Plastic Surgery: How Young is Too Young?

Heidi Montag has been making headlines recently for her recent string of plastic surgeries. For Montag, who graced the small screen before having any work done, the cosmetic improvements seem unnecessary, especially since many cosmetic procedures are meant to reverse the signs of aging. Montag was a teenager when she first appeared on “Laguna Beach: The Real Orange County.” Facelifts, breast augmentation, liposuction and other common cosmetic surgery procedures have long been prevalent in Hollywood, but rarely for someone as young as Montag, who was 20 years old when she had rhinoplasty, collagen injection, and breast augmentation.

This raises a valid question among plastic surgeons, parents and teenagers: How young is too young to receive cosmetic surgery?

According to statistics from the American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS), 209,553 procedures were performed last year on patients between ages 13 and 19, making up about two percent of all surgical and non-surgical cosmetic procedures performed in 2009. The most common surgical procedures included otoplasty (ear surgery), rhinoplasty, breast augmentation, liposuction and male breast reduction (gynecomastia). Granted, reconstructive surgeries – for example, to correct birth defects or a broken nose – account for some of these procedures. But others, such as liposuction, breast augmentation, and breast reduction were certainly elective.

There is, of course, no hard and fast rule for determining the right age to receive plastic surgery. Sometimes their insecurities will be outgrown once the teen matures physically and emotionally. Doctors, parents and teens must approach the question on a case-by-case basis. There are extenuating circumstances, such as a teenager who experiences back pain due to overly large breasts, as well as gray areas, such as the 18-year old Australian girl who received a vaginoplasty, tummy tuck, and breast augmentation two years after giving birth (such procedures are commonly referred to as part of a “Mommy Makeover”). Who plays which role in the judgment call—the doctor, the parent or a minor or adult teenager—will likely remain a topic of debate as cosmetic surgery patients trend younger and younger.

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