Plastic Surgeons Weigh In on Teens Getting Cosmetic Procedures

Like it or not, social media shapes many aspects of teenagers’ lives. From an “always-on” mentality to constant selfies, it seems like adolescents live more in cyberspace than they do in the real world.

For many parents, one of the biggest fears about the influence of technology in general and social media in particular is what it will do to their teenager’s self-esteem. In 2017, over 200,000 plastic surgery and cosmetic procedures were performed on patients in the 13- to 17-year-old demographic, including liposuction, Botox injections, ear pinning, lip fillers, and more.

But, when young patients feel better about themselves and change an aspect of their appearance targeted by bullies, is this trend of teenage plastic surgery really a bad thing? We asked three plastic surgeons and cosmetic doctors to share their thoughts on the subject:

“Both of my daughters, ages 18 and 15, told me that they want to get their noses done! Social media and selfies affect teens and even younger children who are constantly bombarded with filtered and photoshopped images of beautiful people that they compare themselves to. Both of my daughters feel that their noses look too big, and they showed me selfies to try to prove their point. It is very sad to see this superficial world affecting my kids. They know my passion is cosmetic surgery, so it puts me in a unique position as their mother. I always tell them they are beautiful and never comment on their specific features. However, I do feel there is a role for plastic surgery in teens in certain cases, such as a mature teen with parental involvement who is having functional and self-esteem issues. Surgeries such as ear pinning, breast reduction, and rhinoplasty can be acceptable and life-changing for teens with more moderate to severe cosmetic issues affecting quality of life. Ear pinning is done routinely in very young age groups to decrease risks for bullying. Rhinoplasty and breast reduction surgery can be considered as soon as 16-18 years of age, depending on the motivation of the child and parents. I prefer 18 years and up. What is more concerning is when teens ask for facial rejuvenation procedures such as Botox, fillers, brow lifts, and thread lifts. In these cases, the teen loses a realistic sense of what looks youthful and attractive and instead tries to mimic features they see on others or through Snapchat filters. This can give rise to serious issues mentally and physically. As for my daughters, I encouraged them to give it serious thought and think about it. I told my 15-year-old to wait until she’s 18, and we can have a conversation about rhinoplasty then.”

– Dr. Hayley Brown, board-certified plastic surgeon, Desert Hills Plastic Surgery Center

“While it is always important for plastic surgeons to discuss motivation for cosmetic procedures, it is especially important in teens and young adults who may feel under more pressure from unrealistic social media ideals of appearance. Plastic surgeons need to ensure that teens understand the risks and outcomes of the procedure and that there is no guarantee of improved self-worth with any procedure. Most would agree that purely cosmetic procedures should not be performed on individuals under the age of 18, but there are some procedures that fall in a grey area between cosmetic and reconstructive surgery – such as ear pinning, which is often performed on patients as young as 5 years old. Bottom line for any cosmetic procedure: Do it for you and no one else. Don’t do it for the social media acceptance or likes!”

– Dr. Raymond Jean, board-certified plastic surgeon, Main Line Plastic Surgery

“It is important to always have one or both parents in the room at the time of the consultation. The conversation should be driven by the child, not the parents. It’s also important for teenagers to have more than one evaluation to give them the chance to think before agreeing to do surgery. With these caveats in mind, patients who are 5 years old (ear pinning) to 17 years old (rhinoplasty and breast reduction; ear pinning can be performed with local anesthesia at this age) may be suitable candidates for certain plastic surgery procedures. For many teenagers and children, the procedure isn’t solely cosmetic – patients with protruding ears, abnormally shaped noses, or congenital or developmental issues with the breasts experience improved confidence and less teasing. That said, doctors should deter teens from doing breast augmentation or abdominal liposuction to look good. They don’t have acceptable indications at such a young age.”

– Dr. Jayesh Panchal, plastic surgeon, Genesis Plastic Surgery & Medical Spa