American Society of Plastic Surgeons
For Medical Professionals

How young is too young for plastic surgery?

how young is too young for plastic surgery?

Plastic surgery procedures can help people of any age improve their body image and achieve their ideal aesthetic. For example, pediatric plastic surgery can repair physical conditions that may impact the quality of life of infants or children, like a cleft palate or a large facial birthmark. But when it comes to elective plastic surgery procedures, how young is too young for plastic surgery?

When dealing with something as personal as physical appearance, it is essential to work with a plastic surgeon who is board certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery. An experienced plastic surgeon with the proper education and background can help you reach your desired results once it is developmentally appropriate for you to undertake your surgery.

Legal age for electing plastic surgery

In the United States, minors under the age of eighteen cannot obtain plastic surgery without parental consent. Depending on the state of residence, some procedures may be restricted to 21 years of age. For example, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration prohibits the use of silicone breast implants in breast augmentation procedures for those under the age of 22.

Although minors may legally be able to obtain plastic surgery with parental consent, some plastic surgeons may choose to defer surgical procedures until the patient reaches a certain age. For instance, breast augmentation is not recommended by ASPS until patients are 18 or older, and the FDA considers breast implants for minors to be an off-label use. As such, some plastic surgeons may wait to perform a requested breast augmentation until the patient is over eighteen.

General considerations

To get the best results, it is best to hold off on elective plastic surgery procedures until the body is fully developed. Some areas of the body, such as the breasts, may not be finished growing until individuals are in their twenties. If a plastic surgery procedure is performed too early, the long-term results may not be satisfactory to the patient.

Before scheduling plastic surgery, patients should consider the underlying motives behind their desire for a specific procedure. If their body type is limiting activity or causing pain, such as with large breasts or a deviated septum, then surgery may be indicated to help them feel more comfortable.

However, if a patient is considering surgery because of requests by a family member or significant other to create an unrealistic body image or in place of a healthy lifestyle, then it may not be the right type of procedure for them at this time. For example, minor patients desiring liposuction or other body contouring procedures because of insecurities may be better served by obtaining mental health treatment to address self-esteem issues.

That said, there are circumstances when waiting until you are older is not always the best plan. For example, laser skin resurfacing is most impactful when it is performed before serious skin damage occurs. Those who wait until they are in their 60s or 70s for such a procedure may not achieve the aesthetic outcomes they desire.

Procedure-specific considerations

Determining the right age for plastic surgery depends on the individual patient as well as the procedure being performed, as some elective procedures are safer for minors than others.

For example, rhinoplasty, or a nose job, can typically be performed safely on minors once the facial bones have fully developed. Females' facial bones stop growing between ages fourteen and fifteen, while males' facial bones are fully developed by age sixteen or seventeen. Although the patient's mental health and motivations for surgery are still a consideration, rhinoplasties are generally safe for minors.

Breast reduction surgery to reduce the size of the female or male breast can safely be performed between ages fifteen and eighteen. Although the breasts may not be fully developed in all individuals by this age, this is less of a consideration for patients undergoing breast reduction. If individuals' breasts continue to grow after a breast reduction surgery, an additional procedure may be required in the future to help the patient reach their desired image.

Corrective ear surgery, called otoplasty, is sometimes performed on children to reconstruct the shape of the ear. Because the ears are fully developed in children by age five, otoplasty can safely be performed on young children.

As discussed above, breast augmentation procedures are not recommended for minor patients until the breasts have stopped developing. If a breast augmentation is performed while the breasts are still growing, the patient may eventually develop breasts that are much larger than desired.

Furthermore, for patients who are planning to become pregnant or breastfeed a child in the future, the associated physical and hormonal changes may influence their breast development. Waiting to have a breast augmentation until one has determined their family planning goals may help patients achieve optimal results from the procedure.

The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons.


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