Nip/Tuck


 
In just the last two weeks, Encino facial plastic surgeon Michael Persky (Emily ’13) has operated on three teenagers.

“It is an increasing trend,” he said.

“A big part of it is the media,” Westwood psychologist Julie Greines said. “It is because of the increasing attention on young starlets in the media who are famous because of the way they look rather than for a skill or craft. Teens are being bombarded by this quest for perfection because they believe these people in the magazines are born this way.”

Persky believes it is also due to the culture in which this generation’s parents grew up.

“I think the baby boom parents have grown up in kind of a world of acceptance of plastic surgery,” Persky said.

This is so much the case that it is often the parents who suggest their children have plastic surgery.

“They often bring their children in and have already planted the seeds of desire for plastic surgery,” Persky said.

Amy*, a Harvard-Westlake student, who has had rhinoplasty, is dealing with pressure from her mother.

“My mom is not content with it,” Amy said. “She wants me to get it fixed again, but I’m happy with it.”

Although now Amy’s mother wants her to undergo rhinoplasty strictly to tweak the results of the first surgery, originally Amy got a nose job for health reasons.

Growing up with constant allergies and a twisted deviated septum was uncomfortable for Amy, and at the age of 8, the decision was made: when Amy grew up, she would get a nose job.

“I couldn’t really breathe out of my nose, and my doctor told me that even after having braces, my teeth would continue to move because of being a ‘mouth breather,’” Amy said. “So I would either have to get braces again or fix my nose, so I decided to see an Ear Nose and Throat doctor when I was 14.”

Although Amy could have rectified her health issues without cosmetically altering her nose, she decided to change the exterior shape of it.

“I had never really liked my nose,” Amy said. “When I was younger, my mom had promised me that when I was 18 I could get a nose job, so I just decided that I might as well do it while I was already going to be in surgery.”

“I really wanted to change something,” Amy said. “I wanted to make a permanent change that would make me feel less self-conscious and less insecure.”

“Teens get plastic surgery because in some way their self-esteem is not where they want it to be,” Greines said. “They are getting some message from society, family, and or friends, that what they have isn’t good enough, and so they want to fix that.”

Amy underwent the surgery during the summer before her sophomore year, giving her time to heal before school started; however, returning to school was difficult just as she had expected.

“When I came to school on the first day back, people came up to me and said ‘oh it looks so good,’” Amy said. “I didn’t love how people felt the need to acknowledge it even if they did notice I had gotten a nose job.”

“If someone came to school and I noticed they had gotten surgery, I wouldn’t judge them,” Caity Croft ’10 said.

Many students specifically choose to wait to have plastic surgery until the summer before they leave for college.

“I think it’s nice for these teens to get the surgery right before they are about to enter a new environment, especially if they are self-conscious,” Persky said.

This is why Nancy* ’07 waited until the summer after she graduated to get a breast augmentation.

“I thought it would be an easier transition because people wouldn’t notice as much,” Nancy said.

Although Amy underwent plastic surgery for health and cosmetic purposes, Nancy had surgery specifically for cosmetic reasons.

“My body stopped developing about two years ago and I felt disproportional,” Nancy said. “I didn’t like that part of my body and I knew if I fixed it I would be happier with my body.”

“Teens get surgery a lot of times because they are striving for perfection and because they want to be accepted and admired,” Greines said.

Nancy not only had full support from her parents, but they originally suggested plastic surgery.

“They were the ones who brought it up and they were totally fine with it because it was something that I really wanted,” she said.

Nancy realizes that she was very young to undergo the surgery and that doing it at such a young age is not the right choice for everyone.

“Almost all teenagers have insecurities, but as we become older we become surer of ourselves, so I don’t think it’s best to do it so young,” Nadia Dan ’08 said.

“Each case is very individual,” Greines said. “But, overall, I think self-esteem is so underdeveloped in your teen years that you don’t have a mature mind set yet and then to make a permanent change in your body, there could be long term consequences. You could grow up and wish you hadn’t done it and long for something you used to have but can’t get back.”

“Age does make a difference,” Nancy said. “It is at the discretion of the doctor and they usually make the decision of whether or not to perform surgery on you based on how your body is developed.”

Although Nancy decided to have the surgery because she thought it would improve her physical appearance, the results also improved her mental stability because she “was self-conscious about it,” she said.

While some students undergo surgery to increase their breast size, others have a breast reduction.

Linda* ’06 got a reduction the summer before her sophomore year. 

“It had always been an option for me because my mom had the surgery and it was a genetic thing,” she said. “My mom had always told me that whenever I wanted to do it, I could.”

Although Linda was excited for how her augmentation would look, she was more eager for the improvement it would make in her health.

“It was really causing back issues for me,” Linda said.

Linda is certain her surgery significantly altered her life.

“I am one hundred percent satisfied and truly believe it is one of the best things I have ever done for myself,” she said.

“One of the most satisfying operations from a patient’s perspective is a breast reduction,” Persky said. “It often times corrects both physiological and physical problems. A lot of time there is no risk or disadvantage of having surgery at a young age.”

“However, I do turn people away. For example, I make sure it is the teen who truly wants it, and that they are not doing it because of their parents, that the teen’s bones have gone through their major growth spurts and that the student has gone through puberty.”

Getting a nose job as a teen rather than as an adult has its disadvantages.

“You cannot be as aggressive because places inside the nose can still grow,” Persky said. “I’ve heard of cases where someone who had their nose done as a teenager is not happy with it when they grow older because of how their face and nose change.”

“Any alternation done to one’s body at such a young age can be regretted later in life,” Greines said. “That person who had the surgery could have grown into their nose or their breasts could have gotten bigger if they hadn’t had the surgery.”

Many students have differing opinions on their peers undergoing plastic surgery in or right out of high school.

“Although I understand that people want to help get rid of their insecurities, I just feel like we’re not totally developed,” Kerry Kuwata ’08 said.

Lauren Gaba ’08 thinks it is okay “if it is really going to help one’s self esteem and they’ve thought a lot about it.”

*Names withheld upon request