In August of 2018, the American Society of Plastic Surgeons published new guidelines because they noticed that more teens are getting plastic surgery than ever before. Most people reading this will likely have the standard reaction to that news: well, should teens get plastic surgery at all? Generally speaking, surgeons are hesitant to treat teens for a wide variety of reasons–and so usually, the answer is that no, teens should not be treated aesthetically.
More Teens Are Getting Plastic Surgery: Why?
But there are some exceptions. Certainly strong cases can be made for the necessity of reconstructive plastic surgery for teens. Indeed, I tend to think most people aren’t doubting the need for that.
It’s the elective plastic surgery for teens that give people pause. And I understand that hesitation–in fact, I share it. But something like 230,000 teens underwent an aesthetic cosmetic or plastic surgery procedure last year. And while that number isn’t as high as it sounds for a nationwide statistic, it’s still higher than I was expecting. So it’s worth taking some time to look into how surgeons are responding to this demand–and what might be driving those desires for plastic surgery for teens in the first place.
Why Are Teens Undergoing Plastic Surgery?
There are two primary reasons that teens are undergoing plastic and cosmetic surgery at a higher rate than they previously did:
- Social Media: That’s right, it should not be surprising that social media has an impact on how teens view themselves. After all, social media has an impact on how everyone sees themselves. The presence of filters and selfies coupled with the public nature of social media make it a potent influencer.
- Safety: Simply put, plastic surgery has never been safer and there have never been more non invasive options. Now, that in and of itself should not push teens into getting plastic surgery. But in those marginal cases where teens might benefit from plastic surgery, it does change the cost-benefit analysis.
Many Reasons Why Teens Are Not a Good Fit for Plastic Surgery
Despite these two factors leading to an increase in teens undergoing plastic surgery, it’s worth noting that there are still many and significant reasons why teens are not good candidates for plastic or cosmetic surgery.
- Teens are still developing, both physically and mentally. In terms of physical developments, surgeons may not be able to adequately anticipate how and when the body will develop, so the long term results of surgery may end up diluted or shifted–not ideal in either case.
- And because teens are still developing emotionally, they don’t have a great ability to make long term judgments (studies show the part of the brain that thinks about long term consequences hasn’t finished developing yet). This means there’s a higher likelihood that teens could come to regret their plastic or cosmetic surgery experience.
- Is it sending the right message? Oh, boy, this one is tough to answer. Because yes, you kind of are. But on the other hand, undergoing surgery is an incredibly personal choice–and sometimes the happiness of the patient is more important than the “message” that patient is sending.
How Surgeons Should Handle Teen Patients
Generally speaking, the guidelines surgeons follow when treating teens proceeds on a procedure-by-procedure basis. After all, some procedures are significantly less taxing (having one’s ears pinned back, for example). Whereas others, such as breast augmentation or liposuction, are essentially never performed if they are not part of some other therapy.
Procedures such as breast reduction and rhinoplasty are sometimes performed on teenage patients, but only when certain requirements are met–both physically and emotionally. And there are strict age limitations as well.
More Teens Are Getting Surgery, so More Surgeons Should Be Cautious
As more teens go under the knife–often for legitimate reasons–the popularity of “plastic surgery for teens” may increase (as one might argue it already has). Generally speaking, surgeons will refrain from performing plastic surgery on teens for purely cosmetic purposes. But it’s still in the best interests of everyone to be thoughtful about these decisions and take the process slowly.
That’s true for cosmetic procedures, such as dermal filler or Botox injections, as well–even though the results are essentially temporary. For the most part, plastic surgery for teens will be avoided. But there are some instances–relatively rare instances–when it may be justified.