“What will everyone think? Is it super obvious?”
As Violet* organized her books for the first day of school, these thoughts ran rampant in her mind, dampening her usual excitement for the new year. Over the summer, Violet had received a rhinoplasty, a popular cosmetic surgical procedure performed on the nose.
According to a survey conducted by the American Association of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS), rhinoplasties constituted almost 12 percent of all cosmetic surgical procedures and 50 percent of teenage cosmetic procedures performed in the United States in 2018.
Like many others in her generation, Violet sought plastic surgery as a way to boost her self confidence and esteem, she said. Violet said her insecurities about her nose started in fifth grade, when her classmates began making jokes about her appearance.
“People just started making terrible and rude comments to me about my face,” Violet said. “Those comments stayed with me and affected how I viewed myself. I would spend so much time just crying over it because I thought that my nose was the defining factor in my beauty. It would tear away the little confidence that I had built up.”
Violet said that although she was worried that receiving the surgery would alter her sense of self and cause her peers to think differently of her, she felt that she ultimately made the right decision.
“It was so surreal,” Violet said. “I was really scared. I had a fear that people at school would judge me for it, [and] that [I wouldn’t be the same person after]. It made me feel so happy that people were so supportive and that I had spent time worrying and crying about nothing.”
More teenagers are receiving cosmetic procedures.
According to the ASPS annual plastic surgery procedural statistics, in 2018, patients between the ages of 13 and 19 received more than 226,000 cosmetic procedures, about four percent of all cosmetic surgeries. Commonly requested procedures include rhinoplasties, otoplasties, ear reshaping surgery and breast augmentations and reductions.
Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgeon and founder of the Center for Advanced Facial Plastic Surgery Babak Azizzadeh (Kylie ’21), credited the recent surge in teenage plastic surgeries to the rise of social media. Azizzadeh said that the increased social media coverage of plastic surgery has reduced the fear factor and stigma surrounding the procedures.
“[Plastic surgery is] not a taboo subject anymore, like it was 16 years ago, because it’s all over television, news and social media,” Azizzadeh said. “People also have more access to the surgical footage. So, whether it’s on YouTube, Instagram livestreams or posts, the shock factor is not as much there, and the acceptance [of plastic surgery] is significantly higher now than ever.”
Students share their views on teenagers getting cosmetic procedures.
According to a Chronicle poll of 205 students, 58 percent believe that teen plastic surgery has been on the rise.
“With beauty standards becoming more and more unrealistic, the demand for features obtained only by plastic surgery is on the rise,” Sophia Schwartz ’20 said. “With cosmetic beauty being a primary concern for many teens, especially in Los Angeles, more parents are pressured to entertain their children’s wants and give in to surgery.”
Also, 21 percent of students surveyed said that they have considered receiving plastic surgery in the past.
“I am very open about my plastic surgery,” Lisa* said. “There is nothing wrong with changing a feature of yourself if it increases your confidence. I got to such a low point in my life that every thought I had of being outgoing was clouded by the fear that my nose was too big and misshaped. The insecurity became crippling, and I knew I needed to do something about it.”
Social Media may play a part in the decision to get plastic surgery.
The increased prevalence of social media has also paved the way for celebrities to set unrealistic beauty standards through edited and staged posts, Head of Peer Support and psychology teacher Tina McGraw ’01 said. McGraw said that these posts have influenced teenagers to scrutinize their appearances, leading to more widespread self-esteem issues.
“I can imagine that it has a lot to do with social media,” McGraw said. “There are a lot of studies that link poor self image with social media use, and the more you use social media, the lower your self image becomes.”
Although the lack of self-confidence among teenagers is a widespread issue, some teens, like Ariana Pineda ’21 said that they do not consider plastic surgery as a viable method of increasing self esteem. Pineda said that, although she has previously struggled with self-acceptance, she never considered altering her appearance because of the dangers it entails.
“I think the risks involved with surgical procedures outweigh the possible benefits,” Pineda said. “You also shouldn’t have to alter yourself in order to be able to look in the mirror and like what you see. If you have to change yourself to be confident, then you wouldn’t be truly confident anyways.”
Although McGraw does not oppose the idea of teenagers receiving plastic surgery, she said she believes that students should consult professionals for advice before proceeding with the decision to receive cosmetic surgery.
“If someone is getting plastic surgery to alleviate something that’s very distressing for them, I would really hope that they would get some other counseling or other mental health resources first and not make that decision out of a place with helplessness or emotional vulnerability,” McGraw said.
McGraw added that self-confidence increases with age, and teenagers should be self-aware, mature and emotionally prepared before making a decision as monumental as plastic surgery.
“When [people] are teenagers, you’re the most self-conscious that you’ll ever be, and delaying the choice to get plastic surgery might give you more perspective and greater self-acceptance,” McGraw said. “I would suggest that kids wait as long as possible before making that decision.”
Although Violet said that she does not regret her rhinoplasty, she believes that self-worth should be based on more than just appearance.
“After I got it done, I realized that I was beautiful before I got my nose done, and I was beautiful after I got my nose done,” Violet said. “I just wished that I could go back in time and tell my younger self, ‘hey, your nose is not defining in the way that you think it is.’”
*Names have been changed