Kids and plastic surgery: Is it ever acceptable?

I have seen many articles lately about children and plastic surgery.  Many have discussed whether it is acceptable in certain situations, like when children are bullied or teased because of their looks.  Another article mentioned parents giving plastic surgery to their kids prior to the prom to “look their best.”  It may be disturbing to think that people so young are permanently altering their appearance, often to please others or build their fragile self confidence, but is there a time when you would find it acceptable?  I had a friend in elementary and junior high with a prominent nose.  She endured some teasing, and was somewhat withdrawn because of it.  I lost track of her for a few years, then saw her again in high school. She had clearly had a rhinoplasty in the interim and was strikingly beautiful.  The most dramatic change was in her attitude.  She was no longer shy and withdrawn, but outgoing and confident (in fact she was now out of my league and wouldn’t talk to me :)).  I had another experience with a friend and prominent ears. He underwent surgery while in elementary school and seemed more outgoing afterward.

Teen before and after nose job

Image from RealSelf.com, article by Melissa Rudy

Of course there is a flip side: youth who want to look a certain way for a variety of complicated reasons turning to surgery to make it happen.  The psychology of this can’t be generalized, but in many cases, children want to please those around them and view their looks as something they can control and manipulate (spoiler alert: this doesn’t change when we reach adulthood).  Unfortunately, the decision to have surgery has permanent lasting effects and possible complications.  Counseling a patient is hard enough when they are an educated adult.  A teen may not fully understand the risks of surgery.  Parents would need to give their consent, but they also may be blinded by a desire to have their child fit in, or make them happy.  A recent poll of readers on RealSelf.com showed that up to a quarter of parents felt it was okay for children to have nose or ear surgery if they were being bullied.  Around than 10% felt it was okay to have breast reduction or double eyelid surgery (conversion of Asian eyelid to a Western appearing eyelid).  Only about 3% felt breast implants would be appropriate for a child.

I don’t claim to have the answer as to when or if elective cosmetic surgery is appropriate for children.  I do feel it is important to weigh all the possible angles before allowing your child to make such a permanent change to their appearance.