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Last Updated: Wednesday, 6 October, 2004, 08:06 GMT 09:06 UK
Arty cosmetic surgery alternative
Image of Paddy wearing a face corset
Artist Paddy Hartley models one of his corsets
Ever wondered what you would look like with bigger cheek bones or pouty lips?

Visitors to the Rearranging Faces event at London Science Museum's Dana Centre will be able to find out.

Audiences can try on face corsets, made by artist Paddy Hartley, to temporarily simulate the effects of cosmetic surgery.

In addition to exploring people's obsessions with beauty, the corsets are helping surgeons treat patients disfigured by things such as burns.

From art to therapy

Paddy Hartley has been working with material scientist Dr Ian Thompson from King's College London to adapt the corsets into facial dressings.

We can make these facial dressings now that support the face, not distort it.
Dr Ian Thompson, King's College London

The dressings are designed to protect and support the face, for example during the recovery period after surgery or skin grafting.

Dr Thompson hopes to get approval from the relevant regulatory agencies to add a thin layer of very fine glass powder to the inside of the dressings which he believes would aid healing.

The powder contains sodium, phosphorous and calcium particles that stimulate cells to grow and tissues to heal, as well as having antibacterial properties.

Image of a facial corset
This corset changes the features of the 'western face'
He has been making facial implants out of this bioactive glass for patients who have lost pieces of their bone through trauma or cancer for many years.

Mr Hartley has helped with this work by making precise moulds from which the implants can be cast.

Dr Thompson said: "We can make these facial dressings now that support the face, not distort it.

"With the bioactive glass powder on the inside we are stopping infection and stimulating soft tissue to repair itself."

Mr Hartley's work stems from an original commission by the Victoria & Albert Museum back in 2001 for an event examined contemporary attitudes towards cosmetic surgery.

Perceptions of beauty

Mr Hartley explained: "I wanted to make a series of garments in response to facial ideals of today.

"I was interesting in how the soft tissues of the face can be manipulated, moved around and changed.

"It's the same way that body corsets were used to change the figure."

He designed some of the facial corsets to mimic results of surgery to augment cheeks with the use of implants and lip enhancement in response to botox injection treatments.

Image of a facial corset
This corset inspired surgeons at Guy's Hospital
Others redirect the lips and cheeks contrary to the accepted ideals of the 'western face'.

He said his extreme face corset (pictured right) inspired the dental prosthetics department at King's College London to invite him to make a minimal, clear PCV facial device for a patient requiring support around an area of the face during the healing process after dental implant surgery.

"It's great because it's actually having a direct benefit for patients," Mr Hartley said.

Rearranging faces is one of a series of free events being held at the Science Museum's Dana Centre, London, which are dedicated to exploring the future of face research and are running from 5 October until 2 December 2004.

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26 Aug 04  |  Health


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