Free Essay About Cosmetic Plastic Surgery On Teens – A Worrying Trend
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One has to ask why there is a growing trend for increasing numbers of young teenage girls deciding that they need to undergo cosmetic plastic surgery procedures to improve their appearance. It is puzzling to say the least, particularly as there have been well-publicized instances of negative after-effects, which one might think would discourage other women even to consider plastic surgery as the way to improve their own appearance. A classic and perhaps notorious example in recent times was the case of the French-manufactured breast implants, containing an unsuitable (industrial grade) silicone filling. Many of those implants later ruptured, and as an outcome of the affair, the head of the French manufacturing company was sentenced to a four-year prison term. An estimated total of 300,000 women across 65 nations had those suspect implants inserted, many requiring later corrective surgery to remove and replace them (“Q&A: PIP breast implants health scare” 2013).
Whilst all surgery carries inherent risks, cosmetic plastic surgery appears from the evidence to carry disproportionately a greater degree of risk, yet many women seem to dismiss those risks, more so than would be the case for other types of surgery carried out for a genuine medical need. Edwina Rawson, a medical negligence specialist employed by a large firm of London solicitors, states “When things go wrong someone can end up disfigured or even dead” and added that “A facelift can lead to your eyes or mouth not opening and closing properly. I've seen patients whose lower eyelid isn't resting against the eyeball after they've had facial surgery” (Campbell 2011).
Having established that cosmetic surgery procedures such as facelifts carry a high degree of risk, the current trend of more and more teens deciding they need it is especially concerning. But the question has to be asked: Why are so many of them choosing to go under the knife? What makes them come to the decision that their looks are below a certain standard, or even that they believe they are ugly?
Perhaps the more fundamental issue is what factors contribute to making a young woman feel beautiful, or conversely and more importantly, what factors lead to the decision among too many young teens that they need to have surgery to bring their appearance up to their own perceived standard of acceptable beauty. Many young girls are greatly affected and influenced by the media such as TV commercials for makeovers, etc. and the culture that subconsciously causes them to strive to be like the girls they see in fashion and cosmetics advertisements and movies, and so on. What they perhaps fail to realize is that the images in those glossy magazines and the women they see on TV cause women like themselves to strive to achieve goals that “aren’t necessarily attainable for everybody” (Mendoza 2014).
Furthermore, claims Mendoza, many young women who consider themselves to be unattractive have had their self-esteem hit and their self-confidence shattered by previous thoughtless and unkind remarks made by their high school peers. If a girl has been told her “ass was too big” or she is “too fat” it can be difficult to shake off those unfounded slurs on her appearance, making it difficult to accept – even years later – that in reality she is attractive, even when told so by people around her (Mendoza 2014).
According to a survey organized by the American Academy of Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, three quarters of plastic surgery surgeons involved in facial plastic surgery are of the opinion that children and teens who request surgery do so because they have been bullied about their appearance (Park n.d.).
A major part of the problem is that the various forms of media promote a culture of physical perfection. Models depicted in magazines, TV ads., fashion shows, etc. are all uniformly tall and thin. Many viewing them – especially teenagers who see them as role models – aspire to be just like them. They do not understand that the perfection they see is to a great extent contrived. Perfect jaw lines and size and shape of noses are often the result of retouching of photographs (at least 40 percent) or cleverly applied makeup and lighting. Sadly, it is too often the case that a teen seeing these “perfect” women decide they themselves are in some way defective and act to put that right by cosmetic surgery. Evidence suggests that the typical American city dweller is exposed to a daily total of media images in excess of 5,000. As a consequence, the boom in requests for cosmetic surgery is bringing the US industry’s profits to a predicted $17.5 billion by this year (Camponovo 2013).
There is hard evidence that many young girls have felt pressurized to try to look like the female celebrities they admire. According to a 2013 report by the UK National Health Service (NHS), noted that more than 40 percent of girls aged between 7 and 10 and almost two thirds girls aged from 11 to 16 had felt that pressure, and that cosmetic surgery had become an acceptable path to what was referred to as a “designer body” (Martinson 2014).
Martinson states that one cosmetic skin care clinics had to initiate a complete ban on clients aged under 18 following the request by a girl aged 14 (accompanied by her mother), for Botox. Furthermore, although there are regulations governing cosmetic surgery in the US, the American Society of Plastic Surgeons reported that in 2012, more than 235,000 cosmetic procedures were carried out on girls between the ages of 13 and 19 (Martinson 2014).
One might speculate that if cosmetic surgery is going to make a girl happier, then perhaps it is worth the stress and risks involved. However according to a long-term Norwegian study of 1,500 teenage girls, the 78 who had elected to undergo cosmetic surgery “were more likely to be anxious or depressed and had a greater increase in those symptoms over the period than non-patients.” The author adds that in general, cosmetic surgery patients (of all ages) were satisfied with their changed appearance after the surgery, but that their overall happiness was not improved (Ehrenfeld 2012).
Another, perhaps extreme, example of a disappointing outcome of cosmetic surgery is provided in the Daily Mail (UK) newspaper. A young woman – described in the article as “naturally-attractive but insecure” underwent cosmetic surgery to remove bags beneath her eyes and to have an implant inserted in her chin. Following the surgery she felt that it had not made her beautiful “just different.” So she resorted to further cosmetic surgery again and again over a period of ten years. Eventually, following her 15th such operation, she was informed by her plastic surgeon that he fundamental problem with her facial appearance was simply the amount of surgery she’d had. Realizing that she had wasted $40,000 on fruitless attempts to look more attractive, she then became suicidal. According to various studies, suicidal tendencies are much greater in women who have undergone cosmetic surgery, as is the prevalence of post-traumatic stress and other psychological issues including depression, anxiety and – inevitably – disappointment (Naish 2011).
