According to the World Health Organization (WHO), adolescence is “the phase of human growth and development between childhood and adulthood, from ages 10 to 19.”
Although it is an epiphenomenon, requests for aesthetic surgery for adolescents are currently increasing. However, at this very unique, critical age doubts and questions arise; any physical change can have a significant impact on the future psychology and well-being of the adolescent.
Consequently, operations during adolescence must never be taken lightly and must be carried out, if they are, after careful thought and consideration. Including the parents is essential, firstly because parental consent is a legal requirement until the age of 18 years but also because meeting the adolescent with their mother, father or both allows what bothers them to be discussed openly and to establish a global picture. However, it is also imperative to let the adolescent express themselves and to trust them.
What are the most common reasons for consulting?
Adolescents consult primarily for 3 reasons:
- The breasts: little or no breast development at puberty or on the contrary breast hypertrophy (in young men this is known as gynecomastia), sagging or misshapen breasts
- The nose: too long, too wide, bumpy, wonky…
- The silhouette, especially the hips and saddle bags
Aesthetic medicine with its techniques without surgery, is also very popular with some young women who are sometimes only just adults and for whom requests are linked directly to what they see on social media: the image of stars they “follow”; they already wish to change the contour of the face, increase the size of their lips, or lift the tail of the eyebrows. These requests are a warning sign.
What is the minimal age to access aesthetic surgery?
Most surgeons agree that adolescents analyze their problem quite well. The majority of them do not wish to look like a star or someone else but to eliminate a complex, which is sometimes very difficult to live with. Not all adolescents are out of touch with reality, far from it, and many of them know how to assess their appearance. Just like adults!
However, undergoing aesthetic surgery requires established psychological maturity. Genuine complexes are often the reason for requests from very young patients and, once the surgery carried out, everything comes together. This is more particularly the case for young girls with very large breasts. In this case, the benefit is threefold: psychological, aesthetic, and functional.
But there is no question of doing anything too early, apart from an otoplasty (surgery for protruding ears) that can be performed from the age of 7 years. Indeed, it is better to wait until the end of puberty, as many physical attributes continue to change during this phase: nose, breasts, the whole body! For example, breast surgery is rarely carried out before the age of 17 years, excluding deformities such as tuberous breasts that are psychologically extremely debilitating.
Regardless, parental consent is necessary for minors wishing to undergo aesthetic surgery. Indeed, parents can be reassured: an adolescent cannot do anything without the written consent of both parents. And it is even better when everyone supports the project. So the best thing to do is talk to your parents, and then make an appointment to seek the advice of the surgeon.
Adolescence and aesthetic surgery: the surgeon can refuse
As with any patient, a surgeon has the right to refuse an operation and must refuse if they consider it to be contraindicated.
Two consultations, or even three in some cases, will be necessary to determine if the operation is pertinent or not and above all to separate requests indicating a real complex due to a more or less pronounced defect from more “eccentric” requests looking for an identity or belonging.
The surgeon will also observe the parents to ensure the request was not their idea, which can be the case for all types of surgery!
It is necessary to trust the adolescent and let them express themselves clearly about the problem and their desires.
Is it really necessary to see a psychologist?
This remains rare but it is necessary if the adolescent has suffered from obsessive disorders such as anorexia or bulimia.
The job of the surgeon, as with adults, is to detect any psychological contraindication such as body dysmorphic disorder and refer the adolescent, if appropriate, to a therapist.
Today, adolescents are increasingly aware of the possibilities aesthetic surgery has to offer. In this regard, their requests must be heard and they must certainly not be treated like a child.
Establishing mutual trust is essential on the part of the surgeon but also the parents: denigrating or moralizing their request can be upsetting by further intensifying the complex and sometimes pushing the adolescent to become even more withdrawn, even clamming up completely depending of their personality.
Dialogue and benevolence are crucial in the treatment of requests for aesthetic surgery from adolescents, all the more so that in France the thought process is adequately regulated to avoid any excess.