Most of the discussion about plastic surgery centers around adults who are choosing to change a feature of their appearance which holds them back. However, we tend to forget that certain procedures can offer the same benefit to teenagers and even children as well. Heartbreaking as it may be, children who are seen as “different” due to an aspect of their appearance are often bullied or ostracized, which can have an impact on them socially and emotionally throughout the rest of their lives. While each plastic surgery has certain recommendations for a patient’s minimum age, three procedures are particularly successful and common for those under the age of 18: ear surgery, nose surgery, and breast reduction.
Most of us give little or no thought to our ears, but for people whose ears have a more unique shape (whether they’re too large, too small, or face forward so they appear to protrude too far from the head), they can be a serious source of distress. Because the ears reach nearly their full adult size rather early in life, cosmetic ear surgery can often be performed on children as young as five years old, depending on their unique developmental level. In fact, children can be the ideal candidates for this surgery because the cartilage (which gives the ear its shape) is softer and more easily molded. The cartilage hardens with age, but adult patients also achieve fantastic results. Ear surgery is typically performed through a small incision in the back of the ear, where I can access and adjust the cartilage while leaving a subtle and easily concealed scar.
Nose Surgery (Rhinoplasty)
As with the ears, a person’s nose shape becomes evident rather early in life. Even small differences in the slope, size, or angle of a nose can make a powerful difference in overall facial balance, so many patients know by their early teens that they are unhappy with their nose’s appearance. Rhinoplasty can generally be performed when the nose has reached its mature structure: usually around age 16 or 17. Depending on the precise changes I will need to make, nose surgery incisions are often limited to the inside of the nostrils or the small area of tissue that separates the nostrils, leaving patients with little or no visible scarring.
Breast Reduction and Male Breast Reduction
Many girls and women seek breast reduction not only because they are unhappy with the appearance of their breasts but also because the size of their breasts are causing them physical discomfort, like back pain, neck pain, or bra-related issues. I generally advise patients to wait until their breasts have finished growing so that the results will be long-lasting, and this usually occurs around age 18. Keep in mind, however, that weight fluctuations, pregnancy, and breastfeeding may all change the size and shape of your breasts in the future, so you may eventually feel the need for a follow-up surgery in order to return to your original results.
While it is not among the top three cosmetic surgeries for patients 18 and younger, male breast reduction is a commonly performed procedure for young men and teenagers. Excess breast tissue (called gynecomastia) can develop in a male due to genetics, hormonal changes, weight gain, and the use of certain medications or drugs. This can often be corrected using primarily liposuction as well as precise breast tissue removal, but without removing any skin so that scarring is minimal.
Whether the patient is a child, a teenager, or an adult, the choice to have aesthetic surgery is typically not about vanity but about relieving a burden of self-consciousness. If you would like to discuss whether you or your child is a candidate for cosmetic or reconstructive plastic surgery, schedule a consultation with me, Dr. Franklyn Elliott. Or, for more helpful plastic surgery tips and information, join me on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+.