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Can You Ever Be Too Young For The Knife

Look Magazine

March – April 2010 Issue

Page: 40 – 41 Controversy

by: Minnie F. Francia

Cosmetic surgery was once a practice commonly associated only with mature women trying to hide signs of aging. Nowadays, however, younger and younger patients are going to cosmetics surgeons and deciding to undergo surgical procedures. Mind you, these are not young starlets wanting to jumpstart their showbiz, careers, but ordinary girls in their teens or early 20s, either in college or ready to start working.

Anna, 28, pauses to think about why she decided to undergo a rhinoplasty (nose lift) six years ago. “No special reason. I was just not happy with my nose. I just wanted it – and got it!” says the fashion industry insider with a laugh.

Stephanie, a 23 – year old marketing executive, meanwhile, shares that she recently underwent blepharoplasty, an upper eyelid surgery meant to “open up” one’s chinky eyes. Also known as eyelid fold creation, this procedure is said to be popular among young women and men of Chinese heritage nowadays.

In the United States, studies reveal that in 2003, almost 39,000 surgical procedures were performed on patients 18 years old and younger. This trend is also becoming notable locally, according to Dr. Marlon O. Lajo, aesthetic and plastic surgery consultant.

Dr. Lajo has noticed an increase in the number of young patients who have consulted him for plastic surgery, and who have actually undergone the procedures. He shares that the most requested procedures, in order, are: rhinoplasty, upper eyelid surgery, breast augmentation, and liposuction, cheek dimple creation, chin augmentation, and repair of prominent protruding ears (otoplasty).

What’s the remarkable is how the parents of these young ladies are the ones actually encouraging their children to go through these surgical procedures. Even going beyond just monetary support are moms who get the procedures done together with their daughters.

In Anna’s case, having cosmetic surgery was not an entirely foreign idea in her family. Her mom also underwent a similar procedure before her, and was the one who brought her to the same surgeon who performed her rhinoplasty. “Your face is the first thing that people see. If you’re going to have it done properly. Only go to the best, even if the best costs a lot,” Anna remembers her mom saying.

Stephanie, on the other hand, was encouraged more by her father. “My dad had the procedure done when he was younger, so it wasn’t any big deal. He was the one who waited for me during the surgery, as he already knew what to expect,” she explains.

In some cases, Dr. Lajo explains that surgical procedures can be done best while the patient is young. He cites corrective rhinoplasty for a deformed nose of a patient born with a cleft lip and palate, which can be done as early as three months old. If a chils is born with eyelids blocking his vision, surgery can be done to correct it even within a few weeks. Otoplasty, or repair of prominent protruding ears, is also recommended to be done early. “The best age is before the child goes to school to avoid the psychological trauma of being ridiculed by his classmates, “Dr. Lajo says.

However, while beauty – conscious women consider the advances in cosmetic surgery a chance to have their “flaws” corrected as early as possible, waiting a few more years to have procedures that are for purely vanity purposes maybe a better option.

Rhinoplasty is best done after the facial bones have matured, which is usually after adolescence, according to Dr. Lajo, if done earlier than that, the growth of the facial bone would be disrupted and compromised. “The earliest age I would recommend would be 16 or right after high school, before the girl goes to college,” he says.

Cosmetic blepharoplasty like eyelid fold creation for vanity purposes can be done in children as young as eight. Dr. Lajo, however, prefers to wait until the child is old enough to cooperate under local anesthesia during the surgery.

For breast augmentation, the ideal age would be after 16. This is because breast development continues until a woman’s maximum height is attained, which is typically at the age of 16, when breast maturation is completed.

Those considering liposuction should wait until they are 18 or older, as this is when the total number of fat cells in the body stops increasing. In general, this would be better done when one reaches a more mature age.

