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How Young Is Too Young for Plastic Surgery?

Posted on May 30, 2015 by - Plastic Surgery

Age limits for plastic surgery

Most children and teenagers are too young for plastic surgery. They do not have the physical or psychological maturity to voluntarily undergo an operation that alters their features in a significant way.

However, there are exceptions, and if you think your child or teen is one of them, it is a good idea to discuss this with a qualified plastic surgeon. For example, exceptions can be made when a child or teen has a physical deformity or disfigurement that causes substantial discomfort. To be clear, plastic surgery in that scenario would more likely be classified as a reconstructive procedure than a cosmetic surgery.

As Dr. Carlos Chacon of Divino Plastic Surgery will explain, there are other cosmetic procedures, like otoplasty and rhinoplasty, that may be appropriate for certain younger patients.

Physical Maturity Matters

It is unwise to operate on areas of the body that are still developing. Children and teens may “grow into” their bodies and the proportion of their features and figure can improve drastically.

For example, a teenage girl that complains of small breasts may experience a natural growth spurt when she is 18 or 19, and her breasts may grow to “fit” the rest of her body. A young boy with an oversized nose may find that his facial features balance out his nose over time. Going through a growth spurt may naturally eliminate the need for plastic surgery over time.

Understand that different features mature at different times. The ears are typically the first feature to mature. Most children’s ears stop growing around the age of four, which is why otoplasty (a.k.a., ear reshaping surgery) is the only cosmetic procedure advisable for young children.

The nose is the next feature that stops growing. This generally happens during the teenage years (around 13-14 for girls and 16-17 for boys). Rhinoplasty may be considered at that time to straighten the bridge of the nose, remove a bump, refine the tip or revise a breathing problem in the nasal passages.

Breasts may not stop growing until a young woman reaches her 20s. Breast augmentation is different from other plastic surgery procedures because breast implants are medical devices subject to federal regulations. Years ago, the FDA set forth specific age limits for breast implants. Saline implants are approved for use in women over the age of 18, and silicone gel implants in women over the age of 22. Saline and silicone implants may be used for breast reconstruction purposes in women of any age.

Additional Psychological Considerations

In addition to physical maturity, psychological maturity is an important consideration. Children and teens that cannot follow instructions from a nurse or doctor, or do not have the discipline to handle the realities of recovery (e.g., temporary discomfort, limited range of motion) are too young for surgery. Teenagers that display erratic behavior or suffer from depression or similar mental illness are not suitable candidates, either.

If your child or teen has requested a nose job or breast implants, and you would like the opinion of a professional, please schedule a consultation with Dr. Chacon today. To make an appointment, contact Divino Plastic Surgery at (858) 633-7546.