Breast Augmentation and Rhinoplasty Becoming Popular Graduation Gifts

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Valerie DeBenedette, Senior Medical Editor

Valerie DeBenedette is a science writer who specializes in keeping people informed about medicine and their health. She has more than 20 years of experience writing for newspapers, magazines, and websites and has written about most areas of medicine. For many years, she was a contributing writer to Cosmetic Dermatology and to Drug Topics, the leading pharmacy trade magazine. She also was a contributing editor to The Physician and Sportsmedicine for many years. She has written about most fields of medicine, including dermatology, sportsmedicine, ophthalmology, general surgery, orthopedics, and women's health; as well as public health policy and the pharmaceutical industry. In addition, she is the author of Caffeine, a book for young people. She is a member of the National Association of Science Writers.


June 23 2008

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It is June and high school graduation season. While many parents like to give a big present to their kids as a congratulatory gift, it used to be a car or a trip to Europe. But the graduation gift that has a lot of people talking lately is cosmetic plastic surgery.

In some areas it has become trendy to give your graduating teenager a nose job, teeth whitening treatments, breast augmentation, liposuction, or skin resurfacing. The idea of a gift certificate for plastic surgery is not unheard of. About 50% of plastic surgeons say they have had patients who received plastic surgery as a gift, according to a survey by the American Society of Plastic Surgeons.
But the appropriateness of plastic surgery as a gift for teenagers is being debated on the Internet.

People are asking if giving into a young adult's request for a new nose or a bigger bust is an appropriate reward for academic achievement; a triumph of appearance over substance.

Some of this desire for cosmetic surgery is due to the popularity of television shows about plastic surgery and extreme makeovers. Cosmetic surgery was once considered a sure sign of overwhelming vanity. It is widely acceptable to have some work done on a physical feature you may not be happy with.

Before you think about buying a high school graduate plastic surgery, there are several things you should consider:

  • Ask your child why he or she wants the surgery. If you know your daughter's nose has bothered her for years, it is a healthier reason than if she wants to look like a celebrity. However, being very unhappy about a body part, especially a healthy, reasonably normal body part can be a symptom of body dysmorphic disorder.
  • Think about his or her physical age. Although we think of 18-year-olds as grown-ups, they may not have completely finished growing. Young men especially may have more growing to do and young women's bodies may not finish maturing until their early 20s.  
  • Think about his or her mental age. Is he or she emotionally mature enough to understand the risks of surgery and deal with the pain, discomfort, and other side effects of surgery? Some cosmetic surgery procedures can take up to a month for recovery.
  • Does your child understand the long-term significance of plastic surgery? A nose job is a one-time surgery, but breast implants will probably have to be removed and replaced in 12 to 15 years, which will be an additional expense your daughter will have to cope with.

Other things to consider are age limits for breast augmentation. Officially, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration restricts saline-filled breast implants to women 18 and older and silicone-filled implants to women 22 and older except in cases of breast reconstruction. The difference in the age limits is because the risks are different for the two types of implants.

Plastic surgeons do see a distinction in plastic surgery as a gift when the young person wants it compared to when the parent is pushing for it. A parent making the suggestion of the gift can inadvertently give the young person the idea that they are not acceptable as they are. A good plastic surgeon will talk to the younger person alone to ensure that they don't feel pressured into having the surgery.

The bottom line is that if you are thinking of giving cosmetic surgery as a gift, all of the aspects of the surgery should be considered.  If they are carefully thought through, it can be a good gift.