June 1960 Bazaar Magazine Cover

What was the “Harper’s Bazaar Hassle?”

The promotion of aesthetic plastic surgery in the United States increased dramatically after the second world war when surgeons who gained experience reconstructing the war wounded saw a sudden drop in patients. This development paralleled the greater professionalization – the act of increasing training for and/or the qualifications required to enter - of the field of plastic surgery. However, one of the problems associated with the early advertising of plastic surgery services in the 1940s and 1950s was that these promotional efforts did not extend to the head and neck surgery trained facial plastic surgeons who were highly qualified to perform aesthetic facial plastic surgery procedures.

Facial Plastic Surgeons Could Not be Listed in the Yellow Pages

Facial plastic surgeons even had difficulty getting their names listed in the Yellow Pages, which was one of the most important ways for prospective patients to find plastic surgeons at the time. The American Medical Association (AMA) specialty code designations that telephone companies adhered to when listing physicians in the Yellow Pages did not allow a physician to declare their sub-specialty practice or to change their specialty practice after they were listed. This prevented a head and neck surgeon from, for example, declaring a subspecialty of facial plastic surgery or changing their specialty to facial plastic surgery, which effectively excluded them from advertising. It took an anti-trust complaint filed by the Federal Trade Commission against the AMA in the 1970s – which allowed physicians to generally advertise and market – to allow facial plastic surgeons to appropriately designate themselves in the Yellow Pages.


Photo Source: Simons, Robert L. Coming of Age: A Twenty-Fifth Anniversary History of the American Academy of Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery. New York, New York: Thieme Medical Publishers, Inc., 1989. Print.

Facial Plastic Surgeons were Professionally Excluded

Head and neck surgery trained facial plastic surgeons were not allowed to evaluate the credentials of facial plastic surgeons for hospital privileges and plastic surgeons often refused to do so. Plastic surgery medical societies who agreed to allow head and neck surgeons to present papers were often criticized. Attempts were made to stop seminars on facial plastic surgery taught by head and neck surgeons. Companies were threatened with economic sanctions for agreeing to sell surgical equipment to head and neck surgeons.

Plastic surgeons even obstructed the teaching of facial plastic surgery to head and neck surgery residents. These restrictions lead head and neck surgery residency programs to develop some of the earliest formalized and best organized teaching curricula for facial plastic surgery. For more information on this please see this previous blog post on the history of facial plastic surgery.

A Harper’s Bazaar Article Led to the American Academy of Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery

An article was published under the heading “The Wish to be Beautiful” by the plastic surgeon Geri Trotta in Harper’s Bazaar in 1960. Readers were asked to write to the secretary of the American Board of Plastic Surgery in St. Louis for a list of qualified surgeons. Those qualified surgeons did not include facial plastic surgeons. Harper’s Bazaar was, and remains, a popular and widely read beauty and fashion magazine. As a result, this article captured the attention of the public. Called the “Harper’s Bazaar Hassle,” this article was a strong impetus for the formation of the American Academy of Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery – of whom I am a fellowship-trained member – in 1964.

This Level of Conflict no Longer Exists between Specialties

The contributions of both facial plastic surgeons and plastic surgeons to the field of plastic surgery has been immense. For example, it was the plastic surgeon Sam Hamra who developed and first published on deep plane facelift surgery, which my fellowship director, the facial plastic surgeon Andrew Jacono, advanced with his extended deep plane facelift technique. Each specialty has valuable skills and lessons to teach the other. That exchange in the literature and at conferences is essential to advancing the field of aesthetic plastic surgery. The above history simply highlights the early challenges facial plastic surgeons faced to gain the professional respect and acknowledgement they deserved.

Trust Your Face to a Facial Plastic Surgeon

It is important to seek a fellowship-trained specialist in plastic surgery of the face and neck when you have concerns about your face or neck.

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Request a consultation with Dr. Harmon at Harmon Facial Plastic Surgery in Cincinnati. Visit our clinic. You will learn more about Dr. Harmon’s credentials, style, and approach. Build a relationship with our dedicated team. Do not stop at searching “plastic surgery near me.” Get in touch with us to learn more!

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Simons, Robert L. Coming of Age: A Twenty-Fifth Anniversary History of the American Academy of Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery. New York, New York: Thieme Medical Publishers, Inc., 1989. Print.

Featured photo of June 1960 cover of Bazaar credit: EphemeraForever.com via Pinterest