Teenagers Under The Knife
Statement of intent: In this report, I will write about many reasons why a teenager would decide to undergo plastic surgery, and the advantages and disadvantages of it. Also, I would propose an action plastic surgeons and teenagers can do to ensure they will not make wrong decisions in the future.
“Between social media and reality television, nobody thinks twice about plastic surgery anymore, and it trickles down to the teens” said Dr. Matthew Schulman, a surgeon who works in New York City.
Teenagers like myself, feel the need to look good for everyone. They can spend many hours trying to achieve that perfectly sculpted face and body. However, If they are not satisfied with what their eyes can see, they often consider undergoing plastic surgery.
Plastic surgery is a specialised procedure which contributes to an individual’s appearance and physical functional abilities. There are many reasons why teenagers choose to go “under the knife”. Most people these days claim it is the social pressure where being unattractive or in a harsh way, “ugly” will be discriminated against. Also, the deficiency in self-confidence and the unstoppable growth of beauty standards are what’s driving them to experience the procedure. Regardless of that, millennials are still questioning whether it is worth the risk for teenagers to go through it at such a young age. In this case, I will address many reasons why teenagers choose plastic surgery, and the advantage and disadvantages of undergoing it. I will be concluding how a teenager can ensure he/she will not end up with a wrong decision in the future, and how plastic surgeons can provide guidance for teens who are willing to experience it.
Various kinds of plastic surgery
There are two types of plastic surgery used among teenagers: reconstructive surgery and cosmetic surgery. Reconstructive surgery includes tissue expansion, hand or foot surgery, and many more whereas cosmetic surgery includes breast enhancement, rhinoplasty, and many more.
According to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, “In 2013, about 63,623 teenagers within the age limit of 13-19 went for cosmetic surgeries, and when it came to cosmetic minimally-invasive procedures, the number jumped up to 155,941”.
These statistics are suggesting teens are more concerned to fit in with society than addressing health related problems. We are in a world now where they mostly spend their time on social media such as Instagram and Snapchat. This only puts pressure on teens to always look pleasing in front of everyone which is why they end up going under the knife.
According to York Jay Yates, MD, “The frontal lobe of the brain does not fully develop until the 20s to 30s.” He also claims certain milestones in growth and body maturity must be attained before undergoing it. This indicates that teens are not capable to properly decide on their own as they may be impulsive and not undertake proper research for possible consequences of plastic surgery. This is why the role of parents is important to give guidance to their children as they grow up. Hence, a parental consent must be provided if a teenager wants to undergo a surgery.
Despite all these findings, the trend of undergoing the knife is still increasing up to this day showing, “17.5 million procedures have been done worldwide” in 2017 (plasticsurgery.org). In this case, I will be talking about many reasons why teenagers would seek it.
Why Do Teenagers Get Plastic Surgery?
Peer pressure has long been related to plastic surgery among teenagers. For the past two decades, there has been a drastic and surprising increase in the rate of rhinoplasty procedures operated on them. Sam Rizk, a New York facial plastic surgeon reveals, “Teens often request nose reshaping or rhinoplasty surgery over long breaks before the school year to give themselves a fresh start for the year ahead.” This is because adolescence is the time when teens are striving to shape an identity for themselves. One of the biggest priorities that they want during this time is to blend in among their peers. They are working hard to improve upon themselves, therefore, plastic surgery is their fastest option to get their peer’s approval. If they feel accepted enough, they would feel better about themselves.
In my opinion, appearance does matter in our modern society, which is why we take a bath and get our haircut done. However, it is important for teens to accept that everybody is unique in their own ways. If perceived flaws are taken care of with plastic surgery, they might not be learning mentally how to be comfortable in their own skin.
For example, 18 year old Caitlin Clemons underwent breast augmentation surgery as she never felt the approval among her peers. After her procedure, she said, “I have always been the friend with small breasts, now I feel much better about myself”
She used the surgery not only to fit in among her friends but also to improve her poor self-esteem. But will this benefit her in the long term?
Low self-esteem or self-consciousness
It may seem irrelevant to worry about teen’s self-esteem, but in our real world, it is important for teenagers to have healthy self-esteem in the long term as this can enable them to accomplish responsibilities and face any challenges in the future.
However, scientific studies have shown hormones fluctuate during the teenage years. During this period, they begin to assess their self-image and self-confidence. According to stageoflife.com, “95% of teens have felt poor confidence because of their appearance.” Appearance is a difficult barrier to overcome, especially if you are a teenager. This becomes even harder to address if they have unrealistic goals for the future. Sometimes a teen would want to go through it because he/she desires to look like a famous celebrity. I believe a teen should know it is not a tool to provide everything they are hoping for as it does not always guarantee a successful operation.
One example is the 22 year old korean woman, who started having plastic procedures at the age of 14. In an interview, she explained,”I hate looking ‘asian’… Kylie has a hot figure and she looks exotic.” This perspective developed an obsession in getting “more done”. Therefore, it suggests that the surgeries she had gone through did not improve her overall wellbeing at all. She only became addicted and dissatisfied with her whole appearance. Consequently, her mother did not have choice but to rely on other people’s help for she could not control her daughter’s decisions anymore.
I believe, the encouragement her mother gave at such a young age was a major cause why she wanted more surgeries on her face. The mother discouraged her daughter from having a healthy self esteem in the long term. Therefore, it is essential for parents to educate their children on how to develop confidence by minimising their teen’s use of technology because it will prevent them from being ashamed and then turn into plastic surgery.
Parent encouragement or sometimes parental pressures
Parents these days recognise the role of plastic surgery as a possible solution to boost their teenager’s confidence.
