Is Plastic Surgery the Answer for Bullied Teens?

canstockphoto8505672Consider this scenario: Your 13-year-old daughter comes home from school teary-eyed and declares she wants a nose job because classmates keep making fun of her. Dealing with this delicate situation isn’t easy. Is this good-natured teasing or mean-spirited bullying? Has this been going on for years, or did it just begin recently?

That’s just for starters. The next question for many parents is whether plastic surgery is the answer. Rhinoplasty was the third most common cosmetic surgery procedure performed last year in the U.S., according to statistics from the American Society of Plastic Surgeons®. In 2014, the ASPS reported more than 30,000 teenagers underwent rhinoplasty, about 15% of the total number of nose jobs performed that year.

And in recent years, teenagers getting plastic surgery such as nose jobs or ear pinning (otoplasty) after being bullied has been making headlines. One of the key questions in the case of rhinoplasty is whether 13 is too young.

“Because the nose undergoes significant changes with age, rhinoplasty is a relatively popular procedure for people of all ages,” Dr. Victor Chung, a rhinoplasty specialist near San Diego, says on his website. “However, keep in mind that the nose must be fully developed in order to proceed with surgery. For most people, this occurs by age 16 or so.”

Generally, girls mature earlier than boys and may be candidates for rhinoplasty earlier than 16. But it something that can really only be determined on a case-by-case basis.

Some observers question the idea of teens turning to plastic surgery as a response to being bullied about their appearances.

“What are we really saying here?” psychologist Vivian Diller asks in a Huffington Post column. “Should victims of teasing bear the brunt of their bullying peers by making the transformations needed to avoid being tormented? Do we encourage our children to seek ‘normalcy’ by going under the knife to achieve culturally deemed acceptable features, rather than teach kids to love themselves?”

Those sound like legitimate questions when posed hypothetically. But what if it’s your child being bullied? Do the answers seem less obvious? Some parents say they don’t see much difference between getting braces to straighten their children’s teeth and getting rhinoplasty.

And plastic surgeons will typically talk extensively with teens and their parents before agreeing to perform surgery. They want to make sure the teen is mature enough to handle it, is doing it for the correct reasons, and has realistic expectations about the results. For instance, thinking changing your nose will change your whole life and make you more popular is not being realistic.

There is also the question of cost, of course. Because rhinoplasty is considered a cosmetic procedure — even if it’s being done to counter bullying — it won’t be covered by health insurance. The price varies based on several factors, but the ASPS says the average cost of a nose job is about $4,700.

As you can see, there are no easy solutions to the scenario presented at the beginning. The best first step is to have an honest discussion with the teen and, if the choice is to move forward with cosmetic surgery, to find plastic surgeon who specializes in rhinoplasty and who is certified by The American Board of Plastic Surgery.

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