Social media has helped connect people all over the world. The many social media platforms that are currently in use have also created the desire for teens that take selfies (using filters to alter their appearance) to look that way in real life. Thanks to the increased use of selfies and social media, cosmetic surgeons are reporting a rise in teen cosmetic surgery to make teens look more like their online appearance.
As recently as 2017, around 229,000 cosmetic procedures were performed on patients ages 13-19 in the year 2017. These numbers were published in a report in Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery which is the official medical journal of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPA). In general, the number of cosmetic surgery procedures increased by 11\\% in 2017 as patients spent more than 6.5-billion dollars on cosmetic surgery.
In the report published last year by the ASPA, doctors Rod J. Rohrich and Min-Jeong Cho gave guidelines that approved some forms of cosmetic surgery for younger patients. The teen cosmetic surgery procedures that were discussed included rhinoplasty, breast reduction for young women with breasts that are uncomfortably large, cleft lip operations and otoplasty to reduce the look of larger ears on teen patients.
In the report, Dr. Rohrich and Dr. Cho wrote, “As the saying goes, ‘Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.’ This reflects the current dilemma presented to plastic surgeons. The demand for plastic surgery in adolescents has increased dramatically, despite the controversy over performing plastic surgery procedures in this population. The average millennial takes over 25,000 selfies in his or her lifetime, which is astronomical and one of the major reasons for the self-esteem issues in this age group. Moreover, the standard selfies have exaggerated lower facial features such as nasal or lip or chin problems, leading to increased interest in this age group for cosmetic medicine and cosmetic surgery.”
In addition, more than 40\\% of cosmetic surgeons said looking better in selfies on social media was a driving force for patients of all ages to undergo cosmetic surgery. Since teens use social media more often, this issue might be magnified for them. This information is according to a report from a recent survey conducted by the American Academy of Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery.
Many cosmetic surgeons recommend patient education and honest discussions with patients looking to have teen cosmetic surgery. Many teens bring in iPhones filled with photos of people and accounts they follow on social media. However, some of these teen patients don’t realize that the photos on these social media platforms have been filtered and changed using Photoshop. Sitting down with teen cosmetic surgery patients and making sure they understand the changes that are made to improve the appearance of online selfies is an important part of the patient education process.
There are a number of factors cosmetic surgeons need to take into consideration before performing teen cosmetic surgery. For example, cosmetic surgeons that are thinking about performing breast reduction surgery on a teen patient need to consider the age as well as the physical development of the patient. Breast development can stop for a patient anywhere from 11.8 years of age to 18.9 years of age. In general, doctors recommend that teen patients wait until after they are 18 years old to have any type of breast surgery.
The growing desire for teen cosmetic surgery includes procedures such as lip filers, laser treatments for the face and facial fillers. The popularity of these procedures is creating a new concern for doctors that is known as “Snapchat dysmorphia”.
One of the reasons that depression and anxiety have increased in patients is seeing “perfect versions” of people on social media. Patients that have poor self-esteem, feelings of inadequacy and a poor body image can feel even worse about their appearance thanks to viewing photos of others on social media.
Parents can help their children that are considering teen cosmetic surgery by getting involved with social media. They should become knowledgeable about the sites so they will have a better idea what their teens are doing online on a daily basis.
Instead of ignoring social media for teens, parents should engage their teenagers by being supportive and keeping an open mind about their time on social media. In addition, parents should encourage teens to become involved in activities that are not online such as sports and clubs at school.
The more information parents have about social media and the activities of their children online, the better prepared they will be when teens begin to voice concerns about their appearance. Parents will be prepared to address teen issues of negative self-image and issues with their appearance in real life compared to their look on social media. Parents can help their teenagers navigate the online experience and even help them make better choices when it comes to teen cosmetic surgery and their online appearance.