By 16, the young star already had lip augmentation, while recent photos and rumors indicate possible breast implants. So when it comes to teen cosmetic surgery, how young is too young? What are the risks?
According to rhinoplasty expert Shervin Naderi, MD of Herndon, it depends on the procedure. The most common cosmetic surgery for children as young as 6 years of age is otoplasty, also known as ear pinning. This procedure is commonly done before the start of the school year to help a child avoid too much teasing about “elephant” or “Dumbo” ears. Other procedures, such as rhinoplasty, can begin as early as 14. Less invasive forms of enhancement, such as Botox, can be performed on 20-year-olds. No matter the procedure or the reason, cosmetic surgery is not something to be taken lightly at any age. “I talk 20-30% of all patients out of surgery at any age,” says Naderi.
Mental, emotional, and physical maturity are key factors. “Giving a 14 or 16-year-old who is mature and wants more self-confidence a better nose is very rewarding,” he says. “The surgery must be appropriate. We will not do major bone shifting or major architectural changes to the face before 18 simply to ensure the patient is at a mature and a legal age to make the decision—and have no regrets.” Parents need to vet doctors carefully to make sure they have their children’s best interests at heart.
When young people are pressured to undergo cosmetic surgery by either parents or doctors, the results can be tragic and traumatizing. “Kids who were taken for plastic surgery by their parents recall the heartbreaking harsh comments or scrutiny or mocking by their parents affecting their self-confidence which creates scars much longer lasting than a surgeon's scalpel,” says Naderi. A botched surgery can be fixed, but a scarred psyche cannot.
The risks for young people electing to undergo cosmetic surgery are primarily psychological. If they have low self-esteem, therapy is a better option. No child or teen should ever feel that they are unlovable or unattractive. After all, “The goal of cosmetic surgery is improvement, not perfection,” says Naderi. The quest for perfection cannot overshadow common sense. Ultimately, parents are responsible for protecting their kids—even from themselves.
Expert Contributor: Shervin Naderi, MD is a plastic surgeon at Naderi Center for Cosmetic Surgery & Skin Care in Herndon. Dr. Naderi is certified by th American Board of Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery.