March 25, 2019
Here's a stat that's sure to raise a few brows: Nearly 21K Botox injections were performed on teens aged 13-19 in 2017, according to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPC). That troubling number is clearly on the rise, as the same demographic underwent 12K injections seven years prior in 2010. Now, plastic surgeons around the globe are imploring adults, specifically lawmakers, to be vigilant and take action on the issue.
In a story published in the U.K.'s Sunday Times magazine, Mark Henley, president of the British Association of Plastic, Reconstructive and Aesthetic Surgeons, said, "It is absolutely vital that regulators start to pay attention and put a stop to inappropriate celebrity endorsements or the targeting of vulnerable young people with self-esteem issues."
The story also quotes Nick Lowe, a dermatologist who pioneered the cosmetic procedure, as saying he's "very concerned." "Girls are having treatment at an age when they don’t need it—we’re seeing more body dysmorphic syndromes and a terrible loss of self-confidence," he said. "They’re convinced that looking like a celebrity is going to make them happier and more successful. It’s extremely sad and very worrying."
Celebrities aren't really the only problematic influence on teens. Social media, filters, and the desire to look a certain way in selfies are also fueling the problem. At the same time, a report from the Nuffield Council of Bioethics pointed out that game developers often target young people with inappropriate plastic surgery-themed apps. CNN recently reported on a particular category of these apps, which simulate cosmetic surgery. The objective of these games is for kids to perform liposuction, a nose job, lip fillers, or a double-eyelid surgery on a brightly colored cartoon character.
Alyson Schafer, a family counselor, author and parenting expert, told Parents.com that these apps send a dangerous message about body image. "These apps are saying that there is a beauty ideal, and if you’re outside of it, you need to modify yourself with an invasive approach," she said. "These apps send a horrid message."
While it's not exactly surprising that with so much inappropriate content and unrealistic visual media influencing kids and teens, more and more are interested in experimenting with cosmetic procedures like Botox from a very young age. Although Botox is approved for adults 18 and older in the U.S., there is no law prohibiting children under 18 from getting injections. Many doctors are opposed to treating people who are under 18, but others consider doing it on a case-by-case basis.
In the meantime, ASPC published a paper published in Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery last September called "When Is Teenage Plastic Surgery versus Cosmetic Surgery Okay? Reality versus Hype: A Systematic Review." In it, the authors, board-certified plastic surgeons Rod J. Rohrich, M.D. and Min-Jeong Cho, M.D. of the Dallas Plastic Surgery Institute, encouraged practitioners to understand teens' motives for undergoing procedures and do careful, extensive evaluations to make sure they're appropriate candidates for their desired procedure.
"Despite its growing popularity, guidelines and outcome studies for teenage plastic surgery have previously not existed," explains Dr. Cho. "Our research exposed a need for stringent guidelines, particularly when it comes to determining when a procedure is appropriate to perform and the recommended age for each procedure, so that's what we set out to deliver."
But it seems as though some experts, like those quoted by the Sunday Times, also want to see action from lawmakers. The Sun reports that the Nuffield Council of Bioethics has previously called for people under 18 to be banned from all cosmetic treatment. Here's hoping international growing concern could lead to an all-hands-on-deck effort to preempt inappropriate teen use of Botox in the U.S., as well.