Summary: Plastic surgery has grown incredibly popular worldwide. Indeed, Brazil residents enjoy more plastic surgery per capita than anywhere else in the world. However, with some plastic surgery procedures, there can be a downside. Outside of the correction of congenital conditions, children are generally discouraged from undergoing plastic surgery. But that’s not the case in Venezuela, where parents are encouraging their children to undergo plastic surgery so that they perform better at beauty pageants. These pageants offer a quick way out of poverty, but there are ethical and physical considerations for plastic surgeons to keep in mind. Contrast this with Minneapolis breast surgery experts who require candidates to have realistic expectations and you can see how wide the gulf is.

Competition and Pressure

The pressure to compete and win can be intense. Up in these northern Minnesota climates, kids start playing hockey when they are four or five years old—and even as young as ten or eleven, leagues organize traveling tournaments with trophies and roll calls and lights and pressure. Central to this pressure, I’m sad to say, are parents. It’s no secret, after all, that often in youth sports, can be seen shouting irrationally from the stands, or even threatening coaches and referees with bodily harm. Which is to say, people can get a little crazy.

I mention this to add a little context to news coming out of Venezuela. We’ve written before about how seriously Venezuelans take plastic surgery—how a breast implant shortage was causing problems. But this story, reported first by the Daily Mail, seems to take things to a new level. Apparently, girls as young as twelve are getting signed up for plastic surgery. The reason? To win beauty pageants. That said, it’s really quite difficult to justify some of the extremes in the story (intestine removal, for example).

Plastic Surgery for Pageants

Look, pageants are big in Venezuela. They’re like hockey in Minnesota, or football in Texas. And as is the case for many youth hockey or football parents, the parents of these Venezuelan youngsters see winning pageants as a kind of escape from poverty. Unfortunately, winning these pageants is a complex and difficult undertaking—that is, the odds are long, and this path to escape poverty is, thus, fraught with disappointment. And while plastic surgery in Venezuela is certainly not as expensive as it is in the United States, it still isn’t cheap. This can leave families with poverty and extra debt.

So while the motivations behind some of these parents might be understandable, at least, the prevalence of these procedures, and the fact that they’re performed on young women, raises some serious ethical considerations. As with any young patients of plastic surgery, there are emotional and biological variables to consider—and those are no small hurdle on the way to getting plastic surgery.

Emotional and Physical Considerations for Plastic Surgery

Right off the bat, in some cases, plastic surgery on young adults or even children is without question a good course of action. For example, plastic surgery designed to correct birth defects, such as a cleft lip or cleft palate. Those procedures can help young children live socially normal lives when the original defect may have caused great emotional and social discomfort. A similar case can be made for deformed ears or noses—indeed, ear reduction surgery is not entirely uncommon for juveniles.

However, purely aesthetic plastic surgery is something of a different matter. The most pressing physical complication in cases of youngsters is the fact that their bodies simply have not stopped developing. Indeed, the human body keeps developing long past those pubescent teen years and into young adulthood. There are some parts of your body that don’t stop changing and developing until your early twenties. This is especially true of areas such as breast tissue. Not only does this make it difficult to justify a long term solution (small breasts, for example, may naturally turn into larger breasts), but it also makes it difficult to ensure or even predict accurately the end result of the surgery. Indeed, if the body goes through a major change or shift months after surgery, the entire final look could change.

Developing Body

But there are some parts of the body that stop developing somewhat sooner. The nose, for example, stops developing around age 13. This makes it safe to perform a rhinoplasty procedure on a child of roughly that age, though usually plastic surgeons prefer to wait until a later age to perform that procedure.

And, of course, this says nothing of the emotional factors at play in performing plastic surgery on children and young adults. Teens already, after all, have a difficult time keeping an accurate perspective on their bodies. The potential for serious body dimorphism issues to develop or deepen is just too real. That’s why most plastic surgeons are incredibly hesitant to perform aesthetic plastic surgery on peoples less than eighteen years of age. There are simply too many emotional and physical variables involved.

Plastic Surgery Standards

Of course, exceptions can be made, and I think it’s important to look at what’s happening in Venezuela within that context: plastic surgery is viewed as a way out, a way to a better life. It’s not true, usually, but it’s the story that people buy into. Despite whatever reservations we have about the procedures themselves (and we should have reservation), we have to at least acknowledge the good intentions behind them. We can, however, hold those practicing plastic surgeons to a higher standard.

According to the website of the Minneapolis breast surgery experts at Minneapolis Plastic Surgery, all candidates for plastic surgery should be in a non-pressured state of mind and have realistic expectations. I don’t think it’s asking that much for the Venezuelan plastic surgeons offering procedures to young women to apply the same standard. In the long run, those young women may be happier for it.

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