Throughout history, the tradition of altering one’s appearance with cosmetics has played a role in nearly every culture, tracing back 6,000 years. While the ancient form of cosmetics consisted of rubbing red mineral pigments on people’s skin, our modern technology allows for much more advanced methods of appearance enhancement, some of which even possess medical purposes or health benefits.
These methods include, but aren’t limited to, the use of plastic surgery, clear aligners, corneal refractive therapy (CRT) lenses and technologically advanced makeup. Many Paly students have had experience with these various ways of changing one’s appearance.
One of the more permanent methods is cosmetic surgery. Last winter break, junior Jess Weiss underwent a rhinoplasty procedure, a plastic surgery operation commonly known as a nose job.
Weiss began meeting with her surgeon almost a year before the surgery. According to Weiss, it is the responsibility of a surgeon to ensure that their patient undergoes the surgery with a healthy mindset and a body in proper condition for the procedure.
After meeting with her surgeon for one year, Weiss finally made it to the day of her operation. After the surgery, Weiss researched the procedure to learn about what she experienced.
“They cut between the nostrils and peel back your skin,” Weiss said. “Then, depending on what you’re having done, they either break your nose or just shave down. For me, because they had to straighten it, they broke it. Essentially, they cut down little pieces of bone and cartilage. At the end, [they put in] these little tubes that went far up into my nasal passages to help keep it straight during the healing process.”
After the procedure, Weiss experienced a lot of pain and took painkillers throughout her recovery period. In addition to her swollen eyes and face, Weiss had to avoid getting her cast wet; she wore gauze beneath her nose to help with the bleeding. She had to restrict her diet to only liquid foods for five days and clean her nose with water and saline solution in order to avoid infection.
Though Weiss said her nose will not settle into its final shape until next year, she began to appreciate the long-term effects after she underwent the most painful part of the recovery process and the swelling reduced. She now likes her nose more and feels that it suits her better. According to Weiss, another long-term effect is an increase in self-confidence; however, Weiss gained more confidence from her honesty about the surgery than her appearance.
“I probably am more honest now because I was worried if people would be weird or not accepting about [the surgery],” Weiss said. “I had a debate with myself about if I was going to tell people … and it seemed like a really silly thing to not be honest about. So I’d say I probably gained some confidence in that way. I’m very not shy, clearly, about telling people about it and I don’t think it’s something to hide.”
Although Weiss was happy with her appearance as a whole, she was never satisfied with her nose, leading her to undergo rhinoplasty. She also knew many people who underwent plastic surgery and had a positive experience.
“My parents were super supportive,” Weiss said. “My dad has had a lot of nose surgeries for unrelated, not cosmetic reasons … and they’ve always been very understanding and supportive of me and they weren’t scared about it because my dad had that experience with the surgeries. And also, knowing other people who have done it was a big thing for them in being comfortable with it.”
Weiss does not believe the common misconception that those who undergo cosmetic surgery are fake. According to Weiss, altering appearance through cosmetic surgery is not much different from putting on makeup or wearing clothes that make an individual look a certain way.
Weiss also emphasizes the importance of refusing to subscribe to the misconception that plastic surgery will be life-changing.
“I would not tell people that cosmetic surgery is something you should do because you think it will really do something to change your life — I don’t think that’s accurate,” Weiss said. “You’re still the same person, you’re not really going to be that different.”
While Weiss’ plastic surgery was solely for cosmetic purposes, improvements in technology have also created procedures that affect appearances and have medical benefits.
For example CRT lenses, commonly known as nighttime contact lenses, make perfect vision more convenient for those who opt against glasses.
Senior Andrew Shieh has been using CRT lenses since middle school and likes not having to worry about contact lenses or glasses during the day.
“[CRT lenses] have become more popular in recent years, especially among athletes,” Shieh said. “Since I only need to wear my contacts when I go to sleep, I don’t have to worry about losing them at school or when I work out.”
Individuals who use CRT lenses put the contacts on every night before bed. The lenses reshape the cornea of the individual’s eyes while they sleep, so when they wake up, they have perfect vision.
The eye gradually returns to its normal shape throughout the day, so the user must wear the contacts every night in order to maintain their vision.
Overall, Shieh said he has had a positive experience with his lenses.
“Night contacts have been effective for me. My vision has pretty much stabilized and I don’t have to wear glasses anymore.”
Clear aligners and CRT lenses are similar in that they both affect one’s appearance and have medical purposes, but while CRT lenses have short-term effects, clear aligners are a permanent solution. They are plastic retainers that adjust an individual’s teeth over a long period of time. People often refer to clear aligners as Invisalign, a popular clear aligner product.
Clear aligners are essentially like braces, but are clear and fit over the individual’s teeth rather than attaching to them. According to junior Courtney Kernick, clear aligners can take a significant amount of time to reshape teeth due to the gradual process of adjusting one’s teeth through slight changes to the aligners.
“I got a mold of my teeth at the beginning, then they sent it to Invisalign labs and came up with two week increments of sets of Invisalign that would eventually lead to [my] straight teeth and a correction of my overbite,” Kernick said. “Every two weeks, I would get a new set [that] would have a couple millimeters of changes to different teeth and parts of my mouth and that would [eventually created a long-lasting] change over the course of two years.”
After wearing both clear aligners and braces, Kernick said she preferred clear aligners due to their conveniency.
“Invisalign was a lot easier and more convenient. It was a lot less noticeable than braces, and the metal of braces can rub against your gums and the inside of your mouth and cause abrasions.”
Though clear aligners, contact lenses and plastic surgery change an individual’s appearance, the most common form of cosmetic enhancement is makeup.
Improvements in technology have created makeup with health benefits, typically seen in skincare products. These include tinted moisturizers with SPF, foundation with acne medication and eyelash serums that condition lashes to be longer and thicker.
Senior Kendra Wu uses moisturizers with SPF over 30 and sunscreens with SPF over 50 to help remedy acne scars.
“I buy a facial moisturizer with more than 30 SPF,” Wu said. “Wearing more sunscreen causes the pigmentation spots from acne to fade.”
Technology has also made makeup more practical for all types of weather and activities. Makeup has undergone significant improvements that have contributed to the waterproof aspect as well as makeup’s long-lasting effects.
Blinc, a brand of mascara, utilizes its own type of tube-technology that forms tiny water-resistant tubes around one’s eyelashes, opposed to most mascaras, which only paint the lashes.
While regular mascara can be removed with makeup remover or soap and water, Blinc mascara can only be removed by using water and applying light pressure to gently slide the tubes off one’s lashes.
This means that unlike regular mascara, Blinc cannot be smudged accidentally.
These methods of enhancing one’s appearance have become increasingly common throughout the centuries as improvements in technology have made them more accessible and more effective. However, Weiss emphasizes that at the end of the day, it is what’s on the inside that is of paramount importance.
“Just know that the most important thing is to be confident in who you are,” Weiss said. “If you are confident in who you are, no matter what you do you are going to be great and have a good life and no one needs to ‘fix’ anything.”