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 236,000 cosmetic procedures were performed on patients ages 19 and younger in 2012. 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.
There's a lot going on in your life -- school, friends, relationships, body changes -- so it's no surprise that your emotions are all over the place sometimes.
So how do you know if your roller coaster of feelings is normal or something that could be a problem? Start by asking yourself these questions:
Have you stopped doing things that you used to really like to do -- like baseball or track, dance, or school clubs? Not that you switched from soccer to lacrosse because you like it better, but...
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 of 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). Cosmetic surgeries can also be performed by experienced and board-certified general surgeons, dermatologists, otolaryngologists (ear, nose, and throat specialists), and opthalmologists (eye doctors).
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.