Should Parents Let Teens Get Plastic Surgery Like Kylie Jenner?

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Jennifer O'Neill
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After months of controversy, 17-year-old Kylie Jenner has finally admitted that her pillowy lips came from lip filler. (Photo: Joshua Blanchard/Filmmagic; Kylejenner/Instagram) 

In a not-so-shocking revelation, Kylie Jenner recently admitted that yes, she has had work done on her lips. “I have had temporary lip fillers,” the 17-year-old says in a clip of an upcoming episode of Keeping Up With The Kardashians. “'It’s just something that I wanted to do.” 

STORY: How Young Is Too Young for Plastic Surgery? 

Her admission comes at least 8 months after the reality star first raised eyebrows sporting a significantly raised lip profile, which spawned a dangerous trend of teens trying to achieve similar puffy pouts via sticking their lips in a glass and inhaling deeply to create swelling. 

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(Photo: Twitter) 

STORY: Why Teens Need to Stop the #KylieJennerChallenge 

To get the lip filler, Jenner’s parents had to have signed off on her having the injection procedure, if not also attended the session, which typically costs between $550 and $850 and takes a few minutes in-office, says New York City plastic surgeon Andrew Miller. (Effects typically last 6 to 8 months, he tells Yahoo Parenting.) The American Society of Plastic Surgeons reports that parental consent is required “for all plastic surgery procedures performed on teens younger than 18.” 

And there’s good reason for that, Michigan plastic surgeon Tony Youn tells Yahoo Parenting. “Many teens don’t have the maturity to understand the potential risks and ramifications of these medical treatments,” he says. “There are major complications that can occur with something as seemingly simple and innocuous as ‘temporary lip fillers.’ People have lost parts of their lips and even portions of their nose when these fillers have been improperly injected. There are even rare reports of blindness after injections of filler into the face. I question whether all teens can understand that these types of things could happen to them.” 

But Jenner’s parents Kris and Bruce Jenner — both of whom have had plastic surgery themselves — clearly aren’t the only ones supporting their kids in having cosmetic work done. According to the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery, more than 100,000 boys and girls, age 18 and under, underwent cosmetic procedures in 2014, says Youn, who calls the statistic “staggering and disturbing.” (On the whole, teens age 13 to 19 made up 2 percent of the 15.6 million total cosmetic procedures performed in 2014, per the American Society of Plastic Surgeons annual Plastic Surgery Statistics Report.)

Parents — who can presumably gauge their child’s level of maturity and understanding of what he or she is about to undergo — are an important part of a doctor’s evaluation as to whether a teen is a suitable candidate for surgery. “All three, teen, parents, doctor, need to be involved in the decision making process,” plastic surgeon Anureet Bajaj tells Yahoo Parenting. “But there isn’t a checklist that you can look to and say, ‘This teen is ok for surgery, this one isn’t.’ What I look for is whether a patient has done her homework to understand what the procedure entails, whether she has a realistic understanding of what the outcome will be and whether she understands the risks or complications that may be involved.” 

If kids come in “not listening, being disrespectful, and clearly not on the same page as their parents,” says Miller, “that shows me they’re not in the right place to do this.” 

The teens for whom plastic surgery is an appropriate option are focused and realistic, says Bajaj. “When they come in the door with something very specific bothering them, be it a girl with large breasts who wants a reduction so she doesn’t have boys staring at her in a swimsuit or a teen with protruding ears who wants to wear her hair short and doesn’t want kids to make fun of her, having plastic surgery can greatly increase their self esteem.” Surgery can “improve on who you are, adds Bajaj, “not change who you are.” 

Problems come in, agree the experts, when teens’ motivation is misplaced. Kylie Jenner’s procedure is an example of this, says Youn of the star, who recently griped that, “People are so quick to judge me on everything,” and that her lips are, “just an insecurity of mine.” Youn notes that the Kardashian clan’s predilection for plastic surgery has likely made an impact on their youngest member. “Of course Kim is the major star in the family, and her derriere has become a cultural phenomenon,” he says. “She is known worldwide as a glamorous beauty. I believe it would be perfectly natural for Kylie to look up to Kim and try to emulate her in many ways. Unfortunately, one of those ways may be getting plastic surgery to enhance her appearance.” 

Cosmetic surgery can, after all, do even more to the mind than it does to the body — and not always in a good way. “Some plastic surgery can help girls to feel more confident, such as when they are repeatedly picked on for having a crooked nose or large protruding ears,” body image expert Robyn Silverman tells Yahoo Parenting. “Other times, the plastic surgery is trying to silence an inner critic — a voice inside her head that tells her she isn’t good enough as she is naturally.” 

And that’s when parents need to step in and talk with their teens, long before they consider taking them on a trip to the doctor. “We need to teach our girls that there is a very narrow view of beauty in Hollywood and we can choose not to buy in,” says Silverman, author of Good Girls Don’t Get Fat: How Weight Obsessions is Messing Up Our Girls and How We Can Help Them Thrive Despite It. “As parents, it’s important to widen our children’s concept of what beauty is and that ‘fixing’ the outside does not often change the insides. Insecurities can remain — and then what?” 

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