When I think plastic surgery, I think of women who are 60 years plus wanting to look in their 30s again – but cosmetic procedures are becoming much more common amongst young people.
Whether it’s getting lip fillers, boob jobs or tattooed eyebrows – plastic surgery and dermal fillers are in high demand in 17- 25 age bracket.
Practice Nurse, Cosmetic Injector, Dermal Clinician and Clinical Trainer, Elysse Kenner is increasingly seeing young women enter through her practice and more often than not, under the age of 21.
We spoke to ten girls between the ages of 18 and 23 and found that more than half would consider cosmetic surgery.
So why is there an increasing number of young women having serious cosmetic procedures?
Ms Kenner believes that social media and the pressures of society could be to blame.
“I think there’s a big social media influence, especially with the generation of the Kardashians and how they’ve changed how they look and I think it’s also a little bit of a peer pressure and what young people think is real.”
Kylie Jenner, at the age of 19, has 93.3 million followers on Instagram and is infamous for her lips, more specifically since she filled them with dermal fillers.
With a large teenage following, Jenner is considered to be one of the most influential people on social media. Monash University Marketing and Advertising Lecturer, Sarah Bartfeld believes that people like Jenner are able to easily influence younger women because of their age and obsession with social media.
“Psychologically, the younger we are the more likely we are to follow trends and pay attention to those with a lot of followers as we want to fit in. Social media is the way young people communicate. Everything is done online for them and it’s second nature to them.”
“It’s worrying when young people follow these sorts of trends. There is no reason why a 15-year-old needs lip fillers, and simply wanting to “look like a celebrity” really isn’t a good reason to alter their body. However, these days celebrity influence is so powerful that we will do anything to be like them.”
Despite seeing a lot of underage girls enter through her doors, Ms Kenner believes cosmetic procedures are both unethical and not suitable for teenage girls.
“I don’t treat anyone under the age of 18. I have had girls between the ages 16 and 18 wanting to come in and in my opinion, I would never treat anyone between that age, because girls are still developing they’re still not emotionally and socially developed. What they think is cool at that age might not be come 10 or 20 years later.”
However, this rule of thumb isn’t a legal requirement for all cosmetic injectors. Girls under the age of 18 are generally able to undergo cosmetic procedures if they have parental consent. Ms Kenner believes that there are a lot of people within the industry that are out to make money and have little disregard for the welfare and wellbeing of younger patients.
“I do question people who treat under 18s. I find it unethical; I find that a lot of people in my industry are out to make money rather than having the thought of their own patient’s mental state or why they really want treatments done”
Serious cosmetic surgeries are also being advertised to the younger generation as everyday beauty treatments but experts point out that getting dermal fillers isn’t on par with getting your nails done.
This is where social media and celebrity endorsements are potentially to blame.
Ms Bartfeld said that in the world of advertising and marketing, companies know that expensive products and treatments are difficult to sell to a younger audience – so they use celebrity endorsements.
“Because we love celebrities so much we not only want to wear the same products as them but we want to look like them head to toe – and if plastic surgery is how we do that then we’ll do it.”
The problem with this is that younger people, especially women, can be focused on the current trends and what their favourite celebrity is doing instead of understanding the realities.
Claire Andrews has dealt with the realities.
Andrews had a breast augmentation (enlargement) when she was 22 but made the decision to have the procedure when she was 15 years old.
“Every time I got dressed, had a shower or went to the beach it played on my mind. I hated shopping for bathers because I would always feel dejected about all the styles I couldn’t fit into.”
However, after having the procedure Claire’s self-confidence dramatically increased, going from hating her body to loving it.
“I will never forget the first time I tried a bra on for the first time after my operation. It sounds crazy but the confidence boost was almost instantaneous.”
Now 26, Claire believes that having the procedure was the “best decision [she’s] ever made”.
“I don’t cower away from mirrors anymore and see a woman in the reflection”
Procedures of this nature are expensive. Claire’s surgery consisted of two pre-op appointments, four post-op points and two laser sessions that helped to reduce scarring around her nipple. The total cost of her procedure was $10,500 – an amount that most young people don’t realise.
And the cost isn’t the only thing young women should be aware of.
While risks and negative outcomes are low in patients operated on by professionally trained and qualified nurses and surgeons, Ms Kenner acknowledged that there is always a chance something could go wrong.
“It’s a medical procedure so there’s always going to be risks involved and there are a lot of people out there who market it as a beauty treatment whereas the risks associated can be quite nasty.”
These are the realities that are hidden from celebrity Instagrams and clever marketing campaigns and often take a back burner to the thoughts of young women.
Cosmetic surgery is something that will always accompany an element of debate – so is it just or a fad or is it a great way to boost self-confidence and the path to loving yourself?