How Young is Too Young?
Cosmetic surgery is reshaping the nation, and even Scottsdale
are getting into the act.
Most 17-year-olds get clothes for their birthday and if they're lucky, maybe
a new car. Michelle got breast implants, an increasingly popular birthday gift
among Scottsdale teens.
Michelle is one of 3,841 teenagers who had breast augmentation surgery in the
U.S. in 2003, nearly 1,000 more than in 2002. The number of cosmetic surgeries
among teens and adults continues to rise nationwide, and particularly in Scottsdale.
In addition to breast surgery, Michelle has also had chin and cheek implants.
alone. Friends at school and even her mother have had similar operations.
Nearly half of our senior class has had some kind of plastic surgery,” said
one Desert Mountain High School student. “Most of them have nose jobs.
A lot of girls get it for a graduation gift,” she added.
Dr. Marvin Borsand owns the Body Sculpting Center in Scottsdale, where he has
performed breast augmentations as well as a number of other procedures for 17
years. “With Britney Spears’ situation, it’s made things tougher,” he
said. “You never saw anyone under 21 years old (having plastic surgery)
five or six years ago.
“Nose doctors are having the same issue,” he added. “Girls
are coming in at 13 and 14 years old. These are not easy situations. You try
and do the right thing.” Nose surgeries made up 42,000 of the almost 332,000
cosmetic surgeries performed on teens in 2003.
Dr. Borsand said he has only performed a handful of breast augmentations on patients
under 18, and only after a strict psychological evaluation and parental consent. “They
were all 17, and they’ve all been within the last three years,” he
“It’s okay, honey. It’s what’s inside you that counts,” said
mothers of a generation past. But fat wallets and medical advances have cleared
the way for another motherly response: “It’s ok honey. I know a great
Scottsdale is home to more than half the cosmetic surgeons in the state and
has one of the highest cosmetic surgeon-to-population ratios in the world.
“ The Scottsdale area is the hub of plastic surgery,” said Dr. Johnson,
who has been practicing cosmetic surgery in Scottsdale for 24 years, adding that
cultural changes have clearly contributed to the increase in cosmetic operations.
“The growing trend in cosmetic surgery reality shows, such as MTV's I Want
a Famous Face, sends a dangerous message,” cautions the British Association
of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons in response to the American craze.
Dr. Johnson agreed that Americans are preoccupied with appearance. “There
are a lot of studies that show people who look better get promoted,” Dr.
Johnson said. “I’m not sure that’s good, bad or indifferent,
but it’s reality. There is certainly a premium on appearance.”
But is that emphasis taking it too far? “It’s always vain,” Dr.
Borsand said of cosmetic surgery. “If we were in Kosovo and were having
a tough time making ends meet, we wouldn’t be coming in for nose surgery.
We all have something we don’t like about ourselves.”
Matt and Mike Schlepp were in exactly that position. There were a couple things
the identical twins didn’t like about themselves, namely their faces.
September marks one year since the north Phoenix twins had $22,700 worth of
cosmetic surgery performed on their noses, cheeks, chins and teeth. Photos
of the twins before surgery show pale, acne-ridden faces topped with black
I had saved up. I was going to pay for my surgery,” says Michael, who
began saving in the seventh grade. As it turned out the twins wouldn’t
have to foot the bill after all.
Matt wrote a letter to MTV about us and the lack of the confidence that we
exhibited in life,” Michael explained. The 20-year-old twins made the
cut, and MTV’s I Want a Famous Face shadowed them in their quest to look
like Brad Pitt and, well… Brad Pitt.
After scouring the nation for the best cosmetic surgeon, Matt and Mike’s
search led them right back to Scottsdale, where Dr. Johnson offered to do the
surgeries for free in trade for publicity.
I actually love myself more. Before I didn’t. Now I look at myself as
a beautiful person. I love who I see, what I look at,” says Michael,
who describes himself as “really fashionable.”
The swelling from the surgery lasted five months, during which the brothers
took Acutane for their skin.
While Matt and Mike don’t really look like Brad Pitt, they now say they
only “wanted the bone structure of his face.”
Though they're satisfied with the outcome, Dr. Johnson warns, such procedures
can pose both physical and psychological dangers.
Perhaps the greatest of which are unmet expectations. “Especially with
younger people, they think it’s like going to the salon. But there are
physical risks. People get infections, bleed, even die,” Dr. Johnson
For some patients, modifying their looks can become a habit. “You do
have those folks who are addicted to cosmetic procedures,” Dr. Borsand
said. “We do watch out for the ones who want to get every imperfection
out. If they’ve already had five procedures, they’re never going
to be happy,” he said.
Dr. Borsand also says patients who are interested in surgery to please spouses,
parents or boyfriends are especially at risk to develop emotional issues.
“ If you’re trying to save a relationship or a marriage, the issue
is something much deeper,” he said.
It’s hard to walk to the grocery stand without being bombarded [with
image], whether it’s reality shows or MTV, whether it’s Madison
Avenue or Hollywood. There’s certainly a premium put on how you look.
I’m not saying whether that’s good or bad,” Dr. Johnson said.
Both Dr. Borsand and Dr. Johnson cautioned that surgery too early can cause
additional deformity or even prevent Mother Nature from fixing problems naturally.
Both also agreed that 17 is almost always too young for breast augmentation
Sometimes you just need to back up and say we need to let this rest,” says
This world is very superficial,” Michael Schlepp said. “Everyone’s
just looking at people’s looks. That’s the first thing people recognize
is your facial features. We’re a society that everything is based on
looks. I know that for a fact.”
In the end, the real risks may be more cultural than physical.
What do you think? Should parents allow teens who are concerned with looks
to pursue surgical remedies for their physical flaws? Let us know by calling
our Sound Off line at 480-391-6519.