Teens and Breast Implants

By: Megan Lebrecht


1) History and Background
a) Brief history of breast implants
b) Rise in popularity
c) Statistics of women getting the surgery

2) Teens and Breast Implants
a) The importance
b) Getting before college
c) Stats on teens getting breast implants
d) Legal?

3) The Parents
a) Paying for the procedure
b) Buying as gifts
c) Mothers living through daughters

4) Risks
a) Common risks of breast augmentation
b) Upkeep and maintenance of breast implants
c) Girls that young still physically maturing

5) Teens and Their Bodies
a) How they view themselves
b) How the media plays a role



Gone are the days that young girls get cars for their 16th birthday or as a graduation present. The new trend is plastic surgery. Every year thousands of teenage girls ages 18 and younger file into plastic surgeon offices with one thought on their mind: they want larger breasts. Aubrie Willis is 17 years old and a senior at Grapevine High School in a trendy suburb outside Dallas, Texas. This summer she is getting a special graduation present. It's not a new wardrobe, a laptop computer or a trip to Cancun. It's a set of breasts. “If I go to college, then no one's going to know my boobs were small,” she says with a smile. Her mother, grandmother, two aunts and stepmother have implants. Aubrie, who turns 18 in July, hopes to enhance her 32A cups to a small C. “If my mom is offering to pay for it now, why not?” she said (New Grad Gift). While chest enhancement has been around for decades starting in the 1960’s, it has not been until recently that teenagers, girls 18 and under, have started seeking the surgery. The trend in teenage plastic surgery has been so tremendous many plastic surgeons have designated certain months out of the year as the “teenage months.” Statistics soar every year as the desire for breast augmentation increases with each generation of women. The risks of infection and replacement are still high yet teens are willingly going through with the procedure. Much of it goes back to the distorted view young girls have of their bodies due to celebrities and fashion ads. Teenage breast augmentation is on the rise due to poor self image, the media, and unfortunately parents that refuse to step in and take control of their child’s life.

Background and History:

Breast augmentation is not a new phenomenon. The first silicone breast implant was developed in 1962. Prior to that, experimental methods of breast enlargement included paraffin injections, silicone injections and the insertion of sponges. None of these methods achieved satisfactory long-term results, and injections to the breast proved to be extremely dangerous (Breast Implant History). Silicone implants were used throughout the 1970’s and 80’s and plastic surgeons gained significant clinical experience with breast implants finding that women generally were pleased with the results. In 1992 however, silicone was deemed unsafe. Breast implants became the subject of heated controversy as reports of women claiming their implants had seriously damaged their health were publicized. Plastic surgeons found themselves in the middle of this controversy. Nearly 30 years of clinical experience led them to believe that implants were safe, and they sought to reassure anxious patients. Nevertheless, they recognized that manufacturers did not have adequate data to fully address some of the complex issues that had been raised (Breast Implant History). A law was put into effect that called for all breast surgeries to use saline implants. This law still stands today, with silicone implants only approved on an individual basis and only for very specific purposes. With new safety measures amounting, breast augmentation got a spike in popularity in the mid 1990’s. In 1992 there were 32,607 breast augmentation surgeries. The number rose to 132,378 in 1998 and has doubled since then. With statistics used from 2004, for every 100 women aged 20 through 39, there are 1.5 women who have had a breast procedure (Zuckerman, 1999).

Teens and Breast Implants:

Since the millennium there has been a dramatic rise in the number of teenagers getting plastic surgery. Many young girls see cosmetic procedures as a way to better their life. Looking your best is of the utmost importance to them. They see breast augmentation as an enhancement in the real world. Many procedures are done before the girls go off to college. More teens visit plastic surgeons this time of year. “You see it around graduation,” said Dr. Rod J. Rohrich, the American Society of Plastic Surgeons president. “You see it around holidays and spring break, especially around the Christmas season,” (New Grad Gift). If the girl is unhappy with her breasts, getting them done before heading off to college is a way to start new and fresh. No one at her new school will know she once had small breasts. Breast implants as graduation gifts is not as uncommon as one would think. While there are no exact statistics on how many girls 18 and younger get breast augmentation as gifts, according to the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons (ASAPS), 11,326 teens underwent breast augmentations in 2004, compared to 1992 when 978 girls had the procedure done (Sena, 2004). While many question the ethics of letting that many teen girls go through with the surgery still many more question the legality. Although the FDA approved breast implants only for women ages 18 and older, there are no legal restrictions on the procedure. The American Society of Plastic Surgeons has an official position against breast augmentation for most teens under 18, but there is no enforcement. The ASAPS has no official position regarding augmentation for teenagers (Teens and Breast Implants). This largely has to do with the fact that included in the more than 11,000 cases are teens that underwent the surgery for reconstructive and health related reasons.

