History of Breast Implants and Augmentation

The Origins & Unusual History of Breast Implants and Breast Augmentation Surgery

Breast Augmentation with implants is the most common type of cosmetic surgery procedure in the world. It can give you beautiful curves and a sensual appeal. For some people, it gets rid of insecurities and gives them the much-needed confidence they deserve. But where did it all begin? Let’s find out about the history of Breast Implants. 

Breast augmentation surgery is a highly requested procedure of plastic surgeon Dr Scott Turner, and is incredibly popular in Australia. The modern breast augmentation has come far since its humble beginnings on a furry patient called Esmeralda.

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History of Breast Implants

Modern day breast implants are relatively a new technology. Earlier, it wasn’t this easy and convenient. Did you know that the first breast implant surgery was performed only about six decades ago? That’s surprising. Right? Before that, women used to inject their boobs without all sorts of crazy things to make them appear bigger. Needless to say, the results were never that great and often life-threatening.  Breast implant technology has come a long way since then. These days market is booming with breast implants that are safer, durable and look great. Some modern-day options include anatomical implants, round implants and smooth implants in all shapes and sizes. Here is the evolution of breast enhancement and the history of breast implants.

Early body Modifications

In ancient societies in Egypt, Rome, and parts of India, surgical body modifications were made to help wounded soldiers. Of course, in these societies, they didn’t have the help of modern anesthesia, medicine, or surgical techniques. This meant that surgeries were usually reserved for people with serious damage or abnormalities.

As medicine and surgical techniques evolved, it became possible to offer a range of surgeries to more patients. The first plastic surgery (by Western standards) was performed by Joseph Carpue in 1815 on a wounded World War II soldier. Carpue had researched facial reconstruction in India, where surgery on damaged or abnormal noses had been occurring. Carpue performed a nose reconstruction on the wounded soldier Walter Yeo – by Western standards, this is named the first facial plastic surgery.

Early Breast Enhancements

Early breast enhancement was not a very sought-after procedure but a very questionable one. In fact, initially, it resulted in health-endangering complications. Regardless of the risks associated with the surgery, people still got their breasts done for the sake of vanity.

In the year 1890 Austrian doctor Robert Gersuny started this entire breast enhancement magic by injecting paraffin oil into a women’s chest. The initial results look fabulous, but over time breasts grew very hard and lumpy. In some cases, extreme infections also occurred. By the time 1920 came, this procedure was abandoned. 

Then came the fatty tissue experiment. Surgeons extracted tissue from the abdomen and buttocks and injected them into the breast area. This also looked great initially, but the fat got reabsorbed in the human body, which caused asymmetrical breasts and scarring. 

During World War 2, some of the Japanese prostitutes revealed the secret to their perfect-looking breasts; silicon injections. Silicone gained just a hype that it became a rare commodity. As expected, it also led to infections and skin discolouration over a period of time. These conditions were normally known as silicone fever. 

With these failures, some women stayed away from the surgery while others still went after gorgeous-looking breasts. Some of the icons like Marilyn Monroe, Lana Turner and Ava Gardner are known for their bombshell breast procedures. This icon inspired a lot of women in the 1940s and 50s to get surgeries and buy a lot of bra stuffing.

They also gave rise to synthetic and polyvinyl sponge surgery. These sponges again had the same problem. They looked great initially but became hard after a while. In some cases, it led to infection, inflammation and life-threatening diseases.  

Early Breast Augmentations

By the year 1950, surgeons were desperate to find a suitable solution that had fewer risks and lasted longer. Then came silicones and pros. Surgeons implanted everything and anything from ivory balls to ox cartilage to wool, but nothing really worked.

The First Silicone Breast Implants

In the year 1961, everything changed for the breast enhancement industry when Dow Corning and two amazing Housten surgeons collaborated and created the first silicone breast prosthetic. They created a rubber sack, which was filled with silicone gel. This basic design was adopted for the next 30 years. Then, it was slightly modified in the year 1982 to make it safer. About 100,000 women got the modified version of implants, but FDA said that polyurethane in the implants could create complications which forced surgeons to move to saline implants. 

History of breast implants - Dr Scott Turner - Best Breast Implant Surgeon Newcastle and Sydney NSW

Timeline of the History of Breast Implants

Let’s jump straight into the historical timeline of the boob jobs. It is going to be a lot crazier than you think. Let’s dive down memory lane:

1895 – An early fat transfer

1895 was the year when the first ‘boob job’ procedure was performed. It was done by a surgeon named Vincent Czerny. He removed the tumour from the woman’s breast. To keep the breasts looking symmetrical, he placed the fat into the breasts which was originally extracted from the thighs of that woman. This is regarded as the first breast surgery in the history of the cosmetic world.

