Should Parents Let Their Teenage Children Get Plastic Surgery?

Jager Weatherby on 7 May 2015 at 11:45pm

Kylie Jenner Plastic Surgery

After a year of speculation, pop culture aficionados finally got the confirmation they’ve always wanted: Kylie Jenner has cosmetically enhanced her lips. In a recently released clip from Keeping Up With the Kardashians, the 17-year-old member of the Kardashian-Jenner clan reveals she has temporary lip fillers, adding that her naturally thin lips are an insecurity of hers and it’s just “what she wanted to do.”

At RealSelf, we’ve certainly seen the transformative effect that plastic surgery can have on a person’s self-esteem. And while we support any woman’s decision to undergo a procedure in order to boost her confidence, the question still remains: Should teenagers be getting plastic surgery? Is it something parents should allow?

According to the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery, more than 130,000 cosmetic procedures were performed on people under the age of 18 in 2014. “This is controversial,” says Salt Lake City plastic Surgeon Dr. York Yates, revealing that issues at play include the patient’s maturity level and decision-making ability.

“The frontal lobe of the brain does not fully develop until the 20s to 30s,” Dr. Yates adds. “This portion of the brain controls decision making, impulsiveness, and understanding consequences ... The reasons a teen may want plastic surgery can be questionable. Fitting in or wanting to look like a specific air-brushed celebrity aren't good reasons to pursue plastic surgery. This is a time of self-discovery, not self-alteration.”

Dr. Yates Quote 1

There’s also the issue of safety. Complications are a risk of any cosmetic procedure, but many teens don’t fully grasp how serious they can be. While Dr. Yates says adolescents face no more serious risks than those adults do, things can get tricky when performing surgery on a part of the body that isn’t fully developed, such as getting a breast augmentation before breasts have finished developing.

There are no specific laws in the United States that prevent teenagers from getting cosmetic surgery; however, parental consent is required for patients under the age of 18. That’s not true everywhere, though.

“In Australia, there has been legislature to make it difficult for teenagers to have cosmetic surgery, including a [mandatory waiting] period between consultation and surgery,” Dr. Yates explains. “There have been discussions of similar laws in the US.”

Unless such laws are enacted, the responsibility falls to parents to help their children make the right decision. Of course, even parents can be fallible. What might seem like the right decision for a 15-year-old could prove to be the wrong choice later on in life.

Curious to hear what real people thought of this hot-button issue, we turned to everyone’s favorite sounding board: reddit. We quickly learned this is a topic that’s on everybody’s lips.

“Absolutely not … unless in cases of extreme deformity or where medically necessary,” said reddit user Francotanko of teens getting cosmetic surgery. “It just teaches a child that they are only as good as their looks. It also teaches them that their ‘problems’ can be fixed without taking any sort of responsibility.”

Reddit QuoteOther users countered that plastic surgery is no different from anything else done to improve a person’s appearance. “Braces are essentially plastic surgery for your mouth,” said one. “I had braces and, while I hated it, I can't complain about the results and would do it again. Would be hypocritical of me to draw the line for cosmetic surgery at the mouth.”

Reddit user kurtni agreed. “Teens get braces, cut their hair, shave/wax, and wear makeup to look the way they feel comfortable. Looking the way you want shouldn’t teach kids they’re valued only for their appearance. Parents should reinforce kids’ strengths like intelligence and artistry throughout childhood, long before the teenage years.”

What we saw most from the discussion were mixed emotions, with users believing some procedures were acceptable such as laser treatments and ear pinning, while others, including breast implants and Kylie’s own lip augmentation, were not.

“Most of my life I would have been against this,” wrote user Staback. “[I thought] children shouldn't be subjected to major surgery for only cosmetic reasons. Then my sister-in-law, who is 16, got a nose job during the summer of her junior and senior year. It had a huge impact. She had a crook in her nose that dominated her face. The biggest impact though was psychological, as her biggest insecurity disappeared.”

That desire to fix an insecurity and regain confidence is common knowledge on RealSelf. And that newfound confidence can have a profound effect on every aspect of a person’s life.

“For me, it was about a self-confidence that I had yet to achieve, a love of self that I have longed for my entire life,” explains RealFriend JenBob, who underwent a Mommy Makeover in 2010. “When I look in the mirror, I like what I see now. And when I feel good about myself, I am a better woman, a better wife, and a better mom. It's the best money I've ever spent ... just ask my family.”

As for teenagers getting plastic surgery, perhaps reddit user gigglesmcbug said it best: “As long as the kids are old enough to really understand what they’re having done and the associated risks — AND it isn't the parents pushing the procedure on them — then sure. Why not? I do think there needs to be additional protective measures for kids though, specifically counseling to do everything possible to ensure it isn’t detrimental. Lastly, if a doctor is uncomfortable working on a minor, they can always decline them as a patient.”

Do you think parents should allow their teenagers to get plastic surgery? Share your thoughts in the comments.