Many people wonder about the appropriate age for cosmetic surgery and when someone is “too young.” This has been debated in the media. There is not one simple answer to this question and it depends on the procedure we are talking about. In general, a person needs to be physically ready for the procedure and the associated anesthesia. The body part that is being operated on needs to be in the proper stage of development, which usually means that it is no longer growing. Psychologically the person needs to be old enough to understand what is being done and be able to make a decision about it. It is always best if the person is old enough to really understand the procedure and be equipped to deal with the social after-effects of the surgery. As you can imagine, these are very individualized decisions, based on the person, the parents, and the specific procedure requested.
Let’s look at some of the more common procedures:
Rhinoplasty: This is the number one requested procedure among young teens and has become almost a rite-of-passage among high school students in some communities. Young girls usually begin requesting a nose job at 13 or 14 years of age. This is too young for several reasons. Psychologically they are not prepared to make “body image” decisions about themselves, and also physically, the nose is usually still growing. The more appropriate age is 16-17 years old. This is why rhinoplasty is commonly performed on high school students between Junior and Senior year or after graduation.
Liposuction: The surgical removal of fat is a good tool for body shaping and can get rid of those “problem areas”. In this regard, it is never appropriate for young men or women and best reserved for those over 18 years old. In the case of weight reduction, high volume liposuction has recently been shown to be very beneficial in reducing weight and reducing the risk of obesity related illness such as diabetes and high blood pressure. Again, it is best reserved for those over 18 years old, but it may be appropriate for teenagers that meet very strict criteria. If a teenager is obese despite good compliance with diet and exercise, and has shown signs of obesity-related illness, then high volume liposuction may be indicated for medical reasons.
Breast Augmentation: The placement of breast implants is best reserved for women over 18 years old. The one exception is in the case of Poland Syndrome in which one breast fails to develop. Research has shown that the placement of a breast implant on the underdeveloped side to help achieve a more “normal” appearance has significant psychological advantages, even at an age as young as 13 years old.
So, as you can see, while most elective cosmetic surgery is reserved for people over 18 years old, there are some situations where it is appropriate for younger teens. Remember, children under 18 years old need to be accompanied by a parent during the consultation and a parent must give permission for any procedure.
To learn more about the cosmetic surgery procedure you are interested in, or to schedule your consultation, contact us or call 212-289-1851