We’ve all seen the infamous People magazine cover of Heidi Montag and to say that it’s a little unsettling , well, that would be a bit of an understatement. At just 23 years old, The Hills star that we love to hate and hate to love, underwent head to toe plastic surgery as a result of personal insecurity, Hollywood pressure and the desire to feel attractive. Neck liposuction, chin reduction, eyebrow lifts and breast augmentation were just several of the ten cosmetic procedures Montag had in just one day. Montag told People, “I am absolutely beyond obsessed.
Every starlet is getting surgery every other day to keep their looks up. They just don’t talk about it. I wanted to be honest.” But with Hollywood pressure aside, Montag isn’t the only young 20-something who is going under the knife in the name of beauty. According to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, the number of people choosing to get plastic surgery has tripled since 1992. Perhaps what is even more shocking is that the average age of patients interested in cosmetic or plastic surgery has nosedived from 34 to 17 years old.
Teens are increasingly turning to breast augmentation and liposuction so that they can achieve their “ideal” standard of beauty. In just 2007 alone, almost a quarter of a million cosmetic procedures were performed on patients under the age of 19. Take 18 year-old Kristen of River Edge, N.J. The New York Times reported that like many other young girls today growing up in a celebrity obsessed culture, Kristen was not happy with her appearance. When she began noticing her shapely curves at age 15, she was disappointed that her breasts did not change as well. “I didn’t feel like a woman,” said Kristen. So when high school graduation rolled around in May, instead of opening a sleek new MacBook from her parents or celebrating her diploma with a party with her friends, Kristen’s graduation gift came in the form of saline implants. You guessed it; Kristen’s big present from her parents was breast augmentation surgery. “I just wanted to look normal, and now I do,” said Kristen. It is difficult to pinpoint if what is more disturbing is the fact that Kristen’s parents’ idea of a graduation gift is getting their daughter new and improved breasts (especially when she is at an age where they are still developing), or the fact that Kristen is not alone in her feelings of insecurity.
Kristen’s story made me wonder, how many young girls would actually get plastic surgery if their parents let them?
Genevieve Fontaine, 23, is one of them. As a former athlete and gymnastics competitor, Fontaine had always felt self-conscious about the way her ears appeared to stick out. Currently a student at Eastern Connecticut State University, she decided to get otoplasty (her ears pinned back) when she was a sophomore in high school at age 15. Like many girls, Fontaine got the surgery because she felt “ugly.” But the main factor that led her to want surgery was when a boy who she had a crush on made fun on her. “He called me ‘Dumbo’ and told me to go fly home,” said Fontaine. “It bothered me so much because I considered him to be one of my close friends. I went home that day and told my mom I wanted the surgery.”
Fortunately, Fontaine had the support to undergo the surgery from both of her parents. “They just wanted me to be happy with how I looked,” said Fontaine. Following the operation, Fontaine’s ears were wrapped in gauze for about a week, while her stitches were removed two to three weeks after. But though the immediate recovery period after surgery may have been painful, Fontaine believes the final results made the surgery worth it. “I was tired of trying to hide my ears under my hair. I was happy I could [finally] wear it up and not have my ears stick out.” Though surgery proved to be successful for Fontaine, she encourages other girls to carefully weigh their reasons for getting plastic surgery. “Surgery is not cheap at all,” said Fontaine. “For me, getting my surgery was worth every penny, but that’s a personal decision and a factor that should be thought out carefully. It is also extremely painful. But in the end, you either like it, love it or don’t see a difference at all. For me, this was a life-changing surgery. To this day, I still consider myself grateful for having parents support me and pay for a surgery with no physical benefits.”
So why are so many girls are getting plastic surgery? To psychologist Ann Kearney-Cooke, the answer is simple. She tells the Washington Post that the reason why there has been such an increase in cosmetic surgery is because of the trends we see in everyday pop culture. From the models in Victoria’s Secret magazines to television shows like America’s Next Top Model , we are constantly because exposed to stick thin, large-breasted woman. But as Kearney-Cooke points out, these body types that we desire are “rarely achievable without surgery.” “When you’re a teenage girl, there’s this whole myth of transformation that’s very powerful: namely that cosmetic surgery can transform your looks and your life.”
The Risks As with any type of medical surgery, there will always be risks involved. In procedures where general anesthesia is involved, possible complications that can arise include blood clots, infection, brain damage, stroke or even death. Specifically concerning cosmetic surgery, asymmetry is a potential side effect girls must consider. In addition to severe asymmetries (which can require a second surgery), surgical errors can leave behind unwanted divots, dimples and irregularities. Even more seriously, surgeries can also lead to seroma, which is when fluid pools under the skin following procedures like liposuction and breast augmentation.
Is it worth it? Making the decision to get plastic surgery is not only a difficult decision, but it is also personal. Below are some questions you should ask yourself before considering getting plastic surgery:
- How long have I thought about this surgery?
- Why am I thinking about this surgery now?
- Are there other ways I can achieve the results I want?
- Am I expecting surgery to change my life as well as my appearance?
- Do I expect the surgery to improve my relationships?
- Am I getting cosmetic surgery to make myself happy or to please someone else?
- Can surgery really give me the look I want?
How young is TOO young? According to the New York Times, “even when surgery is clearly justifiable, there are issues of physical readiness.” From breasts to noses, certain body parts are still developing, indicating that having plastic surgery too soon can be a mistake. While Fontaine believes there should not be an age limit for getting surgeries like otoplasty, for other procedure such as breast augmentation, “there should absolutely be an age limit of at least 17 to 18 years old.” This is because girls need to “let their bodies fully mature and they would not be able to see the end result if they got the surgery.” Age limit or no age limit, plastic surgery for young girls is a sensitive and controversial topic.
Do you think there should be an age restricting girls from getting plastic surgery? What’s your take on going under the knife when you’re still in high school (or even still in college)? Tell HC what you think by sounding off in the Comments section!
Sources Genevieve Fontaine, Eastern Connecticut State University Smartplasticsurgery.com Psychologist Ann Kearney-Cooke, “For More Teenage Girls, Adult Plastic Surgery” by Sarah G. Boodman (The Washington Post) “How Young Is Too Young to Have A Nose Job And Breast Implants?” by Mary Duenwald (The New York Times) The American Society of Plastic Surgeons