Young women, especially those in their teens, should carefully study the potentials risks involved in surgical procedures. Their parents should do the research together with them. Pinky Davao, corporate communication trainer and mother of two daughters in their early 20s, says that if her daughters tell her that they have intentions of having something surgically done, she would ask them to think long and hard about it. “I allow my kids to make decisions for themselves at their age, but if I learn that the procedure would put health and limb in danger. I would make sure that they know the odds very clearly.”

In Anna’s experience, for instance, the supposedly simple nose job didn’t turn out to be as smooth as expected. “There were complications in the healing process. I developed scars in between the cartilages so it didn’t fuse properly,” she explains. Anna had to wait for a year for it to heal completely before undergoing a second surgery.

The post-op demands are also nothing to be sneezed at. Anna’s doctor required her to do a nose exercise for three months after operation, plus the requisite follow-up visits.

Despite the risks and the pain, though, younger and younger women are still embracing the idea of having their bodies fixed. For some girls, it may be a whim but for others, it is a choice they make as early as high school, or even younger.

Sadly, Dr. Lajo shares, the reasons often cited by his young patients stem from a lack of self-confidence and self-esteem. “Hindi ako napapansin kasi pangit ako,” is one statement he hears often. He adds that most of his patients who are overweight or flat-chested also have feelings of inadequacy, sexual inhibition, and loss of sexual appeal.

Well-meaning parents should not make the decision for their teens. “I’m happy with my surgery, because at the end of the day I know I did it for myself. I know many people who were forced by their parents to undergo the procedure, and I wouldn’t wish that on anyone,” says Stephanie.

Having the right reasons for undergoing a surgical procedure is important. For one, the young patient should understand not just the benefit of the surgery, but also its limitations. Anna shares that she actually wanted a finer nose, but she accepted her doctor’s recommendation that it would not suit the rest of her facial features.

But in this when one can “fix” one’s features in an instant, does “inner beauty” still matter? Felichi Buizon, television host and mother of four kids, two of whom are in their teens, believes that while they are still young, parents need to communicate to their children that they are truly unique and special. “This way, they will develop security and not compare themselves with others or feel pressure to conform, “says this home-schooling mom.

For Buizon, inner beauty includes the attitude of gratitude, and this means agreeing with God that a person is indeed special. “If cosmetic surgery is meant to increase self-confidence but the attitude of comparing herself with others is not is not curbed, then it will be a tiring pursuit of security,” she says.

Davo adds that it may be impossible to shield one’s children from the barrage of media images that assault them and dictate how they should look. However, she believes that if children are shown positive affirmation for accomplishments and good deeds, they will learn to look beyond the superficial and into their souls. “In doing so, they will also learn to accept their physical flaws, and concentrate on what they can clearly work on like talent, personality, wit, intelligence, and empathy.”

For Anna and Stephanie, though, cosmetic surgery meant that their “improved” outer appearance added more value to their “inner beauty”.

Both are happy with their “repaired” features and profess that they have no regrets having gone through it. “It was certainly worth it. I find that my eyelids don’t feel as heavy as before. Also, eye makeup is a breeze!” says Stephanie.

She turns serious, though, when she explains how a person has to feel beautiful and believe she is beautiful for her inner beauty to shine through.” A lot of women turn to cosmetic procedures to add self-worth. But if a woman decides to go under the knife for her own gratification, then more power to her!”

For her part, Anna pragmatically states that no matter how hard people try to deny it, it’s not what’s inside her, but her outer appearance that they first notice when a woman walks into a room.” In the same light, I believe outer appearance isn’t just physical. It’s the overall aura you exude, which in a big part includes confidence – and some people gain confidence through cosmetic procedures.”

Dr.Marlon O. Lajo is a consultant at the Aesthetic Surgery Center of St.Luke’s Medical Center and at the Manila Doctors Hospital. He is also a plastic surgery consultant at the Aesthetic Science Clinic, Healthway Medical Clinics, and Borough Medical Clinic. He can be reached at mobile no. (0917) 885-0337; website: