smile is quickly becoming the mark of good health, beauty and status. Injectables of several varieties are now available during a lunch break, with new creams and elixirs available to complement and deliver an endless fountain of youth. And beauty trends have created specialized beauty practitioners such wax aestheticians, who establish a new frontier of beauty on our most private parts. Even LASIK surgery, a procedure performed on the cornea to correct astigmatism, has become a place of pilgrimage for those seeking near-perfect vision and an unencumbered appearance.
“LASIK makes an enormous difference in the lives my patients,” said Dr. Manoj Motwani of the Motwani LASIK Institute. “By enhancing their sight, work and lifestyle, LASIK eye surgery gives patients a sense of freedom and liberation they didn’t have before the procedure. Besides making them look better, they feel better too.”
Beauty will undoubtedly change as perceptions in culture shift from one generation to the next. Today, the emphasis on beauty is clearly influenced by the advancements of medicine and our tendency to hyper-accentuate imperfections in the media. While self-improvement remains an introspective journey, cosmetics and beauty enhancements strive to improve the lives of patients from the outside in.
Though questions of beauty still exist, it is important to remember that it’s not all there is in life. The pharaohs and queens of old inevitably met their mortality. With gold, jade and rubies adorning their tombs, they could only hope that the beauty they lived in this life would follow them to the next.