Teenage Girls and Plastic Surgery

Most teenage girls are into to the latest fashion and fads. You’ll see them texting on their slick iPhones while clutching a Coach handbag as the saunter down the hallway in their stylish “skinny” jeans. But in recent years, teenage girls have taken their desire for the latest fashion a step further with the help of Hollywood and an “appearance” driven culture. Enter the latest fashion trend in the ever present quest to be beautiful and popular- cosmetic surgery.

Surprisingly many parents are willing to help their daughters achieve their goal for perfection. It’s not uncommon for moms and dads to give their daughter a nose job for a graduation gift or a little lipo to help her fit into her prom dress. After all, nips and tucks have gone from taboo to socially acceptable in today’s high-tech world. According to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS), about 12% of teens undergo cosmetic procedures each year. The most popular procedure? The ASPS found that chemical peels and otoplasty (ear surgery) rule the day.

But trends are changing. Cosmetic surgeons wary of operating on young patients, along with the ASPS, have placed age limits on some procedures such as breast augmentations (you must be 18). Still, many parents feel torn about the practice of cosmetic surgery on their daughters. While there are teens who want frivolous procedures to enhance their profile or bust size, some have legitimate reasons to go under the knife, like a serious physical defect. For example, should a sixteen year old use laser surgery to get a birth mark removed from her cheek? Or what about the seventeen year old whose ears protrude dramatically making her ashamed to wear her hair pulled back in a pony tail? For those cases, cosmetic surgery may be an appropriate option.

Plastic Surgery Check-List: Is it for the right reasons?

It’s true that cosmetic reconstructive surgery can help repair significant physical defects for teens. But is it a good idea for teenage girls to have surgery just to change their appearance? Think through these important questions to help you and your daughter make the right decision.

  • Weigh the benefits and risks of surgery. Cosmetic surgery requires anesthetic, healing, and additional serious health risks. Make sure your daughter is capable of handling the physical stress that surgical procedures bring.
  • Age limitations on certain procedures. Many cosmetic procedures, such as breast augmentation have a restricted age limit of 18 because saline is only approved for women over that age. However, if there is a serious issue such as one breast failing to grow or mismatched, then a plastic surgeon may be able to help earlier.
  • Psychologically and emotionally mature? Is your daughter hoping that plastic surgery will change the way she feels about herself? Often, young girls have a false expectation that changing a part of their body they are unhappy with will make them feel better. Many cosmetic surgeons screen adolescent clients extensively to make sure that they are emotionally and psychologically ready to have surgery.

Reasons to Consider Delaying Cosmetic Surgery.

  • Constantly developing and maturing bodies. Girls bodies continue to grow and develop during the teen years. Often teens don’t “grow into” their physical features until they are in their early twenties. What appears to be a large, awkward nose now may become smaller and more subtle as your daughter’s face continues to develop.
  • Low self-esteem. Most teenage girls feel self-conscious about their bodies and want to change them. They reason that by tweaking and perfecting part of their body, they’ll feel better and look better. They want to be “popular” or “date the cute boys.” Instead, they end up having the procedure to please others, instead of themselves.
  • Non surgical interventions. There is no surgical replacement for diet and exercise. Liposuction will only temporarily help if your teen doesn’t make lifestyle changes. If your daughter is unhappy with her stomach, encourage her to do crunches or hit the gym.
  • Surgery does not solve problems. Adults and teenagers are both guilty of going under the knife in the hopes of “solving their problems.” Teenage girls often reason, “If I were only prettier, then he’d like me” or “I’d be more popular if I got my boobs done.” For some teenagers, mental illness compounds those feelings of inadequacy. If your daughter is depressed or has another mental illness, then she may feel this will “fix everything.” It doesn’t. It only makes matters worse. Mental illnesses such as Anorexia, Bulimia, and Body Dysmorphic Disorder, in which girls believe their bodies look different than they do, are continually looking for quick ways to cure it. If this is the case, your daughter should see a therapist before she ever considers any cosmetic procedure. Surgery will only serve as a band aid for underlying mental health issues.
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