Have you ever wondered what it would be like if your nose was a little more straight or if your breasts were just a cup size bigger? Have you ever looked at a magazine and thought, “I wish I could look like that!”? Many of us have, but how many of us have ever thought about the repercussions that can come from elective surgery? That is a much tougher question that not many of us can answer. Now think about those questions in the mind of a minor. I bet they are even harder to answer. They do not understand the effect this can have on their bodies. Their bodies are still growing and maturing, and surgery can disrupt their development. Therefore, it is dangerous for teens to get plastic surgery because it can cause complications that could be avoided if their bodies were fully developed.
“More than 219,000 cosmetic plastic surgery procedures were performed on people ages 13-19 in 2008” (American Society of Plastic Surgeons, 2010. para 2). There are many reasons that teenagers may want to receive plastic surgery procedures. They feel uncomfortable with how they look, they get made fun of, or they have suffered an accident or injury that requires reconstructive/plastic surgery. There are many benefits of getting surgery when a teenager has a deformity or has suffered injuries from an accident, but so many teenagers are doing it purely for vanity purposes.
The two main types of plastic surgery are, cosmetic and reconstructive. Reconstructive surgery is surgery that corrects deformities that someone may have. These include physical birth defects like cleft lips and palates and ear deformities, traumatic injuries like those from dog bites or burns, or the aftermath of disease treatments like rebuilding a woman’s breast after surgery for breast cancer (Dowshen, 2010. para 5,6). Cosmetic procedures occur when people get surgery because they are not happy with how they look. They do not like how big their nose is or they think their breasts are too small. They get surgery to fix a problem that they believe they have. This is becoming more acceptable and commonplace in America today.
One main reason teens decide to have elective surgery is that they are influenced by main stream media. They see super skinny models with flawless skin and large breasts and they think that is how people are supposed to look. Teenagers who look at magazines and models tend to have much lower self esteem. They are unaware though that most people around them do not look like the people in the magazines. Even the models that grace the covers of these magazines do not look like that. Airbrushing is used to hide any flaws that are deemed unattractive. However, there are some companies starting to recognize this and are trying to make changes. Dove’s “Campaign for Real Beauty,” is an excellent example of a company trying to make a difference. Their mission is to, “make more women feel beautiful every day by widening stereotypical views of beauty,” (Dove, 2008, p. 1). Even with these efforts, many more companies are more concerned with making money then they are self esteem issues, and unfortunately this is shaping the minds of today’s teens. Shows like Dr. 90210, and Nip Tuck are two examples of shows that many teens watch that make them think that plastic surgery is the answer. People get these procedures and in the next shot they are completely healed and beautiful. Why do they never show how much pain goes into this? Why do they never show an episode in which the procedure goes wrong and someone is left scarred for life? They do not show these scenes because then people would not watch and they would not make money.
Most surgeons however, regardless of the reason a teen may want surgery make sure that a teen meets certain requirements before they will operate. The want for surgery must be expressed by the person getting the surgery and no one else. They must also go through some sort of counseling to make sure they are mature enough for surgery, meaning that they must have realistic expectations of surgery. If they expect that surgery will completely change their lives and they will be popular and beautiful, then surgery is not the best option for them. Surgery is not the answer for someone with depression or self esteem issues. Not only are these people not mature enough to withstand the surgery, they are usually those that regret getting the procedure after it is done. They also want the teen to understand that this is surgery, and with any surgery there are certain risks involved. In 2008, 18-year old, Stephanie Kuleba died while undergoing a breast procedure in West Boca Raton (Diaz, 2009, para 1.) This could have been avoided if she had not received the procedure. In 2000, 2,100 people died from complications and adverse reactions to cosmetic surgery (Kornblum, 2009, para 7). Kacey Long underwent breast implants and said, “I wish I had never done it. I couldn’t lift up my arms. It disabled me for a year” (Ho, 2009, para 5). Another thing to keep in mind is that most insurance does not cover elective procedures and the cost of surgery is not cheap. Most surgeries can be two thousand dollars for more. That is a steep price for the cost of beauty.
Many parents are also a reason that teens decide to get surgery. Many parents are giving plastic surgery as birthday presents or graduation gifts. This can be hard for a young person to refuse. They may feel pressured and think that if their parents do not approve of how they look, how will their peers. The pressure they feel can also lead to depression and a lack of self worth. Depression can also result when a teen gets surgery and the results are not how they had hoped. They may have an idea of what they will look like post surgery, and when their appearance does not live up their expectations this can lead to regret and depression. At this point though, it is too late to change what has been done.
So many people do not understand the potential risks that can be associated with a teen getting surgery. Many complications can happen when undergoing a breast augmentation. Loss of nipple sensation, nerve damage, and even damage to the mammary glands (which will interfere with breastfeeding later in life) are just a few problems that may occur after surgery. Also because the body is still developing, teens may need a second or even third surgery in their lives. Breast implants are only intended to last about 10 years. If a teen decides later in life that they do not want the implants, there may be permanent damage that can not be undone. For example, feeling in the nipples can sometimes never come back and dimpling can appear on the breast and never go away. These are very important consequences to consider before making the decision to get surgery. For instance, getting rhinoplasty to improve the appearance of your nose can sound appealing, but there are also complications that could occur that are anything but. Over resection is a complication that occurs when too much of the bone is taken away. Problems relating to over resection can be difficult, and sometimes they call for a bone graph, and can even lead to the nose becoming too-short. Other complications can include infection and the appearance of tiny red spots on the nose that may never go away. Parts of the body that appear too big or disproportionate can eventually look normal, after waiting until your body is done growing.
Overall, I have shown that cosmetic surgery is not the way to go. There are too many emotional and physical aspects to think of before going under the knife. Not everyone will have the perfect body and not everyone will look like they came out of a magazine. We need to teach the youth today what real beauty is and that they do not need to look like a Barbie doll to be beautiful. The risk of surgery is just too much and the consequences can be fatal.
Moreover, I think that there needs to be other options for teens when they are feeling depressed about they way they look and their self image. Therapy can be a very useful tool to deal with this. It can teach teens the benefits of not going under the knife and ways to help boost their self esteem. Creating a positive self image is an excellent skill to have and will not only benefit teens while they are young but with help them turn into self confident adults.
What if this was your son or daughter? What if this happened to you? Isn’t it time we started realizing that we do not need to be made of plastic to be beautiful? Imperfections make us who we are, and I would much rather have a crooked nose than have any of the serious consequences that can come along with elective surgery. Furthermore, I would rather my body develop into how it is supposed to be than try to shape it into something else. That is why it is dangerous for teens to get plastic surgery because it can cause complications that could be avoided if their bodies were fully developed.
American Society of Plastic Surgeons. (2010). Plastic Surgery for Teenagers Briefing
Paper. Retrieved from www.plasticsurgery.org
Diaz, M. (2009). Parents of West Bocateenwho died during breast surgery speak out
about their loss: They accuse several doctors of negligence for the death of their
daughter. McClatchy – Tribune Business News, para 1.
Dove. (2008). Campaign for Real Beauty Mission. Retrieved from
Dowshen, S. (2009). Plastic Surgery. Retrieved from http://teenshealth.org/teen
Ho, S. (2009). Beauty: Getting Skin Deep. Northwest Asian Weekly, p. 8.
Kornblum, J. (2008). There’s a risk to the beauty of surgery. Retrieved from