Plastic surgery is increasingly pervasive in young Hollywood, and a growing number of American teens are eager to follow suit. But, letting teenagers alter their appearance for purely cosmetic reasons is usually unwise.
Surrounded by images in magazines, movies and on TV of preternaturally perfect young actors and models, a growing number of American teenagers say they want plastic surgery for cosmetic reasons. But, Dr. Lane Smith cautions that caving to such requests can be very unwise.
“The plastic surgery society, and myself, frown on this in many ways,” says Dr. Smith, a board certified plastic surgeon practicing in Las Vegas. “There are many problems with this trend. Initially, if you ask 15-year-old girls if they are happy with their body, 80 to 90 percent of them are unhappy with their body. But if you ask college students, you’ll find that 80 to 90 percent of college students are happy with their body.”
Reconstructive plastic surgery to address a birth defect or repair injury trauma is a different matter. In those cases, Dr. Smith says, teens — and even children — should have surgery as soon as possible. But, he added that a cosmetic plastic surgery request from anyone younger than 18 should only be granted if it is clear that the procedure would help undo psychological damage.
For example, if a young person is suffering a considerable amount of emotional stress or taunting from peers because of a particular feature — say, an overly large nose that goes beyond building character to looking simply cartoonish — then having it fixed through cosmetic surgery can be easy to justify. By and large, however, time is the best medicine. And, one reason the age of consent for plastic surgery is 18 is that often, younger patients haven’t finished growing.
“Many times, patients who think they are unhappy with something will either physically change – they’ll grow – or they will become comfortable in their own skin, so to speak,” Smith says.