Throughout history, humans have strived to enhance their physical appearance. Modifying the body has different meaning and varied in form in different cultures. From tribal tattoos, piercings and scarification, to modern times when it’s possible to alter one’s look so much that the person doesn’t even look human anymore.
Subdermal implants are currently simultaneously extremely shocking and socially accepted – depending on where you get them. I cannot think of any other form of body modification where the same procedure can have such great acceptance and at the same time raise so much controversy. Implants in women’s breasts, lips or cheeks are considered ‘usual’ or ‘normal’ while the same thing implanted in your arm or forehead means you obviously have some psychological issues or you’re in any other way disturbed. That’s probably because breast implants came first, so in the next 50 years we can expect all other places on the body will become ‘socially acceptable’ for implanting silicone in them.
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The first reference to breast implants that I could find was from 1890, when paraffin wax injections to the breasts were performed to increase size. This resulted in many complications and health issues. Only 5 years later, German doctor Vincent Czerny reconstructed a woman’s breast after tumor removal, using the patient’s own fat (a lipoma). In the 1960’s the cosmetic industry exploded with a variety of surgical procedures developed to help us feel and look better. The first silicone gel breast implant augmentation was placed in 1962. The rest is history.
During those early years, cosmetic surgery was reserved for the rich and famous, but over time it became popularized and affordable. At the same time, we have ended up under the enormous influence of the media telling us how we should look, what we should wear and how we need to behave. Today there are so many people, both men and women, children and adults, who are not satisfied with their appearance that it’s simply terrifying – young girls won’t even come out of the house without tons of make up on. No matter how skinny they are, in their eyes they’re always fat. And so on. Humans became obsessed with their looks.
Work on photos by Samppa Von Cyborg
In 1994, Steve Haworth (Arizona) pioneered first ‘unusual’ subdermal implant. It was a ‘bracelet’ around one woman’s wrist; a row of beads was placed under the skin creating the elevated look she wanted. During these years, the body mod industry experimented and developed. Early implants were made out of titanium carved as one single piece of jewellery. Those tended to be quite heavy and were known to ‘sink’ into the tissue. Today implants are made out of silicone or teflon; the material is carved into the desired shape, polished to perfection and then inserted under the skin. Usually only a small incision is made through which a dermal elevator is inserted and layers of skin are being separated to create a ‘pocket’ for the implant. When the implant is in place, incision is stitched and surgical tape can be put around the implant to prevent movement.
Aftercare is minimal – you need to keep the sutures clean and dry, be careful not to hit the implant and keep the skin above it moisturized. The stitches are removed some 10 days after the procedure. In the beginning, more or less swelling will occur as the skin needs to adjust to the new shape underneath it so it can take up to 3 months to achieve the desired look.
Work on photos by Bruno BMA
An issue which still has no satisfactory solution is whether or not this should be a strictly medical procedure. On one side there are many people doing various modifications without proper knowledge or training. On the other side, the medical community still doesn’t offer procedures like horn implants, tongue splitting, ear pointing and so on.
I definitely agree that the body mod industry should be regulated in a way that would be acceptable for both sides. So for example, if someone is performing subdermal implants, they should meet some basic requirements like having all the necessary sterilization equipment. But just like in any other business, there are good and bad body mod artists. Just as there are good and bad surgeons, doctors, politicians (wait, nah…) and so on. Considering there are no standardized schools for tattoo artists, body piercers and other body mod artists, legally – anyone can do it.
So the bottom line is – do your research. If you want something done, don’t be cheap and don’t go to your friend’s basement ’cause he already did two procedures and everything went well’. We are all different, with unique anatomies, different immune systems, skin types etc. So if your friend survived getting pierced with a rusty nail, that doesn’t mean you’ll have the same luck.
Some of the best body mod artists for subdermal implants are Steve Haworth, Samppa Von Cyborg, Bruno BMA, Russ Foxx, Brian Decker, Emilio Gonzalez. Check them out!