I’ve noticed lately a lot of discussion about teenagers and plastic surgery in the news. When I hear of stories like the “Kylie Jenner Challenge” (a social media frenzy where teens/young adults attempted to suck the air out of shot glasses to create the celebrity’s now infamous “pouty” look; followed by posting videos/pictures of their severely swollen lips after realizing it doesn’t work that way), I am reminded of the real implications society and social media has on teenagers when it pertains to cosmetic plastic surgery. Collectively, we tend to put age limits on many things and when it comes to our kids, there can be a fine line when considering how young is too young for cosmetic procedures. Whichever side of the debate you’re on is entirely your own, but let’s take a look at why I believe plastic surgery can be beneficial for some of the younger generation.
There are distinct divisions for plastic surgery motivations when it comes to teenagers and they aren’t all that different to those of adult plastic surgery patients. There are those who may obsess on wanting to address a specific body issue (we call this body dysmorphic disorder; when a patient focuses on their body image negatively and are never satisfied with the way they look), those that are truly suffering physically and emotionally from their physical appearance and then there are those who simply want to enhance certain features (this could be a temporary fad or motivated by public figures as seen on television, movies, etc.). As a double-board certified plastic surgeon, for me, I work with young patients (and their parents) who are highly motivated for the right reasons, emotionally mature and have also reached physical maturity. When you have this combination, the procedure becomes more of a necessity for improving the overall quality of life for the teen and in the end, I really do believe that not only the patient, but also the family benefits.
When I speak about procedures among teens, I’m referring to cosmetic procedures and not necessarily medically-required procedures. Common procedures among my patients in high school and early college years include rhinoplasty (nose surgery), otoplasty (ear surgery) and breast reduction. Overly large breasts can create a number of concerns for young women and men. It can be especially difficult for student athletes to actively engage in their sport if their breasts cause discomfort and hinder their performance. In this case, a breast reduction would be explored to remove the excess fat and tissue to a more proportionate breast to body frame ratio. When a patient approaches a surgical procedure, we want to make sure the body has developed so that significant plastic surgery results aren’t reversed. For some patients, the nose is such a distinct part of the face and whether it may be too large or perhaps crooked, can cause young patients emotional discomfort. The facial structure for females matures at age 15 and for men in their early 20’s and at this stage in their growth, rhinoplasty would be the procedure we would explore. Finally otoplasty, or ear pinning, is ideal for those who want to reduce the size of their large, protruding ears (think along the lines of elephant ears) that make the face unbalanced.
I’m not saying this as a means of encouraging young teens to head to their nearest plastic surgeon if they are unhappy with their appearance; I take this very seriously and spend a lot of time with my young patients and their families when discussing all possible treatment. The parents should be knowledgeable in the techniques and recovery related to the procedure and willing to consent to their child having the procedure. In the end, the plastic surgery results that a teen undergoes can have such a positive influence on their wellbeing and ultimately that of family and friends as past insecurities diminish and newly increased self-esteem takes its place.
Don’t hesitate to contact Southern Plastic Surgery, P.C. (SPS) with any questions or concerns you have regarding the procedures we perform and your future cosmetic planning. You can also keep up with me, Dr. David Whiteman, and the rest of my SPS team on Facebook, Twitter and Google+ for the latest plastic surgery topics and news.