Plastic surgery is increasingly popular among teens, and most go under the knife during the summer, according to experts. (Photo: Corbis Images)
As teens head back to school this season, many do so with new clothes or new school supplies — and some have new noses or new breasts.
Summer break is the most common time for teens to undergo plastic surgery, experts say, since it allows ample time to heal and students can head back to school with a fresh new look. “About 40 percent of patients who have plastic surgery in the summer have it then because they are off for one reason or another — teachers or students,” plastic surgeon Anthony Youn tells Yahoo Parenting. “They do it during the summer and around holiday breaks.”
According to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS), nearly 64,000 teens got cosmetic surgery in 2013, and it’s becoming increasingly popular. “Social media is affecting it tremendously, especially among the younger crowd, because they see the way other people look and they think, ‘How do I get that, too?’” Scot Glasberg, MD, president of ASPS, tells Yahoo Parenting.
Celebrities have a large influence on teens as well, says Youn, pointing to famous faces like Kylie Jenner, who has admitted to getting lip filler. Iggy Azalea also recently confirmed that she’d got a nose job and has also admitted to having breast implants.
But when it comes to young people, not all plastic surgery is created equal. Glasberg and Youn agree that a breast reduction for a teenager is considered reasonable, since large breasts can cause back, neck, and shoulder pain, and can also have psychosocial implications. Rhinoplasty — better known as a nose job —can also be an acceptable surgery for teenagers, they say. But both agree that getting breast implants as a teenager is not recommended.
“There are some surgeries that should not be done on teens, and those are surgeries that are purely cosmetic,” Youn says. “I do not believe it is ethically appropriate for a teenager to have a breast augmentation, because if you have breast implants you are guaranteed to have future surgery down the line. Implants are not made to last forever: We expect them to last up to 20 years. So you can expect a teenager who has them for her sweet-16 to undergo multiple more surgeries in her lifetime, and at her age she may not understand that.” Still, according to the American Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgery, 3,531 girls under the age of 18 underwent breast-augmentation surgery last year.
Liposuction is another surgery that Youn says is inappropriate for teens. “These are serious operations that have possibilities for major complications,” he says. “Do teenagers have the maturity to make an informed decision, one that can be life or death? People have died getting liposuction.” Just over 3,000 teenagers had liposuction in 2014. “In order to do it, their parents have to sign off, and as a parent, I think that’s concerning,” says Youn.
Glasberg says that before he operates on any teen, no matter the surgery, he tries to ensure they are making these changes for the right reason. “It should be, ‘I want to feel better about myself,’ not ‘My boyfriend wants me to,’” he says. “I have multiple conversations with all my patients before operating, and when the patient is a teenager, I sometimes have separate conversations with the parents. Teenagers have evolving personalities and are often unsure of themselves, so I want to be absolutely sure they know what they are doing.”
Teens’ changing bodies can add an extra complication when it comes to plastic surgery. “You want teens to be through their adolescent growth spurt before you operate,” Glasberg says. “That growth spurt can cause significant changes to the body. People can gain or lose a lot of weight, and women’s breasts can continue to change until age 22.”
Sometimes, people grow into their features in their teen years, Youn adds. “A lot of kids who want nose jobs — they come in and I tell them to wait a few years. And then they change their minds,” he says. “Or I have people who come to see me who want liposuction when they are 18. I say, ‘Give yourself some time and come back in a couple of years,’ and later they say, ‘I’m so glad I didn’t do it. My body has changed.’ People change so much in high school and college. You just don’t know where you’re going to be in five years. In general, in our 30s, 40s, and 50s, bodies don’t change the way they do from 15 to19.”
If parents decide with their teens that plastic surgery is the right decision, both doctors agree that the most important thing is to make sure they are seeing a board-certified plastic surgeon and getting the surgery done at an accredited facility. “Do your homework,” Youn says. “Some doctors will do anything they are paid to do.”