1900 – 1940 – Weird Breast injections

This era can be regarded as an era of ‘weird injections’. Initially, people thought that it would be a great idea to inject their boobs with paraffin oil. Paraffin oil was a combination of olive oil and petroleum jelly. Needless to say, it didn’t work and the results were disastrous. It caused an adverse reaction that resulted in inflammation, hard lumps, necrosis, strokes, and lung embolisms.

The worst thing is that paraffin oil wasn’t the only thing that people were injecting into your boobs. Vegetable oil, beeswax, goat milk, mineral oil, rubber, peanut oil, snake venom, silk fibre were some of the crazy things that were used to enhance the appearance of boobs. Nearly all of them created disastrous results and were ineffective.

Then came the fatty tissue experiments. Surgeons extracted tissue from the abdomen and buttocks and injected them into the breast area. This also looked great initially, but the fat got reabsorbed in the human body, which caused asymmetrical breasts and scarring. 

1940s – Breast Injections Silicone Oil

This was the era when the injections evolved. Instead of random items, silicone gel was injected into the breast. Reports suggest that this practice was used by Japanese prostitutes after World War 2 to make their breasts look big and perky. As expected, it created a lot of complications such as granulomas, inflammation, liver inflammation, lung embolism, skin sloughing, and in some cases, caused death. These injections were also used for butt enhancement back in the day. During World War 2, some of the Japanese prostitutes revealed the secret to their perfect-looking breasts; liquid silicon oil injections. Silicone gained just a hype that it became a rare commodity. It also led to infections and skin discolouration over a period of time. This fad was known as silicone fever. 

1950s – Breast Enhancing with Sponges

During this time period, sponges along with all the materials used in the 40s were used for enhancing the breasts. The results from these were initially promising but short-lived as they became quite hard one year after the surgery. 

With these failures, some women swayed away from breast surgery while others still wanted gorgeous-looking breasts. Some of the icons like Marilyn Monroe, Lana Turner and Ava Gardner are known for their bombshell breast enhancement procedures. These busty icons inspired a lot of women in the 1940s and 50s to get surgeries or buy a lot of bra stuffing.

It also gave rise to synthetic and polyvinyl sponge surgery. These sponges again had the same problem. They looked great initially but became hard after a while. In some cases, sponges led to infection, inflammation and life-threatening diseases such as cancer.  

By the year 1950, surgeons were desperate to find a suitable solution that had fewer risks and lasted longer. Surgeons implanted everything and anything from ivory balls to ox cartilage to wool, but nothing worked.

1958 – The era of PVA Sponges – Polyvinyl Alcohol

In 1958, Polyvinyl alcohol was used for breast enhancement. It is quite different from a normal sponge and was cut into a circular shape before inserting it into the breasts. The human body rejected polyvinyl alcohol with full force and formed scar tissue around the polyvinyl implant. As a result, breasts shrunk and led to deformity.

Early 1960’s – First Silicone Implant trials

Fast forward to the 1960’s and the first successful silicon breast augmentation was completed. A dog named Esmeralda had survived the breast augmentation surgery, and had the silicon implants in for a couple of weeks. Esmeralda wasn’t pleased by the stitches, and began chewing on them.

1962 – The first successful Silicone Implant

Finally, after all these early problems, the first human silicone implants began. Two American surgeons came up with the first-ever silicone implant. The procedure was a success, and the pioneering surgeons Frank Gerow and Thomas Cronin were credited with that success.

In the year 1961, everything changed for the breast enhancement industry when Dow Corning and these two amazing Houston surgeons collaborated and created the first silicone breast prosthetic implant. They created a rubber sack, which was filled with silicone gel.

A brave woman volunteered to be the first human to undergo breast augmentation surgery. The 29-year-old woman was named Timmie Jean Lindsey. She kept the implants for fifty years to come and was quite satisfied with the results. It was simply a cosmetic breakthrough after years of struggle.

This basic implant design was adopted for the next 30 years.

1964- First Saline Implant

Saline implants have an outer silicone shell that is filled with saltwater. This implant was invented by a French company in the year 1964. The only problem with this one was its shell. It was very thin and was prone to rupture easily. However, it was the first step towards a new type of implant that is used today.

1969- Textured Anatomical Implant

Before 1969, all breast implants were round in shape and had a smooth surface. In 1969, Dr Franklin Ashley developed the textured anatomical implant which was tear-dropped shaped and provide more natural-looking results. He was the first one to introduce textured surfaces in implants which reduced the risks of capsular contracture and dislocation. Needless to say, it was a huge success.

