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Too young for cosmetic surgery?

Weighing the pros and cons of letting your teen alter their appearance.

Andrea Markowitz, Ph.D.

HealthKey.com contributor

June 1, 2010

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Cosmetic plastic surgery at any age offers benefits while carrying risks. Are the risks worth taking when you're still a teen?

Why Teens Get Cosmetic Plastic Surgery

According to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS), teens who request cosmetic surgery say they want to look more like their peers or correct what they perceive as physical flaws. They also believe that improving their appearance will make them feel better about themselves, according to breastplantinfo.org.

Which Surgeries Are Most Popular?

ASPS's 2009 statistics reveal that four of the five top cosmetic surgery procedures performed on 13- to 19-year-olds were nose jobs, male breast reduction, ear pinning and liposuction. Statistics for breast augmentation, a fifth top teen cosmetic surgery procedure, are reported only for 18- to 19-year-olds because the U.S. Food and Drug Administration does not approve cosmetic saline implants for women under 18.

Are Teens Making a Sound Choice?

Taken at face value, these procedures may appear benign enough. But only if a teen's motivation for having the procedure is rooted in sound psychological reasoning. Parents should be sure their teen's desire for cosmetic surgery isn't associated with a psychological problem that requires professional counseling.

According to an article by Diana Zuckerman, Ph.D., published at breastplantinfo.org, research indicates that breast augmentation patients are four times more likely to commit suicide than other plastic surgery patients, raising questions about the mental health of women who want implants. Liposuction poses another concern because of its association with eating disorders.

The ASPS believes the most rewarding outcomes occur when the teen (as opposed to a parent) initiates the request and has realistic goals and sufficient maturity. The ASPS does not recommend cosmetic surgery for teens who are prone to mood swings or erratic behavior, who abuse drugs and/or alcohol, or who are being treated for mental illness.

Should Teens Be Encouraged To Wait?

According to KidsHealth®:

And teens are still developing mentally, begging the question of whether they're mature enough to be making a decision that poses risks and that will permanently change their appearance. Perhaps the most important question, then, is how much harm would it do to wait?

For more information visit the American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS), breastplantinfo.org and KidsHealth®.