Is it OK for children to get plastic surgery? Dr. William P. Adams Jr. of Dallas, TX poses this provocative question to our panel of experts, Dr. Robert Whitfield and Dr. Ned Snyder of Austin, TX. According to the latest statistics from the American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS), there’s been a 115% increase in the number of cosmetic procedures performed in this country in the last 15 years. It’s common, accepted and fairly pervasive for men and women today to get plastic surgery which is great news.
And then the question becomes, is is alright for kids? The resounding answer is “no”. Outside of cosmetic or reconstructive procedures to fix a congenital deformity, abnormality, or a functional issue, then no, plastic surgery and children should probably not mix.
Cosmetic Plastic Surgery for Children a No Go
Heather Dubrow, who stars in the Real Housewives of Orange County, and her husband, plastic surgeon Dr. Terry Dubrow who stars in Botched, were recently in the news again for saying that they might be OK with their kids having plastic surgery. Is it OK for children to get plastic surgery?
As Dr. Snyder points out, plastic surgery is a pretty broad topic, but he thinks that “we can all agree that fixing a congenital abnormality or something is certainly within the norm” when it comes to children. But if you’re talking about cosmetic plastic surgery for children where there isn’t a congenital deformity or abnormality – let’s say where the surgeon is doing something truly altering like a breast augmentation – then no.
Nose Jobs for Children
An exception to this, according to Dr. Whitfield, would be rhinoplasty. It’s the most common cosmetic procedure for children that he’s seen over the last decade. Regardless if the child is male or female, kids who are uncomfortable with their nose are often traumatized by it. They feel self-conscious, embarrassed, and unattractive during a time of life, typically early teens, that is already fraught with issues. Having a nose that doesn’t fit their face can cause these children serious emotional distress.
Since fixing it will definitely improve the quality of these kids lives, rhinoplasty is Dr. Whitfield’s exception to the no plastic surgery rule for children. In fact, as he explains, rhinoplasty has, “been the most common reason why I’ve seen a child for plastic surgery.”
A rhinoplasty can change or improve the following:
- Size of the nose
- Width of the bridge of the nose
- Shape of the nose
- Reduce the size of the nostrils
- Improve facial harmony
- Remove any visible humps or depressions
- Fix a nasal tip that is bulbous, turned up, drooping or hooked
- Nasal asymmetry
- Improve breathing
Breast Reduction Another Potential Plastic Surgery Procedure for Children
While all of our experts agree that cosmetic procedures such as Botox, fillers, and cosmetic breast augmentations are ethically off-limits for children, what about a breast reduction? “Absolutely,” says Dr. Snyder.
When a 16 or 17 year old girl has really large breasts, they can interfere with her ability to be a normal kid. She oftentimes doesn’t want or can’t play sports because it is painful on her shoulders, chest and upper back. Her large breasts can cause her extreme emotional distress due to the unwarranted attention, especially given the fact that most girls with big breasts develop early, and girls with large breasts often have a hard time wearing the kinds of “cool” clothes that their peers and friends are wearing which, as anyone who has a teenage knows, is traumatizing. For them, a breast reduction is life changing, not too dissimilar from a child with poor vision when they first receive correction.
This is also true for teenage boys who may develop gynecomastia during puberty. This swelling of the breast tissue, caused by a hormone imbalance, is not only embarrassing, but it can also be painful For those teenage boys who want a flat chest like their friends, plastic surgery to address gynecomastia can be a real option.
With Obesity on Rise, So Is Body Contouring Consults for Children
With obesity rates on the rise, having quadrupled over the last 30 years with 1/3 of our adolescents qualifying as obese, Whitfield is seeing, “more and more consults regarding body contouring” for children. Although this may seem extreme, the reality is that there are a lot of children today getting lap band surgery as a way to improve their lives and their health. However, once they lose all that extra weight, they’re often left with a large amount of excess skin which can be just as emotionally distressing as the extra weight. And though it may seem odd or inappropriate for a plastic surgeon to discuss body countering procedures with a child, it is a reality that many plastic surgeons today are needing to face.
Children and plastic surgery boils down to surgeon’s strong ethics. While it’s easy to write off upon hearing the two together in the same sentence, some children would benefit from a procedure to address a congenital issue, deformity, or functional problem. Plastic surgery after all is not always cosmetic; functional improvement and correcting deformities can truly help lives, including those of teens.