From Face to Breast to Body: Understanding Aesthetic Surgery

Understanding Aesthetic SurgeryThere is a deep and rich science related to the understanding of the origins, importance, and impact of physical appearance on our lives. Research tells us that as human beings our appearance not only plays a role in how we view ourselves, but it also plays a role in our interaction with the world. Therefore, it is not surprising that in addition to grooming, makeup, and exercise, cosmetic procedures and surgeries have become a popular option to millions of women and men every year.

Although we don’t consciously think of beauty in this way, science teaches us that there are four primary ways in which we care about our appearance. They are youthfulness, symmetry, gender, and normal development. If we think in these terms, it becomes easy to understand that aesthetic surgery of the face, breasts, or body is similar and follows similar patterns.

For instance, as we age our skin and soft tissues loose tone and elasticity. In the face we see it with loose skin, the development of wrinkles, and by tissue drooping. These same kinds of changes can also lead to drooping of the breasts, abdominal skin, and bottom. The most common way to reverse these changes is to “lift” loose tissues. “Lifting” can actually mean pulling up an area, but it can also mean tightening the area by removing some of the loose skin and tissue, so that what is left is pulled tighter. Lifting is a common technique that is used in the face (think brow lift, eyelid lift, or neck lift), breasts (breast lift), and body (think body lifts – tummy tucks, thigh lifts, buttock lifts). Pulled tighter, the lifted area looks more youthful to us.

Youthfulness also correlates with a more fit, athletic appearance, so it is not surprising that fatty deposits bother us, whether it is under the chin, in the “bra roll” area adjacent to the breasts, or on our tummies or thighs. When we can’t fix these areas in the gym, perhaps we can help them with a surgical procedure to remove the unwanted bulge. In a similar way, fat in the right places and the right amounts is a sign of youthful vigor. A full face, full breasts (in a female), and full buttocks are all healthy and are considered to be of youthful, if not too full. With aging and changes in weight, these areas can look either too full or too deflated, so taking away tissue (e.g. liposuction) or adding tissue (e.g. fat grafts) can be used to create more desirable proportions, regardless of the part of the body.

Symmetry is also very important to our concept of attractiveness. Most of us are aware that we may have one foot or hand that is bigger than the other, but other areas such as the face, breast, or body can also demonstrate asymmetry. If one side of our face is smaller than the other, we might seek to correct this with fillers to create more balance. Or if one brow is lower than the other, we might try to correct this with Botox® injections or a brow® lift. Breast asymmetry can be particularly concerning to women, and fortunately this can often be addressed when performing a breast cosmetic procedure. If a patient is interested in increasing the size of the breasts with breast augmentation, size asymmetry can be corrected by putting a larger implant on the side that was initially smaller. If a patient wants breast reduction or to reduce her breast size, the larger side can be reduced more. If the asymmetry is in the form of one breast lower than the other, the lower breast can be lifted more. In the same way, if one thigh is bigger than the other, more liposuction can be done on the larger side. At the extremes, very significant differences in breast size, position, or contour can relate to problems with normal development, so correction in these situations can be particularly rewarding to patients.

Gender is a further key aspect of how we assess our appearances. Men want to look and appear as attractive men, and women want to look and appear as attractive women. Gender differences naturally occur in all areas of our bodies. For instance, in the face men naturally have heavier and lower brows, while women naturally have finer, more delicate and higher brows. Women often address the brows by selective plucking to shape and refine, and a brow lift can restore normal brow height. These characteristics, however, also help guide us as surgeons to what we may want to avoid. In a man who wants to lift his brows to reverse the drooping of aging, we need to be careful not to elevate the brows too much as this creates an overly feminized appearance. In men, the development of a feminizing appearance to the breasts is particularly unsettling, and at the same time is quite common, especially with aging. This development – known as gynecomastia – can be successfully treated by liposuction in most cases. Your surgeon must remain aware of gender differences when contouring your body as well. Too straight of a waist in a female tends to look a bit masculine, while to much “curve” looks feminine on a man.

As you can see, aesthetics of the face, breast, and body follow many of the same patterns, and a lot of the same strategies are used from area to area. Let the Emory Aesthetic Center help you think through your particular concerns and develop a plan that is tailored specifically to your desires and needs.

About Dr. Eaves

Felmont Eaves, MDDr. Eaves recently returned to Atlanta, Georgia, to head the Emory Aesthetic Center as Medical Director, having previously completed his plastic surgery residency as well as a fellowship in endoscopic and minimally invasive plastic surgery at Emory University, The Emory Clinic, and associated hospitals. Before joining the Emory Aesthetic Center, Dr. Eaves was a partner in Charlotte Plastic Surgery for more than fifteen years and served as group president from 2010-2012.

His professional and institutional committee memberships and offices include an impressive list of national, international and local plastic surgery organizations, societies, boards, task forces, advisory councils, coalitions and foundations, including having served as President of the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery (ASAPS) from 2010-2011 and Trustee (2011-Present).

Dr. Eaves’ primary areas of academic inquiry have been in minimally-invasive and endoscopic aesthetic surgery, patient safety, system and process improvement in plastic surgery, evidence-based medicine applied to plastic surgery and recontouring surgery after massive weight loss. He has received several patents for new medical devices he developed, and has made major clinical service contributions to his field. Dr. Eaves has published more than 100 articles, book chapters and book reviews on plastic surgery in peer reviewed publications, as well as manuals, videos, computer programs and other teaching aids and has coauthored the first textbook on the topic of endoscopic plastic surgery.

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