Since the beginning of time people have searched high and low for ways to make themselves feel more attractive. With the discovery of germ theory and anesthesia, the art of plastic surgery has since become safer and surgeons are able to undertake more complex surgical procedures. Surgical interventions can be life altering for individuals looking to improve a feature that they feel self-conscious about. Unfortunately, a situation with such emotional pull has also caused plenty of people to make risky decisions. Entire shows exist, even in the modern age, that show the horrid effects of botched plastic surgeries. Did you know that at one point in history paraffin wax was melted and injected into the body as a quick fix? Paraffin wax was commonly used in breast augmentations, as a wrinkle filler, and for nose jobs. Unfortunately, the substance is unstable and often comes with very serious repercussions. Plastic surgery of any kind is a big decision and the choice to go under the knife should always be treated with a great deal of concern. Sorry to say that the people who got paraffin wax injections were often left with much more to worry about than the shape of their noses.
A Brief Introduction to Paraffin:
Before invasive surgical procedures were widely practiced, people were known to visit untrained barber surgeons for superficial treatments such as wart removal (Smith). War-related deformities played a large role in the development of prosthetics and surgical techniques. Syphilis epidemics also boosted interest in nose jobs since the disease in later stages causes the erosion of soft tissue. One major breakthrough in reconstructive surgery was the pedicle flap grafts. Essentially skin from the arm would be sewn into place but a piece of the skin would stay connected to the arm long enough to provide adequate blood flow for the flap to survive (Smith).
Paraffin oil was first discovered in 1830 and was used for the restoration of bodily defects due to it’s moldability and high melting point of 154 degrees Fahrenheit (Field). The practice was widely popular from c. 1899-1914 (Peters). Over the centuries, people injected themselves with substances including but not limited to paraffin, beeswax, petroleum, vegetable oil, mineral oil, and silicone. One of the most common uses for paraffin injections was breast augmentation. It was also known to be injected into the face, testicles, penis, and nose. Paraffin offered speedy and promising results at first, but the effects of paraffin injections were devastating once they began appearing 5 to 10 years after the procedure (Peters).
The Ugly Aftermath:
Paraffin wax is known to migrate over time causing sever disfigurement and can lead to strong immune responses. The most common complications included headaches, infection, pulmonary embolism, tissue necrosis, painful nodules known as paraffinomas, and death (Peters). Over time the wax becomes entangled in the surrounding tissues which makes it nearly impossible to fully remove. This means that there is no quick fix. Many women have had to undergo full mastectomies as a result of paraffin injections. As it became apparent that paraffin did more harm than good, the medical field began looking down on the use of the substance. It wasn’t until the early 1960s that Thomas Cronin and Frank Gerow developed the first silicone breast implant (Field). Even with unimaginable medical advancements over the years, sketchy plastic surgeons can still manage to do more harm than good to patients who are desperately seeking relief from their insecurities.
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- Field, Lawrence Marshall & Legaspi-Vicerra, Encarnacion R. “Paraffin Granulomata, “witch’s Chin,” and Nasal Deformities.” The Journal of Clinical and Aesthetic Dermatology, PMC. 10 June: 3(6): 54-58. Accessed 4 February, 2021. ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC29217501.
- Peters, W. “The History of Biomaterials used for Breast Augmentation :1.2.1 paraffin, 1899-1914.” ScienceDirect. 2012. Accessed 4 February, 2021. Sciencedirect.com/topics/pharmacology-toxicology-and-pharmaceutical-science/paraffin.
- Smith, Michelle. “The Ugly History of Cosmetic Surgery.” The Independent. 10 June, 2016. Accessed 4 February, 2021. Independent.co.uk/life-style/health-and-families/health-news/ugly-history-cosmetic-surgery-a7072216.html.