Teen Plastic Surgery
The latest American Society of Plastic Surgeons’ (ASPS) statistics show that cosmetic surgery is increasing in the 13- to 19-year-old age category. While many assume that cosmetic surgery is for the older individual trying to look younger, studies are showing that cosmetic surgery is being more frequently applied to the teen who is not satisfied with his/her appearance. A recent survey from global marketing agency, InSites Consulting, found that nearly 1 in 6 youth, age 15- to 25-year-olds, have considered breast implants, nose jobs, liposuction or other cosmetic procedures. Many experts believe that part of this surge is directly related to the acceptance of such procedures on social media and by surgery undertaken by stars on reality shows.
Common Cosmetic Surgeries Performed on Teens
The ASPS reports that doctors performed 63,600 elective cosmetic surgeries in 2014 on patients between 13-19 years of age. The most common surgeries included: nose reshaping, breast reduction in males, breast implants in females, ear pinning, liposuction, and non-surgical procedures, such as Botox injections and laser hair removal. To be clear, we are talking about elective surgeries, not plastic surgery to correct life-affecting defects, such as a cleft palate.
Unfortunately, many young people don’t like what they see in the mirror. Our culture and media project an ideal look and body type that few can ever hope to achieve. As a result, a significant number of young people now think about going under the knife in search of perfection.
Teens may not like the way their nose is shaped, or feel their ears are too big, or hate an obvious birthmark, or have acne scars. Regardless of the specific “flaw” they have, many teens feel that plastic surgery will improve their looks, self-esteem, and social acceptance.
Experts worry that the real issue behind a teen’s desire for surgery is psychological. Generally, teens pursue these drastic measures because they are self-conscious, suffering from low self-esteem, being bullied or teased about a physical feature, or pursuing an ideal look they have seen in the media. Surgery will not “fix” these problems. Many experts feel that parents should instead help their teens work through their emotional issues, teach them how to handle social pressures, and help them to become comfortable in their own skin.
Risks of Surgery
Continued development. One of the major concerns about plastic surgery on adolescents is that their bodies are still maturing. Development continues into the late teens and weight tends to fluctuate in this age bracket, all of which can significantly impact both the need for, and end result of, any surgical procedure.
Surgical mishaps. While surgery has benefits, it also poses risks, and many teens are not mature enough to truly understand the consequences. Risks involved in cosmetic surgery include infection, damage to skin or nerves, scarring, fat or blood clots, and change in sensation at the site of surgery. While rare, cosmetic surgery can go wrong and distort the feature into something your teen likes even less than their natural feature. Each type of plastic surgery carries its own risks, as well. Take time to research the specific type of procedure your teen desires and tell your teen what surgery might be like, what its risks are, what the recovery time and limitations are, and how it would affect their activities.
Disappointment. Teens who express a desire to have plastic surgery often are trying to improve physical characteristics that they believe are flawed or imperfect. They might achieve gains in self-esteem and confidence when these problems are fixed, according to plasticsurgery.org. They might think a new nose will make them popular beyond their wildest imagination. Such unrealistic expectations about the surgery and its effects on their life can set teens up for major disappointment.
A good candidate for cosmetic surgery is mature enough to understand the procedure, its risks, and what limitations the recovery period will require.
Age of Consent
There are no specific laws in the United States that prevent teenagers from getting cosmetic surgery; however, parental consent is required for patients under the age of 18.
If you decide to allow your teen to contact a plastic surgeon, here’s what you need to know:
- Get a referral. While your area may have many plastic surgeons, there is no substitute for a personal referral. If you don’t know anyone who has used a plastic surgeon, then ask your pediatrician for a referral. Make sure the surgeon is certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery because state laws permit any licensed physicians to call themselves a cosmetic surgeon, even if they were not trained as a surgeon.
- Review photos of patients. Many plastic surgeons use computer imaging to show your teen how they could look after the surgery. While that can be helpful to determine what could be possible, it is important that you ask to see real “before” and “after” images of actual patients to view examples of the surgeon’s work.
- Get multiple opinions. To be certain your teen is ready, you should seek a professional opinion from at least two reputable plastic surgeons and a psychologist. If any of the doctors tell you your child isn’t a good candidate, listen!
- Cool off. Once you and your teen have had the consultations, think about it for a couple of months. When they have a cooling-off period and some of the excitement fades, your teen may realize that surgery isn’t right for them.
If your teen wants cosmetic surgery, it’s important that you have lengthy discussions with your child. First of all, try to determine the root cause of their desire for surgery. Is it motivated socially or medically? Be clear that plastic surgery will not magically solve all their problems, and in fact, could potentially cause more problems down the road.