Plastic surgery scares some, entices many

By Laura Van De Pette
September 16, 2005


Cosmetic surgery proves to be more than skin deep.

The sexy airbrushed bodies on magazine covers and the beautifully toned bodies of celebrities are tempting women of all ages to chose plastic surgery to obtain their dream body. Going under the knife for a slimmer waist and larger breast is becoming commonplace for young women across the nation, but what is at stake for young women is more than skin deep.

Plastic surgery has become a furiously growing trend, especially among women age 17-21. Despite the demand from such eager patients, some surgeons are troubled by the number of high-school-age girls who are accompanied by their parents and insist on breast augmentation before starting college.

A prominent cosmetic surgeon who has been practicing cosmetic and plastic surgery for nearly 20 years is very concerned about this growing trend. He feels plastic surgery is not meant to be a hasty decision that is made by parents to please their daughters on their high school graduation day or birthday.

The board certified surgeon explained that young girls about to embark on their college career are receiving the wrong impression from their fathers about physical beauty and sexuality. He feels these young girls are being psychologically damaged rather than physically enhanced.

He suggested that such patients are simply too young to understand the magnitude of their decision. Breast implants must be replaced every seven-10 years and for a 17-year-old girl that means she will have undergone surgery three times by the time she 40, young girls just don’t think about their breasts in 20 years, they are too concerned with achieving beauty right now. This trend is disturbing to me as a surgeon and as a father.

In the first-ever research of its kind, a study conducted by the American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS) details the people considering plastic surgery and their motivations. The study found potential patients came from all economic levels and age ranges. Their motivations were personal but not always vanity oriented.

“Finally we have a study that reveals the truth about real people considering plastic surgery,” said Walter Erhardt, MD, chair of the ASPS Public Education Committee. “It’s not just women over 50 with high incomes who are seriously considering procedures. It’s the young mom next door, the waiter who served you coffee this morning, even your coworker,” this according to the ASPS’ official website.

According to the ASPS, “The study, which polled 644 people considering plastic surgery within the next two years, found almost 30 percent, or 191 participants, reported average household incomes of less than $30,000.”

In addition to the general poll, the ASPS conducted 60 in-depth interviews with people actively considering plastic surgery. The interviews proved more than 40 percent of these potential patients had been considering plastic surgery for quite some time, often more than a year.

According to the ASPS, “Most of those interviewed felt they could achieve emotional, psychological and social improvements by having plastic surgery. Although most participants were interested in having plastic surgery to improve their appearance, many emphasized they were not motivated by vanity. Instead, they associated plastic surgery with improving a bothersome physical feature to overcome dissatisfaction and unhappiness with that feature.”

A 21-year-old female Cabrini student who had cosmetic breast augmentation one year ago said, “I have been wanting larger breasts since I was 17. I could never fit into the shirts I wanted to wear but my parents refused to pay for the surgery so I saved the money on my own and financed the surgery. I knew I made the right decision because even after three years of saving and thinking about the risks I was still determined to go through with the surgery. I appreciate having done the surgery at age 20 rather than when I was 17 because at such a young age I was very immature and unsure of my body. Waiting a few years gave me the chance to thoroughly think about the surgery.”

The ASPS website said, “When asked why they wanted to have plastic surgery, 75 percent of those interviewed said to gain physical benefits such as improved appearance, becoming more active and being healthier. Approximately 70 percent reported emotional and psychological benefits such as increased happiness, self-esteem and self-confidence. In addition, 45 percent expected social benefits from plastic surgery, including being more accepted and more attractive to others.

An 18-year-old female Cabrini student who had cosmetic breast augmentation surgery in May 2005, said, “I never thought of having larger breast much. My breasts were an average size before my surgery but then I heard of girls in my high school getting implants for graduation presents and I thought it would be cool. I had my surgery paid for by my father three weeks after I graduated. I cannot think of any negative aspects of the surgery but I was surprised to find my breasts have become a huge part of who I am and how people know me, I’m not sure I thought that would happen.”

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Laura Van De Pette

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