The Kylie Jenner Question: Should teenagers be having cosmetic enhancement procedures?

Posted on the 14 May 2015 at 11:48

Since 2014 the media and public from across the globe have speculated the infamous new pout of celebrity teen Kylie Jenner. In this time Jenner has vehemently denied undergoing any surgery claiming the allegations deeply offended her purely because the proof was in her age: “These plastic surgery rumours are kinda insulting…Just in case anyone forgot I’m 16”.

Jenner shrugged off media speculation claiming that the apparent sudden change in her appearance was down to the public’s inability to adapt to her simply growing up. However, just last week Jenner admitted to having temporary fillers, revealing that her natural lips were a personal insecurity of hers.

The admission has sparked outcry among cosmetic medical practitioners who have generally deemed the teen being too young for such a procedure. What are the implications of undergoing this temporary surgery as a teenager? Are these valid health concerns or is society’s ethical perception of elective surgery simply outdated?

Teenage Dream
Jenner opted for ‘temporary’ fillers which several leading surgeons have speculated as being collagen or hylaronic acid; substances which dissolve after a number of months. In theory, the lips should return to a size closer to their natural state. The fact that Jenner underwent a temporary fix begs the question about the necessity of the surgery. Were her lips a serious concern that affected her confidence and hence how she conducted herself on a day-today basis, or was she just succumbing to the pressures of teenage growing pains?

Our adolescent years are some of the most difficult. As we grow into our rapidly changing bodies, we enter an awkward phase of endless confidence issues centred around our appearance, which leads many teens to consider surgical procedures as a means of tackling these newfound insecurities.

Speaking to the Huffington Post, Dr. Dennis Wolf at The Private Clinic says: “I would only consider seeing them {a minor} if the treatment they were seeking was for reasons beyond just pure aesthetics.”

Most leading surgeons are in agreement that prospective patients under the age of 18 are not of sound age to make an informed, balanced decision about an enhancement.

The influence of high profile celebrities adds the pressure of aspirational body ideals to an already vulnerable age group. For this reason, most reputable medical professionals across the globe will not perform cosmetic enhancements on under 18s simply because they want to look like a celebrity idol.

Many of us look back to our teenage years and wince at some of our clothing choices, maintaining to the younger generation that an eccentric style was on trend at that time. As we mature, most of us concede to the fact that some of our style decisions were indeed questionable, but fortunately our only reminders are pictures and memories and not lasting decisions about our appearance.

This lack of maturity is a key driver in discouraging young people from undergoing cosmetic surgery so early on. Teenagers are susceptible to all kinds of trends, as seen in the aptly named #KylieJennerChallenge whereby children sucked on shot glasses to create a bruised and swollen pout, something which resulted in hundreds of hospital admissions.

Whereas bad make-up choices can be rubbed off with a face wipe, an extreme enhancement is more difficult to correct and in some instances cannot always be reversed. Whilst getting lip fillers carries minimal complications, it is a decision that should be carefully considered and actioned post-adolescence.

The Experts: health and ethics
There has been a big divide in opinion across the Atlantic amongst medical professionals on the question of Jenner’s age and health implications. In both the UK and US teens as young as 16 can undergo cosmetic surgery with parental consent, though many clinics impose their own older age limits.

In an interview with Hollywood Life, Dr. Bruce Katz of the highly acclaimed Juva Skin Centre in New York states that the composition of hyaluronic acid, the most common dermal filler, means the results are only ever short-term: “We can always use an enzyme to reverse it immediately”.

Conversely, practitioners in the UK have strongly criticised the procedure on both medical and ethical grounds. Most credible surgeons maintain that at 17 the body is still developing and receiving regular lip injections at such a young age can risk lasting damage to the lip line. Dr Dennis Wolf at The Private Clinic concurs: “At this age {17} the face is likely to still be changing - I have a policy that I don’t treat anyone under the age of 21.”

There have been several calls to increase the legal age for cosmetic enhancements to 21, an idea that has generated support from leading surgeons and celebrity ex-patients alike. Earlier this year, Katie Price vowed that if she were elected as Prime Minister, her first task would be addressing the required age for cosmetic surgery. Price is renowned for undergoing several cosmetic procedures which forms the basis of her argument: “That may be surprising to many people, but it is something I passionately believe in. Cosmetic Surgery carries risks and they are risks you are better equipped to understand at 21.”

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