How Young Is Too Young To Get Cosmetic Procedures?
Yesterday, Kylie Jenner admitted in a Keeping Up With The Kardashians clip that she gets temporary lip fillers to achieve her highly sought-after pout. While we totally understand the pressure of growing up under the scrutiny of the public eye (heck, just being a regular teenager is hard enough), we couldn't help but be a bit concerned about Kylie getting cosmetic enhancements at just 17 years old–especially since she admitted it stems from insecurity.
Her revelation had us raising questions about lip filler age requirements and whether or not teenagers are psychologically equipped to make these types of decisions—not to mention the influence it has on her enormous fan following. In the months leading up to her announcement, teens around the world did just about anything to try and recreate her look using makeup, lip plumping devices and, sometimes, even plastic bottles. So, we went ahead and did some research by asking experts all the tough questions about cosmetic augmentation—which, it's important to add, is different from plastic surgery–so you don't have to.
First up: board-certified plastic surgeon Eugene K. Kim, M.D., who is based in Beverly Hills. He said the most common lip fillers only last 6-9 months and are made of hyaluronic acid, which is a natural substance found in the body. "It's a very quick, minimally-invasive procedure that takes 10-20 minutes. The lips are anesthetized with a topical cream or injection and the filler is added to the lips using a syringe and needle."
The upside to temporary lip fillers is that they have very few side effects, most of which are short-term like bruising, swelling, or less commonly, allergic reactions, infection and raised bumps known as granulomas. He said the most common complaint is how short they last–considering they cost anywhere from $500 to $1000 per session–but if you're looking for a temporary fix, it's a great option. "The biggest advantage of using a hyaluronic acid for fillers is that the treatment is reversible. If you're unhappy with the appearance, a medication called hyaluronidase can be injected to dissolve the filler that was injected and the lips will return to their normal appearance."
But when it comes to underage clients wanting lip injections, like Kylie, is there any special protocol? "When young patients come into my office for lip augmentation, I first like to have a conversation with them to see if they're mature enough to understand the treatment and make sure they're doing it for the right reasons," said Kim. "The FDA does not approve the use of fillers in patients who are under the age of 21, but it can still be used as an 'off-label' treatment. If they're under the age of 18, patients would require the consent of their parent to have the procedure done."
He also said there's no additional risks associated with a treatment for teens, but it can be costly to maintain the look when starting at an early age since the filler is temporary. But even though young people may be physically ready for plastic surgery, are they mentally capable of making these decisions—and should they?
Dr. Jerry Weichman Ph.D., a licensed psychologist and adolescent specialist who wrote the book How To Deal for teens, thinks 17 is too young to start altering your appearance. "The majority of teens have not completed maturation yet physically, and your body will continue to change," he said. "Self-esteem is naturally low for the majority of teenagers at this stage of life, as well as issues with body image. In most cases, altering a part of your body does not change the lenses you use to look at yourself with. If you are hypercritical and looking at yourself with negative lenses you're going to find another part of your body that you are not happy with and are still going to feel insecure."
He also mentioned that a 17-year-old's brain isn't fully developed yet. "The adolescent brain continues to develop into the mid 20s. The last part of the brain to develop is the mylenation of the frontal lobe, which is responsible for impulse control, logic and rationale. Teens will have intermittent problems in these categories until they complete brain development."
In select cases, Weichman thinks cosmetic surgery could be beneficial to a young person, like if they have a true pronounced malformity. "In the majority of situations the problem isn't the part of the body, it's the individual's negative view of themselves. Individuals considering surgery should have to spend time with a therapist learning self-acceptance, how to focus on all of the positive aspects of both their body as well as their personality, and how to care less about how anyone sees them in life before altering their body."
Weichman said the most common mental health issues he sees in teenagers include stress, anxiety, depression, low self-esteem, body image issues, substance and family rational problems, and that all of those problems are quite normal at that age. "One of the greatest stressors for adolescents is social media," he said. "This generation is based on perception. They are constantly bombarded with selfies, pics, texts and posts many of which the individual took 30 pictures to find the perfect one to post."
So, where can we start on the journey to self-love and acceptance? "What is most important is how you see you. Train yourself not to care what anyone says, does, or thinks, especially about you. This is how you become a true trailblazer in life and the social aspects don't get to you. Focus on the positive aspects of not just your body but also your face, your personality, your special talents or the skill sets that you've been blessed with," Weichman said. "You and all that makes you you is awesome. If other people don't see you for who you are it's their loss not yours. Besides why would you try to fit in if you were born to stand out?"