Peer pressure and anxiety of paling in comparison on social media pushes ever more adolescents to ask for cosmetic treatments, also of a surgical nature. But is it right to say yes? 

One of the hardest challenges for a dermatologist is an appointment with an adolescent. Almost invariably, and rightly so, accompanied by at least one parent, adolescents often act out ill-disguised scenes of rebellion or dissatisfaction which range from the “I’m here but not of my own free will” (typical of male adolescents with acne) to crying fits (cue girls with hair loss or cellulite) to bickering between parent and child.

In these cases, the doctor cannot and should not behave as the embarrassed witness, but he/she should attempt to unravel these complex emotional bundles. Point blank, especially when meeting patients for the first time, doctors are cast in the arduous role of undoing these sensitive relational knots, subsequently opening a channel of communication and finally setting up the correct therapeutic approach.

The sore point: when a teenager asks for a “touch up”.

It is usually adolescents who are dissatisfied with their body image and are inspired by the beauty canons of their idols and of the web to ask for cosmetic surgery. They are often accompanied by a parent who, almost invariably, has also in his/her time undergone similar surgical treatments. One must explain to these parents that a surgical treatment, or even a mere cosmetic prescription, on a minor has nothing to do result-wise with what an adult would obtain. In fact, in this time of physical growth, the body and all its metabolic, immune, endocrine and structural components must function as a perfectly balanced, harmonized machine.

If for example a teenage girl undergoes a breast augmentation (an increasingly requested procedure), the breast implants could affect the correct development of the breast’s milk ducts, resulting in issues when it comes to breastfeeding later on. Or if the request is fillers, especially when in copious quantities to increase the volume of the lips or cheekbones, the mere presence of the filler in the skin could devitalize the tissue and cause it to age prematurely.

And what about prescribing cosmetic products?

Here, too, one must act with caution, because prescribing cosmetic products has its own risks. Many products, for example lipstick, contain chemical substances which act as endocrine disruptors, which can easily lead to hormonal imbalances when swallowed, especially at such a tender age.

When adolescents ask for cosmetic surgery or plastic surgery, sometimes even with the nod of approval of a complacent parent, I believe one should act firmly and less psychologically. The law is clear regarding surgery on minors for solely aesthetic purposes. If a girl wants to have her breasts, waist, legs or lips done, this is simply not allowed.

But when it comes to correcting a blemish which could cause psychological discomfort, this can be done as long as an assessment for the optimal age for treatment is conducted. The right timing depends on the biological and psychological maturity of the individual and on his/her general health. In any case, any procedure requires a written informed consent from both parents, and it is the doctor’s direct responsibility to obtain it.

Article of  Dr Adele Sparavigna for https://4me.styl