According to the American Society of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgeons, over 236,000 cosmetic procedures were performed on teens aged 19 or younger during the year 2012. Thousands of teens consider plastic surgery each year, with common procedures ranging from nose jobs and correction of protruding ears to breast reduction or acne scar treatment.

Why do teens look to plastic surgery, and what are some things they should consider while making this choice?

Why Do Teens Want Plastic Surgery?

Teens might seek out plastic surgery for a variety of reasons:

  • • Young people can be cruel: Whether they mean to or not, teens and adolescents can cause significant emotional distress with their words. Comments about visual appearance or related areas may drive a teen to seek surgical solutions.
  • • Low self-esteem: Most plastic surgery procedures among teens are to improve appearance or increase self esteem, or both at the same time.
  • • They want to fit in: Teens often want to fit in—rather than stand out. Adolescents want to be accepted by their peer group, which often involves conforming. However, it’s important to help teens understand that they should choose these procedures for themselves, not for anyone else.

Common Procedures Among Teens

Certain procedures are typically considered inappropriate for teens in most cases, such as breast enlargement, liposuction and cheek implants. Others, however, can be medically beneficial.

Common procedures performed on teens include:

  • • Rhinoplasty: Commonly known as a nose job, rhinoplasty is the most common cosmetic procedure teens request, but it can be useful in treating a deviated septum. Before considering this type of surgery, the nose must have reached its adult size—this usually happens by age 15 or 16 in girls and by age 16 or 17 in boys.
  • • Otoplasty: Also known as ear pinback, otoplasty can be done after ages 5 or 6 in most cases.
  • • Chin augmentation: This is a reshaping of the chin that can be done during the teen years.
  • • Breast asymmetry correction: This is often performed when one breast is different from the other in its size or shape.
  • • Breast reduction: Breast reductions can be performed on girls as young as 15 who are embarrassed by large breasts, or who are struggling with shoulder pain, back pain or trouble breathing due to the size of their breasts.
  • • Gynecomastia: This is a procedure used to treat excessive breast development in male teens. This condition generally disappears on its own, but gynecomastia may be performed for severe cases.
  • • Laser treatment or dermabrasion: These techniques may be used to smooth skin scarring as a result of acne. In some cases, collagen or other skin fillers are used here as well.

Things to Consider First

For teens considering plastic surgery, the American Society of Plastic Surgeons recommends the following guidelines:

  • • The teen, not a parent, must initiate the request. The teen must have realistic goals and expectations for the procedure.
  • • The plastic surgeon must be experienced and board-certified in a speciality recognized by the American Board of Medical Specialties (includes the American Board of Plastic Surgery).
  • • The surgery should be performed in an accredited facility with the ability to manage rare complications if they take place.
  • • Surgery must be done under a policy of full and informed consent, meaning the policy is agreed to by the patient and the patient’s parent or guardian.

Proper Expectations

Expectations are important to consider for teens thinking about plastic surgery. A few areas to keep in mind:

  • • Plastic surgery will not solve all your problems or make you a different person.
  • • Plastic surgery will not cause others to like you or make you popular at school.
  • • Looks may influence parts of your life, but they only mean so much. Focus on other life factors that matter as well.
  • • Be aware of any complications and surgery risks (your surgeon can detail these).
  • • Your true friends won’t judge you by your looks.
  • • Research all your options—you may find that you don’t need plastic surgery to find the solutions you want for changing your appearance.

If your teen is considering plastic surgery, speak to your plastic surgeon about what to think about.

Our physicians are board-certified with the American Board of Plastic Surgery. We work with you toward your goals and make sure you feel comfortable throughout your cosmetic or reconstructive treatment.

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