Scars to Your Beautiful

by Annika Engelbrecht, Noa Racin, Opinions Writers
photo by Eva Shimkus

Scrolling through Instagram, I see a recurring theme: gorgeous girls — friends and strangers alike — sitting perfectly on the beach or not so casually accentuating their sharpened jawline. It’s a struggle to avoid these cookie-cutter pictures. The monotonous experience is overwhelming, to say the least. 

After seeing so many of these photos, it’s hard not to compare yourself to the person shown. I’m definitely guilty of doing this and often, I end up feeling inadequate. Social media isn’t the only place where I’m exposed to “perfect bodies.” Television shows and movies are rife with stereotypically beautiful people — someone with no blemishes, exact features and a thin body — which perpetuates an unspoken pressure to conform. 

Constant exposure to edited and posed photos creates unrealistic body expectations, prompting teenagers, especially girls, to self-deprecate themselves and long to change their appearance through plastic surgery. Despite the normalization of this desire, high schoolers should not give into the temptation of fitting the mold. 

The most salient reason is that teenagers’ brains haven’t fully developed. While most associate 18, the age of adulthood, with responsibility and maturity, scientists suggest otherwise. According to National Public Radio, the human brain isn’t finished developing until the age of 25. As a 14-year-old just beginning high school, I was under a false impression of maturity. I was in no shape to be making life-altering decisions like plastic surgery, and neither would any other 14-year-old. 

Even now as a junior, I still constantly make rash choices without thinking them through. This lack of understanding that comes with an underdeveloped brain can lead to reckless decisions, which is why high schoolers should not make the life-altering decision to have plastic surgery done, especially with the health risks tied to it. 

According to the American Medical Association Journal of Ethics, there is little research on the long-term effects of teenage plastic surgery. In 2017, the American Society of Plastic Surgeons calculated that roughly 229,000 patients aged 13-17 underwent cosmetic procedures. Despite this staggering number, further research found that the medical field has very few guidelines to ensure that surgeons both properly and safely perform adolescent surgery. 

While a few surgeries, like rhinoplasties and most ear surgeries, can be done safely by a board-certified surgeon, other procedures, like botox and liposuction, have no evidence of being safe for teenagers. Even though select surgeries can be done generally without harm, having plastic surgery can cause serious complications to one’s long-term health such as infection and scarring. Choosing to commit to plastic surgery could lead to injury, and beauty doesn’t have to come with pain. 

As a kid, I watched “Clueless”, a movie set in a rich high school, and I remember seeing many of the background characters sporting a post-surgery bandage on their noses. Although I didn’t think much of it at the time, the association of plastic surgery with wealth and social status stuck with me. 

Cinema continues to enforce the idea that people need to have the “perfect body” no matter what it takes. Women especially receive an unfair share of this spotlight. Movies that feature plastic surgery seem to focus predominantly on teenage girls. The constant, unrelenting exposure drives the need for physical perfection deep into impressionable children. With this message constantly presented, children and adults alike might feel the need to look as perfect as the stars do on television and undergo physically altering surgeries at a young age. Change needs to come from the media instead of teenagers; high schoolers shouldn’t be expected to alter their bodies to fit the media’s idea of what a perfect body is. 

Some teens do decide to undergo plastic surgery to fit the mold or perhaps to blend in; however, the decision to do so should come from them alone. Not being 100% confident about plastic surgery can lead to regret. 

Although a few plastic surgery procedures can be undone — like injectables and fillers — reversing surgeries come with risks. According to the American Board of Cosmetic Surgery, an enzyme called hyaluronidase can remove hyaluronic acid fillers; however, since the enzyme is derived from animals, a possible allergic reaction can occur.

People should never have plastic surgery to please others, but, unfortunately, high school is the prime creator of peer pressure and the want to fit in. So much of a teenager’s life is devoted to comparing themselves to others; are they wearing the right brand of clothing, are they thin enough, do they look good, so all teens want is to blend in through any means, making high school one of the worst times to consider cosmetic augmentation. 

Plastic surgery should not be taken lightly. Even if they believe they are responsible, high school students are too young to make such a drastic decision. Beyond high schoolers’ own lack of a fully developed brain, science and medicine lack the basic research behind the long-term effects of teenage plastic surgery. 

More often than not, the risks will outweigh the benefits, and the motive for augmentation is flawed. Most importantly, plastic surgery should never be used solely to fit into the notion of an ideal body. After all, teenagers aren’t meant to be perfect.