Plastic surgery is among one of the most glamorous kinds of surgeons in the world. The common stereotype being that plastic surgeons are most commonly found in Hollywood, and that their houses are almost as luxurious as the mansions of the stars they operate on. While it is true that plastic surgery is one of the most highly-paid sub specializations of surgery due to the nature of their clientele, it is also important to note that there’s much more to plastic surgery than giving superficial enhancements to celebrities and other wealthy individuals.
So, why are they called “plastic” surgeons? The usage of the word in the name, combined with the stereotype of what they do has often lead to people deriding it, by equating the word “plastic” with the word “fake”. In the sense that it is a synthetic polymer made to make a person’s appearance more cosmetically “beautiful” in accordance to society’s standards. But in reality, this is more of an oversimplification. There are many reasons why plastic is used in this form of surgery.
For starters, plastic surgery is actually divided into two categories; Reconstructive, and cosmetic. The latter is often what comes to people’s minds when they hear the words “plastic surgery”. This refers to the superficial enhancements, such as facelifts, Botox, and the like. However, another side of plastic surgery is reconstructive plastic surgery, which is the genuine reconstruction of a person whose face has been damaged by an accident.
The reason why plastic is used in both forms of plastic surgery is because of the nature of plastic itself. It is a soft, almost gelatinous material that is easily molded and malleable. This makes it an ideal material to use when trying to mold something to make it fit to something as highly unique and specific like an individual’s facial structure. Secondly, plastic is a non-biodegradable substance, meaning it will never rot, and it will remain on your face without any complications with the added benefit of it being removable in the case of something going wrong with the procedure. It is also an inert substance, meaning it is not observed to have any adverse chemical reactions with any other substance, especially human tissue and blood.
While these are the obvious modern definitions, did you know that the definition of “plastic surgery” extends beyond the modern definitions of plastic referring to the material? The word “plastic” actually means “reshaping”, which came from the Greek word “plastike”. Thus, this formed the basis of what plastic surgery actually was before the actual material was even invented. Before synthetic materials like plastic were invented, ancient plastic surgeons employed crude methods like stretching skin, and forming skin grafts in early attempts of reconstructive surgery. While these attempts were often imperfect, these helped pave the way for the advancements of modern reconstructive plastic surgery.
In short. Plastic surgeons are called plastic surgeons in a two-fold manner: Firstly, is the historical and linguistic term referring to plastic as the act of reshaping and reforming, and secondly is the modern medical definition with literal plastics being employed in the surgical process. Regardless, plastic surgery and plastic surgeons use both of these definitions to accurately describe their profession.
Overall, plastic surgeons are among the most highly-paid surgeons in the world. Not only because of their clientele, but because of the very tangible results that manifest within their work, making their specialization very difficult to master, and thus very expensive.
As plastic surgeons, their primary job is to help enhance the appearance of people. This includes cosmetic surgery, and reconstructive surgery. But regardless of the purpose and application of the surgery, plastic surgery is one of the most noticeable surgeries that can be done to a person. Plastic surgery focuses on a person’s outward appearance. In short, plastic surgery is crucial in that a person’s appearance must be repaired and/or enhanced, leading to plastic surgery being highly sensitive in nature.
A person’s appearance forms a large part of their identity, and therefore it should come as no surprise that plastic surgeons get paid as much as they do, They are tasked with modifying the first thing that people would notice about a person, so it should come to pass that plastic surgery training is strict, and precise.
Aside from cosmetic surgery, plastic surgeons are also on the forefront of treating burns and other grievous accidents. As these kinds of accidents result in the serious damage of the face, plastic surgeons truly take up the linguistic origin of their names, and quite literally reshape the scarred face in order to repair the damage and do their best to reshape it to something close to normal.
It is quite ironic that the stereotype of plastic surgeons as simply enablers to vain stars, where really, most plastic surgery is done to help save the lives of innocent victims of freak accidents. While most people find the work of plastic surgeons to be “shallow” and “superficial”, the good work they do in plastic reconstructive surgery is anything but. There is nothing shallow about helping save a person’s quality of life due to an accident. The severe damage that a burn victim receives to their face would often destroy them mentally, and it’s the job of plastic surgeons to help them as much as they can.
Ironically, cosmetic surgery can also save people as well. The sad truth in the entertainment industry is that a lot of greedy individuals want to go into medicine for the sole purpose of getting the big money of Hollywood plastic surgeons. As a result, many “doctors” take the easy way out, and take a shortcut in getting a license to practice plastic surgery, or worse, falsify their credentials as well. This would inevitably lead to several plastic surgeries getting “botched” thanks to these untrained individuals.
Thankfully, that’s where the good side of cosmetic plastic surgery comes in. It is not uncommon for several victims of fake or underqualified plastic surgeons to go to real, reputable plastic surgeons to help fix the botched procedure.
In conclusion, plastic surgeons are known as plastic surgeons not only because the term “plastic” means “to reshape”, and not only because they also use plastics and other synthetic materials in their operating procedures, but also because it’s a bit of an ironic twist where despite being called “plastic”, there’s nothing fake about the good work they do at all.