Kylie Jenner shares her breast augmentation journey: Implications for younger audiences and choosing to reverse a procedure
Beauty mogul and reality TV star Kylie Jenner recently shared on "The Kardashians" that she had undergone breast augmentation at the age of 19 and that she also has some regrets about it. This candor on Jenner's part invites a deeper discussion about the broader implications of her journey and how young individuals can make informed decisions regarding plastic surgery.
In light of this event, we spoke with ASPS President-Elect Steven Williams, MD, and ASPS Member Surgeons Ashley Amalfi, MD, and Josef Hadeed, MD, FACS, about the celebrity influence and the importance of transparency in plastic surgery.
The rising trend: Younger patients and cosmetic surgeries
The data suggests that the demographics of cosmetic patients are growing younger each year. All three doctors attribute this to increased access to information about such procedures on the internet and social media.
Hadeed acknowledged this rising trend, attributing it to the glamor of plastic surgery on social media, leading to unrealistic expectations.
"I think we're starting to see younger patients coming into the office because they want to look a certain way based on something they've seen online," said Hadeed. "And they may not necessarily be doing it for the right reasons."
This emphasizes the need for thoughtful dialogue about the motivations behind these decisions.
And while the age of 'influencer culture' and 'body goals' undoubtedly plays a part in people seeking plastic surgery, Amalfi explained that patients are also much better-informed than they were a decade ago due to social media.
"We are definitely seeing trends toward younger patients being interested in cosmetic surgery – and even for less invasive procedures like fillers and Botox – at a younger age," said Amalfi. "I do think that in most cases, it's actually quite tasteful, and it's really the result of access to information. They are doing very small things that complement their look – they don't necessarily change the way they look that drastically."
The desire to align inner identity with outer appearance isn't a new concept, but it has certainly taken on a whole new dimension with the rise of social media platforms.
Celebrity influence and the pressure of transparency
Social media's power is evident in the demand and perception of plastic surgery. For instance, Kylie Jenner's lip injections led to a surge in requests for "Kylie Jenner lips" back in the mid-2010s, and this phenomenon points to the influence that celebrities wield over societal beauty standards.
However, there are arguably some positive aspects of this phenomenon. For instance, there's a more open discussion surrounding experiences with plastic surgery.
"In modern times, there's much more acceptance of discussing seeking plastic surgery to increase that harmony between the external and the internal," said Williams.
This acceptance and transparency can be seen as a catalyst for healthier discussions about body image and self-esteem. With that in mind, all three doctors agree that celebrities have no obligation to disclose their cosmetic procedures to the public.
"Nobody has to say anything about what they've done," said Hadeed. "I feel that however comfortable that person feels to disclose whether or not they've had anything done is up to them. But I always think it's beneficial when somebody is transparent about it."
Transparency among celebrities and influencers is also beneficial because it can prevent the potential for misinformation. Amalfi recognizes the power celebrities hold and the potential misinformation they can spread, noting that the misleading portrayal of how they achieved their looks can set unrealistic expectations for the public.
Understanding and managing postoperative changes
One aspect often not openly discussed is the idea of "postoperative regret." However, Amalfi argued that the term "regret" might not necessarily be an accurate description of what patients experience after surgery.
"Honestly, it is not something I've actually ever seen, but there are patients who wish things were different," said Amalfi. "'I wish my breasts were bigger or smaller' or 'I wish this little part was a little bit different,' and as a plastic surgeon, we discuss what is within reason and realistic as an expectation."
Amalfi related this to Jenner's recent conversation about her breast implants.
"She didn't put her implants in and then take them out three weeks later because she hated them – she had them for years," said Amalfi, emphasizing that such changes should not be interpreted as regret but rather as an evolution of self and body image.
Similarly, Hadeed offered a reassuring note on the idea of postoperative regret, emphasizing the significance of extensive pre-surgical evaluations and proper patient education.
"Fortunately, I haven't personally encountered any instances where somebody had regret post-procedure," said Hadeed, attributing this to thorough patient evaluation before any surgery.
Hadeed advises surgeons to look for any red flags that may indicate a patient isn't ready or isn't choosing the procedure for the right reasons.
"Every once in a while, maybe once or twice a year, we do have somebody coming into the office with very unrealistic expectations," said Hadeed. "For example, if they say, 'My spouse has been mentioning for the past however many years that they think I would look better if I had it done' or 'I really like the way that this influencer looks, I like how her waist is this tiny, I want my waist to look like that.'"
Williams emphasized this sentiment, pointing out that "the psychological effects of having plastic surgery are beneficial. But the reverse is if somebody chooses to have plastic surgery because they felt pressured into getting it, then people may regret having procedures done."
His observations underscore the importance of mental wellbeing in discussions about plastic surgery.
Preoperative counseling and clear motives
When it comes to ensuring satisfaction post-operation, all three surgeons highlighted the need for extensive preoperative counseling and consultations. The importance of this cannot be overstated, especially considering the implications of regret that Jenner's story brings to light.
Williams pointed out the importance of understanding the motivations behind a patient's decision to undergo a procedure.
"You want to make sure that number one, they have a general maturity that they understand the risks of plastic surgery," said Williams. "Sometimes these ideals of perfection that they're seeking on social media aren't attainable, and people will send us a picture of someone else and say, 'I want to look like this.' It's like, that person doesn't look like this because there are 20 filters on top of it."
Hadeed mentioned the signs that a patient might not be ready for a procedure, like feeling pressured or wanting to look like a specific influencer. However, he also noted the 'green flags' for proceeding with a procedure, such as the desire to improve oneself post-childbearing or the understanding that improvement, not perfection, is the goal.
Amalfi emphasized being upfront about your motivations, your goals and your expectations.
"In an Instagram post, we asked 20 patients, 'Why did you have your breast surgery?'" said Amalfi. "Every single patient said, 'I did it for me.'"
The end goal is the patient's happiness, not conforming to societal standards or pleasing others. Plastic surgery should be a deeply personal decision, undertaken for oneself and not under the pressure of external influences, be it societal standards, celebrity trends or the need to fit in.
To find a qualified plastic surgeon for any cosmetic or reconstructive procedure, consult a member of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons. All ASPS members are board certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery, have completed an accredited plastic surgery training program, practice in accredited facilities and follow strict standards of safety and ethics. Find an ASPS member in your area.