Wednesday, July 11, 2012

The Case of the Exploding Cheeks

      While doing research for an upcoming book, I came across a photo of one of the world's first cosmetic surgeries featuring cheek implants. If you're not familiar with the procedure, it's where doctors implant a high-density porous polyethylene (commonly known as Gore-Tex) or pockets of firm silicone on top of a person's cheekbones. The idea is to recreate the roundness and softness of youth by lifting sagging skin and smoothing out wrinkles.
      Many Hollywood stars have allegedly had the procedure done, including Joan Rivers, Madonna, Hunter Tylo, Janice Dickinson and others.
That first implant surgery I came across, though, took place more than 3,000 years ago. The embalmers of the Egyptian Queen Henuttawy of the 21st Dynasty didn't use Gore-Tex, of course. They stuffed her cheeks with sawdust, linen and resin, presumably for the same reason modern surgeons perform cheek implants on the living today -- to give her face a plumper, more youthful appearance.
     The ancient Egyptians believed you needed your body for your ka, or spirit/soul to inhabit in the afterword. No body, no afterlife. A statue might do in a pinch, but you really needed the flesh. Hence, mummification.
     You can't blame the queen's embalmers for figuring that she probably wanted to look her best for her eternal afterlife. It's just that, sadly, it didn't quite work out that way for her. The procedure made the queen's face "plump up" out of all proportion. And it made the skin on her cheeks burst open.
     Poor queen had to walk around in her afterworld with a bloated face and ruptured cheek implants.
      While the cheeks of modern women who've had the procedure are unlikely to explode any time soon, I can't quite shake the feeling that the cosmetic surgery industry has moved into doing what the Egyptians did thousands of years ago -- attempting to embalm and preserve the upper classes who could afford it. Only modern plastic surgeons are doing it while their patients are still alive....

(Read the rest of the post here on Huffington Post.)


Elizabeth O. Dulemba said...

Ew! That does rather put it all in perspective, doesn't it? Wow. e

Anonymous said...

Wow i never knew plastic surgery existed in the ancient times. You learn something new every day! Nice blog.
P.s. I'm sooo excited your writing another book!

Vicky Alvear Shecter said...

Thanks, e!

Anon: Of course, the Egyptians were already dead when they did this--but our plastic surgery addicts are the ones that look embalmed!