One example was the mother of Katie Underdown who addressed her poor confidence through multiple surgeries. When Katie turned 17, she pressured her daughter to get rhinoplasty and a chin implant. She said, “It doesn’t bother you right now but it may later. Let’s just get it fixed”. Unfortunately, she failed to be involved during the evaluation process with the doctor, and instead she passed down her insecurities to her child. As a consequence, Katie remained unsatisfied with the overall outcome of the surgery, she said, “I think people should be happy with the way they look and shouldn’t feel obligated to have surgery”.
Dr Frederick Lukash of New York plastic surgeons stated, “Every parent wants their child to rise above the crowd. But first they have to feel part of it and they can’t do that if they are tormented”. I fully agree because every self-esteem of parents must be acknowledged first as they are a huge influence in their teen’s perception of appearance. Parents have to understand that any kind of surgical procedures have temporary effects on their teen’s overall well-being. They must instead focus on the confidence of their teens with excelling in sports, academics, or a hobby.
Although Katie claims plastic surgery did not help her mental and emotional well-being, she still admitted that rhinoplasty improved her breathing problems This indicates that plastic surgery should only be used for people with health related problems and not for appearance purposes.
The advantages of plastic surgery
Repair physical defects
Assistant Professor Erlinda Morales-Mann of University of Ottawa School of Nursing, wrote an article about 16 year old Kimberly. She had triple D bra cup size that caused her difficulties in walking and pains around her neck every time she did jogging. She decided to undergo breast reduction, and as a result, she can finally exercise without any pain all the time. Also, she became happier and more productive in school without being conscious. Therefore, plastic surgery is an absolute life-changer for those who have defects like Kimberly.
The disadvantages and danger of plastic surgery?
Many studies reveal there are dangers behind every plastic surgery from minor effects such as long-term scarring to major effect that could even result to death. During the operation, discomfort and temporary deformation may happen. Also, physical pain and itchy skin can occur for the first three months after going through it.
Plastic surgery is not advisable for those who are prone to have mood swings or unpredictable behaviour, who are excessively taking drugs and/or alcohol, or who are being cured for depression and other mental health issues. If these are not taken into consideration, a failed operation may happen which could result in death.
An example of a disastrous event was the surgery of a 19 year old female Miss Canto, who was forced by her peers to undergo a liposuction surgery as they thought she was overweight for her image. Safety precautions were not undertaken by the surgeon such as finding out his patient’s stress level and the way she copes with it, her weight history, and lifestyle. Consequently, she died at an early age.
To prevent tragic events from occurring, teenagers who are seeking to undergo the knife must ensure to appoint an experienced and licensed plastic surgeon. Additionally, the operation must happen in an authorized surgical establishment with the capacity to deal with rare complications. Lastly, the surgery must happen under a policy of full, informed authorization. Hence, all of these requirements means the price can go up in terms of the experience of the surgeon and intricacy of the operation.
In my opinion, teenagers cannot be able to afford it for they can only have a part-time job and spend most of their time in school. This will only put financial burden on their parents because it doesn’t provide any insurance if anything goes wrong. Extra money is required for correcting the failed operation.
Mental health may be negatively affected and this applies both before and after surgery, therefore, undergoing the surgery does nothing to reduce mental health issues.
When a teen undergoes it to enhance his/her physical image, their mental health issues might get worse – most probably because of the disappointment with the expectations not being met. According to Associate Professor Ingela Lundin Kvalem, most teens “after the surgeries, their symptoms of depression, anxiety, eating disorders and excessive alcohol consumption have increased.”
How can teenagers make a right decision when they decide to undergo plastic surgery?
Before teenagers decide to undergo a surgery, their parents must provide guidance and contribution in the counselling sessions with the doctor. During this process, they must answer with honesty when the surgeon asks them about their personal life. The information that they will give will determine whether they are only experiencing some emotional disorder. This way, it can ensure they are qualified for an operation.
How can plastic surgeons help teenagers to make right decision of undergoing plastic surgery?
Before making a big decision, plastic surgeons have to know how they evaluate their appearance and whether their evaluation is realistic, what appearance-related problems they encounter and to what extent they suffer from their image, and finally, whether the surgeon’s examination prioritizes the problems of the teenager.
It is natural for teens to start being conscious with their looks because their bodies are still developing, and are still in the process on shaping their true identity to become a mature adult one day. Embracing imperfections are part of maturing, and if perceived flaws are corrected with plastic surgery, teens may not be learning mentally how to be contented with their appearance. One of the major influences why they choose to undergo the knife is their parents. Some parents pressure them to always look appealing to society as they believe it will define their success in the future. I believe parents must start to educate their teens that appearance is not an essential part of a human being. Secondly, social media plays a big role for their self-esteem. With the media so influential in everyday life of teens and fashion business stressing that being lean and thin represents being beautiful, it is taking a heavy toll in their self-esteem. These influences create an ideal image in their mind based on the media of what is believed the perfect person, therefore, they don’t become aware that these are unrealistic situations. Lastly, peers play a big role on how teens perceive themselves. When they feel that they are not accepted enough among their peers, or if they receive insulting remarks from other students, they struggle with their body-image and often address this with plastic surgery. I highly recommend that schools should propose an anti-bullying campaign so they will not feel that they are alone in the battle, as it can boost social acceptance and can decrease the negative effects of plastic surgeries in teens, thus, it will generate a great happiness within themselves. Overall, I believe plastic surgery must only be granted for those who are victims of destructive accidents and health problems. Plastic surgery is redundant for teens because not only their body features are still developing but it will only put themselves on risk for permanent consequences in the future, and most importantly, it will put the youth and future generations at risk for body-image problems.