The thought of your minor child undergoing plastic surgery will usually elicit one of two reactions, both polar opposites:
The thought may be relieving or rather terrifying.
- Relieving if there is a joint understanding and agreement between parent and child that the surgery will reduce physical pain or discomfort, or alter your child’s appearance to prevent them from being bullied or singled out.
- Terrifying if the surgery being requested by your minor child is purely cosmetic in nature, or is more of a sudden decision that has been preceded by little to no parental or familial discussion, often indicating external peer pressure from social media, movies, and magazines.
Both reactions, or a combination of the two, is understandable.
How Young is Too Young for Plastic Surgery?
Less than four percent of plastic surgery procedures are performed on patients between the ages of 13 and 19. At these ages most surgical work is done to correct physical problems rather than to address purely cosmetic concerns.,
Ear surgery is most common, followed closely by male breast reduction surgery to correct gynecomastia, with nose reshaping (rhinoplasty) being a distant third place procedure comprising 14% of cases in this age range.)
Teenage Plastic Surgery: Reconstructive vs Aesthetic
Teen or youth plastic surgery can be divided into “reconstructive surgery” and “aesthetic surgery.” The former includes the correction of cleft palettes, or the reduction (or pinning) of the ears if they fail to fit the head size and shape of a youth.
The latter, aesthetic surgery, includes such procedures as a nose job or rhinoplasty, or teenage breast augmentation. Some youth plastic surgery procedures may be both reconstructive and aesthetic, such as nose job that corrects breathing difficulties or a deviated septum, while improving the size or shape of the nose to the young patient’s liking.
With Purely Cosmetic Work, Regret is Likely
Here’s something your teen can relate to: The beautiful and internationally successful Bella Hadid just made her 27th appearance on a Vogue magazine cover. The magazine’s April 2022 issue features the popular model, who speaks on plastic surgery.
In “Bella From the Heart,” Hadid shares that she had the nose job at age 14.
She also shares that she regrets getting the plastic surgery procedure. Or more specifically, that she wishes she “had kept the nose of my ancestors.” While Hadid is a world-famous model despite this regret, it highlights one of the potentially negative aspects of underage or teenage plastic surgery.
[See also: Should My Teenage Daughter Get Breast Implants?]
Underage plastic surgery is touchier than plastic surgery on adults for numerous reasons, including the following:
- Surgical procedure results may change over time as the teenager matures.
- Young adults may still be discovering who they are and what their plans and goals for life are.
- If semi-permanent surgical changes are made during this time, they may be regretted later.
- Social influence may be a primary factor in a teen’s decision, and it may be based on misconceptions and/or digitally manipulated (photoshopped) images of celebrities and others.
Pros and Cons of Teenage Plastic Surgery
Undergoing plastic surgery as a minor or teenager involves certain pros and cons. There are good reasons why a young adult would desire and/or benefit from an elective cosmetic surgery.
When a young adult or minor gets plastic surgery, it may help them to:
- Feel better about themselves
- Alter, “correct,” or improve the way they look
- Reduce parts of the body they feel are too large (such as the ears or the breasts)
- Alleviate physical or emotional pain caused by “overly large” or disproportional parts of the body (nose, ears, breasts.)
Surgery: Medically Necessary vs Elective and Cosmetic
When surgical procedures are medically necessary, we tend not to wonder about the legalities involved: A minor needs a surgery, health insurance covers it, and a licensed medical doctor performs it at a well-established hospital.
But these certainties tend to fall away when the surgery isn’t considered necessary or life-saving, but is simply desirable. These procedures are usually called elective cosmetic surgeries, or plastic surgeries, because they are surgeries that a patient does not technically need, yet they choose to have it /them.
Is Underage Plastic Surgery Legal?
Yes. There are no laws in existence that prevent a minor child from undergoing elective cosmetic surgery.
In April of 2021, Arkansas became the first state to pass legislation that prevents minors from undergoing gender reassignment surgery; fifteen states were then considering similar bills. Gender reassignment surgery typically involves numerous plastic surgery procedures and, as the name suggests, a significant change to one’s body.
Plastic surgery procedures that involve altering or improving other parts of the body have never been legislated against: Minors can get their ears reduced or pinned as needed, or have the size and shape of their nose corrected, among other procedures.
There are also surgeries that minors are essentially encouraged not to have done, such as breast augmentation, which implants are FDA approved only for use in women ages 18 and older. Saline implants can be used in women at age 18, while for silicone implants, a patient must be 22-years-old or older.
Parental Consent is Required
The parents or legal guardians of a minor child will be required to provide written consent before their minor child undergoes any cosmetic surgery procedure.