Plastic surgery for teens

There’s an article in the NYTimes this week about how an increasing number of teenagers are having plastic surgery. The article says that in 2006 teenagers made up 70% of all of the people who had this particular type of surgery. Astoundingly, it’s to “fix” a problem that is generally outgrown in the later phases of adolescence.

Here’s what the surgery is for: gynecomastia.

Anyone? Anyone? Gynecomastia is the name for enlarged male breasts. In 2006, 14,000 adolescent boys ages 13 – 19 underwent plastic surgery to reduce their breast size.

This is outrageous! Why is no one throwing a total fit over this? The world would be screaming bloody murder if teenage girls were getting plastic surgery to make their body look more like a magazine cover, why aren’t they doing it about teenage boys? And what makes it even worse is that this is generally a condition that 1) is generally outgrown in a few years and 2) is generally associated with obesity and will resolve itself when excess weight is lost. So, just to be clear, what we’re talking about here is teenage boys having surgery to resolve a developmental and weight issue. Teenage girls would never be allowed to do such a thing, and nor should boys.

The article includes a number of young men who had the surgery as teenagers talking about how painful their life was before the surgery because of extreme teasing by their peers. I don’t want to diminish their pain. That’s horrible. But a surgical response is just completely unreasonable and damaging in the long run.

About Karen Rayne

Dr. Karen Rayne has been supporting parents and families since 2007 when she received her PhD in Educational Psychology. A specialist in child wellbeing, Dr. Rayne has spent much of her career supporting parents, teachers, and other adults who care for children and teenagers.


  1. I agree that this is a horrible procedure, albeit understandable in a population that idolized appearance. I disagree (and I think you should check your facts if you truly think you are right) that anyone would be screaming anything about girls have similar (or more involved) procedures!

    I googled ‘plastic surgery teen girs’ and the first hit says “In 2003, over 74,000 cosmetic surgeries were performed on kids under 18. That’s an astounding 14-percent increase in just three years. And if you include all cosmetic procedures, like chemical peels, microdermabrasion and Botox (yes, teens getting Botox!), the number shoots up to 336,000–up over 50 percent in one year.”

    Teen girls ARE allowed to do such things – should teen boys be prevented?

  2. By suggesting that teen girls would never be allowed to have this sort of plastic surgery, I meant the kind that will resolve itself through puberty and weight loss.

    And I’m horrified by the number of teen girls who are getting plastic surgery. And rather than opening that can of worms up for teen boys, I think we should just shut it down for everyone!

  3. I think we should shut it down for everyone too, but the problem with that is that people have a major problem with government regulating their personal affairs. Abortion rights, Plastic Surgery, Medical-assisted suicide….I mean really, these things are controversial because people want to have the freedom to do whatever they want to do to themselves. I suppose the powers-that-be would like to prevent all the stupid people out there from harming themselves by adding “THIS IS HOT” labels to coffee cups, but seriously, perhaps prevention of natural selection might not be such a good idea in the long run.

    Okay, perhaps as a humanitarian, that comment could be considered offensive, but I have to wonder sometimes at the intelligence and lack of common sense the majority of people seem to have.

  4. I agree with Teri, I don’t think the government should interfere with parental rights, but what about the rights of the children and/or adolescents to reach adulthood without physical mutilation that they might later regret? Or that leads to significant physical problems later? I’m not advocating governmental ‘controls’, I’m asking for people (parents, adolescents, physicians) to be more thoughtful about what they recommend, ask for, provide. That would be an increase in thoughtful exchange – that is my goal.

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