Should Teens Seek Social Acceptance with Rhinoplasty?

The psychological effects of having a crooked, misshapen or otherwise less than perfect nose is perhaps most evident among teenagers, who commonly suffer cruel taunts from schoolmates. Life is challenging enough for this impressionable group who, just like Hollywood starlets, feel intense pressure from their peers to maintain a certain appearance.

Social media outlets like Facebook only amplify the hurt felt by teens like13-year old Nicollete Taylor, who told ABC News that online harassment about her nose was making life unbearable. With her parent’s approval, the Long Island teen went under the knife to stop being bullied. In her case, rhinoplasty (nose reshaping) dramatically changed her life for the better.

“Unlike celebrities who often seek cosmetic surgery to turn back the clock and look rejuvenated, today’s teens do it more to fit in with their peers and stop being bullied,” says New York City plastic surgeon Dr. Thomas Loeb.

Statistics from The American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS) show that teen plastic surgery is on the rise with more than 60,000 surgical procedures performed on adolescents aged 13-19 in 2013. Of these, 30,672 were rhinoplasty procedures. Across the pond, London’s Director of Rhinoplasty at the Royal National Throat Nose and Ear Hospital, Dr. Charles East consults with at least 20 adolescent girls wanting nose jobs every week in his practice. But medical experts agree that not every teen wanting a nose job or other type of cosmetic surgery is an ideal candidate.

Seeking acceptance and self-esteem with rhinoplasty

image 2Plastic surgeons explain that rhinoplasty is generally not recommended until the nose stops growing, which is normally around age 15 or 16 in girls and slightly later in boys. The ASPS advises parents of teens who want plastic surgery to seriously assess their child’s emotional maturity and ensure they have realistic expectations about what surgery can and cannot do for them.

The most successful outcomes occur in patients who have sufficient physical/mental maturity and are also prepared to deal with the discomfort and temporary swelling during recovery. “There are general guidelines we follow with regard to physical development, but we take each candidate on an individual basis,” Dr. Richard D’Amico, a NJ plastic surgeon, tells the New York Times. “Someone can develop at an accelerated or slowed-down rate. And, of course, levels of maturity vary.”

Cosmetic surgery is certainly not a panacea for all problems, and while it can boost self-esteem and confidence in many teenagers, others have come to regret their decision for a nip and tuck. Sabrina Weiss tells CNN that as a sensitive 14-year-old, she hated her nose. After she graduated high school, she got her wish for a more refined nose and had rhinoplasty. A decade later, Weiss regrets her choice and says she had surgery for the wrong reasons: “As a teenager, you’re so myopic, you don’t think about the long-term consequences of what you do.” Weiss concedes that the nose job helped to make her feel less self-conscious, but the operation didn’t transform her life the way she had envisioned.

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Importance of mental and physical maturity

Adolescents who experience erratic mood swings, suffer from depression or abuse alcohol are not good candidates for plastic surgery and may not be prepared for the physical rigors of the recovery process, says the ASPS. It is vital that teenagers understand that the results of rhinoplasty are permanent and that, while surgery can alter the shape of the nose, it can’t solve all social problems and doesn’t guarantee popularity.

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