Teenage Plastic Surgery: Minor Adjustments - Kids and Cosmetic Surgery, a Nick News Special

Mike Wilton

by Mike Wilton | October 25, 2011 @ 02:00PM

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This past Sunday, Nickelodeon aired a Nick News special called “Minor Adjustments - Kids and Cosmetic Surgery.”  The special explored the increasing trend of teenage plastic surgery and looked not only at a number of cases, but explored the opinions that teenagers had about the growing trend.

The special opened with a montage of teens sharing their thoughts on the subject of teenage cosmetic surgery.  One teen shared, “I had a friend who purposely banged her nose against a locker so she could get a nose job, so she could fit in with the crowd at my school.”  Another stated, “In my school, it’s pretty much judge the book by its cover.  If you look better, you definitely look more popular.” Even if these statements seem a bit disturbing to some, the overall consensus amongst teens was that if cosmetic surgery will make you feel better about yourself then the surgery is okay.

The program then profiled a number of teenage cosmetic surgery patients from around the U.S.  The first was a 17-year-old from Los Angeles who was unhappy with the bump on her nose and had been teased for having a large nose for much of her life.  Then, a 16-year-old girl who came from a lineage of cosmetic surgery patients – she would be the fourth woman in her family to undergo a nose job, following her grandmother, mother, and older sister.

However, these accounts seem minor in comparison to the story of Brook, a 17-year-old from Austin, TX,  who despite diet and exercise weighed 225 pounds when she was at her heaviest.  Brook felt like a skinny girl in a fat girls body, citing influences from society such as Barbie, Television shows, and celebrities.  At the age of 12, having suffered years of ridicule and feeling like an outcast, Brook asked her parents to allow her to undergo liposuction.  After some pleading and a visit to a local doctor, Brook underwent liposuction surgery. She is believed to be the youngest liposuction patient in history.  During the operation, the doctors removed 35 pounds in fat and fluids.

Brook Before and After

If that weren’t enough, she later underwent tummy tuck surgery to tighten the skin around her abdomen.  Then, at 13, her parents took her to Mexico to undergo the lap band surgery and at 15 she received breast implants. Brook says the procedure was necessary to lift the skin around her breasts following the weight loss from previous surgeries. 

The news special concluded with the stories of John, a teenage, gynecomastia patient from Boca Raton, FL, who underwent male breast reduction, and that of a 13-year-old from South Dakota who underwent otoplasty with New York City plastic surgeon Dr. Steven Pearlman.  “Technically, otoplasty is categorized as a 'cosmetic operation’," say Dr. Pearlman.  “But to me...someone whose ears stick out to the point they are picked on constantly, they’re introverted, and cannot face their friends, and effects them socially, even though it’s ‘cosmetic’ I don’t really consider it something that is at all unnecessary to fix.”

Dr. Steven Pearlman with Otoplasty patient

In each case featured, the teens were left feeling better about themselves following cosmetic surgery.  It increased their self-confidence, they felt like they fit in better, and, ultimately, they were happier than they were prior to surgery.  However, during the special, clinical psychologist Dr. Jeff Gardere argues that it's more important to look at what's on the inside before rushing to fix what's on the outside. "I think a lot of young people are going to be very disappointed because they have this idea that plastic surgery or cosmetic surgery is the quick fix," said Dr. Gardere. "Come to love who you are. If you have a larger nose or a protruding chin, it's who you are. Embrace it!"

In the show’s conclusion, host Linda Ellerbee alludes that the debate of whether or not teenage cosmetic surgery is right or wrong may not have a clear answer: “If your ears stick out and a little bit of plastic surgery can fix it, what’s wrong?  While you’re considering that, consider this: Who decided it’s so bad if your ears stick out? In fact, who decided your ears stick out? The media? Your friends? Your family? You?  Do you think cosmetic surgery is okay for kids who don’t really need it?  As life would have it, sometimes there’s more than one right answer to a question.  This is one of those times.”

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