Beauty in Bagdad

For most Americans, the war in Iraq is far away and none of us can really comprehend what it must be like to live there. Living and working in an environment where uncertainty, the military presence from any side, and the potential to not be here tomorrow is an everyday reality that can not be fathomed from afar. More germaine to us is the trivial problems of do I have time to make it to Starbucks today, should I get an iPad or not, and searching for the best travel deal on the internet.

But as some form of normalcy tries to return to war-torn Iraq, there is a phenomenon they we as Americans can recognize. According to a CNN report, beauty salons are beginning to reappear and some people are even looking to cosmetic surgery for personal improvement. Even in Baghdad where buildings are pockmarked and scarred, billboards have appeared advertising for beautification procedures.

As one young Iraqi female was interviewed about her upcoming nosejob (rhinoplasty), she stated she never cared much for her nose and wanted her face to be prettier. When asked about the vanity of cosmetic surgery given her circumstances,  she stated that it was nothing out of the ordinary even for an Iraqi. Because of the internet, satellite channels and television, they see people having these types of cosmetic surgeries done and they look better after. Seeing such things encourages them and gives them an incentive to get cosmetic surgery. Iraqi women have always prided themselves in the Arab world for their looks and style and taking care of themselves is a matter of national pride. As a result, the women are happy to spend their hard earned money to make themselves look as good as they can.

An increasing number of Iraqis appear to be electing to undergo cosmetic surgery for the simple reason that most Americans do…because they can. Changing the face of Iraq for some appears to have a different meaning.

But the emergence of cosmetic surgery out of war is not a new phenomenon. Most people don’t know that most of the common cosmetic procedures performed today had very humbling and catastrophic origins. Plastic surgery today has been highly influenced by the world wars of the last century. Working on the war wounded leads to the development of surgical techniques that have more universal applications. The trench warfare of World War I, for example, has  led to many modern-day facial procedures. (it was generally not a good idea to stick your head up out of the trench too frequently) Rhinoplasty surgery was highly influenced in World War II by ethnic masking of the Jews through alteration of the nose. Dental implants were first used to bridge jawbone war defects. The list continues for dozens of plastic surgery procedures that we assume came out of pure imagination.  

Will anything new in plastic surgery come out of the Iraq/Afghanistan conflicts…one never knows. But the desire for people to look and feel better is universal. Even in a country like Iraq that has been ravaged by decades of war, beauty and cosmetic procedures bring hope and a feeling of self-improvement. When you have so little to say in what goes on around you, making changes in your own little world can provide some personal empowerment.

Dr. Barry Eppley