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Age before beauty?

Article-Age before beauty?

Dr. Carruthers
What age is too young or old for cosmetic treatments? Experts contacted by Cosmetic Surgery Times generally avoid cosmetic procedures for minors; however, sources say norms for older patients may be shifting.

"Unless there is a very serious pathology such as an accident or genetic condition that led to disfigurement, cosmetic procedures should not be done on someone under 16 or 17," says Daniel Callahan, Ph.D., director of international programs at The Hastings Center, Garrison, N.Y.

Cutting through cultural influences

In a society that places significant emphasis on young women's appearances, he adds, "One of the jobs of the responsible physician is finding a way to cut through that cultural influence and see to what extent the child might have a distorted notion of how one should look."

Conversely, Jean D. Carruthers, M.D., who specializes in aesthetic facial ophthalmology in Vancouver, British Columbia, says, "The most common reason I turn away patients is that it's not their idea. They're brought in by their mothers, they're 16-years-old, and the mother says the child needs blepharoplasty."

In such cases, she says, "The mother knows what the mother wants, but the 16-year-old isn't emotionally mature enough yet to know exactly what she wants."

Dr. Gilman
"There is a statistically small, but growing number of procedures (being done) for minors," especially in Japan, where teenage breast enhancement made headlines during the mid-1990s, says Sander Gilman, Ph.D., distinguished professor of liberal arts and sciences, Emory University. "I don't believe it's done any less frequently" since then, he adds.

Dr. Carruthers says that in North America, "I'm sure it happens" that surgeons occasionally perform breast enhancements on minors. However, she notes, "The breasts haven't finished developing often until a girl is in her 20s. So if one does a breast enhancement for a 15- or 16-year-old girl, who's to know she won't need a breast reduction later?"

Older is wiser

Regarding older patients, Dr. Callahan says that if the patient's reasons for wanting cosmetic treatment make sense and the patient is otherwise healthy, "age is irrelevant."

In seniors, Dr. Carruthers says, "The real concern is that the treatment may not be as effective as they would like, because there may be quite a lot of sun damage to their skin. Or, they may actually need more surgery than one feels is safe for them to achieve their goals."

At the same time, Seth Matarasso, M.D., a San Francisco private practitioner says, "We now have a society that exercises regularly, eats correctly and has largely stopped smoking. People are living longer and looking better and they want their bodies to look as good as their faces."

Dr. Matarasso
Dr. Gilman says, "The argument against cosmetic surgery always is that it simply has to do with individual vanity. That's a moral judgment by people who don't like the notion of a procedure, an age or surgery in general. One man's vanity is another man's necessity."

Thanks to media coverage, Dr. Matarasso concludes, "Patients know before you do what the newest filler or laser is. As a physician, one's goal is to educate them" about what's safe, effective and appropriate.

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