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Is Plastic Surgery For Teens The Right Choice?

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Plastic surgery is a surgical specialty that deals with the reconstruction, restoration, or alteration and enhancement of any part of the human body. The name plastic is derived from the Greek word plastikos, meaning mold or form. However, plastic surgery does not involve the use of plastic as commonly misunderstood by some people.

The American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS) estimates that more than 228,797 teens underwent significant or minor plastic surgeries before 19 years of age in 2017 (1).

The desire to change appearance is normal in teens as much as in adults. But, being obsessed with plastic surgeries for obtaining a perceived perfect look could be related to psychological problems that may require counseling.

Read this post to know more about the types, techniques, procedures, benefits, risks, and complications of plastic surgery and whether it is the right choice for teens.

What Are The Types Of Plastic Surgery?

Plastic surgeries can be grouped into two main types, namely cosmetic surgery and reconstructive surgery. Let’s have a look at the different forms of these two types of surgeries in detail.

1. Cosmetic surgery

Cosmetic surgery, also called aesthetic surgery, is done to improve the appearance of specific body parts.

The most common types of cosmetic surgery include (2):

  • Plastic Surgery for the face and neck
    • Rhinoplasty to reshape the nose
    • Blepharoplasty or eyelid surgery to reshape the eyelids
    • Cheiloplasty and lip augmentation to improve lip appearance
    • Brow lift (browplasty) or forehead lift to smoothen the skin on the forehead and elevate the eyebrows
    • Genioplasty using bones or silicone implants to augment the cheek
    • Cheek implant or cheek augmentation to enhance the appearance of the cheek
    • Zygomoplasty to reduce facial width by removing part of facial bones
    • Buccal fat extraction to remove the buccal fat pads
    • Mentoplasty, a chin surgery, to reduce or increase chin size by removing bones or adding implants
    • Orthognathic surgery to alter the jawbones and correct the teeth and jaw alignment
    • Jaw reduction to create a slim jaw
    • Otoplasty, including ear surgeries and ear pinning, to reshape the ears
    • Facelift or rhytidectomy to remove wrinkles from the face
    • Neck lift to remove excess tissue on the neck
  • Plastic surgery for the body
    • Augmentation mammoplasty to increase breast size
    • Reduction mammoplasty to reduce breast size in girls and for boys who suffer from gynecomastia
    • Mammoplexy to lift the breasts
    • Liposuction to remove fat pockets from specific parts of the body
    • Arm lift or brachioplasty to remove excess skin and fat from the arms
    • Abdominoplasty or tummy tuck to reshape the abdomen
    • Butt implant or buttock augmentation using silicone implants to increase the butt size — the procedure involving fat grafting, that is, transferring fat from other parts of the body to the butt instead of silicone, is known as a Brazilian butt lift.
    • Body contouring to remove excess skin and fat from various parts of the body
    • Penile surgery or phalloplasty to reconstruct or modify the penis
    • Labiaplasty to reshape or reduce the length of the labia minora of the vagina
    • necomastia

Not all cosmetic procedures are surgical; this can also be done with laser technology such as laser hair removal or skin sanding for scar removal.

2. Reconstructive surgery

Reconstructive surgery aims to reconstruct a part of the body to improve its function. It helps correct anatomical defects of the body or face. The different types of reconstructive surgery include (3):

    • Craniofacial surgery for correcting congenital disorders such as cleft lip and cleft palates and ear deformities
    • Hand surgery to correct congenital disorders or repair injuries of the hand and wrist
    • Microsurgery to reconstruct missing tissue using skin graft — this may require the connection of small blood vessels at the new site for successful reconstruction.
    • Reconstruction of skin and body parts after traumatic injuries, accidents, dog bite, burns, infections, tumors, and cancer
    • Rebuilding breast after breast removal due to breast cancer

Reconstructive surgeries can also provide cosmetic benefits. However, these mainly help  restore and improve the integrity and function of the body part.

Why Do Teens Undergo Plastic Surgery?

Not all teens may have the desire to undergo cosmetic surgeries. Teens may choose plastic surgeries due to various reasons.

  • For some teens, it can be a way to change the appearance of any defective body parts, such as a significant burn scar or any other defects or deformations.
  • Some teenage boys might opt for breast reduction surgery due to gynecomastia that fails to improve after weight loss and medications.
  • Some teens might choose cosmetic procedures to remove a prominent birthmark on the face.
  • Some teens might choose cosmetic surgery because they are not satisfied with their appearance, although they may have no anatomical or functional anomalies. This may include plastic surgeries to change the appearance of lips, butt, abdomen, breasts, etc.
  • Some teens can be inspired by celebrities or peers to undergo reshaping surgeries to achieve the imagined perfect look. Some teens may feel more confident and comfortable after the procedure, while for others, the surgeries may prove counterproductive.
  • According to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS), teens and adults may seek plastic surgery for different reasons. Teens may prefer plastic surgery to look acceptable among their friends and peers. In contrast, adults may choose it to stand out from the crowd or hide physical aging changes (4).

Is Plastic Surgery The Right Choice?

The purpose of surgery determines whether it is the right choice or not. Reconstructing major anatomical or functional defects is beneficial and can be the right choice. On the other hand, cosmetic procedures that are solely aimed at changing the appearance of specific parts of the body may not be the right choice for many teens.

Procedures such as rhinoplasty are generally performed after the nose has finished growing. Nose jobs are not for girls younger than 15 or 16 and boys younger than 17 since the nose may grow until this age. Breast augmentations are also recommended after 18 years of age in most teens. If there is a requirement for early surgery in cases where the breasts fail to develop or there is a tremendous size difference, individual choices may be made after consultation with the doctor.

