Summary: An east coast nonprofit called the Little Baby Face Foundation has made a well-deserved name for itself providing low income families the financial means to pursue plastic surgery for children born with birth defects. However, recently, the Little Baby Face Foundation has also been providing funds for low income teens looking to escape from bullying. This is a noble pursuit, and it’s difficult to argue with the results—but aesthetic plastic surgeons have always been rightly hesitant to treat those who are not adults or who have not finished developing. A thoughtful approach is required.
The Dark Ages
Think back to those dark years, those years when nothing went right and everything was awful: middle school. Maybe high school was a little better. And yes, if you’re one of those people that just loved every second of high school, that’s great, we’re happy for you. But for most people, moving beyond high school is just a part of growing up, and it’s natural to forget just how horrific (or great) high school was all those years ago. One of the benefits of hindsight is that we can look at those years a bit more clearly than we used to.
Perhaps that’s why, as a society, we’ve become much better at stemming bullying. It’s simply not okay anymore, and there’s a stigma attached to bullies today that, yesterday, was simply fear. All of which amounts to a changed world for high school and middle school students—but not one without challenges. And this is the context in which we discuss this, perhaps odd, perhaps visionary case from the east coast.
A Noble Mission
A nonprofit called the Little Baby Face Foundation raises funds that can be used for bullied teens to purchase elective aesthetic plastic surgery. In other words, the Little Baby Face Foundation gives money to teens whose sole escape from bullying is plastic surgery. There are a few things about this particular set up that should jump out to us as worth investigating. First, there’s the notion that this bullying must be pretty brutal.
Examining an Escape From Bullying
This shouldn’t be surprising about bullying. As with everything in the modern day, it seems bullying is much more intense—and much more personal—than it used to be. And the teens helped by the Little Baby Face Foundation have been found to face quite profound harassment. In the case of one girl, her nose was a spot of much ridicule. And yet, it’s not entirely clear why plastic surgery is easier than stemming the behavior of the bully. It would seem that disciplining the behavior of those bullies would be an easier course of action than painful plastic surgery (which often comes with a lengthy recovery period).
The second element worth investigating here is, simply, the age of the children in question. Because, after all, these are still kids we’re talking about. In the example cited above, rhinoplasty was performed on a 15 year old girl. This is significant because most people continue to develop physically into their teen years and, sometimes, even into their early twenties. According to the websites of some New Jersey rhinoplasty experts, rhinoplasty is a procedure that must take into account the overall proportions of the entire face.
In other words, if the overall composition of the patient’s face changes, the overall value of the rhinoplasty could diminish or disappear all together. For rhinoplasty to be most effective, all aspects of the face must achieve a kind of harmony. This is especially difficult when the face is still changing and developing naturally.
Which, of course, brings us to the third aspect of this nonprofit’s mission which warrants examination. These procedures are performed on teens and pre-teens. Most plastic surgeons are especially hesitant to perform aesthetic plastic surgery on youth, not only because of the issues listed above—the still developing body—but also because the mind is still developing. More than most other populations, teenagers are susceptible to peer pressure and body dismorphia—essentially, a teenager doesn’t always view his or her body very realistically.
Plastic Surgery for Birth Defects
That said, there are rare conditions in which plastic surgery is often advisable for a child. For example, in the case of overly large ears, many parents elect to have their children undergo a relatively simple procedure to ensure that the ears maintain a more traditional profile. The same may be true with other abnormalities or disfigurements, as well as genetic anomalies or birth defects. Correcting a cleft pallet with plastic surgery is routine—as it should be.
The mission of the Little Baby Face Foundation is primarily to provide plastic surgery for those low income families who have children born with birth defects. And we should be clear about that. Helping low income families with children who suffer from bullying is something new and does not comprise the bulk of the work that the Little Baby Face Foundation accomplishes.
An Eye on the Outcomes
And the other side of this is, of course, satisfied and happy patients. It’s hard not to argue that this plastic surgery procedure has not made a positive impact on the lives of those who have been bullied and now, suddenly, are free from that pressure. But it’s a complex arena, and one where we should all, I think, tread rather lightly. At the very least, it’s worth continuing to take a thoughtful, measured approach, and to resist the urge to look at plastic surgery as the first and only solution to problems for teens.