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Is Plastic Surgery a Teen Thing?

For some teens, plastic surgery can be a godsend. But it has to be for the right reasons.

Is Your Teen Right for Plastic Surgery?

When it comes to teens, part of the challenge is deciding on appropriate candidates who can not only benefit from cosmetic surgery but also understand its limitations.

"Teens who are encouraged to have surgeries by families and friends when they are not interested are poor candidates for plastic surgery," Malcolm D. Paul, MD, president-elect of the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery and a plastic surgeon in Newport Beach, Calif., tells WebMD.

"The motivation should come from within and not without," he says. "It has to be for the right reasons, not because mom and dad feel that it's something a child should do."

Darrick Antell, MD, a New York plastic surgeon, says before he performs many procedures on a teenager he tries to make sure that the concern is consistent.

"Is it the nose one week, the ears the next, and the breast the following week?" he says. "We want to be sure it is a consistent complaint."

Antell says he also likes to determine whether the concern is self-motivated in his teen patients. "If a parent dragged them in, that would send up a lot of red flags for me," he tells WebMD.

"Some parents in this day and age want everything they can have for their child, from a new stereo to a new car and sometimes a new nose. This may not necessarily be appropriate."

More teens may be undergoing cosmetic surgery today because their parents have undergone it, he says. The parent's attitude may be "I had it done and my daughters inherited the nose I didn't want."

Some procedures may be inappropriate for teens. "I think it would be a rare case where you would do liposuction on a teenager because a lot of teens grow out of their baby fat," Antell says. Breast enlargement, unless it is to make sure both breasts are symmetrical, may also be inappropriate.

"You want to make sure the breast is fully developed before performing breast augmentation," he says.

Breast reduction, however, may make dramatic improvements of quality of life if the teen can't play sports. "Very large breasts can be a hindrance to playing sports and maneuvering, and some people may experience neck, back, and shoulder pain as a result. Breast reduction surgery is a very satisfying operation in the appropriate teen patient."

Nose jobs too can make a tremendous difference in the right teen patient.

Teens who make good candidates for nose jobs are those "with noses with lumps, bumps or hooks; too big or too high; or with a poor angle between the nose and upper lip," according to McGrath and Mukerji.

People with minor imperfections are not good candidates, they note.

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