Talking to Teens About Cosmetic Surgery

mother looking at ipad with daughter

The teen years can be many things: fun, carefree, happy – or riddled with anxiety. For many teens, the latter holds true thanks to insecurities about their appearance. Add in social media apps, selfies, and peer pressure and you have a perfect storm of angst on your hands. But while some teens may outgrow this awkward stage, for others there may be real, permanent insecurities behind their feelings, and those insecurities may not be outgrown.

Thankfully, there is a solution for those teens. An increasing number of teens (and their parents) are turning to cosmetic surgery to help boost confidence about their appearance. If your teen is curious about cosmetic surgery, here’s how you can talk to him or her about this permanent but meaningful change.

“The first and most important thing you need to discuss with your teen before considering plastic surgery is why your teen wants surgery in the first place,” says Dr. Randy Sanovich, a facial cosmetic surgeon in Dallas, Texas. “Be sure they are interested in the procedure for their own reasons and not from peer pressure or bullying.”

Sanovich recommends taking your teen for a consultation with a board-certified surgeon. This can often help you and your teen understand what is motivating the desire for change.

“Sometimes people don’t like their nose but can’t pinpoint exactly why,” Sanovich says. “A parent may not see anything wrong, but the teen may see something they don’t like and not be able to articulate it. A surgeon can help with that.”

One of the procedures teenagers are most frequently interested in is the otoplasty. This cosmetic ear surgery can correct ears that “stick out,” a common concern for teens. There are also medical reasons your teen may want surgery, such as breathing problems due to the shape of their nose or a bad bite caused by a recessed jaw. These issues can cause both medical and self-esteem problems.

Another factor to discuss and consider when talking about cosmetic surgery with your teen is their age and development stage. While teens may be eager to get a procedure immediately, they may not be ready simply because they’re not done growing.

“The last thing we want to do is operate on a teenager who is not done growing,” says Sanovich. “The nose, for example, doesn’t stop growing until around age 18 in men and 16 in women, but the ears are usually fully grown by the time a child is 5.”

Once you and your teen speak to a surgeon, you’ll have a more realistic expectation of what the results will be, and whether the procedure, recovery, and cost are worth it.

“Make sure your teen understands that this is major surgery and there is a recovery process involved,” says Sanovich.

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