How Young Is Too Young for Plastic Surgery?

Jennifer O'Neill
·Writer
image

Photo by Kylie Jenner/Instagram

Keeping Up With The Kardashians’ 
Kylie Jenner can’t keep up with all the uproar over her newly plump pout – and she doesn’t want to. The 17-year-old took to Twitter Monday evening urging her critics to get over it. “How long are we gonna talk about this lip thing lmao,” she wrote. “Let’s get a our [sic] lives together guys and talk about some important s—t … Just talk about something new at least. I’m bored.”

Yet controversy over the reality starlet – who may or may not have had work done – highlights a trend that is anything but boring: Teens having cosmetic procedures.

Nearly 18,000 teens aged 13 to 19 got wrinkle-removing Botox last year, according to The American Society of Plastic Surgeons. And NPR reports that the ASPS reveals nonsurgical procedures are on the rise for teens, noting: “On average, they take just 30 minutes and cost less than $400.” The most popular cosmetic surgical procedures for teens include rhinoplasty (nose job) for 30,672, breast augmentation for 8,234 and otoplasty (ear surgery) for 6,871.

But just how young is too young to undergo cosmetic surgery? The answer depends on a few different factors, NYC plastic surgeon Dr. Norman V. Godfrey of New York Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center tells Yahoo Parenting: “You have to consider a child’s anatomical development, maturity and motivation.”

STORY: Kim Isn’t Giving Daughter a Dime – Should She?

Certain features mature at different times, he explains. Ears become stable the earliest, typically by age 4, which is why he says you’ll see kids getting protruding ears tucked back before Kindergarten. The nose is done growing by age 13 in 99 percent of girls – whereas boys’ don’t mature until 17 or later, says Godrey. “But lips are likely still changing at 17 and breasts may not be mature until 20.”  

As for a child’s maturity, that’s a tougher one to call. “Parents have to talk with kids about why they want the procedure,” says Godfrey. Parental consent is actually required, declares the ASPS, “for all plastic surgery procedures performed on teens younger than 18.” Basically mom and dad need to know how the child is currently dealing with whatever issues they have with the part of the body they want to change and try to be fair and objective about coming to a decision, says Godfrey. “An 11-year-old envious of her 13-year-old sister’s looks needs to talk,” he explains. “Not get surgery.”

Kids also have to understand what having work done entails. An ASPS fact sheet spells it out. “Teenagers must be able to tolerate the discomfort and temporary disfigurement of a surgical procedure,” it reads. “Plastic surgery is not recommended for teens who are prone to mood swings or erratic behavior, who are abusing drugs and/or alcohol, or who are being treated for clinical depression or other mental illness.”

STORY: Daughters Might Be Learning Body Shaming From Their Moms

Motivation is also a major factor to consider. If a child’s desire is just about wanting what’s in vogue, that’s a red flag, says Godfrey. “Big lips are in style now,” he notes. “But that can change and kids tend to have a short-term perspective. What looks good now may not look as good when you’re a partner at your law firm.”

The American Academy of Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery
reports that surgeons found 69 percent of children and teens are actually undergoing plastic surgery as a result of being bullied.

STORY: How Not to Raise a Mean Girl

“Social platforms like Instagram, Snapchat and the iPhone app Selfie.im, which are solely image based, force patients to hold a microscope up to their own image and often look at it with a more self-critical eye than ever before,” writes Edward Farrior, MD, President of the AAFPR. “These images are often the first impressions young people put out there to prospective friends, romantic interests and employers and our patients want to put their best face forward.”

Which brings us back to Kylie Jenner, who swears, for the record, that she is confident regardless of what anyone may think about her, or her appearance. “Since I was 9 years old, I’ve been in the entertainment business, and everyone is always telling me what – and what not – to do,” she confessed to Seventeen. “You just get a tough skin and have to not care about what people think or you will not end up in a good place.”