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Is Cosmetic Surgery Necessary for Teens?
TEENS: I'm often asked if cosmetic surgery is appropriate for a teenager. Celebrity admiration, resulting from television shows, movies and videos, has influenced teens to seek and endure cosmetic surgery without hesitation or acknowledgment of risks. However, cosmetic procedure is still a medical process and should be treated as such, especially by teens.
How can parents know if and when a cosmetic procedure is appropriate for their teen? Dr. Roy G. Geronemus, director of the Laser and Skin Surgery Center of New York and a past president of the American Society for Dermatologic Surgery, cautions that "No matter what procedure the teen desires, precautions must be considered to ensure a safe and successful outcome." He offers the following advice for making informed decisions regarding cosmetic procedures:
1. Do carefully review all reasons why cosmetic surgery is desired. Procedures should be considered to correct genetic or acquired physical scarring or disfigurement or for conditions that dramatically impair a teen's sense of confidence and self-esteem.
2. Do use alternative methods to avoid unnecessary procedures. Teens should be sure that cosmetic surgery is the only solution. For example, liposuction to reshape problem areas like thighs and hips may be successfully treated by increasing exercise, which is proven more effective.
3. Do make sure procedures are safe and effective for teens under 18. Procedures such as laser surgery for acne scars are proven successful for younger teens, however, liposuction and breast augmentation are discouraged for anyone under 18 because their body has not stopped growing.
1. Don't undergo a cosmetic procedure on a whim. Elective surgery is sometimes chosen based on a trend or a fad among teens or undergone as a "caught up in the moment" decision. Teens need to realize that there is more to cosmetic procedures than what is perceived on television.
2. Don't rely on a procedure to increase popularity. It's not uncommon for teens to believe that by enhancing their appearance, they may become more popular among their peers or get someone to notice them — but this isn't reason enough to undergo a serious surgical procedure.
3. Don't think a procedure is risk-free. Even the most commonly performed cosmetic procedures carry side effects such as redness, swelling and pain. More serious complications can include infection, scarring and death.
4. Don't view cosmetic surgery as a solution to a larger issue. Anorexia Nervosa and body dysmorphic disorders are increasingly common among teens. Parents should look for these conditions and assist their children in seeking professional help from a trained specialist before considering cosmetic procedures.
Dr. Robert Wallace welcomes questions from readers. Although he is unable to reply to all of them individually, he will answer as many as possible in this column. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. To find out more about Dr. Robert Wallace and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.
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