How Young Is Too Young for Cosmetic Treatments?

How Young Is Too Young for Cosmetic Treatments?

With millennials and the younger Gen Z growing up with selfie culture and cosmetic treatments being more openly discussed, it’s only natural that prospective patients are curious about their medical aesthetic options at an even younger age. But with Botox being suggested to those in their early 20s and a 17-year-old celebrity’s lip filler “confession” leading to a 70% increase in inquiries in the U.K. alone, it raises the question of how young is too young for cosmetic treatments?

Legalities and Statistics

According to United States law, there’s no legal age a patient must be to receive a cosmetic treatment. However, those under 18 years old require express written consent from their legal parent or guardian prior to treatment. 

Last year in the U.S., cosmetic procedure patients aged 13 to 19 years old made up the smallest demographic (40- to 54-year-olds are still the largest demographic), accounting for 229,000 cosmetic procedures, 66,000 of which were surgical and 163,000 minimally-invasive, according to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons’ 2017 report. The most popular cosmetic surgeries among this demographic in 2017 were rhinoplasty, breast augmentation, breast reduction in males, otoplasty (ear shaping), and liposuction. The most popular minimally-invasive treatments were laser hair removal, laser skin resurfacing, Botox, laser treatment of leg veins, and microdermabrasion. As an added note, the number of procedures performed on teenage patients remains fairly steady despite the increase in interest. 

Of course, these statistics don’t offer insight into why these patients sought treatment, which will also be a consideration when choosing to treat a younger patient. As always, procedures may be treated as rehabilitative (i.e., to improve daily function, such as a breast reduction to deter back pain) or cosmetic (i.e., to improve aesthetics and self-image, such as otoplasty to deter bullying). 

The Argument Against Invasive Procedures

Depending on the purpose of the procedure, there may be treatments that are less well suited for patients of a younger age. Most often, invasive procedures in teens are discouraged, particularly liposuction or breast augmentation, while others may be ideal for a younger patient, such as ear shaping or rhinoplasty. There are two reasons for this:  

  1. Patients may still be growing into their bodies and features, meaning that select invasive procedures may be performed and appear natural at present, but can alter over time as the patient continues to mature. Rhinoplasty, for example, is often best performed as early as age 18 or 19, as the facial structure is then fully developed, and skin is still elastic enough to conform to an altered structure for a smooth, natural-looking outcome. Breast augmentation, however, may be better left to later years, when the patient has fully developed.
  2. Patients may not be able to handle the physical and emotional demands of surgery or be mature enough to properly follow post-treatment care requirements to ensure the best outcome. This becomes even more of a concern if the young patient is lacking parental support.

Best Practice Tips for Treating Younger Patients

In the end, the case for each and every patient, regardless of their age, varies. Generally speaking, whenever circumstances permit, non-invasive options should be preferred and invasive procedures deferred until the patient is at least in their 20s.

Here are some additional tips to ensure you’re ethically and effectively treating young patients for positive treatment outcomes:

  • Listen extra carefully: During your initial consultation, get to the bottom of the patient’s underlying goals for their treatment request to establish if there may be a non-invasive modality that may be preferred for a similar outcome.
  • Be a safe space: Have plenty of sympathy for younger patients and listen to their concerns. Be extra sensitive to their needs and encourage them to ask plenty of questions, free of judgment.
  • Take more time: While you may be used to converting patients at the end of your consultation procedure, for younger prospective patients, it’s best to encourage a cooling off period and follow-up consultation to better get to know the patient and ensure this is the best solution for them.
  • Prioritize informed consent: In tandem with a cooling off period, offer patients detailed brochures on the average outcomes and potential risks of any recommended or requested treatment options. For those under the age of 18, having the legal parent or guardian present and well informed throughout the consultation process and treatment plan is imperative.
  • Beware of red flags: Just as there may be red flags with older patients, the same exists with younger patients. Celebrity images for inspiration can be one. Body dysmorphia is another. If you’re unsure of the patient’s underlying goals, it may be best to encourage them to see another treatment provider or to wait until they are better able to articulate these goals on their own.
  • Partner with a psychologist: Having a working relationship with a respected child psychologist can help better assess the likeliness of a positive outcome in cases concerning mental health, including body dysmorphia.
  • Keep it simple: Whenever possible, recommend a non-invasive treatment first and keep the patient’s age, growth stage, and maturity level in mind when creating any long-term treatment plan. In most instances, less will be more. Keep plans streamlined and continuously check in with the patient to ensure they are not overwhelmed.

With an appropriate consultation procedure in place that prioritizes ethics and informed consent while taking into account the prospective patient’s unique needs and circumstances, treating younger patients can be a point of pride for your clinic.

Looking to invest in cutting-edge non-invasive devices that better suit this growing demographic’s needs as well as those of your older patients? Contact a Venus Concept expert to learn about our workstation options and our unique business model that prioritizes your success above all else.

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