Some plastic surgery procedures are aimed to achieve a younger look, such as facelift, blepharoplasty, etc. However, the need to have an attractive and proportional look is not limited to adults, but also teenagers. A survey done by Girl Guiding UK showed that a considerable number of 16-21 year-old girls are considering to undergo a plastic surgery procedure. Two percent of 7-11 year-old children are unhappy with their appearance, and this number increases to 11% among those aged 11-16 years old.
Aesthetic plastic surgery is one of the means available to achieve an improved appearance. A continuous increase in the demand for plastic surgery procedures is observed among teenagers. This increase is observed not only in Europe but also in Asian countries. Still, the demand among Indonesian teenagers is not as much, although the exact number is not available. The demand, should it arise, usually comes from the parents. This is considered to be a result of culture difference.
Indonesia is considered more conservative than its Asian neighbours, such as Singapore. Even for those from established families, aesthetic surgery is not considered something that must be done immediately. Rather, it can wait until the teenagers become adults. Only specific circles of society, such as public figures, consider it better if the procedure is done sooner so that the teenagers may look attractive earlier.
In Singapore and England, where there are more teenager plastic surgery patients compared to Indonesia, candidates usually age around 16-18 years. During this period, most teenagers are already mature and know what they like or dislike well enough. From the plastic surgeon’s perspective, the appropriate timing to perform a plastic surgery procedure depends on the body part which will be corrected. For example, blepharoplasty to create upper eyelid fold and ear repair can be performed on a teenager, because those features are fully-developed. Breast augmentation, on the other hand, is not appropriate for teenagers because those features haven’t fully grown, making the outcome of surgery unpredictable.
There are several reasons why teenagers would want to undergo an aesthetic plastic surgery procedure. Now and again, teenagers are prone to feel a lack of confident and the desire to be somebody. For example, a teenager may feel inferior if he/she possesses big ears which he/she doesn’t see in his/her peers. This condition can be worsened if he/she is ridiculed by his/her friends, hindering his/her ability to socialize. In this case, an otoplasty (ear refinement surgery) can be considered. Another reason is that teenager years are the moment when they want to look attractive to their opposite sex.
Although teenagers are allowed to undergo an aesthetic plastic surgery procedure as much as adults, there are several distinctive requirements that have to be prepared to achieve a satisfactory result. Teenagers who wish to undergo an aesthetic procedure must know what they want and fully understand the ins and outs of the procedure. Those under 21 years of age must have an approval from their parents or legal guardian. Teenagers often complain different issues than adults. During consultation, they should be accompanied by their parents, and guided to have a realistic expectation of what the surgery will achieve. Sometimes, it is required to offer them to wait before they get a drastic alteration. They can also be offered a simpler procedure – one where the associated body part can be restored to its original condition – rather than a permanent one.
Aesthetic Procedures for Teenagers
Upper lid plasty, rhinoplasty, liposuction, and repairing big ears (otoplasty) are several procedures often performed on teenagers, especially in Asian countries, since an Oriental face often lacks upper eye fold and has a snub nose. Other frequently-performed procedures are male breast reduction and post acne scar repair.
Liposuction is done for contouring a body part that can’t be managed by neither diet nor exercise, such as the hip area. This is usually affected by genetic factor. It will not wane without surgery no matter one’s age, so why wait until later?
Some aesthetic procedures shouldn’t be done on teenagers, since some parts of their body are still developing. Examples include breast augmentation. Liposuction is also not suggested, since teenagers with obesity can become slimmer once they reach a fast growth period.
Side Effects, Complication, and Recovery Period
Every surgery procedure is associated with possible complications. Side effects and complications are basically similar to adults. An example of a complication specific to teenagers is disturbance of the particular structure’s growth. Some teenagers may not have adequate mental capability to decide on a surgery procedure. That’s why it is important to have parents accompany them during consultation and to get parents’ consent for teenagers below 21 years old. It is also essential for the teenager to fully understand the risk of complications and side effects. Regarding the recovery period, teenagers generally heal faster than those of age 50-60 years old.
(Resource person: Prasetyono TOH; by Kurniati R. Plastic surgery for teenagers. Cosmetic Surgery & Beauty 2010:40-5.)