Image obsession drives teens to plastic surgery - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Image obsession drives teens to plastic surgery

By Lori Brown - bio | email

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC-TV) – 13.1 million people went under the knife for a cosmetic procedure in 2010, and more than 200,000 of those operations were performed on teens.

Kaley Shanks is one such teen.  In a recent interview, Shanks said she is happy with what she sees when she looks in the mirror now, but that hasn't always been the case.

"I always said that if I didn't have boobs by the time I was 18, that I'd get them," she said. "And three months later, I did."

And why not? Shanks had the support of her parents, and she was able to come up with the finances.

"I actually borrowed it from somebody and paid them back within the next year," she said.

And Shanks didn't do it for a boyfriend or anyone else - she did it for herself.

"I wouldn't care what people think anyway," she said.

But experts say most teens long for acceptance among their peers, and the numbers speak volumes.  According to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, nearly 210,000 cosmetic plastic surgery procedures were performed on people age 13 to 19 in 2009.

More than 8,000 of those were breast enlargements, and 2,953 of them were on people age 18 and younger.

"I don't think they judged me, to my face anyway," Shanks said.

Nose jobs were the most popular procedures among teens.  35,000 U.S. teenagers had their noses surgically reshaped in 2009, while male breast reductions, breast augmentations, and ear surgeries were popular but not as in high of demand.

"Sometimes folks have ears that stick out, and even when you go swimming and all that you can't hide it with long hair,' said cosmetic surgeon Dr. Walter Erhardt.

Erhardt, the former President of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, has performed countless surgeries on teenagers.

"The younger folks have a tendency to try and fit in, so they try and do procedures that make them fit in a little better," he said.

The obsession with looking "picture perfect" begins at a young age, with magazines and movies putting the pressure on all of us to look good.  It's that pressure, according to doctors, driving more and more teens to go under the knife.

Erhardt says teens contemplating cosmetic surgery need a strong support system and the right motivation.  Most importantly, he said, do it for you.

"Not for a boyfriend, a spouse or anyone else, or so you can get a job or a better job," he said.

 Kaley Shanks, for her part, pleased with her transformation.

"I love them, I'd do it all over again," she said.

Doctors warn that plastic surgery is not for everyone, and shouldn't be taken lightly.

For more information and a link to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons website, click here:

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