Teenagers, Self-esteem and Plastic Surgery

Being a teenager is difficult and research would indicate that it is now harder than ever.  Teenagers, both girls and boys, are under increasing pressure to look “perfect”. Whereas waxing, plucking, exercising and grooming were once adult preoccupations, they are now central to teenage life.  The same increasingly applies to cosmetic surgery and there are concerns that teenagers are using surgery to help with teenage self-esteem issues.

Recent figures show that the number of procedures performed on teenagers 18 or younger more than tripled over a 10-year period, to 205,119 in 2007 from 59,890 in 1997. Liposuctions rose to 9,295 from 2,504, and breast augmentations increased to 7,882 from 1,326.

Critics say that plastic surgery is becoming more common among teenagers because “Our children are barraged with images of ideal women and men that aren’t even real, but computer composites,” said Jean Kilbourne, co-author of “So Sexy, So Soon,” a book on teenagers and pre-teenagers. “These girls and boys can’t compete. The truth is, no one can. And it leaves teens feeling more inadequate than ever and a lot of parents unsure as to the right thing to do.”

Dr. Frederick Lukash, a plastic surgeon in New York City and Long Island who specializes in treating adolescents, said: “Unlike adults who may elect cosmetic surgery for that ‘wow’ factor to stand out in a crowd, to be rejuvenated and get noticed, kids have a different mantra. They do it to fit in.”

A recent survey of more than 1,000 girls in the United States showed that 7 in 10 girls surveyed believed that, in terms of their physical appearance, they did not “measure up.” Only 10 percent found themselves to be “pretty enough.”

But plastic surgeons argue that despite the risks of some teenagers using plastic surgery inappropriately there are often opportunities to transform the life of a teenager with low self-esteem.  For example cosmetic surgery for a crooked nose which is negatively impacting a teenager’s self-confidence is often justified because a well-timed operation could prevent destructive behaviors, including eating disorders, bullying and self-mutilation.

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