A Shallow History of the Face Lift

The Eternal Quest for Youth and Beauty
As we grow older, we (some of us) become susceptible to the lure of the fountain of youth, preferring to believe in the promise of plastic surgery, rather  than accept the realities of aging. Thus notions of "growing old gracefully" are vanquished to the outer reaches, while we do a cost/benefit analysis of  plastic surgery.

Although we do live in a particularly shallow media-driven culture where youthful image rules, the desire to extend the appearance of youth is nothing new. Even the ancient world dabbled in plastic surgery and in modern terms, surgeons have been performing face-lifts since the beginning of the 20th century.

It began with the discovery that a simple incision in front of the ear,  the removal of a slice of skin and stitching the whole thing back together as discreetly as possible could make the face tauter and thus more youthful. This 'mini-lift' was popular in Paris among film stars and the vain and well-to-do.

Things progressed further in the 1920s with the discovery of the 'skin flap', which involved a more extensive, banana-like peel back of the skin, more skin removal and thus increased tautness. The facelift was a delicate procedure - too little skin removal and the desired effect would not be achieved, too much and the patient could wind up looking unnaturally mask-like.

The fascinating face of aging
A real break-through in facelift surgery occurred in the 70s when  surgeons cottoned on to  the  'superficial musculoaponeurotic system' - an extremely fine lining just beneath the skin that is integral to the structural support of muscle and skin. Tightening the SMAS allowed for greater tightening and improvements to the jaw area.

In the 80s, a Swedish surgeon ventured into even deeper terrain by going beneath the SMAS in a procedure that became known as the deep plane facelift, which sounds scarily intrusive but actually  surgeons having been going deeper and deeper ever since, dissecting the hidden layers to the point where  many facelifts are now almost completely muscular - ie; a tightening the underlying layers to give definition, rather than concentrating on superficial skin and stretched tautness which is less natural looking.

Oh Those Featural Imperfections
In 1906, a Chicago physician, Dr. Charles Conrad Miller, who s credited by many as being the 'father of the facelift', wrote a book documenting his own early attempts at facelifting to correct what he described as "featural imperfections". Dr Miller was among the first to recognise an emerging 'beauty business' and the insecurities and desires of aging women in increasingly image-conscious culture and he suggested specially trained surgeons would be required to tackle the sags and wrinkles of aging beauties. (source Faceliftology)

According to the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery, the number of cosmetic procedures performed in the United States alone has increased over 50 percent since the start of the century. As techniques have become more sophisticated and the results less artificial, the temptation becomes greater. Until science, if ever, offers a real fountain of youth, perhaps in the genetically manipulated delay of the aging process, us frail humans will continue to succumb to the persuasions of a culture soaked in the superficialities of youth and beauty.

Why do we Have to get Old?