Plastic Surgery Is Up Among Youths
In 2008, doctors performed nearly 219,000 cosmetic surgeries on those between the ages of 13-19, according to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS). Those elective surgeries included:
Rhinoplasty (nose reshaping) for more than 38,000
Otoplasty (ear surgery) for more than 8,000
Breast augmentations for nearly 9,000 patients aged 18-19
Breast reduction for more than 5,000 patients aged 13-19
"Teens tend to have plastic surgery to fit in with peers - to look similar - while adults tend to have plastic surgery to stand out from others," says Julia Corcoran, M.D., assistant professor of clinical surgery at Northwestern University. Teens can gain self-esteem and confidence when what they view as physical problems are fixed.
But plastic surgery is not for every youth. For some procedures, the child must reach milestones in age, growth and physical maturity. Also, most reputable surgeons won't operate unless the child shows emotional maturity and sensible expectations.
The American Academy of Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery offers these guidelines for facial surgery:
Your teen's facial bones must be fully formed before plastic surgery. The jaw bone, for instance, is one of the last bones in the face to mature.
Your teen should have realistic expectations about the surgery results. The surgeon should discuss the healing process and possible complications with you and your child.
"Sometimes it's the parents who want the surgery," says former ASPS President James H. Wells, M.D., a California plastic surgeon. "To hear honestly what the patient wants, I separate them from the parents. Their wishes often don't jibe."
An 18-year-old girl with enlarged or uneven breasts can be a suitable candidate for surgery. But Dr. Wells frowns on giving your daughter breast implants as a high school graduation present. "You're starting a lifetime of surgery, every 10 or 15 years, for the rest of her life," he says. "It's a serious decision."