A new, but not unexpected, trend has surfaced recently. Teens are increasingly turning to cosmetic surgery for a variety of reasons. When and why is as easy to quantify as the mood of any average teenager. Which is to say it is not possible. However, there are certain reasons that continue to drift the front of the collective consciousness of the current generation of teenagers. Some are valid and well-reasoned, while others are the obvious results of the usual angst experienced by youth.
It is unfortunate, but accidents do happen. The difference for some teenagers is that they occur at a time when they are particularly vulnerable. And the results can be lasting and devastating.
Darlene who was hit in the face by a baseball. This changed her appearance and lead to bullying by her peers. It was at the age of 16 that Darlene decided her appearance needed to be fixed. Perhaps not by accident, a similar case was presented, Tony also, at the age of 16, decided to undergo cosmetic surgery.
These two cases present part of a trend of teenagers attempting to fix their physical deformities, or to repair congenital defects. Others however, just want to look (and feel) better about themselves. Perhaps the most complicated issue in considering this issue is that it is impossible to make blanket statements. What may be a helpful surgery, which genuinely improves their quality of life, may not be for a different person. The best we can do is to decide on a case-by-case basis.
Is It Any Different To An Adult's Decision?
According to Dr Bryan Mendelson, “most people opt for cosmetic surgery to get their confidence back. It is no different with teenagers”. One could argue for or against the validity of that last part of the quote. Perhaps it IS different with teenagers. As Dr Anthony Young, author of the book, In-Stitches,,” “The problem with kids is they are often not matured enough to make that kind of decision on their own.” One could argue then that the final decision is in the hands of the surgeon. The alternative argument being that even if one does decline performing surgery, another less scrupulous surgeon might go ahead with it.
If not clear by now, the difficulty is with gray areas. Dr. Jeffrey Spiegel said, “cosmetic need resulting from trauma or birth defect is likely reasonable”. Something we can all agree with, surely. He goes on to say, “Gray areas appear when a child is a teen and doesn’t like the way his ears look or the bump on her nose.” Where is the line then? Can the kid with funny big ears be free to pursue cosmetic surgery? Or the child with a nose that’s a little too big, or too pointy, or too wide? Erica Ives perhaps said it best, “There are so many emotional dangers involved for teens that receive plastic surgery for cosmetic and not health reasons.”
The Real Benefits Of Operating On The Gray Areas
When it comes to Rhinoplasty, Dr Kien Ha says “when performed for the right reasons, having a successful cosmetic rhinoplasty can have profound positive benefits to the child’s or young adults confidence and mental state.” It is easy to agree with this logic; cosmetic surgery can have very real benefits to a teenagers self-esteem and confidence. This is doubly true during their delicate teenage years, when they are deep in the process of discovering who they are. A large part of which is their appearance, and especially their peer’s reactions or attitudes to their appearance.
The alternative to this argument is perhaps the main down side to teenage cosmetic surgery. The fact is that a person’s body or face has not fully developed until their early 20’s. So, what may seem like a nose that is too big, is in fact just right once the rest of their face has matured to better match it. A further quote from Dr. Kien Ha lends weight to this argument,
“It is important to bear in mind that the facial skeleton continues to change and mature throughout adolescence. The age in which facial growth ceases can vary between 16 until the early 20s. Ideally, cosmetic rhinoplasty should be delayed until the surgeon is confident that facial growth has ceased. Operating before this time may affect nasal skeleton maturation, or the nose may continue to change following surgery; leading to an undesirable result.”
There are valid arguments to both sides of this debate, and there is a definite trend in the number of teenagers seeking cosmetic surgery. Whether they are trying to fix a very real defect, or something that resulted from an accident, or if they are simply looking for a boost to their self-esteem and body image, practitioners must meet with every case as a unique example. And each time must give full weight to the validity of going under the knife. It could be that the teenager will realize soon after that they do not need it so badly as they feel they do.