Australian doctors are calling for a ban on all non-essential cosmetic surgeries for anyone under the age of 18. The Cosmetic Physicians Society of Australasia (CPSA) proposes that stricter controls be put into place so that teenagers are not receiving cosmetic or surgical procedures of any kind – no liposuction, no lip filler, no nose jobs, nothing – unless there is compelling medical or psychological reasons for it.
Currently there are no age restrictions in most states of Australia for cosmetic treatments, and it is at the discretion of the doctor involved. The ban would mean all states of Australia would fall into line with Queensland, where currently any doctor operating on a child without a solid reason faces up to two years in prison. The Medical Council of New South Wales requires young people considering cosmetic surgery to observe a three-month cooling-off period and further consultation. Discussion is encouraged with the child’s doctor, and if indicated, a psychologist.
According to clinics across Australia, it isn’t unheard of for teenage girls to come into clinics looking for lip filler injections and other procedures. This may be a reward by parents, for example for passing exams or graduating. Cheek fillers and lip fillers may be performed, but in many instances young people must be accompanied by a parent, or a responsible doctor will not perform the procedure. The main issue young people have is the money to pay for fillers, so parents or other adults usually have input.
Taiwan recently banned ‘medically unnecessary’ plastic surgery in under-18s to protect their beauty-obsessed youngsters from diving in without due consideration. This includes nose jobs and breast augmentation. Previously, teenagers had to have the approval of a parent only. The Dutch Health Minister has plans to set an age limit for cosmetic surgery and to ensure any television program featuring cosmetic surgery had a warning.
Why do teenagers want lip fillers anyway?
The Kardashians have a lot to answer for. Pop culture means these procedures are now the new normal for young women, who scroll down their Instagram feeds to see nothing but gorgeous, filtered models who talk openly about their ‘beauty secrets’. These secrets may include dermal fillers, which are known to be safe, effective, and temporary.
A teenage girl may argue that it is no different to dying her hair or even getting braces – why wouldn’t she want to look as good as she could? Competition at high school is stiff, the pecking order brutal, and when you have very few refined skills to bring to the table to compete with, looks can become a platform.
Why shouldn’t teenagers be allowed to get temporary cosmetic procedures?
This is a problematic question, because the superficial answer (of ‘who cares, go for it!’) belies the deeper issues our culture is grappling with – and not doing a great job of understanding. When we teach our kids that everything is modifiable and that beauty ideals are more important and valuable than being smart or interesting, we offer them a picture of life that can deplete them of the motivation they need to nurture their personalities and skills in the same way that they might otherwise.
Delaying procedures until young people are at least 18 means they have an opportunity to grow into themselves a little more. It doesn’t mean they won’t get cosmetic procedures in the future, but it means as a society, we are looking out for them just that little bit more.