Plastic Surgery and Teens: How Young is Too Young for Cosmetic Enhancements?

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It is repeatedly said that “beauty is only skin deep.” In other facets of life, it is echoed that “beauty is in the eye of the beholder.” While these subtle reminders are significant in the lesson of inner beauty, external factors such as peer pressure, bullying, social media, and others, reverse the value of loving the inner self – tormenting not only adults, but today’s youth into undergoing cosmetic procedures to achieve unrealistic expectations of beauty. Of recent note, teen celebrity Kylie Jenner (pictured below) recently admitted to cosmetic surgery, sparking an overall national debate on the hot topic.

 

 

In the wake of our recent discussions diving deep into young adult and teen cosmetic enhancements, the question now surfaces – how young is too young for plastic surgery? We revisited our dear friends over at Skintastic, to get a clearer perspective behind teen cosmetic surgeries and to pose some serious questions, including whether social media is to blame.

Teaming up with one of Dallas’ most respected authorities on cosmetic surgery, Dr. Kevin Light — we gained much depth into the now controversial issue. As a board certified general surgeon and recognized expert in the field of cosmetic surgery, Dr. Light sheds interesting viewpoints on the issue plus more. From fillers to lip enhancements to breast augmentations, read on as Dr. Light dissects the hot topic of the boom in teen cosmetic surgeries.

 

 

DFW Style Daily: Have you seen a rise in the number of cosmetic procedures requested by teens?

Dr. Kevin Light: “We have indeed seen a rise in the number of cosmetic procedures requested by teens. Statistics from the American Academy of Plastic Surgery confirm a 2% increase in 2014.”

 

In your professional opinion, do you credit this rise to social media or the media in general?

“I think social media has everything to do with it. At no other time in history have we been more photographed and our faces and bodies electronically disseminated every which way to anyone with a smart phone or monitor. This connectivity to social media specifically and the internet in general is the lens through which our perceptions of what is acceptable and attractive is now defined. Our society rewards attractive people socially and financially, and this association between appearance and success is, unfortunately, getting worse every day. With social media, the ‘standard’ is everywhere for all to see, and the sooner you can adhere to the ‘standard,’ the better chances you may have for a successful life (or so many are led to believe).”

 

Is there a statute or law that denotes the exact age that teens can elect to have plastic surgery without parental consent?

“Teenagers have to be 18 years or older to legally consent to any cosmetic surgery without parental consent.”

 

 

What would be the appropriate age for a teen or young adult to elect to have any of the following: lip injections, botox, or breasts augmentation?

“The rules on breast augmentation are dictated by the FDA: 18 years old for saline implants and 22 years old for silicone implants. As physicians we want to make sure that the teen has stopped growing before altering her anatomy. In special cases of significant asymmetry this rule can be waived, in which case this is considered a reconstructive procedure – but it is still best to try to wait until at least the patient has matured physically.

As far as lip injections and Botox, I’m not comfortable offering these options to anyone under 18 years of age. I have yet to see anyone under 18 years of age who need such treatment – and I would question their motives for requesting these treatments at this age.”

 

What are the dangers associated with teens electing for cosmetic surgery too young?

“It’s generally not a good idea to start enhancing and altering body parts [with] people who are not yet full-grown. You’re not quite painting on a stable palette and things can change quickly especially in late bloomers. Teenagers often lack the emotional maturity and an understanding of the risks versus benefits of these procedures – and more often than not they have unrealistic expectations about what cosmetic surgical procedures can and cannot do.”

 

 

Even if a parent provides consent for their teen to receive cosmetic surgery, do you turn potential patients away if they are too young for the effects of plastic surgery?

“Not necessarily. There are many cases in which cosmetic surgery is justified and beneficial in teenagers. Sometimes your physical appearance is such that you feel awkward or flawed. Often these physical imperfections can result in social isolation and even bullying. Perfect examples of this include teens with large unattractive noses, protruding ears, extremely large breasts, excessive breast tissue in males and acne or acne scars. There are several clinics throughout the United States that are offering free cosmetic surgery to such patients who are the victims of peer bullying – and I applaud this effort.”

 

What is the number one requested cosmetic procedure for teens in your office, if any?

“By far the number one requested cosmetic surgery for teens is rhinoplasty – better known as a nose job. The number one non-invasive procedure requested is skincare, specifically acne and acne scars.”

 

As we wrap up this discussion, are there any last words or advice on the issue?

“Cosmetic surgery in the teenage population is a god send for kids with physical imperfections that result in embarrassment, social isolation and bullying. I can’t tell you how many times I have had men in their 20’s come to me and tell me they haven’t taken their shirt off in public since they were 13 years old because they suffer from a condition called gynecomastia (enlarged male breasts).  A simple surgical repair could have saved them years of grief and psychological angst.

Or…consider the 14-year-old girl with extremely large breasts that result in not only physical problems but significant psychological burdens as well. These are the types of problems to concentrate on with kids and young adults – leave the fluff ‘n stuff for later or when they are older and can understand and appreciate the ‘why’ of what they are doing more fully.”

 

 

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