The onset of puberty can be an agonising time for many adolescents. This is the time when a strong emphasis is placed on looks and many teenagers look for peer validation. It is not surprising then that several teens are knocking on the doors of plastic surgeons for nose jobs and liposuction.
"Many teenagers inquire about cosmetic surgery and out of them most want a nose job, liposuction or scar removal treatments. The trend has increased over the past few years because of peer pressure and also an inherent desire to look good," Anup Dhir, senior cosmetic surgeon at New Delhi's Apollo Hospital, said.
Citing the reason behind this trend Mumbai-based cosmetic surgeon Meenakshi Agarwal said: "It is in their teen years that young boys and girls start noticing themselves and the process of comparison among the peer group starts. It is hard to find teens who are completely content with their faces and physique."
The demand for these surgeries is so high that the business is thriving and surgeons are getting inquiries not just from metros but from small cities as well.
According to Agarwal, the number of inquiries from teenagers has grown over the past two-three years. "Recent statistics indicate a rise in the overall number of cosmetic surgeries. While the proportion of teenagers (those 18 and younger) opting for cosmetic surgery reportedly remains low, there has been an increase in inquiries from teens - about 20-30 per month and actual procedures done is one-three per month," explained Agarwal.
"Today's teens are far more familiar with cosmetic surgery than any previous generation. They have money, exposure and want to stand out from the crowd," she added.
Sometimes cosmetic surgery is not just for vanity, but a necessity. For 16-year-old Aakash Verma, breast reduction (gynaecomastia) was a boon.
"I had very big breasts that started to grow at about the age of 10. I was embarrassed because of them and teased a lot by my friends. My hormone levels were normal; hence I had no other option but to go for the surgery," recollects Verma. "It was a necessity. I did it to improve my life, and my confidence level has increased after it," he added.
But teenage plastic surgery has to be on the right individual for the right reason. Also one should understand the fact that the end result might not live up to expectations.
"Not every teenager seeking plastic surgery is well suited for an operation. Teens must demonstrate emotional maturity and an understanding of the limitations of plastic surgery," maintained Agarwal.
Leading psychiatrist Sanjay Chugh believes that teenagers who opt for cosmetic surgery want to look "cool" and "trendy".
"The teenage years is a time when an individual is struggling to make an identity for himself or herself. One of the biggest needs at this time is to belong. One wants to be approved of, especially by peers. This makes them want to do whatever is considered cool or trendy," Chugh said.
"Looking good is the quickest way to get approval from people. Hence, it is not just the desire to look good that makes them take drastic steps, but what the good looks might get them," he added.
The cost of the surgery varies. For a nose job, it is around Rs.50,000-80,000; for scar removal it's Rs.15,000-30,000 and for liposuction it is Rs.50,000-Rs.80,000.