The pressure on young women to look ‘perfect’ has intensified over the last decade, even more so since the arrival of social media. On a daily basis, girls are exposed to photograph after photograph of airbrushed celebrities on sharing sites Instagram, Facebook and Twitter, giving an unrealistic impression of how women should look. Controversial crazes, such as ‘selfies’ and thigh-gap shots have only added to the pressure and as a result, one in five girls has considered plastic surgery by the age of 20. The average age for a first plastic surgery operation is just 21.
Plastic surgery’s rise in popularity
Plastic surgery first became popular following the First World War, when it was pioneered as a way to repair the damage that soldiers suffered. These days, plastic surgery is widely used to help build self esteem issues. Last year alone, nearly 100,000 teenagers went under the knife, with most patients claiming the surgery was to help deal with low-self esteem. According to one plastic surgeon, the number of teenagers entering his office has risen by 20 percent every year.
It’s an issue that many people grapple with, from surgeons and parents to psychologists and the media. Many are worried that people are undergoing plastic surgery too young, but how old is too young? If a child is being severely bullied at school and has negative body image as a result, can plastic surgery help?
At what age is plastic surgery appropriate?
The key point surgeons look at when determining whether a patient is right for plastic surgery is their emotional maturity along with their physical maturity. Patients must show they have carefully thought about the elected procedure and must be at an age where they have stopped growing.
For most procedures, this happens around the age of 18. As a rule, most plastic surgery patients should be 18 years or older, but there are exceptions for certain procedures. Otoplasty (correction of prominent ears) is one such procedure, and can be performed any time from the age of five. This timing also coincides with the start of school, when playground teasing can have damaging effects on the way a child looks at themselves.
Laser and chemical peels are another procedure that can be performed before the age of 18. Medical lasers can remove vascular anomalies (birth marks), which again can be the cause of ridicule.
The four most popular procedures carried out these days are breast augmentation, nose reshaping, eyelid surgery and liposuction. For each of these procedures, a patient should be at least 18 years of age to allow for completion of growth. The one exception is breast augmentation, which in certain circumstances will be considered earlier.
What young patients need to consider
Young patients considering plastic surgery must first think very carefully about what they are about to undergo. Breast implants have a finite lifespan and at some point will need replacing. You must be willing to undergo the procedure again later in life. Patients must also consider the adverse effects on breastfeeding and nipple sensation. If considering abdominoplasty (tummy tuck), future pregnancy must be considered and if trying for a baby, cosmeceuticals should be avoided.
What surgeons recommend
If considering surgery for low-self esteem, you must first look at other ways to improve the way you see yourself. Diet and exercise can help boost negative body image, has inner health benefits and can help stave off early signs of ageing.
Patients must be realistic about cosmetic treatments and never fall under a hard sell. Take your time when making decisions and think carefully about your reasonings. Plastic surgery can be excruciatingly painful and should not be undergone lightly, nor be used as a way to keep up with the latest social media trends.