Teenagers and Rhinoplasty in New York

woman in glasses looking to the side with colorful lights



Discussing teenagers and plastic surgery always elicits deep emotional reactions from all sides. Those in favor of it realize that it can go far in enhancing one’s self image at a time when self confidence and social acceptance can be very important. Others feel that it is too early for teenagers to be having any purely elective surgery. I will be addressing rhinoplasty only; which comprises over 10% of facial plastic surgery procedures according to a survey by the American Academy of Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery (AAFPRS). Basically, I have seen so many teenagers come out of their shells after rhinoplasty that I support this procedure for a properly motivated teen.

Why the nose? Our face defines who we are, how others see us and who we see. The nose is the most prominent feature on the face.  An important scientific study on physical attractiveness and peer perception states that “physical attractiveness may be an important personal characteristic primarily during adolescence…when social acceptance by a peer group is a particular salient issue.” (Dion KK, Bersheid, E. Physical attractiveness and peer perception among children. Sociometry journal 1974 vol. 3).  Following cosmetic surgery, adolescents can gain self satisfaction from changes in their appearance which is beyond what would otherwise occur with natural development (Sills KH, et al. Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery Journal Vol .109, 2002).

What age should we consider rhinoplasty? The general teaching, going back decades, has been that girls can have rhinoplasty as soon as 15 years of age and boys by 16. This is when they are almost fully grown. What is more important than physical growth is the age at which teenager can make a mature responsible decision to undergo surgery. Given changes in society, this age is getting younger and younger. What I do during the consultation is gauge the teen’s level of maturity and motivations for surgery.  Teens are also very visual. Computer imaging is an excellent tool for visualizing potential results and provides a positive reinforcement for the planned surgery.

One of the biggest obstacles is reluctant parents who saw too many overdone noses. I am about the same age as many of these parents and too many of my peers have pinched “fixed” looking noses. Today’s nosejob should look natural, one that fits the face. One of the most common and gratifying comments I get from former patients is that they saw old friends from camp or school and the remarks were: “you look great, did you lose weight? Change your hair?” NOT, oh, you had a nosejob. The other rewarding experience is seeing a once introspective quiet teen, one who barely looked up, now standing tall with pride and self confidence; often with changes far beyond anything I did for their nose.

Steven J. Pearlman, MD, FACS