Television shows, newspapers, magazines and the electronic media all tout the ease of becoming the person you want to be through cosmetic surgery. Now, teenage patients —
a whole new population — reach out to cosmetic surgery for treatment. According to statistics compiled by the American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS), more than 280,000 teenagers had cosmetic procedures in 2003 — a 50 percent hike from the previous year.
On call art
The majority of procedures — including microdermabrasion and resurfacing — stem from a need to correct scarring, much of it from acne.
The next largest category is rhinoplasty procedures, some of which are performed in conjunction with the correction of breathing problems. Others, however, are done purely for cosmetic reasons. A number of cosmetic surgeons consider the self-esteem issues involved with a large or differently shaped nose. Now, teens are turning to cosmetic procedures previously thought to be the bailiwick of the adult cosmetic patient.
For a rising number of teens, breast augmentation is the new "in" thing while liposuction is considered a way to reshape even a teenager's body.
Nearly 4,000 patients 18 years old or younger had breast augmentations last year. Another 4,000 had collagen injections, and just more than 3,000 liposuctions were performed on the teenage set.
Cosmetic Surgery Times asked cosmetic surgeons whether they accept teenage patients, and, if so, if they use the same guidelines as they do with adults.
We also asked doctors if they see any problems arising from performing teen cosmetic surgery.
Most restrict patients
Most surgeons who spoke to On Track say they restrict their patients to those 18 years old or older. They say that they might skew the figures for "teenage" cosmetic surgery, because in virtually all states, an 18-year-old is considered an adult, but is also still considered a "teenager" for purposes of the reports.
Bruce A. Wolf, M.D., from Elizabethtown, Ky., says, "I don't do anyone younger than 18, unless it's a congenital problem. I will do rhinoplasties on kids who can't breathe, but generally, I like to wait until the growth of their face is complete, and that's usually about 16 or 17."
Because 18-year-olds are considered adults, for many physicians that's the age at which they will consider performing procedures such as breast augmentation or liposuction.
Dr. Wolf says that's generally when he will see those patients.
"If you're doing something cosmetic with the breasts, generally the implant companies don't like you to use them on a young patient. Our (professional) society also believes that, and recommends that unless patients have a congenital problem such as one breast being smaller than the other, that 18 be the age for surgery."
Cole Goodman Jr., M.D., of Fort Smith, Ark., says he believes teenagers' desire for cosmetic surgery is actually decreasing.
"The thing that younger people have traditionally shown interest in — girls and boys — is rhinoplasty, and I'm just not seeing that as much as I was 10 to 15 years ago. I just don't think it's as big a deal as it used to be.
"We are getting more inquiries about liposuction and we've had inquiries about breast augmentations. I've just set an empiric minimum of 18 for my practice," he says.