Should You Get Cosmetic Surgery Under 18? Haute Beauty Experts Share Their Thoughts

cosmetic surgeryPhoto Credit: ShutterstockIt might be a controversial topic for some but we can't deny that today's teenagers are trying anything and everything to look 'Insta perfect'. While some opt for makeup others turn to cosmetic surgery to achieve aesthetically pleasing features. If you're under 18 and on the fence about whether to get plastic surgery, read on to see what our Haute Beauty experts advise young patients under 18 who want to go under the knife. Here's what they had to say:

Dr. Earl Stephenson | Face | Atlanta

The subject of plastic for teens is controversial thus it warrants discussion and understanding.

Teenagers often have plastic surgery to improve physical characteristics they feel are awkward or flawed, that if left uncorrected, may affect them well into adulthood. Teenagers tend to have plastic surgery to fit in with peers. Common physical characteristics or concerns a teenager may wish to correct include a misshapen nose, protruding ears, overly large breasts, asymmetrical breasts, or severe acne and scarring.

A key component concerning potential teenage patients is understanding their motive for surgery and ensuring that they receive a careful and extensive preoperative evaluation to ensure they are appropriate candidates for their desired procedures. Social media contributes to increased requests from teens to alter their appearance. This phenomenon has been at times dubbed "Snapchat dysmorphia," which has patients seeking out cosmetic surgery to look like filtered versions of themselves, with fuller lips, bigger eyes, or a thinner nose. Not every teenager seeking plastic surgery is well suited for an operation. Teens must demonstrate emotional maturity and an understanding of the limitations of plastic surgery. Parents should also evaluate their teenager's physical and emotional maturity. Parents with their teenagers should seek careful evaluation during the investigation and decision-making stages under the guidance of a plastic surgeon certified by The American Board of Plastic Surgery. The decision to proceed with the surgery is individualized but there there is a common principle followed by plastic surgeons concerning the most reasonable age of operation. The most consistent age is agreeably 18 years of age but the one consistent exception would be surgery for 5-7 for ear pinning (Otoplasty). The ear stops growing and reaches adult size by Age 5.

As with all consultations, we as plastic surgeons want to collect the medical and psychological history from the patient, We also want to provide education about our capabilities as plastic surgeons and talk to the patient and their family about what is appropriate and reasonable.

For more information on Dr. Stephenson, visit his website, Instagram, or Facebook!

Dr. Richard Zienowicz | Body | Boston/Providence

Plastic surgery is a powerful tool to address many aesthetic issues for all age groups. It really can change lives positively for some people. An operation will NOT cure unhappiness, sadness, or depression, however, in the best-case scenario, it may deliver a new sense of self-confidence. Tell your surgeon what you are trying to accomplish. Be honest about what you expect and why it is so important to you.

For more information on Dr. Zienowicz, visit his website, Instagram, or Facebook!

Dr. Jeffrey Lee | Breast | Boston

I generally advise against any cosmetic surgery for teenagers under the age of 18. Your body has the potential to change up until age 18 and sometimes after 18. Until you are sure that nothing will change dramatically, I generally advise against doing anything permanent such as cosmetic surgery. The other reason why I feel this way is that before the age of 18 you are not consenting for yourself for any procedure. Even with cosmetic procedures, there are small amounts of risks that can lead to unexpected outcomes. I feel that the patient should be the ones to understand what they are getting themselves involved in and be able to sign for themselves. The last reason I advise against cosmetic surgery before 18 is that how you want to look may dramatically change once you cross over the 18-year mark. The last thing you want to do is change yourself a certain way only to find that you actually wanted something different one or two years down the road.

For more information on Dr. Lee, visit his website, Instagram, or Facebook!

Dr. Daisy Ayim | Body | Houston

My best recommendation for anyone seeking cosmetic procedures below 18 depends on the procedures and reason. Our society is body-conscious and there is an overwhelming desire to have instant resolution especially in the cosmetic world. I feel delaying cosmetic procedures is a wise approach and clarity in this journey is paramount to lifelong satisfaction.

For more information on Dr. Ayim, visit her website, Instagram, or Facebook!

Dr. Kiran Gill | Body | Naples

My advice is to understand what your treatment options are and to take the time to choose your surgeon carefully. While a few surgical procedures are fairly commonplace among teens, including nose surgery (rhinoplasty), and breast surgery (augmentation), or reduction, liposuction is not advised and still, others should be approached with caution, including non-surgical treatments. The Juvéderm line of hyaluronic acid fillers, for example, is FDA approved in adults over the age of 21. A reputable surgeon has your best interest in mind, will weigh the benefits and the risks, consider physical growth and mental maturity, and tell you if you are well suited for a procedure.

For more information on Dr. Gill, visit her website, Instagram, or Facebook!

Dr. Jose Rodríguez-Feliz | Eyelid Surgery, Face | Miami/Fort Lauderdale

Anyone considering cosmetic surgery must do their due diligence. Younger patients can very easily be influenced by social media and in reality, the number of followers does not necessarily correlate with the quality of care and results you will get. Finding the correct plastic surgeon for the procedure you want to have done can take time. Do not make any rushed decisions. In today’s world is a lot easier to look for the correct surgeon as the digital world has allowed great exposure to our field. For those the younger, I always emphasize the importance of doing cosmetic surgery for the correct reasons. This is not to try to be like someone else or looking for perfection. Cosmetic surgery can help boost your spirit when the right expectations are set and the procedure is done for the correct reasons.

For more information on Dr. Rodríguez-Feliz, visit his website, Instagram, or Facebook!

