Plastic surgery rises among young people

Daily Staff Reporter
Published April 3, 2002

An increasing number of teenagers and young adults are turning to cosmetic procedures to improve their looks. According to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, patients under the age of 19 made up 4 percent of the total plastic surgery operations for cosmetic purposes in 2000 - up 2 percent since 1996. The number of cosmetic surgery patients between the ages of 19-34 rose from 188,441 in 1996, to 320,830 in 2000.

ASPS spokeswoman LaSandra Cooper said while the organization does not have a formal position on cosmetic surgery for teens, the decision to move forward with a procedure is influenced by the patient's emotional and physical maturity.

"Without a measure of emotional maturity and an understanding of the limitations of plastic surgery, an unstable teen may not be able to take full advantage of the opportunities offered by a surgical procedure," she said in written statement. "Certain milestones in grown and physical maturity must be achieved before undergoing plastic surgery."

Potential patients, regardless of age, may hope to gain self-esteem and confidence by altering physical characteristics, which they see as imperfect, she added.

LSA sophomore Melissa Freeman said she believes University students go through with plastic surgery because, "They have this image of what people should look like because of the media."

"It increases your self-esteem," Michelle Persin, an LSA sophomore said. Although she said she has never seriously considered plastic surgery, Persin also said she is not completely against it. "If I thought that I needed something I wouldn't be immediately opposed to it," she added.

But other students disagree with the practice of cosmetic surgery.

"People need to stop listening to the media about what they should look like," LSA junior Judi Kwon said. "Look around at what the real people look like, not what magazines portray."

David Griffenhagen, chief administrative officer of the Michigan-based Center for Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, said people undergo cosmetic procedures to improve their appearances while reconstructive surgery can include this purpose as well as medical reasons.

"In terms of cosmetic procedures, the most popular (among youths) are rhinoplasty, liposuction, breast augmentation and breast reduction. The highest volume of procedures for this group is mole removal, which is a reconstructive procedure," Griffenhagen said.

The costs of plastic surgery can also influence a person's decision to a undergo cosmetic operation. Because reconstructive surgery is often done to improve a patient's health, insurance will generally cover the costs. But procedures that are strictly cosmetic are not covered by insurance.

The ASPS reported in 2000 that the average cost of breast augmentation was $3,116, nose reshaping was $2,852 and liposuction was $1,985.

"I think affordability is probably a big aspect," Kwon said. She added that some people are willing to work and save their money for an extended period of time in order to undergo a cosmetic procedure.

Regardless of the costs, the practice of cosmetic surgery on teens does appear to be growing. Abby Slovin, an LSA freshman, said several people at Plainview High School in Long Island underwent these types of procedures.

"It's pretty much the same on all of Long Island," Slovin said. She heard many stories of parents giving their children cosmetic surgery for special events such as graduation and birthdays.

"It's kind of trendy," she added.