Should Plastic Surgery Be Rated “R”?

We place age restrictions on the ability to view violent or sexual content in movies and on internet sites.  We have made it illegal for those under 18 to drink alcoholic beverages and we would certainly never ask them to serve in the military, we even limit how many hours they can work at summer jobs.  So what do we say when they seek out Plastic Surgery?  Should it also matter why they are seeking out the surgery?

Recently the issue came to the forefront of social and policy discussions within the context of another popular ‘topic du jour’ — bullying behavior amongst children.  Numerous parents are seeking Plastic Surgery to “fix” what other children have decided is “wrong” with the way their children look.

The Today Show recently profiled a charity organization, “Little Baby Face”, that grants free surgeries for low income children who have been chastised by peers for not conforming to cultural ideals of beauty.  They do however make a distinction, the child’s problem must meet the medical definition of a Facial Deformity vs. an Aesthetic Concern.

Dr. Slupchynskyj explains the basic difference. “Facial Disfigurement is something a child can be born with that could include Cleft Lip and Cleft Palate, Facial Tumors or malformed facial bones for instance.  An example of an Aesthetic Concern would include ears that may stick out more than one wants, but the ears function perfectly well.  I have had many young patients who have been taunted for this very reason.”

If the issue is teasing for what some define as a “not pleasing” look, how can we limit those who can access a low cost service based upon a medical definition, when the consequences are determined by non-scientific, social standards?

Teens seeking surgeries that are purely based in aesthetic concerns has recently caught a buzz in international news.  With some of the highest rates of plastic surgery in the world, teens in Asian countries like Korea and Japan, who cannot afford or do not want to risk invasive surgeries are using DIY alternatives akin to ancient foot binding for your face.  From a vibrating mouthpiece, that is to be worn several minutes a day to have a slimming effect on the jaw line to eyeglasses that supposedly train the eyelid to develop double folds, its turning into a circus in Asian high schools, literally.

Much of the Asian Plastic Surgery craze has to do with workplace competitiveness and standards that are highly judgemental of a person’s physical appearance and a desire to look more Caucasian that seems to have affected a lot of the region’s women.  Dr. Slupchynskyj who has always addressed a diverse range of patients understands cultural concerns as they relate to Cosmetic Surgery.

As an expert in Ethnic Facial Plastic Surgery, Dr. Slupchynskyj has a number of Patient Educational Videos available for those who have questions about ethnic beauty and aesthetic surgery.  Not every Plastic Surgeon can address questions in this area because it requires specialized training and experience

While on the topic of young people and plastic surgery of course we will have to briefly address Hollywood and “double-of course” this segment will include a mention of  the Kardashians.  Recent rumors speculate that Kris Jenner suggested Khloe Kardashian have Rhinoplasty as early as 9 years old.  Entertainment reporters have been loving to speculate as to the emotional effects of such a comment from a mother to her daughter at a young age.  It may be best left for families and their members who have been affected to determine for themselves.  However, it is a popular and controversial debate.  How young is too young to talk about or consider Plastic Surgery?

Is Teenage Cosmetic Surgery Increasing?

Depending on the sources you read, there are conflicting statements about whether or not teenage Cosmetic Surgery is on the rise. While headlines on major news sources say it is, the American Society for Aesthetic Surgery states that teenage Plastic Surgery procedures are actually on the decline, and their statistics are backed by the American Society of Plastic Surgeons as well. There are really two issues that are pressing when it comes to teenagers and Cosmetic Surgery:

•   Are surgeons performing these procedures unethically? Upstanding Plastic Surgeons will not perform a Plastic Surgery procedure, such as Rhinoplasty, that will affect a physical feature that hasn’t fully matured. Nor will they perform a procedure if their patient has unrealistic expectations regarding the outcome.

•   Are the patients fully aware of the risks? This can be difficult to assess with teenagers as their perspective is so limited, and they are unaware how much they will mature and change after high school and beyond. It is imperative that a Plastic Surgeon is very careful, open, and honest, when speaking with teenagers about Plastic Surgery and its long-term affects.

The American Society for Aesthetic Surgery says that teenage Cosmetic Surgery is on the decline.

Here are some of the statistics, provided by the ASAPS, supporting that teenage Plastic Surgery is actually on the decline:

•   Ten Years Ago: there were 220,077 procedures in 2002

•   Five Years Ago: there were 178,041 procedures 2006

•   Last Year: there were 131,877 procedures in 2011

•   This Year: there were 130,502 procedures in 2012

Unless you have a teenager who is agonizing daily over their physical appearance, it can be difficult to understand why teenagers would want to undergo surgery in order to improve their physical features. However, the recent media attention on bullying helps to de-mystify this issue; children and young adults can be incredibly cruel, especially regarding their physical differences. The teasing and bullying that happens as a result of a big nose, ears that stick out, or abnormally large or flat breasts can be devastating for an adolescent who is coming of age.

This short video posted by ABC News follows two teenage girls who elected to use Cosmetic Surgery to enhance their physical appearances. Katelyn and Tracy are two adult teens that have opted to have Breast Augmentation and Rhinoplasty, respectively, in order to say farewell to deep-seeded physical insecurities. Both girls waited until they were adults, using their years as insecure teenagers as fuel for their Plastic Surgery inspiration. While both of these young women are very happy with the outcomes of their surgeries, there are also cases where adults regret the surgeries they had as teens.

One example is Sabrina Weiss, who underwent a Rhinoplasty procedure immediately after graduating from high school. In hindsight, Weiss realizes that she projected all of her hopes of becoming an outgoing, socially accepted young woman into her nose. She says, “Looking back, if anyone had questioned what my reasons for doing this, they would’ve seen it was irrational and a fantasy that having this surgery was going to somehow transform my entire life.” 

Here is a list of the Cosmetic Surgery procedures most commonly requested by teenagers:

•   Otoplasty. Also called Ear Surgery or ear pinning, this procedure was the most popular Plastic Surgery procedure for teens in 2012. It helps to pull back the outer portion of the ear, aligning it with the head, correcting embarrassing large earflaps that stick out.

•   Rhinoplasty. Anyone with a large or misshapen nose understands why this procedure took the Number 2 slot. Having a nose in proportion with the rest of your facial features can make a dramatic difference in your appearance.

•   Breast reduction. Contrary to what many may think, Breast Reduction is more popular than Breast Augmentation for teenage girls. Large breasts are heavy, and can cause neck and back pain. They make it difficult for female athletes to move comfortably.

Is your teenager interested in Cosmetic Surgery procedures?

If your teenager is interested in Cosmetic Surgery procedures, it is imperative that you take him or her to a reputable Cosmetic Surgeon that is willing to say, “No,” if he feels the procedure is being performed for the wrong reasons. Questions that should be asked include:

•   Whether or not the teenager is physically mature, “late bloomers” often mature years later than their peers.

•   Does the child truly understand the risks?

•   Are the child’s expectations realistic?

•   Does the child feel their life will be completely changed by the surgery?

•   Is the child aware that the surgery is a permanent procedure?

If your teenager is interested in Cosmetic Surgery, please make an appointment for a consultation with Dr. Oleh Slupchynskyj. He will be 100% honest with your teenager, and will screen him or her carefully before deciding whether or not Cosmetic Surgery is the right decision at this point in his or her life.

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