When Your Teen Should Get Plastic Surgery (And When They Should Not)

Lisa Kudrow and Tori Spelling had nose jobs at 16. 17 year old Britney Spears, with mom’s permission, got breast implants. When teens see celebrity peers getting plastic surgery, they may decide that their own looks need improving. Some, like Ashley Tisdale and Soleil Moon Frye, may need surgery for medical reasons, but most teen surgery is cosmetic, not corrective in nature.

Teens only make up 2 percent of cosmetic surgery patients in the U.S., but according to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, the number is getting larger. In 2008, 81, 885 invasive surgeries were done on teens, ages 13–19, while 219, 136 received minimally invasive treatment. Many people think that the average teen requesting this is probably spoiled, rich and overly obsessed with image, but not all fall into that category. The reasons for plastic surgery can vary depending on the circumstances.

Reasons to Avoid the Knife

Teens, being who they are, desire plastic surgery in order to fit in with their friends. They may feel that having bigger breasts or a more defined chin may finally give them the popularity they have always dreamed of. Of course, this is not always the case, and when it fails to change their social lives, they can be devastated.

Unfortunately, there are other surgeons who are perfectly willing to do surgery on a teen without screening them first. Parents, too, are occasionally to blame; they may want “the perfect child” and insist that the surgery be done.

Because of this, a good surgeon will carefully interview a candidate to make sure they are emotionally stable enough to handle the surgery. The surgeon must also be sure the teen’s expectations are realistic and their motives are correct. Teens with body dysmorphic disorder may not be good candidates; these patients will focus on a specific flaw or other defect (real or imagined), and convince themselves that surgery is the only way to treat it. This condition is best handled by a psychologist or other mental health care professional.

Procedures to Skip

There are a number of procedures that teenagers should avoid. Breast enhancement, in particular with saline implants, is one. This is because the body may not yet be done developing, and the general rule is that the patient must be at least 18. There are a few exceptions, such as birth defects, trauma or diseases that may require breast reconstruction. Silicone can be used for reconstruction purposes by women of all ages, but is limited to 22 and older for enhancement.

Since teens often lose baby fat with age, liposuction is not recommended. For teens that have a problem losing weight with just diet and exercise alone, however, it can be used for spot reduction purposes. It should not be used to treat obesity as a whole and is most definitely not a substitute for diet and exercise.

Procedures to Consider

Rhinoplasty can be a suitable procedure for certain candidates. Broken or deformed noses can be fixed by this procedure. Breast reductions are also popular; in Soleil Moon Frye’s case, her large breasts were causing her back and shoulder pain, as well as breathing problems. Microdermabrasion and chemical peels can help teens with severe acne and skin irregularities, and laser hair removal can help those with excessive hair.

Five Important Questions to Ask When Considering Surgery for Your Child

  1. Who truly wants the surgery? The teenager must be the one who desires it most; after all, they are the ones who must live with the results. Parents, peers and significant others can offer advice, but they must not pressure the patient into making a decision.
  2. Is your child emotionally and mentally mature? A good surgeon will want to be sure the patient understands the process and what will take place before, during and after surgery.
  3. How well does your child handle pain and follow directions? The recovery process can be long, painful and draining. As a parent, you can only do so much; your child must be able to handle the rest on their own.
  4. Does the child have a realistic outlook on the results? Make sure your child knows that their lives will not radically change after undergoing surgery.
  5. Is your child physically mature? Depending on the surgery, this could play a huge role. Breast reductions can be done on patients as young as 15, while other surgeries may have to wait until the child is older.