Colombia recently passed legislation forbidding plastic surgeons from operating on minors. Procedures such as breast augmentation and buttock enhancement are wildly popular in the South American country, including among teenagers. Colombians will now be required to wait until age 18 to have these procedures. Procedures and treatments covered under the legislation include breast enhancement, liposuction, butt augmentation, Botox injections and others.

The new law will also ban the participation of underage models in ads for cosmetic procedures.

Under the new law, reconstructive surgery as well as surgeries performed on minors to address physical or psychological issues would still be legal.

Most Minors Should Not Have Plastic Surgery

For several reasons, most minors should not have plastic surgery. Firstly, it is very important that a patient has reached physical development a year before surgery. This alone eliminates many minors from consideration for plastic surgery. Secondly, many minors, including teens, do not have the emotional maturity to make a decision of this magnitude. Generally speaking, adults are able to understand and accept the fact that there are no guarantees with cosmetic surgery. The same cannot be said of minors.

At the very least, the following considerations should be taken into account when evaluating whether a minor should have cosmetic surgery:

  • It should be the minor’s idea. Experienced, qualified facial plastic surgeons are able to discern if the idea to have cosmetic enhancement comes from someone else (that means you, parents!).
  • The minor must have realistic expectations.
  • If it’s a facial procedure, the surgeon should be board certified by the American Academy of Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery. If it is a body procedure, it should be performed by a board certified (general) plastic surgeon.
  • The surgeon should have hospital privileges, and the procedure should be performed in an accredited surgical facility.
  • Both the patient and his or her guardian must fully understand and agree to every aspect of the procedure. (This is called informed consent.)

 When Can Minors Have Plastic Surgery?

Even if the above considerations have been taken into account, there are still only a handful of situations in which minors should have plastic surgery. For example, if a minor is being bullied due to the appearance of a particular feature, it may be acceptable to perform corrective surgery.

Many procedures are never (or almost never) appropriate for minors, regardless of the situation. Examples of such procedures include liposuction, breast augmentation and facial implants.

The following are procedures that are appropriate for minors in some cases:

  • Otoplasty(ear surgery) starting at around age 6.
  • Rhinoplasty(nose reshaping) if the nose has reached full development (usually about age 15 or 16 for girls and about age 16 or 17 for boys).
  • Breast reductionfor girls starting at around age 15. This procedure can address embarrassment while alleviating back and shoulder pain, as well as breathing problems.
  • Correction of breast asymmetry for girls that have one breast that is different in size or shape from the other.
  • Correction of gynecomastia, or abnormal/excessive breast growth in boys, for teenagers. Gynecomastia typically goes away on its own, but in severe cases surgery may be necessary.
  • Laser treatment to address scarring caused by acne.
  • Dermabrasionfor acne.
  • Chin implantsor reshaping.

Surgeon’s Checklist

Prior to performing plastic surgery on a minor, the surgeon should meticulously go through a brief checklist of factors to determine whether the minor has the maturity to handle potential disappointment or (rarely) complications from surgery. The checklist will include determining the following:

  • Is the treatment the minor’s idea? If not, the minor is not a good candidate.
  • Does the minor have proper expectations? Plastic surgery is not a silver bullet and will not enhance every aspect of life.
  • Is the minor rushing into the decision to have surgery? In many cases it’s a good idea to wait a few years.

In some cases the surgeon may decide to refer the minor to a psychologist or psychiatrist. It is not uncommon at all for a surgeon to recommend that the minor wait a few years before having surgery.

To learn more about minors and facial plastic surgery, contact the office of Dr. Sam Rizk today.