1970-1992 – Better Silicone Implants

This period is regarded as an era of transformation when it comes to breast implants. Nearly all the manufacturers were striving to create the best implant. The use of new technologies created implants that were safe, durable and looked natural. Complications like rupture, migration, capsular contracture and granular formulation were greatly reduced with the new improved implants.

1992- The Silicone Implant is Banned in USA

Implants were slightly modified in the year 1982 to make them safer with polyurethane. About 100,000 women got the modified version of implants, but FDA said that polyurethane in the implants could create complications.  In 1992 in the USA, FDA temporarily suspended silicone implants due to health concerns. During the ban, saline implants were very popular in the USA. The year 1992 was a big blow for the implant industry. For many years, there wasn’t enough data to support the safety of implants which results in the USA ban lasting fourteen years.

1992 to 2006 – Boom of Saline implants in USA

The silicone implant ban gives rise to saline implants. They were accessible to patients in the USA and Canada only. Nearly all the surgeons used saline implants from the year 1992 to 2006. During this time, better quality saline implants were created to give a more natural look and feel. Moreover, it also reduced the risk factor and turned out to be a huge success. Traditional media popularized implants even further which encouraged many women to undergo the surgery. 

2006 – Silicone Implant Ban lifted in USA

In the year 2006 in USA, the FDA again approved silicone gel-filled breast implants after numerous research studies. They were regarded safe with no correlation to health issues.  After many clinical trials, research, studies, and evidence, the ban on silicone implants was lifted. The demand suddenly increased which resulted in the production of good quality silicone implants that looked natural and caused fewer side effects.

2008 to Now

This was the year 2008 that marked breast implant as the most frequently performed cosmetic surgery all around the world. Many women got the breasts of their dreams that looked round, big, and beautiful. While initially, all women wanted to achieve was a fake, big boob look, the trend has dramatically changed in the past years. Most women today want their implants to look natural and in proportion to the rest of their bodies.

Different Generations of Implants in the History of Breast Implants

Many different kinds of breast implants have been creating since the concept originated. Let’s look at the generations of implants. It’s quite fascinating to see how far the implant industry has come.

First Generation of Implants (1960’s)

In 1962, the first generation of implants was founded by Thomas Cronin and Frank Gerow. These implants had a very thick outer shell as well as gel fillings. Although these implants were used for quite some (almost an entire decade) time, they failed to achieve natural consistency. The implants were a Polyurethane Ball that was firm and hard with a Thick Shell and Thick Gel. It had a problem with very high rates of Capsular contracture within 12 mths

Second Generation of Implants (1970’s)

The second generation of breast implants had a relatively thinner outer shell as well as lining and was used in the 1970s. The changes in these implants were made to achieve natural results and they definitely felt and looked more natural than the previous generation of implants. The risk of capsular contracture was still very high with these. The implants were Round with a Soft gel and thinner shell – It had a problem with implant shell rupture and leakage.

Third Generation of Implants (1980’s)

This generation of implants has a silica shell and a syrupy gel filling. Surgeons started to use them in the 80s and 90s. While they looked fairly natural as compared to former generations, the growing concerns about the gel leaking persisted. These implants had a Thicker shell & Gel and were very popular. It was during the third generation of implants that silicone implants were banned in the USA.

Fourth Generation of Implants (after 2006)

The ban was lifted in the year 2006 and that is when the fourth generation of silicone implants was up in the market. These implants contained a responsive gel filling which was extremely safe to use and created stunning results. The 4th gen implants are still used till date along with newer generation implants. The harder outer shell of implants minimizes the risk of rupturing and bleeding.

Fifth Generation of Implants

The fifth generation of implants is quite similar to the fourth generation ones apart from the fact that they have an even more cohesive filling. The consistency of the filling is quite similar to a gummy bear. They hold their shape better and look more natural as compared to all other types of implants. They typically come in a teardrop shape as it looks more natural. Continuous improvements and changes to the type of gel make implants more stable and cohesive

Sixth Generation of Implants 

The latest implants are created using modern-day technology and are aimed at reducing complications and creating more natural-looking results. The results of these implants are the best available and are used in the best plastic surgeons and clinics in the world.

If you are considering breast augmentation surgery, rest assured that there are plenty of safe and effective options available in the market. Make sure that you choose the right surgeon, stick to all the pre and post-surgical instructions and you will have the breasts of your dreams without compromising on your health.

Modern Breast Implants – the result of the history of breast implants

Choosing Softer Gel Vs Firmer Gel Implants

  • Softer Gel – Natural and Malleable, responds to breast, smaller incision BUT can ripple in low fat or slim patients
  • Firmer Gel – Strong effect on Breast Parenchyma Shape. Feels harder.  Lower rippling, Higher upper pole stability, Less folding and less fold fractures. Slightly longer incision or use a keller funnel to insert

You now have a very large number of options to choose from when it comes to breast enhancement. The latest generations of Breast Implants with improved gel stability and better implant surfaces.