The Parents:

One of the most horrifying aspects of teenagers getting plastic surgery in general is the fact that many parents, namely mothers, are contributing to the problem. For the most part teenage girls can not afford the cost of breast augmentation, which is averaged at $5000. So who is footing the bill? Parents wanting their children’s complete and utter happiness may be to blame. Many girls receive breast implants as gifts for either turning 16 years old, or for graduating high school. The real question begs to be asked: What are parents thinking buying a girl boobs as a gift? A woman asked Yahoo! Answers “Are breast implants an appropriate Christmas gift for my 17-year-old daughter?” She goes on to say that her daughter is going to be trying out to be a Washington Redskin’s cheerleader after graduation and that she thinks her breasts are too small. Thankfully, the majority of readers are against this and practically refer to the woman as a moron for even asking the question. One reader even says, “You should be encouraging a positive self image, not condoning plastic surgery,” (Yahoo! Answers). This also leads into another issue that mothers are often unaware of. Many of them allow the surgery as an attempt to live vicariously through their daughters. You have to wonder about the woman who says her daughter’s breasts are too small to make a cheerleading squad. Perhaps in her day she could not make a squad herself, and desperately wants her daughter too because of this reason. Providing her daughter with tumbling lessons, gymnastics class, and giving her highlights and porcelain veneers may not be enough. Mothers who live through their daughters are pushing their ideas and beliefs on their impressionable young children who often do not know any better.


It goes without saying that the risks involved in any surgery are great. Going under the knife and being put under general anesthesia poses major threats to that person’s health and life. The risks associated with breast augmentation are tremendous. To start, there is significant risk of breast pain, hardness and numbness in the nipple area that could last for years. Other major problems include rupture and leaking, especially with saline breast implants, and local infections. Also, the implant can shift to other locations in the chest area and, frequently, the woman's body builds a capsule of calcified tissue around the implant which can become quite painful. If and when a woman needs to have her implant removed, her breasts may become shriveled and disfigured from the experience (Wilhite, 2005). Unlike what many, including teens, may think, breast implants do not come with a lifelong guarantee. On average, breast implants need to be replaced every 10 years. However, based on studies done by implant makers, the FDA found that approximately 45 percent of women have a serious complication within only three years after their augmentation surgery. Recent data supplied by two implant manufacturers to the FDA details an astounding 93 percent failure rate for their implants within ten years (Wilhite, 2005). A major medical complication occurs when teens younger than 18 years of age receive the implants. Contrary to what has long been said that a girl quits physically maturing by age 18, many young women continue to grow in the chest region up until their early twenties. Other factors that contribute to breast development are weight gain, pregnancy, birth control pills, and whether or not the girl played sports. If the teen is still developing breast tissue it is unsafe to insert an implant into her body.

Teens and Their Bodies:

Why do teenage girls want breast implants? A person could write a book on why girls want plastic surgery. Everything from low self esteem to the influence of the media and advertising can be blamed. Most girls view their bodies in a distorted way. They think they are fatter than they really are, have a bigger nose than what they really have, and that every other girl in the world has bigger boobs than them. They view themselves as “less than” and feel the need to make up for it. Certain things can be changed without the drastic ness of surgery. Hair cuts, highlights, straightening irons, tanning beds, makeup, clothes, and acrylic nails can all be used to change a person from what they are into what they want to be. Patrice Oppliger wrote a book called Girls Gone Skank about the overwhelming trend of young girls being sexualized at a young age. “Even as women experience unprecedented social and professional empowerment, there is more sexual exploitation, and it begins at progressively younger ages. It used to be men who were exploiting women, but now its women who are exploiting themselves. We’ve built this culture of getting attention any way we can, even if it’s negative attention,” (Oppliger, 2008). Oppliger also blames advertising and the media. While she says Britney Spears was never put out there to specifically target young girls, that’s just what happened, and it’s up to the parents of the teenagers to make judgments. However with artists and movies targeted directly at teenagers, that’s where the problem lies. The stars of High School Musical are all in their twenties. The girls in that movie have all physically developed, but are playing 15 year olds. When a real 15 year old watches that, they think they are supposed to look and dress the way those characters do. In reality, that 15 year old girl has the body and the image that a normal 15 year old should have, she just is not led to believe so.


Whether or not the media, television, ads, or young celebrities are to blame, girls are becoming sexualized at younger and younger ages. More and more teenagers want not just larger breasts via breast implants, but they want nose jobs, liposuction, fat injections, chemical peels, and laser hair removal. Not only are these procedures risky to the girls health but they promote the idea that what you are born with is not good enough. Parents are sometimes contributors to the problem. They are condoning and paying for these extreme measures instead of telling their children that they are perfect just the way they are.


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