Cosmetic procedures such as lip, butt, and breast augmentation may not have any role in changing a person’s life. Plastic surgeons usually explain this to teens who seek cosmetic surgeries. They may also receive counseling. The lengthy interview and counseling sessions often help the surgeon understand the teen’s emotional maturity and willingness to face the surgery’s risks and complications.

Things To Consider Before Getting Plastic Surgery

You may consider the following factors before supporting your teen’s decision to undergo plastic surgery:

  • Teens may change their perception of appearance over time.
  • Their expectations may not always be achieved.
  • Teenagers are also of growing age, and the size or shape of their body parts may change. For instance, a large nose can become normal after facial growth.
  • A healthy diet and exercise may help reduce weight and tone the body for teens. Liposuctions and gastric bypass surgeries can have lifelong effects, and therefore, they should be considered when other measures fail.
  • Procedure to remove excess skin or stretch marks can be delayed after discussing with doctors since the skin may regain its elasticity in young people.
  • Consider evaluating your teen’s mental health if they are obsessed with cosmetic procedures.

If your teen has a congenital disability or traumatic injuries that require reconstruction, you may discuss with the doctor to know the surgery’s benefits and risks. Encourage your teen if the procedure could improve body functions and quality of life.

Things To Consider If Your Teen Chooses To Have Plastic Surgery

If your teen insists on undergoing plastic surgery, you may discuss with a physician or a plastic surgeon to know whether the procedure is required or not. Ensure your teen understands the post-surgical complications such as swelling, bleeding, and pain. Sometimes, teens may make decisions influenced by their peers and the media, especially social media, and may never know the impacts.

Teens should be made aware of the recovery time after surgery. Some may expect immediate effects and may often feel stressed or depressed if confused about the results. They should also be aware that a single procedure may not give the desired look in many cases.

You may also make them understand the cost of surgery. Reconstructive surgeries can be covered by insurance in some cases. However, in most places, cosmetic procedures and surgeries are expensive.

Cosmetic surgery is something that shouldn’t be done immediately. Ask your teen to make a decision after a thorough consultation with the doctor and after considering all the pros and cons.

What Are The Complications And Risks Of Plastic Surgery?

All surgical procedures have certain risks and complications. Surgeons take all the available precautions to reduce the risks and complications of the surgery. However, the following complications are commonly seen after cosmetic surgery (5):

  • Hematoma (a large collection of blood outside a blood vessel) and bruising
  • Infection
  • Unacceptable scarring
  • Undesirable or unintended results
  • Nerve damage
  • Organ damage
  • Implant failure
  • Breast implant rupture
  • Anesthesia risks

According to the U.S Food and Drug Administration (FDA) data, one in five people who undergo breast augmentation needs to go through another removal surgery within ten years due to rupture or other complications (6).

Although all surgeries have their complications and risks, it may not be a good idea to undergo a procedure that is not an absolute requirement for survival. Consider the complications or chances of unsuccessful procedures while deciding to improve appearance.

Is There Any Link Between Plastic Surgeries And Psychological Disorders In Teens?

Although many teens’ decisions to undergo plastic surgeries are often influenced by social media or fear of body shaming, some are related to psychological disorders. Obsessions with plastic surgery can be linked to body dysmorphic disorder (BDD) (7).

People with body dysmorphic disorders may choose plastic surgery to correct perceived defects in their looks. Some may look fit and fine to others, but they can be overly concerned about minor anomalies and undergo multiple surgeries and other procedures.

Changing the appearance of part of the body to resemble a celebrity, a doll, etc. are examples of an obsession with plastic surgery. Many people with a preoccupied obsession with perfect looks can be unsatisfied after cosmetic surgery and may undergo multiple surgeries. There is also an increased risk for suicide if they cannot achieve the perceived look.

The use of face and body shaping and augmented reality (AR) filters on Snapchat, Facetune, and Instagram could trigger BDD in many teens. Some social media applications, such as Instagram, have removed filters promoting cosmetic procedures due to their impact on teens.

Seeking illegal surgeries and implants, doing self-procedures, etc. are seen in some people regardless of extreme risk. Obsession for unnecessary cosmetic surgeries can be linked to psychological issues and often require counseling.

The correction of congenital disabilities, such as cleft lip and palate, burn scar removal, and reconstruction of a disfigured part of the body after an injury, are plastic surgeries that may improve body functioning or appearance. On the other hand, surgeries to change the size or shape of normal body parts may not impact the quality of life. Your teen’s decision can often be influenced by the media, and therefore, it is imperative that you make them understand the risks and complications of cosmetic procedures.

References:

MomJunction's health articles are written after analyzing various scientific reports and assertions from expert authors and institutions. Our references (citations) consist of resources established by authorities in their respective fields. You can learn more about the authenticity of the information we present in our editorial policy.
1. ASPS National Clearinghouse of Plastic Surgery Procedural Statistics;American Society of Plastic Surgeons
2. Cosmetic Plastic Surgery Overview; Johns Hopkins Medicine
3. Reconstructive Plastic Surgery Overview;Johns Hopkins Medicine
4. Briefing Paper: Plastic Surgery for Teenagers;American Society of Plastic Surgeons
5. Complications Of Reconstructive Plastic Surgery; Stanford Health Care
6. Do I need to change my breast implants every 10 years?;American Society of Plastic Surgeons
7. Kashyap K. Tadisina, Karan Chopra, and Devinder P. Singh; Body Dysmorphic Disorder in Plastic Surgery; Eplasty (2013).

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