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Matt Hlavacek, MD, DDS
Jason Baker, DDS



Is cosmetic surgery a proper response to bullying?

February 12, 2014, 6:59 am

Although cosmetic surgery is typically not performed on those under the age of 18 (or slightly older for some procedures), a 15-year-old teenager in South Carolina was recently offered free cosmetic surgery after being bullied for her appearance. Little Baby Face Foundation is a New York based charity providing free plastic surgery to children with birth defects. This offer of cosmetic surgery in response to bullying has become a controversial issue. Dr. Thomas Romo, the organization’s director, states that Little Baby Face is not an anti-bullying organization and does not provide cosmetic surgery as a solution to bullying. However, an increasing number of children and teens are seeking out cosmetic surgery and interventions in response to being bullied, which raises a variety of concerns.

Are children and teens mature enough to undergo cosmetic surgery?

The young woman from South Carolina says she feels more confident and ready to return to school after being homeschooled for three years in response to being bullied. However, there are concerns about whether or not children and teens are mature enough to undergo cosmetic surgery, particularly as a response to bullying. Psychologist Vivian Diller suggests that surgery in response to bullying does not teach children or teens to deal with adversity, a skill that will help them throughout their lives.

Diller and others suggest that children, teens, and their parents undergo mental health evaluations and counseling prior to considering surgery.

Before considering cosmetic surgery in response to bullying:

If your child or teen is being bullied, there are several steps you can take to help them deal with the situation.

  • Seek help: Talk with your child’s teachers, coaches, or counselors about the bullying. Reporting bullying behavior to the school will allow you to build a network of support for your child as well as spotlight a problem that other children may also be experiencing.
  • Talk about it: Allow your child to express his or her feelings without fear of judgment or blame. Just talking about the problem will help. Listen without criticism.
  • Increase your child’s social circle: Seek out other children and teens with similar interests. These could be sports teams, religious youth groups, clubs at school or in the community, or other kids and teens in your neighborhood.

  • Help your child or teen manage stress: Exercise, time in nature, or playing with a pet are great first steps for stress relief. If these aren’t enough consider professional counseling.
  • Monitor online activities: More than ever, bullying is occurring online through social media, email, and texting. By periodically monitoring your child or teen’s online activities and texting, you may be able to intervene before the bullying escalates.

[If your child or teen is experiencing bullying, get help before considering cosmetic surgery as a first response. In addition to the above tips and suggestions, visit or call 1-800-273-TALK (8255) for help.

If your child is still interested in cosmetic surgery, talk to him or her about the realities of a surgical procedure. Patients must be mature enough to have realistic expectations for surgery and to follow their doctor’s post-surgical guidelines. Consider implementing the above approaches and setting an age at which you are willing to let your child consider surgery if the interest remains.

For questions about any of our cosmetic surgery procedures, contact Kansas City Surgical Arts at 816-286-4126.