Teens max out on plastic
May 01, 2006
TEENAGE girls are using credit to pay for costly breast implants and other cosmetic surgery.
For as little as $55 a week over five years, the teenagers – most fresh out of high school with full-time jobs – are paying for breast implants costing between $8000 and $10,000.
Nose jobs are also popular, costing between $4000 and $7000.
The "makeover mortgages" have made cosmetic surgery more accessible to young clients.
Over the past three years the number of women aged under 20 undergoing cosmetic surgery has increased by 30 per cent, says the Gold Coast's self-styled queen of cosmetic surgery Pamela Noon.
"The accessibility to finance has increased the younger market," Noon says. "You're talking thousands of dollars for these procedures and previously younger girls couldn't afford it."
Teenager Niki Johnson says she was happy to take out a loan to get bigger breasts.
"I've gone from a small B to a large C cup and I couldn't be happier. I feel a lot more confident," says the 19-year-old from East Brisbane.
She was 18 when she had the procedure in June last year – only a month after having cosmetic surgery to remove a "hump" on her nose.
At the time, she was a personal assistant to Noon.
"I did get a bit of discount because I was working there," she says. "But I still had to get a loan to pay for it. It's costing me about $50 a fortnight at the moment but it's definitely been worth it."
"I grew up in a family where my mum and my younger sisters all had bigger breasts than me so I was always pretty self-conscious about it."
She says she was initially a bit hesistant about getting breast implants but after gettinga job in the industry the temptation was too great and she thought "now's the time to get it done".
"I actually woke up (after the surgery) and got a bit of shock because I looked down and thought I was Dolly Parton," Niki says.
"They were just that big but when the swelling went down I thought 'This is great'. I could wear tops that I'd never thought of wearing before and bikins fit so well."
The growing trend in teens willing to put themselves under the knife to reshape their bodies was highlighted this week in reality TV's Big Brother house.
The show's 19-year-old housemate, Krystal, shocked Big Brother fans with her admission that she "loved her new boobs".
Her decision to boost her breasts from a C to D cup to improve her self-confidence was done with the blessing of her mother, Karen, who also is appearing in the show and has implants.
Noon agrees a trend is emerging.
"Increasingly, we're seeing parents bringing girls in at the completion of high school.
"I've got quite a few mother and daughter patients who have had various things done.
"The mother usually comes in first for a facelift or some liposuction and they say 'My daughter's thinking of having this or that done. Can you see her?' . . . We've had girls as young as 16 having their breasts done.
"It's up to whether the doctor considers them to be anatomically mature.
"He'll decide if she can proceed or whether she needs to wait until she's a little bit older."
The Australian Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS) is concerned that an increasing number of teenagers, bombarded by airbrushed images and unrealistsic representations of beauty, are being driven by peer pressure to have cosmetic surgery.
A recent study in Britain found that by the age of 12, three-quarters of girls disliked something about their appearance and, by 16, one in four were considering cosmetic surgery.
ASPS Gold Coast spokesman Dr Craig Layt says the rise in teenage girls opting for cosmetic surgery is part of an overall increase in demand for such procedures.
"There's been an increase in cosmetic surgery generally and I think this is just part of that rather than a whole lot of young girls suddenly deciding 'I've got to get bigger boobs'," he said.
According to the latest figures from the International Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgery, the number of plastic surgery patients aged under 20 has remained stable at 12 per cent over the past four years.
"Certainly young ladies are maturing a whole lot earlier than they were 30 or 40 years ago.
"Your average 16-year-old girl these days is physically very mature," Dr Layt says.
"But we don't go running around (doing) breast augmentation (for) girls who we believe are not physically and emotionally mature enough to have it done."
Sydney-based lecturer in cultural and media studies Meredith Jones says cosmetic surgery is part of a wider social phenomenon she calls "makeover culture".
"We've seen it in all sorts of areas and all sorts of reality TV shows like Backyard Blitz, The Biggest Loser and Extreme Makeover," she says. "It's a way for people to show that they're happening people, that they're always improving themselves, that they're always in a process of regeneration, renovation and restoration."
In a paper she wrote entitled 'Mutton cut up as lamb: Mothers, daughters and cosmetic surgery', Jones observed: "While the daughter may use cosmetic surgery to escape the tyranny of her mother's genes and to distance her from her aesthetic fate, the mother concurrently uses cosmetic surgery to come closer to how the daughter looks".
Noon says reality TV and glossy magazines have had a huge influence on the way cosmetic surgery is perceived in the community.
"Ordinary people feel much more comfortable with it now," she says. "It's not just for rich, famous high-flyers."