9 Ways that breast implants differ

  1. Brand and Manufacturing Methods
  2. Shell Quality
  3. Fill – Gel & Saline
  4. Fill Volume
  5. Cohesiveness
  6. Texture
  7. Shape
  8. Base width
  9. Projection

You can now choose between silicone and saline implants in a variety of shapes or other breast enhancement techniques such as fat transfer to achieve the desired results. 

Origins and Unusual History of Breast Augmentation Blog on Dr Scott J Turner - Woman Presented with Two Breast Implant Options

FAQs about the History of Breast Implants FAQs 

Who got the first breast implants?

  • The first breast augmentation surgery was performed in Germany in 1895 by Dr Vincenz Czerny. The name of the patient is unknown. When it comes to modern-day silicone implants, Timmie Jean Lindsey was the first person in the world to undergo plastic surgery for breast augmentation.

What were breast implants filled with in the 1950s?

  • In the 1950s, breasts implants were filled with all sorts of things, including ivory balls, wool, ox cartilage and a lot more. Unfortunately, none of it worked. All the options looked fabulous initially but caused a lot of problems later on. 

Early silicone implants were a success, but did have glitches. Thankfully, modern silicone implants and surgical techniques have an extremely high success rate, with minimal problems.

Fears of BIA-ALCL

Concerns regarding implant-associated anaplastic large cell lymphoma grew in the year 2019. Global health authorities confirmed that the condition was primarily related to textured implants and biofilm contamination. Many patients during this time have received free implant replacements.

What does the future hold for implants?

The future of breast implants seems to be bright. The implant used today prioritises a women’s safety above everything else and will certainly continue to improve over time. An increase in breast implant surgery has been seen all around the world. More and more young women are transforming their bodies to fit the beauty standards of the modern age. A lot of variations have been seen in the choices.

Some women simply want the slightest enhancement while others wish to go all out. There is certainly a group of people who throws a lot of shade at the concept of plastic surgery. We believe that everybody is in charge of their own body and should be able to what they want with free will. If something makes a person feel confident, why not go ahead with it.

Book a Consultation

Wish to book a consultation with Dr Turner to discuss your breast augmentation options? Simply fill out the consultation form below, and one of our team members will get back to you shortly. Alternatively, you can also give us a call or send us an email. 

To learn more about breast augmentation surgery with Dr Turner, please contact the practice on 1300 641 199.

Dr Scott Turner FRACS (Plas) – Specialist Plastic Surgeon

Dr Scott J Turner has spent a lifetime acquiring the qualifications, education, training, and hands-on surgical experience to perform superior cosmetic plastic surgery to give you natural, beautiful results and the improved sense of well-being you want. He is one of the top Specialist Plastic Surgeons with a Breast and Body Surgery focus in New South Wales.

Achieving this personal goal requires not only in-depth knowledge of human anatomy and refined surgical techniques but an ongoing commitment to learning the latest procedures around the world. This is why Dr Turner regularly attends both local and international surgeon meetings – discussing these advances with the leaders around the world in order to offer you the most natural, effective and safest surgical procedures.

Dr Turner and his highly trained staff will do everything to ensure that you are fully informed, while providing exceptional, world-class cosmetic plastic surgery, in a personal and caring environment.

Next Steps

Always Do Your Research

  • Download our Procedure Guides to find out more about your surgery
  • Please read our website pages and Blogs to learn more about your intended procedure

Do you need a Medical Referral to see Dr Turner?

  • A medical referral is helpful but NOT essential for purely cosmetic consultations.
  • Please obtain a medical referral from your GP or Specialist if you want a consultation for an MBS item number surgery.
  • Please note that your Medicare Rebates will NOT be claimable without a valid recent Medical Referral

Making The Most Of Your Consultation with Dr Turner

  • Please arrive slightly early for your in-person consultation with Dr Turner
  • You are welcome to bring a friend or relative to help consider the information and discuss your options
  • Please be aware you may need to undress for a physical exam so wear simpler clothes
  • Ensure you also take a lot of notes during the consultation and thoroughly examine all the documents provided

Want more information before scheduling your consultation?

How to Book Your Consultation with Dr Turner

  • You can book your initial consultation with Dr Scott Turner by paying the $350 cosmetic consultation fee in advance – when you make your appointment.

Contact us or call on  1300 641 199  to arrange your consultation in Sydney or Newcastle. Email us for more information:  [email protected]