On the subject of not feeling happy about one’s own body – or what is otherwise known as concern about body image – instead of electing to undergo cosmetic surgery, a safer and possibly more effective solution is to work on a change of attitude. Focus on the things you believe are your positives, the things you actually like about your physical appearance and your character and personality. Anyone who cannot overcome deep concerns about their own appearance may be suffering from something called body dysmorphic disorder (BDD), a known illness. Sufferers are preoccupied with their perceived flaws. They not only go to some lengths to conceal those “flaws” but will often seek reassurances from family and friends and even resort to cosmetic surgery (“Cosmetic surgery” 2014).
According to Diana Zuckerman, president of the National Center for Health Research in Washington, DC, a major concern regarding cosmetic plastic surgery for teenagers is that their bodies are still in the process of maturing. Statistics show that most women add weight from 18 to 21 years, which might have – with hindsight – have affected their decision to undergo cosmetic surgery. An additional concern is that there few if any long-term studies on the risks associated with procedures implemented at this time of ongoing physical development, which means that parental consent for the under-18 patients cannot be properly considered as informed consent. What might also legitimately be considered a real risk is that in the event of subsequent problems or complications, corrective surgery is unlikely to be covered by health insurance. The public generally has been shown to be more preoccupied with the potential benefits of cosmetic surgery and far less concerned about the risks. Teenagers as a group tend to be even less concerned about those risks. Many completely ignore the known long-term risks associated with smoking, using sun beds in tanning salons, and other activities hazardous to health, so are likely to be less predisposed towards being put off cosmetic surgery. It is also ethically difficult for a physician to remain neutral when explaining risks to a prospective patient/client, while he is at the same time in a situation where each completed procedure contributes to him earning his living (Zuckerman 2012).
Apart from the increase in teen cosmetic surgery being the result of media pressures, there is also an element of fashion trends entering the mix. Cosmetic surgery has come out of the closet in recent years. Whereas it was formerly a subject that women preferred to keep quiet about, and in the majority of cases went to considerable lengths to keep it a secret, these days it is much more openly discussed and has even become a status symbol in some cases. That new openness has had a knock-on effect for today’s teens. “What’s OK for Mom must be OK for me, too.” That culture surely must have a major influence on the increasing numbers of teens opting for cosmetic plastic surgery to enhance their appearance. Because many teenage girls are simultaneously obsessed by and dissatisfied with their appearance, this openness trend is unfortunately leading them into participation in this current culture to make permanent changes through surgery. However, youngsters in that age group often lack the foresight to appreciate the possible long-term consequences of this fashionable trend, and fail to realize that their intense dissatisfaction with their appearance will dissipate with time, particularly as a teenager’s body continues to develop and change naturally. Instead of surgery, most could achieve the wanted improvements through regular exercise and weight control measures (Salem 2007).
For many people, this current cultural craze for teen cosmetic surgery has gone too far, and there are calls for a complete ban on plastic surgery for minors in various countries around the world. One such is contained in a December 2013 editorial in a university student newspaper. The article points out that Germany, for example, is proposing to ban cosmetic surgery for under 18’s unless it is for genuine non-cosmetic reasons. It reiterates the view that (say) 15-year olds are too young to make decisions about permanent changes to their appearance, particularly as their bodies are still undergoing natural changes as they mature. The stereotypical attitude by society to conventional beauty is also deplored, and makes the further point that self-esteem and beauty should not be interdependent (“Editorial: Cosmetic surgery should be illegal for kids” 2013).
In conclusion, the trend for the increasing numbers of teenagers to opt for cosmetic surgery is to be deplored. Whether it be because they are aping their TV idols or favorite movie stars or because they are being bullied because of their appearance, there should be concerted efforts by society to break this cycle of striving for universal conventional beauty. The issue is complicated because some teenagers need cosmetic surgery for genuine medical reasons, but if a ban were to be introduced as some recommend, those medical-related cases could be an approved exception to the ban. Additionally, schools should introduce classes and / or counseling on self-esteem and how to feel better about oneself without resorting to appearance-altering surgery. One way or another, this cosmetic surgery trend needs to be reversed.
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Mendoza, Parker. (Apr. 2014). “When You Tell An Unconfident Girl She’s Beautiful.” Thought Catalog. Web. Accessed 21 February 2015. URL: <http://thoughtcatalog.com/parker-mendoza/2014/04/when-you-tell-an-unconfident-girl-shes-beautiful/>.
Naish, John. (Updated Jan. 2011). “When looks can kill.” Mail Online. Web. Accessed 22 February 2015. URL: <http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-1349913/How-plastic-surgery-lead-self-loathing-disappointment-suicide.html>.
Park, Jane Shin. (n.d.). “Scary but True: Girls Are Getting Plastic Surgery to Avoid Being Bullied for Their Looks.” Teen Vogue. Web. Accessed 22 February 2015. URL: <http://www.teenvogue.com/my-life/2014-03/plastic-surgery>.
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