How Young is too Young for Plastic Surgery?

Posted August 17, 2013 in Home, Patient Safety

Something I love about Plastic Surgery is the tremendous amount of variety. Patients come in all shapes and sizes, and the goals for each procedure are individualized. For similar procedures, each patient’s experience is unique. Plastic surgeons treat every part of the body, from head to toe, and every generation from birth to old age. Which brings us to today’s topic.

I hear Botox can prevent wrinkles.

I hear Botox can prevent wrinkles.

How Young is too Young for Plastic Surgery?

Every week there is another article about a young Hollywood starlet seen exiting her Beverly Hills Plastic Surgeon’s office. It’s easy to find recent postings from Radar Online and past postings from a much younger TMZ. But is there an age limit on Plastic Surgery?

Procedures by the Decade

No matter how strong your opinion, it’s important to have perspective. Firstly, how does the number of plastic surgery procedures breakdown by age? What plastic surgery procedures are performed? Here are the numbers.

Plastic Surgery Age 13-19

All patients need to be 18 years of age in order to consent for a medical procedure. Younger patients require the permission of their guardian, who must sign the consent forms before the procedure. Teenaged Plastic Surgery Patients account for 5% of all the cosmetic surgeries performed, and just 2% of minimally-invasive procedures.

Four procedures account for the majority of all teen plastic surgery. 50% were to reshape the nose (Rhinoplasty), 25% were to reduce Gynecomastia (over development of the male breasts), and Breast Augmentation and Otoplasty accounted for about 10% each. While breast augmentation should be delayed until the breast growth has plateaued, in this age group most breast augmentation is performed for congenital breast deformities.

The most frequently performed minimally-invasive procedure are laser hair removal (45%), laser skin resurfacing (16%) and laser treatment of leg veins (13%). That’s a lot of lasering of our teens.

Plastic Surgery Age 20-29

The body changes significantly by the time we reach our twenties, and so does 20-something plastic surgery. Post adolescence and child bearing have a major impact on both the frequency and types of cosmetic surgery performed. While rhinoplasty remains high on the list, Breast Augmentation now leads as the most popular cosmetic plastic surgery procedure. Plastic surgery in the 20-29 age group represents 16% of all cosmetic surgery and 4% of all minimally-invasive procedures.

The top five cosmetic surgical procedures performed in the third decade of life are: Breast Augmentation (Augmentation Mammaplasty), Nose reshaping (Rhinoplasty), Liposuction, Breast Lift, and Tummy Tuck, representing 87% of the plastic surgery performed in this age group (34%, 31%, 13%, 5% and 4%, respectively).

The most frequently performed non-invasive procedures are laser hair removal, botulinum toxin (Botox, Dysport & Xeomin), microdermabrasion, skin fillers (Restylane, Juvederm, Perlane, Radiesse, Sculptra) and laser vein treatments. These procedures represent 89% of all the minimally-invasive procedures performed (43%, 17%, 14%, 10% and 5%, respectively)

So When is Too Young?

The appropriate age for plastic surgery depends on both the person and the procedure. The most important single criteria needed for determining if a patient is old enough for plastic surgery is maturity. Maturity of the body for procedures like rhinoplasty and breast augmentation, and the emotional maturity necessary to handle the decision, the surgery and recovery are equally important.

The best age will also vary by the type of procedure. As you might expect, statistics on middle age plastic surgery include procedures like the Face Lift, which is not seen in the younger age groups. A Board Certified Plastic Surgeon will evaluate both the procedure and the patient to be certain they are a good match before proceeding. The safety and predictability of the results are paramount.

It is tempting to provide dogmatic rules, but the thing I love about Plastic Surgery, the variety, makes the task very difficult, and there are exceptions to even the most sound guidance.

For example, it is a good rule that Breast Augmentation should not be performed before age 18. Breast implants are approved for cosmetic use after age 18 for saline and age 22 for silicone gel breast implants. (Why 22 you may ask? I can’t give you a good reason.) By waiting until age 18, most women will have given their breasts time to mature. By age 18 we have a good idea what to expect, and stable breast growth to provide a more predictable outcome. A certain amount of personal maturity is also present at 18.

However, there are exceptions to this rule at both ends. Some women have not matured by age 18, and their breast and emotional growth may not have occurred yet. In this case, delaying breast augmentation may provide a better result, or may become unnecessary. For women born without a normal breast, waiting until age 18 may be too late. Sometimes one breast develops, but the other does not, causing severe asymmetry at age 13-14. Plastic surgeons can intervene earlier in these cases, inserting a tissue expander into the undeveloped breast. This allows the breast to be expanded at a rate similar to the natural breast, allowing a woman to participate in her daily life without having to hide her asymmetry, not just by the pool, but in every day fashion.

The Question of Too Young

The question of too young is a very personal one. If you, or your child, are considering plastic surgery, getting all the information is important. General information is available on-line, but cannot substitute for an in-person consultation. While the questions can be hard to ask, Plastic Surgeons are trained to answer your questions, and provide you with personalized guidance. If you have questions about plastic surgery contact a Board Certified Plastic Surgeon near you, use the San Francisco Plastic Surgery Blog’s contact form or give my office a call at (925) 943-6353.