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Study outlines age guidelines for plastic surgery

Posted: 1:47 AM, Aug 29, 2018
Updated: 2018-08-29 05:47:32Z

In an age of social media, when teens are frequently comparing themselves to others and receiving instant comment on their appearance, a greater number of teens than ever are seeking -- and having -- cosmetic surgery procedures.

But, many of these procedures have not been tested on teens. The safety is uncertain and other questions about whether they are appropriate for teens remain.

In a  new study published Tuesday  in the journal Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, the authors compiled data on the outcomes of most common cosmetic procedures performed on teenagers.

"Our research exposed a need for stringent guidelines, particularly when it comes to determining when a procedure is appropriate to perform and the recommended age for each procedure," Dr. Min-Jeong Cho, a plastic surgeon of the Dallas Plastic Surgery Institute and co-author of the study, said in a statement. "So that’s what we set out to deliver."

Recommended ages for surgical and non-surgical procedures

  • Cosmetic rhinoplasty (nose surgery) Female: 15 to 17 years old 
  • Cosmetic rhinoplasty (nose surgery) Male: 16 to 18 years old 
  • Breast augmentation: 18 years and older 
  • Breast reduction: 18 years and older 
  • Liposuction (if unresponsive to diet and exercise): 18 years and older 
  • Otoplasty (ear surgery): 5 to 7 years old
  • Sun screen: 5 to 6 years old 
  • Retin A: 16 to 18 years old 
  • Lasers for acne scars: 16 to 18 years old
  • Chemical peels: 18 years and older 
  • Laser for cosmetic reasons: 18 years and older 
  • Botulinum toxin type A (Botox) and filler: 18 years and older

Almost 230,000 cosmetic procedures were performed on patients ages 13 to 19 years old in 2017. Teenagers underwent four percent of all cosmetic surgery procedures that year. The most common surgical procedures include nose surgery, male breast reduction and ear surgery. Additionally, more than 160,000 non-surgical cosmetic procedures were performed on this age group, the most common were laser hair removal and Botox injections.

The reasons behind teens and their families requesting these procedures may be well-intentioned. Families may see the surgery as way to help teens improve their self-confidence. But sometimes the surgeries may not be appropriate for certain individuals or at certain ages.

"We wanted to do this study to help teenagers and parents understand that there are cases in which it is appropriate for a teenager to have plastic surgery," Dr. Rod Rohrich, a plastic surgeon at the Dallas Plastic Surgery Institute and co-author of the study, said in an interview with ABC News. "For example, in instances where a teen has prominent ears or a nasal deformity, having those features corrected can help to greatly improve a teen’s psychological maturation and enhance their self-confidence."

However, he expressed worry about the rise in requests for non-surgical procedures just to have a different look.

"It’s concerning that there has been a surge in the use of injectables in young patients to achieve augmented cheeks and lips when there is no evidence that these procedures are safe for adolescents," Rohrich said.