The idea of cosmetic surgery for children (classed as anyone under 18 years of age) is shocking to many people. They argue that it is not ethical, or moral, or safe. And there certainly are valid arguments on all sides. Let us take, for a moment, a detached view of some of the reasons why a young Australian may seek cosmetic surgery.
It must be noted that some countries have banned certain types of cosmetic surgery outright for children under 18 years of age. Germany foremost among them, has banned all elective beauty operations for minors without justifiable medical grounds. One politician is quoted as saying “Youth protection is also about protecting young people from the consequences of a wrong-headed beauty craze.” And it is difficult to argue with this logic.
Many Australian doctors began pushing for a ban on cosmetic surgery for minors around the same time as Germany enacted the new laws in 2013. The Cosmetic Physicians Society of Australasia proposed that stricter, government-controlled guidelines ought to be put in place to ban procedures such as liposuction or lip augmentation on teenagers. Queensland currently has similar laws banning such procedures without medical grounds.
And who is to say these doctors are wrong? There is plenty of disturbing trends or one-off oddities. Such as cosmetic surgery games aimed at three year olds, or the Korean mother who sought Asian Eyelid surgery to make her seven year old son look more Caucasian. Anyone remember the Kylie Jenner challenge? There are plenty of bad reasons for under-18s to get cosmetic surgery. What about good reasons?
Imagine you are a young teenager, perhaps 17 years old, and you have developed varicose veins. As a young person, still developing and gaining in maturity, this kind of aesthetic damage to your body and the ridicule, shame and extreme blow to self-esteem can have a tremendous impact on your developing mind.
Or what about Liposuction to help give a teenager a boost to their confidence? Yes, diet and exercise should come first, no sane surgeon would disagree. But there are times when a boost to self-esteem can help kick-start that lifestyle change required to continue losing weight. It is difficult to contend with the kind of depression that comes with such a situation. When so young, such problems can be absolutely debilitating and may take years to overcome.
There can be very real effects from minor cosmetic issues. Problems that can be fixed with a simple and safe procedure. Take, for example, a child who has breathing or other functional problems. The kind that can most definitely lead to them being teased and bullied. The kind of issue that can cause a child to retreat into themselves and hide away for fear of being ridiculed. What if the child had a significant nasal bony or cartilage deformity? If identified early in their development, a minor surgery can prevent serious issues and allow the nose to grow as it should.
If it was suggested that a minor Rhinoplasty could solve this issue and restore the child’s confidence, would it be fair to not make such an option available? Dr Ha’s personal perspective is that “when performed for the right reasons, having a successful cosmetic rhinoplasty can have profound positive benefits to the child’s or young adults confidence and mental state.”
What of Breast Reduction Surgery? Some teenage girls develop very large breasts at an early age and the effects of this development can be not just embarrassment or unwanted attention, but also shoulder pain, back pain and breathing difficulty. There is also Breast Asymmetry Correction, which is the adjustment required if one breast is vastly different in size or shape. Such a development in a young girl can have debilitating effects on their self-esteem and confidence.
There are arguments for and against allowing cosmetic surgeries for under-18’s. The difficult thing behind putting a blanket ban or allowing any and all cosmetic surgeries is that it is not so black-and-white. Rather, any kind of surgery, be it minor or major, cosmetic or medical, is a very serious experience. One that should be approached with all due understanding and consideration.
Many teenagers talk of or wish for cosmetic surgery for this minor flaw or that minor improvement. And they may get over such a wish in due time. Then there are others for whom cosmetic surgery can have positive life-long results. In reality, it is the kind of decision that should be made on a case-by-case basis. And what may be right for one, may be wrong for another.
If you think this is something that would help your child, find a cosmetic surgeon by searching for a cosmetic surgeon on doctors.com.au or speak with your GP – you can also find a local GP by using doctors.com.au.