The Impact of Cosmetic Surgery on Young Minds and Mental Health


In recent years, the cosmetic surgery industry in the UK has experienced a significant surge in procedures, marked by a “boom” described by the British Association of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons (BAAPS) in 2022.

With over 30,000 people undergoing cosmetic enhancements last year, including breast augmentations, reductions, and liposuctions, the industry has witnessed undeniable growth. However, concerns are mounting as more young individuals turn to cosmetic procedures, raising questions about the potential impact of cosmetic surgery on their mental health.

A noteworthy trend has emerged, with an increasing number of young people seeking cosmetic procedures to meet perceived beauty standards. Former Love Islander and TV presenter Olivia Attwood recently shared her regrets about undergoing breast enhancement surgery at the age of 20, shedding light on the potential pitfalls of such procedures at a young age.

In an interview with The Times, Attwood expressed dissatisfaction with her C-cup breast size, leading her to seek augmentation. However, her journey took an unexpected turn when the implants started causing physical discomfort and altered her appearance in ways she had not anticipated.

Impact of Cosmetic Surgery On Youth

Experts attribute the rise in youth-oriented cosmetic procedures to the influence of social media, emphasizing the impact on self-esteem and body confidence.

Dr. Omar Tillo, a plastic surgeon and senior medical director at Creo Clinic, links social media exposure to increased body dysmorphia, depression, and other mental health disorders in younger demographics.

Dr. Tillo notes that while some individuals may benefit from cosmetic surgery to address specific concerns, those driven by societal pressures and unrealistic beauty ideals are at risk of facing future dissatisfaction and lowered self-esteem.

Dr. Deepa Panch, a surgical and aesthetics doctor, points out the pressure from societal beauty standards and social media as contributors to mental health issues, including body image concerns and anxiety.

Amidst these concerns, calls for enhanced regulation in the cosmetic industry have grown louder. While the UK government took a step forward in 2021 by banning cosmetic procedures on under-18s in England, the lack of uniform regulations across the UK remains a challenge.

Cosmetic surgeons and aestheticians advocate for consistent regulations, emphasizing the need for age restrictions, rigorous standards for informed consent, and strict qualification criteria for practitioners.

Dr. Elizabeth Hawkes, a prominent cosmetic surgeon, has drawn attention to the potential loopholes in regulations, with teenagers reportedly traveling from England to Wales to bypass restrictions on under-18s. This practice raises concerns about the need for comprehensive regulations to prevent inappropriate procedures on younger individuals.

Experts stress the importance of responsible and trained plastic surgeons who prioritize mental well-being in guiding individuals through cosmetic procedures. Dr. Tillo underscores the significance of individual needs and realistic expectations, urging practitioners to play a crucial role in ensuring decisions are not driven by peer pressure or societal trends.

The cosmetic industry, faced with evolving societal norms and technological advancements, must adapt to safeguard the mental well-being and satisfaction of its patients. With a pressing need for consistent regulations, the industry can strive to strike a balance between aesthetic enhancements and the mental health of those seeking cosmetic procedures.

In a world where appearance often intersects with self-worth, the debate on cosmetic surgery’s impact on young minds continues. As the industry navigates this complex landscape, the call for enhanced regulation remains central to ensuring that procedures are conducted responsibly, ethically, and with a commitment to the holistic well-being of individuals.

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