Dissatisfaction with specific parts of the body is not unique to the adult experience. Perhaps compelled by social media and constant exposure to “influencers” and other “beautiful people,” more and more teens are beginning to consider – and seriously inquire about – the possibility of plastic surgery. The pressure to be perfect in the Age of the Selfie can be profound, and this is something teens and young adults often feel intensely.
For parents of teens approaching this topic, it is very important to remember that the idea of a cosmetic procedure should originate with your teen, not from your suggestion. It is never a good idea for a parent to recommend cosmetic surgery to a teen unless it is in response to a problem that has become a struggle for the teen him or herself, such as protruding ears or disfigurement from an animal attack. If your teen is satisfied with his or her appearance, be grateful.
For teens approaching this topic, there are some guidelines as well, particularly as involves the motivations behind the desire. If the desire to address cosmetic flaws has been prompted by someone in your life who wants you to change for their benefit, surgically altering your body is not the best choice. If, however, it stems from issues that have long been the source of bullying or teasing, or comes from an honest space of personal dissatisfaction, a one-on-one discussion with a board-certified plastic surgeon like Dr. Joseph Fata can help you decide if – and when – a procedure may be suitable.
Age Considerations and the Growing Body
There are two types of plastic surgery procedures:
- Reconstructive procedures that are designed to address a significant birth deformity, large, protruding ears, a cleft palate, or a misshapen nose, along with traumatic injuries such as burns.
- Cosmetic procedures that are designed to augment or enhance the appearance of the body through implantation, body sculpting, and tissue removal.
It is almost never appropriate for a plastic surgeon to perform a cosmetic procedure on a person who is under the age of 18. Most parts of the body will continue to develop even into a person’s early 20s, and it is best to avoid surgery on any part of the body that has not completed its growth. This means that, in almost all cases, breast and body contouring surgery, including liposuction and tummy tuck, should be delayed until a teen is out of high school and has reached adulthood. For breast surgery, waiting until you have reached the age of 22 will increase options by allowing the insertion of silicone breast implants. These cannot be placed in people 21-years or younger.
Reconstructive procedures are a different thing altogether. It is reasonable to correct protruding ears any time after the age of five or six. Large, misshapen, or protruding ears are often a source of cruel teasing, and the growth of the ears is almost complete at this point. Surgery to correct a large nasal hump is also reasonable, but it is best to wait until the age of 16 to avoid disturbing growth. Other options, such as dermabrasion or laser skin resurfacing can be useful as well for addressing scars, even those caused by acne, and traumatic injuries such as burns or deformities caused by accident or surgery. Male breast reduction in boys who are experiencing gynecomastia may also be appropriate, though this condition often self-corrects and surgery may not be necessary if patience is applied.
"Plastic" Surgery is Still Real Surgery
It is important to remember that plastic surgery is real surgery, not a trip to the spa or health club. It has real risks that need to be considered, even though they are rare. Teens may not have the life experience to fully understand or give thoughtful consideration to all potential risks and consequences. They need their parents' help and guidance in understanding the potentially serious risks and complications involved with the surgical alteration of the body for cosmetic benefit.
Along the same lines, plastic surgery can absolutely be part of the discussion between parents and teen children who are looking for a solution to an aesthetic problem. However, plastic surgery should not be packaged as a graduation present or a reward for good grades. Even when well-intentioned, this practice can trivialize the surgical procedure, its risks, and the actual benefit of its results.
How to Know if the Time is Right
Teens are in constant change, both mentally and physically. A problem of crisis-proportions today may be all but forgotten a few months later. If an issue of appearance comes up, consider it seriously, but give it some time as well. If it doesn't go away, explore it more deeply, gather all of the information you need, and talk to a board-certified plastic surgeon, preferably two or three, to fully understand your options.
The right time for plastic surgery is when you are emotionally and physically ready, and when the drive to alter your body is yours alone – not prompted by someone else. An ethical and trustworthy plastic surgeon will carefully evaluate your motivations, provide frank and honest information about your options, and help ensure you are making the decision that is best for all of your needs – emotional, physical, and beyond.
Contact Renaissance Plastic Surgery
If you are a teen or the parent of a teen who has given serious consideration to plastic surgery and is ready to learn more, please call the Indianapolis office of Renaissance Plastic Surgery at 317-575-9152 to schedule a consultation with Dr. Fata. A board-certified plastic surgeon, Dr. Fata is caring, compassionate, and discerning. He welcomes an opportunity to meet with you, listen to and understand your needs and desires, and provide you with honest information about which options will be best for you at this stage of your life.
Renaissance Plastic Surgery is located in Indianapolis, Indiana. Dr. Fata welcomes teens and their parents from all surrounding areas, including Carmel, Noblesville, Greenfield, Shelbyville, and Plainfield.