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Forget New Clothes -- Teens Are Getting Cosmetic Surgery for Back to School

Many parents are just fine with cosmetic surgery for skin problems and acne

Your teenage years can be both a fun and awkward time.

The wonderful side of things consists of developing a social life, physically maturing into a young adult and having your first kiss.

And the awkward side of your teenage years is attached to — you guessed it — developing a social life, physically maturing into a young adult and having your first kiss. The wonders and challenges of teenage life can sometimes share the exact same space.

One of the most difficult things teens face during puberty is acne. For many, blemishes and pimples surface somewhat moderately, while others suffer from extreme cases. Either way the effects can sometimes cause both frustration and sadness, especially when other teenagers are insensitive, judgmental or just plain old mean.

Live with it

Back in the day, teenagers mostly accepted their dermatological fate and just lived with their condition. But nowadays both parents and their children are opting for cosmetic surgery to rid their skin of bumps, discoloring and other  imperfections.

 According to a study conducted by skin-care experts at The Patient's Guide, the trend of teen cosmetic surgery isn't going away anytime soon.

ConsumerAffairs contacted Patient's Guide and spoke with its co-founder and CEO Jasson Gilmore, and also spoke with Dr. Eric Bernstein, Director of Mainline Center for Laser Surgery in Ardmore, Pa.

Both say many parents are just fine with bringing their teenagers in for cosmetic surgery when it comes to skin problems and acne scarring.

 “Statistics indicate cosmetic treatment of adolescents and young adults has grown significantly over the past decade,” says Gilmore.

“As more adults get cosmetic treatment, it becomes more acceptable and parents are then pressured to do something to help their teenagers as well. Lasers and light-based technologies which are non-invasive hold particular appeal as they tend to have little or no downtime, unlike traditional surgery,” Gilmore said.

“Generally speaking parents are quite willing to bring their child for treatment of cosmetic conditions such as acne scarring if it improves a child's social situation,” Bernstein said.

Better technology

What's the main reason for the growth in skin surgeries among the teenage population? Gilmore says it has a lot to do with advancements in technology within the skin-care world.

“The introduction of new laser treatments which are effective for reducing the appearance of acne scars, with little downtime, is a major reason. Unlike in times past when little could be done about acne scars, the emergence of new treatments has made it easier to do something about them,” he says.

“I think the reason we are seeing more teens in the office to treat their acne scarring, is because we have far better treatments today than we ever had in the past,” added Dr. Bernstein.

“Therefore, we have lasers that can deliver superior results with dramatically reduced risk of side-effects such as scarring or pigmentary changes. Thus the options they are simply greater, both for delivering results and also for doing it much more safely,” he said.

And skin care isn't the only type of treatment teens and adults are getting in higher numbers.

13.1 million

In a 2010 report by the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, it was found that 13.1 million cosmetic surgeries of all kinds were performed in the US that year, and 218,909 of those surgeries were done on teenagers of both sexes.

Gilmore admits that outside pressures have plenty to do with teens undergoing the knife or laser beam.

“As anyone who went through puberty can tell you, being a teenager is difficult. You are most prone to feeling the pressures of what others think during that time. For many young people, this motivates them to seek out cosmetic treatments.”

Bernstein agrees. “It's important to recognize that cosmetic concerns can have a profound effect on self-esteem of anyone, especially a teenager or young adult,” he says. “Generally the time to treat these individuals is often when the acne has gotten under control and the acne scarring is making the individual self-conscious.”

Although there has been a recent increase in the awareness of bullying, it will be hard for many teenagers to resist the young impulse of teasing a peer.

Bernstein emphasizes that parents and teenagers should seek laser treatment before more invasive procedures, as there are many options for such procedures that teens can choose from.

“Some I might use more often on younger skin, while others [I] might use it for more mature skin” he explained.

“Red acne scars respond extremely well to a vascular laser, while the fractionated laser, such as the Fraxel dual, does a great job of improving depressed acne scars. I think it's important to talk about improving scars and not completely removing them,” he says.

Is it normal?

But should cosmetic surgery really be a normal thing for teenagers? What are the psychological effects of going through such procedures?

Many psychologists believe the mental impact of cosmetic surgery among teenagers has been under-examined.

“As the popularity of plastic surgery continues to grow, many psychologists likely already have — or will encounter — a patient that has thought about or undergone a cosmetic procedure,” says Dr. David Sarwer, who has analyzed the psychological impacts of cosmetic surgery for over a decade.

He believes more studies and data are needed.

Psychologist Diana Zuckerman concurs. “There may be strong cultural pressures that are so unrealistic in term of how we're supposed to look," she said in a statement published by the American Psychological Association.

“Psychologists should figure out why this is happening and what we need to know to make sure that people aren't going to be harmed by this.”

Story provided by ConsumerAffairs.
Consumer Affairs

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