With the prevalence of teenagers opting for cosmetic surgery in the US, the question arises as to whether or not aesthetic plastic surgery should be an option for children or those in their low to mid-teens.

But why should lack of self-esteem brought about by real or perceived body issues be an issue for adults only? Teenagers can go through the same, if not worse, psychological trauma when they are seriously unhappy with a part of their body, or are ridiculed or bullied at school.

While there is no doubt that in some cases a child’s popularity can be increased by the way they look, does this make it right?

According to one source, 42% of otoplasties (ear pinning) performed in the US are for people under the age of 18 years old. Other procedures which are also common among teenagers are rhinoplasties (nose jobs), gynaecomastia in teenage boys to reduce large breasts and breast augmentation for girls of 18 years or older. Non-surgical procedures such as chemical skin peels and laser hair removal are also a popular option.

If a procedure is performed to relieve physical problems, such as a breast reduction to alleviate back pain, then one can clearly see the benefit of such a procedure. But what if the surgery is done purely for cosmetic purposes? Will the child go on to regret this in adulthood or be thankful that their life has been made better, maybe because they are no longer on the receiving end of bullying at school?

Some well-known supermodels were taunted at school for their looks and went on to use their ‘originality’ to launch their career. Model Erin O’Connor was not considered a beauty at school, but it was her tall and lanky features which got her noticed, propelled her career and made her famous.

A problem can arise if a procedure is opted for just because it is fashionable. A new trend for young women in Japan is to have an ‘imperfect’ smile and dentists in Japan are nowadays being asked to make young women’s teeth look crooked. Apparently some Japanese men find the look very attractive on adolescents and women in their twenties.

The American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS) seems to leave the responsibility squarely with the parents. In a statement on the subject the ASPS said that while they had no formal position on the issue of cosmetic surgery for teenagers, it does not fundamentally dissuade potential patients. Those under the age of 18 require parental consent, but the ASPS advise that parents should take into consideration the teenager’s physical and emotional maturity as a pre-condition. This seems to make sense and of course each individual case needs to be taken on its own merit.

One thing is for sure, cosmetic surgery is now accessible for most age groups, and it is no longer the domain of adults only. Thankfully nowadays there is a lot of information available to help patients (or their parents) make an informed decision before opting for a cosmetic procedure.