Cosmetic surgery on teenagers

I am not going to talk about breast augmentation on 16-year-olds; that is preposterous. However, there are a number of conditions, ranging from minor to major, that do require the intervention of a plastic surgeon for a cosmetic procedure on a teenager. There are numerous medical conditions, such as cleft lips, that need surgery, but I am limiting myself to cosmetic surgery procedures only—procedures to enhance or improve an individual’s physical attributes.
Over the past few days, I happen to have seen a number of teenagers who wanted to have plastic surgery for what I would consider to be understandable reasons.

Conditions requiring plastic surgery in teens

There are a number of medical conditions that may require a teenager to undergo cosmetic surgery.

Genetic conditions

These include maldevelopments of structures such as:

  • moles in conspicuous places
  • excess growth of body parts (e.g., one breast larger than another)
  • Noses that are too large or chins that are too small

Trauma needing surgery

Scars resulting from trauma, accidents or other surgeries are another major group of conditions that may need intervention.

Conditions not requiring cosmetic surgery in teens

  • No surgery on areas of the body that may develop further or enlarge naturally (e.g., no breast augmentations)
  • No surgery for parts that will decrease in size or change naturally with age (e.g., no liposuction)

Factors to consider in teen surgery

Future Growth

Has the teen stopped growing by the time of surgery, or will they continue growth and need another surgery to correct the changes that occur after growing? The female facial skeleton has reached maturity by age 16 and the male by age 18, but the body keeps on growing in both sexes until age 21 (and thereafter in different ways…). Operating on a teen who has not reached maturity will condemn them to yet another surgery later on.

Hormonal Changes

Not only do hormonal changes affect the body’s growth, but also the way the skin heals and the type of scarring that can be expected. Teenage skin has a higher rate of oil production, and sebaceous oil gland activity has a correlation with hypertrophic scarring.

Psychological factors

Is the teen mature enough to undergo the surgery? Cosmetic surgery does have discomfort along with it and the patient should be prepared for that.
It is important for a teen to have the correct level of maturity and motivation. All of us regress psychologically after surgery, and a teen can regress to a child.
Having realistic expectations is also vital, and sometimes teens, with their different (non-adult) brains, cannot comprehend some concepts, such as complications!
Equally important, though, are reasons for the teen to have the desired surgery if the condition they have is the cause of their psychological issues. In such situations, the surgery may be the solution.

Long term sequelae of surgery

Sometimes our bodies takes decades to show a change. The cosmetic plastic surgeon has to consider what the area of surgery on a teen will look like in 20 or 40 years. The changes in the body of the teen due to age must also be allowed for. Above all, the plastic surgeon must keep in mind the old dictum of Hippocrates, the father of medicine: “Above all do no harm.”