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100 Years of Cosmetic Surgery

TJL takes a look back at the advancements in the cosmetic surgery field throughout the past 100 years.

August 10, 2015

In the last 100 years, cosmetic surgery has evolved from vital reconstructive operations into desirable solutions to many a cosmetic problem. Thanks to technological advances in medicine, paired with years of research, you are now able to create a beard, fix postoperative scars and even adjust the shape of your eyelids should you so wish. Below we have charted some of the breakthrough moments in the history of cosmetic surgery. Can you imagine what will be possible in this surgical field in 100 years time?



Heroes from across the world are in the middle of an intense battle in Western Europe. In a field in Belgium, New Zealand born doctor Harold Gillies is tasked with working on the facial and jaw injuries of British soldiers. It is widely believed that this was one of the earliest uses of cosmetic surgery, with many people since referring to Gillies the ‘father of plastic surgery’.



Cosmetic surgery makes its first foray into Hollywood. Silent movie star Rudolph Valentino has his ears pinned back and, shortly after, actress and singer Gloria Swanson is reported to have had a facelift. This is the real beginning of what has become a notorious bond between Hollywood stars and plastic surgery.



Back to the military. Doctor Archibald McIndoe sets up the Guinea Club. Having trained under Harold Gillies, McIndoe decides to use his surgical skills to treat the horrific burns of RAF servicemen. Many have argued that the positive psychological impact of McIndoe’s work changed their lives.



A momentous development in cosmetic surgery takes place in Texas, USA. Timmie Jean Lindsay goes under the knife and becomes the first woman ever to have silicone breast implants. Little did Timmie Jean know that she was paving the way for the popularity of the modern breast augmentation, which is now one of the widest adopted cosmetic procedures worldwide, particularly in the UK and the USA.



A new focus for the industry creates demand for fat removal. An American dermatologist called Jeffrey Klein introduces the “tumescent” technique that brings mass liposuction to the market. The new process allows patients to have fat sucked out of their bodies under local anaesthetic, making the procedure hugely popular.



A familiar name plays host to the latest (and final in our timeline) development in cosmetic surgery. Trials take place at East Grinstead Hospital, which was founded by Archibald McIndoe, in which doctors use spray-on skin cells to cosmetically treat burns victims.

With such advancements in such a comparatively short space of time in history, it will undoubtedly be incredibly interesting to see how cosmetic surgery continues to evolve.
TJL Solicitors will continue to provide support and legal advice for those who are worried about the impact that surgery may have had on their body. If you are concerned please contact one of our solicitors on 0808 252 7799 or email

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