Do you ever look in a mirror and think your face would be OK if it weren't for your nose? Maybe you feel your ears stick straight out, and nothing you do can hide them. Perhaps you're self-conscious about your breasts being way too large. Or maybe a bad case of acne has left scars or pits on your face. If you're self-conscious about a physical characteristic, you may be among the thousands of teens who consider plastic surgery each year.
According to the American Society of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgeons (ASPS), more than 219,000 cosmetic procedures were done on patients aged 18 and younger in 2008. Some of the most common types of plastic surgery teens choose include nose jobs, and correction of protruding ears, too-large breasts, asymmetrical breasts, and scarring caused by acne or injuries.
Eating disorders are not uncommon among teens. Take "Kerri" (not her real name) for example. Upset with a sudden weight gain, the 15-year-old forced herself to throw up after eating her school lunch. It seemed harmless. After all, most of the kids at her lunch table had done it before, and they seemed OK.
Then, after doing it five times, and then 10, Kerri had a new ritual of vomiting right after eating. She did it at school and then again at home. No one knew -- until Thanksgiving. She had eaten...
Teens seek plastic surgery for many reasons. One reason many cite is that young people can be cruel, whether intentionally or not. For example, someone may blurt out to a friend, "Gee, did you see that kid's nose?" -- without thinking of the pain it may cause. A constant barrage of cruel remarks often drives teens to take surgical action.
Most teens seek plastic surgery to improve their appearance or to increase self-esteem. Teens often report that their self-image and self-confidence improves when their perceived physical shortcomings are corrected.
While these reasons are similar to those of adults, teens often want to fit in with others, rather than stand out, where appearance is concerned. So it is important for teens considering plastic surgery to be sure that they are doing it for themselves -- not to meet the expectations of anyone else.
A teen also needs emotional maturity and family support to get through what many consider a "minor" corrective procedure. The truth is that any surgery involves risk. Teens must have a realistic grasp on the risks and the limitations of plastic surgery.
It's also important to choose the right surgeon. A board-certified plastic surgeon can help give a realistic picture of what to expect (board certified means the doctor has passed a standard exam given by the governing board in his or her specialty). Some cosmetic surgeries can also be done by experienced and board-certified general surgeons, dermatologists, otolaryngologists (ear, nose, and throat specialists), and opthalmologists.
You should always ask a surgeon about:
The surgeon's training
How many procedures he or she has done
How many are done annually
What results have been
Don't be afraid to ask to speak to former teen patients, or to see "before and after" pictures from past cases.
What Are Common Plastic Surgery Procedures for Teens?
Some plastic surgery procedures, like breast enlargement, liposuction, and cheek implants are generally considered inappropriate for teens, except in unusual cases. But other procedures may be beneficial.