Dr. Jhonny Salomon | Face, Nose | Miami/Fort Lauderdale

Rhinoplasty- the best time to have a rhinoplasty is when you stop growing which is usually around 14 to 16 years of age for most teenagers. The best way to know when you have stopped growing is when you have not changed shoe size in over 6 months. At this time, a rhinoplasty performed will have a long-lasting result. Also, teenagers in that age range usually have enough maturity to make the decision with the help of their parents.

For more information on Dr. Salomon, visit his website, Instagram, or Facebook!

Dr. Jason Bloom | Face | Pennslyvania

I do see a number of patients in my practice who are minors and under the age of 18. This is because I perform only facial plastic surgery procedures and a few of them are common for younger patients. In my practice, rhinoplasty and otoplasty are the two most common reasons that I see patients under the age of 18 for cosmetic procedures. There are a few things that these patients should know when they seek out cosmetic surgery. The first is that they are minors and will need a parent or guardian to attend the consult, pre-op meeting, and surgery with them. They must have that parent or guardian sign all the informed consent with them for the procedures, so it is important to get that person “on board” with the idea of the surgery. I actually really encourage anyone seeking cosmetic procedures to bring a family member, parent, or significant other with them when we discuss the operation or do an evaluation so that everyone is on the same page and understands the risks, benefits, and alternatives to surgery. I advise most minors to discuss what is bothering them about their face or nose with their parents prior to coming into the office so that they are heard. Additionally, during the consult, I always speak directly to the patient and not the parent. I have had situations where the minor says “they’ll tell you” and points to their parent, but I turn back to them and have them explain to me what is bothering them in their own words.

Additionally, patients under the age of 18 are highly influenced by social media platforms like Instagram, Tik Tok, and others. They may be requesting a procedure because their favorite social media star had something done or they want to look like them. It is critical to have a candid discussion about the limitations of surgery to make sure their goals are reasonable and obtainable. I often explain that not everyone’s nose is right for everyone else’s face. It has to fit and be harmonious with the rest of the patient’s facial features. Also, making sure that the patient’s expectations are realistic is very important. Surgery is not a robotic or mechanical process, it is literally a “handmade” operation and a talk about working toward an achievable and natural outcome is imperative.

Furthermore, minors sometimes have social reasons for looking to obtain cosmetic procedures. Their peers may be teasing them in school about their nose or ears and it is important to hear the stories about their motivations for surgery. Having discussions with the patient and their guardians will have everyone understand why they are looking to have these procedures.

Finally, there are basic age cut-offs for cosmetic surgery procedures. In general, an otoplasty shouldn’t be performed before the age of 5 or 6. At that point, the child is of school-age and the ears are about 85% of their adult size. Also, I typically do not perform rhinoplasty on boys younger than 16 or girls younger than 15. There are growth centers in the septal cartilage and the nose is still changing some until that age.

For more information on Dr. Bloom, visit his website, Instagram, or Facebook!

Dr. Algie LaBrasca | Body | Pennsylvania

I believe that there are only a few reasonable instances to perform actual cosmetic (not functional plastic surgery) in patients under 18 years of age. The most common of these on the face would be otoplasty, or ear pinning of prominent ears, and rhinoplasty, or nose job. For the body, these include correction of breast asymmetry or reduction of very large breasts or removal of breasts in males (gynecomastia). Each of these can be a major source of low self-esteem and depression, and correction of these issues can greatly improve this.

When considering whether or not to perform surgery on a teen, I want to make sure that they know what they are getting into. This is an adult decision, and they have to be the one making it (with parental consent). I also have age limits. For example, I won’t do a breast reduction on anyone under 16, yet I won’t do a reduction on just anyone who is 16 if I don’t think she’s mature enough. Other common procedures, like liposuction, tummy tuck, or BBL can wait until they are older.

For more information on Dr. LaBrasca, visit his website, Instagram, or Facebook!

Dr. P. Daniel Ward | Face | Salt Lake City UT

The decision to undergo cosmetic surgery can be a tricky one. One must be aware of all of the emotional aspects that can be associated with aesthetic surgery, especially when it comes to young patients who want to receive cosmetic surgery. The best advice that I feel I can offer to a young patient who wants to receive cosmetic surgery would be to talk the situation over with their parents who should be able to provide proper guidance and advice.

Two of the most common areas in plastic surgery for which young patients seek to undergo plastic surgery are an overly prominent nose or overly prominent ears and these cases can serve as a good illustration of the complexities of the issues that arise with surgery for young patients. Both of these areas of the body can cause feelings of embarrassment due to the fact that a single anatomical area can lead to the emphasis being placed on that anatomic area instead of on the person inside. Most people think that those who undergo aesthetic surgery are doing so because they are overly concerned with how they look. In actuality, these patients ironically undergo aesthetic surgery for the complete opposite reason. They undergo the surgery because other people are not seeing who they truly are inside, because of the distracting nose or ears.

I think that young patients should discuss these issues with their parents who should provide guidance and help the patient understand the feelings and emotions related to the issue at hand. Parents need to be aware that there can be severe psychological distress from these features that far outweighs the risks of undergoing a rhinoplasty or otoplasty procedure that can resolve the respective nose or ear issues once and for all. On the other hand, parents also need to be aware that their child who is seeking cosmetic surgery is not doing it with unreasonable expectations that his or her life will completely change simply due to the surgery. The surgery simply addresses the overly distracting feature which should remove that obstacle from the patient as a source of anxiety or stress.

This is clearly a complicated issue and the patient’s hopes and desires for the procedure should be discussed with the patient, his or her parents, and the surgeon to help ensure that the patient is undergoing the procedure for health reasons.

For more information on Dr. Ward, visit his website, Instagram, or Facebook!