How are teenagers’ motivations for aesthetic procedure different from those of adults?
Teenagers often seek aesthetic non-surgical procedures or plastic surgery to improve physical characteristics they feel are awkward or flawed, that if left uncorrected, may continue to affect them into adulthood. Many teens wish to fit in with peers, to look similar. Adults tend to have aesthetic procedures to differentiate themselves from others.
Oftentimes, teenagers are challenging for child-rearing parents and as patients for physicians who are trying to understand their physical-emotional concerns about perceived deformities, address them with patience and positive encouragement, and provide objective, non-judgmental support that can truly help them transition into adulthood. Adolescences are in a phase of life often driven by fluctuating hormones, social pressure, short-term desires, and a feeling of invisibility. Teenagers are strongly affected by internal and surrounding changes. With the consent and assistance of parents, plastic surgeons may be able to investigate deeper than what is observed and explore what’s happening inside. In Dr. Sasaki’s opinion, asking the appropriate questions can help him determine whether a teenager should have a cosmetic procedure, delay treatments, or advised to consult with a professional psychologist. Dr. Sasaki understands that not every adolescent needs to be referred to a professional psychologist. With the family’s permission, however, Dr. Sasaki can suggest counseling to a patient who exhibit severe depression, display body dysmorphic affect, have eating disorders, or engage in chronic addictions. Professionals must be able to distinguish between the adolescent who has low esteem versus the adolescent who may exhibit desperate behavioral patterns.
Specialists understand that there are no formal guidelines to determine whether a teen should or should not have a cosmetic procedure. They also appreciate that any negative outcome could potentially be damaging to an adolescent’s self-esteem or body image for the rest of their life. Plastic surgeons have an opportunity to convey to adolescent patients that cosmetic procedures do not guarantee happiness and that the near-perfection they see online and in magazines is an altered appearance.
When is a non-surgical or surgical aesthetic procedure appropriate for teenagers?
In an age of selfies, morphing technologies, and constant social media sharing, a growing number of teenagers are considering non-surgical and surgical aesthetic procedures. According to the most recent 2017 annual statistics from the American Society of Plastic Surgeon (ASPS), about 230,000 cosmetic procedures were performed on patients age 13 to 19. In 2015 alone, over 175,000 nonsurgical procedures and over 36,000 cosmetic surgical procedures were performed on patients under the age of 19. In this category of patients, however, very few studies are available evaluating outcomes and complications.
What are the age requirements for any aesthetic procedure for teens?
Consenting a teen for any non-surgical aesthetic or surgical aesthetic procedure is a controversial subject depending on whether the procedure is strictly cosmetic or reconstructive in nature.
- Cosmetic procedure aims to improve someone’s physical appearance and is mainly about improving their self-image or confidence.
- Reconstructive procedure repairs a physical defect that affects teenager’s ability to function normally.
There are no specific laws in the United States that prevents teenagers from obtaining cosmetic procedures. However, parents or legal guardians are required to consent a minor under the age of 18. Therefore, the responsibility falls to them to assist their children to make the best decision. The American Society for Plastic Surgeons advises parents to evaluate the teenager’s physical and emotional maturity and believes that individual cases merit careful evaluation under the guidance of a plastic surgeon certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery. The most rewarding outcomes are expected when the following exists:
- The teenager initiates the request. While parental support is essential, the teen’s own desire for a non-surgical or surgical aesthetic procedure must be clearly expressed and repeated over a period of time.
- The teenager has realistic goals. The adolescent must appreciate both the benefits and limitations of any aesthetic procedure, avoiding unrealistic expectations about life changes that will occur as a result of the procedure.
- The teenager exhibits sufficient maturity to tolerated the discomfort and temporary disfigurement of a nonsurgical and surgical aesthetic procedure. Aesthetic procedures are not recommended for teens who are prone to mood swings or erratic behavior, who are abusing drugs and/or alcohol, or who are being treated for clinical depression or other mental illness.
What are the most common non-surgical aesthetic procedures requested by adolescents?
Over the past five years, dermal fillers and neurotoxins like BOTOX® Cosmetic have made significant impact on how faces and lips are enhanced, not only for teens but also in adults. Most plastic surgeons recommend against the use of dermal fillers and neurotoxins as inappropriate procedures during the teen years.