Teens and Plastic Surgery

Kylie Jenner, the youngest of the Kardashian crew and star of their reality TV show Keeping up with the Kardashians, has been making headlines because of her pillowy lips. She recently confirmed suspicions that she augmented her lips with filler injections. Her “signature look” has sparked a dangerous trend among teenagers known on social media with the hashtag the #kyliejennerchallenge.

To create fuller lips, some teens are using shot glasses. They suck all of the air out of the glass to create a vacuum to artificially plump the lips. Not only has this been shown to cause severe bruising, but in some extreme cases, the glass can break requiring stitches. This extreme “DIY lip plumping” is very concerning to me, which prompted me to want to spend some time focusing on teenagers and plastic surgery.

The adolescent years are a time when young people are coming to terms with who they are and how they look. We all know it’s not the easiest phase of life, and the advent of social media, with its constant deluge of picture perfect images and “ideal” bodies and faces, doesn’t make it any easier. I think it’s crucial for parents and plastic surgery professionals alike to talk openly with teenagers about the dangers of things like “DIY lip plumping” as well as to remind them that what they see on social media is not reality.

There are occasions where I will perform procedures like rhinoplasty or correcting a facial or breast abnormality on individuals under 18, but in most cases, I have three important guidelines.

# 1 – The teen must be accompanied by a parent or guardian. At this age, parents are partners in this process. They know their children best and will know if their child has thought critically about the procedure they are considering and whether or not they are mature enough to make this kind of lifelong decision.

#2 – They must be finished growing. I will not perform any cosmetic procedure on a young person whose growth plates are still open. First of all, if they are not finished growing, the effects of the surgery could be altered by further growth. Also, I do not want to inhibit the body’s natural growth pattern.

#3 – The teen must have thought long and hard about the procedure and be pursuing plastic surgery for the right reasons. If their motivation is to look just like Kylie Jenner or any other celeb on the front cover of a magazine, I will not move forward. However, if a teen’s nose has always made him or her feel self-conscious or perhaps his or her ears stick out and cause embarrassment, I will discuss the various options with both the patient and the parents.

The teenage years are a tumultuous time. It’s important for parents to help their teens navigate the many mixed messages they are receiving from the news media, the Internet, TV shows, etc., and help them think critically about what they see, especially on social media.

I am not vehemently opposed to young people receiving cosmetic procedures, as long as my aforementioned criteria are met. However, I am a firm believer in helping not only young people, but all my patients, navigate their reasons for pursuing any cosmetic procedure, and helping them stay away from dangerous activities like the “Kylie Jenner Challenge.”