Former Friends actress Lisa Kudrow considered herself a “hideous” teenager – until a rhinoplasty procedure at age 16 changed her looks, and her life. “I did it the summer before going to a new high school….That was a good, good, good change,” she told The Saturday Evening Post. What was once considered controversial is now commonplace – especially among younger patients, with 219,000 plastic surgery procedures done on teens in 2014.
“Life is hard for teenagers who, like many celebrities, feel as though they are placed under increased scrutiny from their peers,” says Dr. Thomas W. Loeb, the NYC plastic surgeon famous for giving Bill Clinton flame, Paula Jones, a new nose in 1998. “The results of rhinoplasty are very much life-changing. For the vast majority of young patients, it’s a welcome change to wake up every morning and love the person they see in the mirror.” The before and after photos of rhinoplasty can be dramatic.
There’s no denying peer pressure and the desire to be beautiful like celebrities as a reason for teens to pursue plastic surgery. Daily Telegraph journalist Radhika Sanghani penned a provocative piece about the rise of rhinoplasty among her peers. In high school, she said, “If you didn’t have that perfect nose, you had two choices: either accept your large, non-perfect nose and pray that the Roman look comes back into fashion ASAP, or get plastic surgery.”
For her article, Sanghani interviewed Dr. Charles East, Director of Rhinoplasty at the Royal National Throat Nose and Ear Hospital in London, who said he sees 20 teenage girls wanting rhinoplasty each week, a trend that seems to be rising. They come to him stating they hate how they look and feel tremendous anxiety about taking photographs of themselves, which is all too common in the Age of Social Media. He added, “There’s that age group where their parents have the means to pay for it before they go to college or start a new job.”
For others, there are more practical reasons for needing a new nose. Deidre Kelly, a journalist for The Globe and Mail who frequently writes on the quest for perfection in today’s society, says that buying a new nose at the close of the school year has become as blasé as buying a gown for the prom or a new swimsuit for the beach. She tells the story of 19-year-old Jessica Cruz. The Toronto teenager wanted rhinoplasty — not just to feel better about her appearance, but also to accommodate her fashion preferences.
“I have a flat nose… I don’t have a bridge. My glasses didn’t sit well on my face,” she explained. Following her procedure, Cruz said, “I feel much better about myself,” and said she’d consider more “body maintenance” in the future.
Rhinoplasty can also bring much-needed relief from relentless school bullies. ABC Nightline told the story of 13-year-old Nicolette Taylor who sought rhinoplasty after being relentlessly bullied about her appearance on social media. Though most patients are urged to wait until their noses stop growing somewhere between 14 and 16 years of age, an exception was made in this case. Since her surgery, the teen has started cheerleading and says she no longer cares if people bully her because she feels good about how she looks now.
A 2000 article published in the Journal of Pediatric Adolescent Gynecology concluded that “puberty stands out as a particularly sensitive time as the teenager undergoes major changes in his or her physical appearance and does this at a time of heightened vulnerability to the opinion of others.”
Furthermore, their research suggested, “Plastic surgery to correct a truly unattractive feature is enormously successful and remarkably free of conflict in this population. Teenagers undergo a rapid reorganization of their self-image after plastic surgery with subsequent positive changes in behavior and interpersonal interactions.”
The emotional impact of repairing a crooked or disproportionate nose cannot be overstated. According to The American Society for Plastic Surgeons, “Teens frequently gain self-esteem and confidence when their physical problems are corrected. In fact, successful plastic surgery may reverse the social withdrawal that so often accompanies teens who feel different.”
However, they add, teens must demonstrate emotional maturity and an understanding of the limitations of plastic surgery to be a good candidate for the operation. Teens who suffer from erratic mood swings, alcohol and substance abuse, clinical depression, or mental illness may not be able to cope with the discomfort and temporary disfigurement of a surgical procedure. It is important for teens to understand that the changes they make surgically are permanent. A magic wand can’t be waved to bring back the exact look of their original nose.
Teens must also consider that an improved physical appearance is likely, but a new nose won’t necessarily bring about more profound transformations like greater romance, better career opportunities, a more outgoing disposition, or a bigger social circle.
One example is Sabrina Weiss, a teenager who told CNN she later regretted her decision to get a nose job as a teen because she felt she did it for the wrong reasons. Prior to her surgery, Weiss said she felt her nose was all anyone looked at and said it was the “central obsession” in her “self-hatred.” The surgery helped to some degree, she said, because the prominent bump she once loathed was now gone. Yet, her social problems were still there. “My fantasy was that I’d have this surgery and I would turn into the person that would easily be able to connect with others and have this social ease,” she explained.
Satisfaction with surgical procedures involves having realistic expectations about outcome and the recovery process. “Teens have to know that all their problems won’t go away overnight simply by changing their appearance,” says Dr. Loeb. “Even more importantly, they have to be ready to cope with looking and feeling beaten up for a couple weeks.”
Dr. Loeb explains, “That first month can be a real shock with the swelling, bruising, bandage changing, and discomfort that follows. Most people go back to school in 7-10 days, but it’s the little things that can be most bothersome. For instance, you can’t blow your nose for three weeks. Eating a steak dinner that requires a lot of chewing may hurt. Your nose will remain tender to the touch for up to six weeks. You’d be surprised how often the nose gets bumped by pillows, clothing, dogs, siblings, friends – if you’re not consciously being very careful. For these reasons, I spend a good deal of time in consultation with my younger patients and their families, so they can make an informed decision on teenage rhinoplasty.”
The Saturday Evening Post – Lisa Kudrow http://www.saturdayeveningpost.com/2014/04/17/in-the-magazine/lisa-kudrow-interview.html
American Society for Plastic Surgeons – Plastic Surgery For Teenagers Briefing Paper http://www.plasticsurgery.org/news/briefing-papers/plastic-surgery-for-teenagers.html
Journal of Pediatric Adolescent Gynecology http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10989327
The Globe and Mail – Teens undergo cosmetic surgery in record numbers http://www.theglobeandmail.com/life/health-and-fitness/teens-undergo-cosmetic-surgery-in-record-numbers/article1216104/
CNN – Teen’s daintier new nose carries bigger regret, http://www.cnn.com/2010/HEALTH/04/29/cosmetic.surgery.graduation.gift/
My Stateline – Special Report: Teens and Cosmetic Surgery http://www.mystateline.com/fulltext-news/d/story/special-report-teens-and-cosmetic-surgery/32582/SxSJBbyUN0Sf6FMGOi1qQw
ABC News – Bullied on Facebook, Teen, 13, Gets Nose Job http://abcnews.go.com/Health/bullied-facebook-teen-13-nose-job/story?id=14583148
UK Telegraph – The painful quest for the perfect nose http://www.telegraph.co.uk/women/womens-life/10930278/Nose-jobs-for-women-The-painful-quest-for-the-perfect-nose.html