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Breast implants: how young is too young for breast augmentation surgery?

Despite the fact that most breast augmentation patients are aged 30-plus, we still receive a lot of interest in this procedure from young women and sometimes teens. Dr Sharp is a Brisbane based specialist plastic surgeon, guided by an ethical practice framework and adhering to industry best practices. As such, he does not offer cosmetic breast augmentation surgery to patients who are under the age of 18 years old.

For suitable candidates, augmentation surgery can be performed over the age of 18 for breast enlargement or gender affirmation surgery, for example for patients experiencing gender dysphoria.

During 2015 in the United States, 279,143 women had a breast augmentation procedure – of these, 7,840 were girls and young women aged 13 to 19 years old, with an additional 1,797 teens receiving breast lifts (mastopexy).

Although Australian data isn’t available, interest in breast augmentation surgery amongst adolescent females is thought to be associated with increased social media pressure and easier access to cut-price surgery, which places procedures that were once cost-prohibitive, within closer reach of younger people.

When considering breast augmentation, Dr Sharp asks young women to think about the following questions:

  1. Have your breasts stopped developing? Your breast size should have remained unchanged for 12 months prior to surgery – and breasts can continue to grow anytime up until your early 20’s.
  2. Are your breasts currently a proportionate size for your body, but you’d like them to be bigger? It is important for Dr Sharp to understand your expectations. 
  3. What factors are driving you to have the procedure; is it your own perception of your breasts – or your boyfriend seems to prefer large-breasted women, or your friends have commented about your breast size? Cosmetic surgery should only ever be undertaken for you – not to meet someone else’s ideal. Dr Sharp will discuss your motivations for having surgery. 
  4. How long ago did you start considering plastic surgery?
  5. What shape and breast size would you like to have. Also, our bodies constantly change; what might your body shape looks like in 5, 10 or 20 years?
  6. What will happen if you need revisional surgery in the near future? Who will fund this, and will you have private health insurance to cover some of your costs?
  7. Have you read and understood the risks involved in this surgery? How do those risks make you feel?

It’s okay for a teenager to want larger breasts, or to wish they felt more developed. In some cases this is well-founded, as normal breast development does not occur, or only partially occurs, for some females.

But conversely, it’s important not undertake cosmetic surgery while your body and identity is still developing – and equally as important – while you are still emotionally maturing.

In addition to development that may occur in the late teens, growth charts indicate that the average young woman gains weight between the ages of 18 and 21, and that is likely to change her desire or need for breast augmentation.

A longitudinal study that followed Norwegian male and female individuals between 13 and 30 years of age found a significant growth in self satisfaction and positive body image as the participants progressed through the teenage years, followed by a general stabilisation of body image satisfaction in adulthood. This indicates that many adolescents who are dissatisfied with their appearance will feel more satisfied a few years later, whether or not they undergo surgery.

It is also important to consider complications. Implants are not forever and will probably require replacement in future. A teenager may require repeated surgeries throughout her lifetime to replace implants or revise her breasts.

For these reasons, sometimes Dr Sharp will also recommend that the patient consults a psychologist prior to having surgery to assess the patient’s self perception and appropriateness for body-changing procedure.

The excitement and perceived glamour of cosmetic surgery can sometimes overwhelm good judgement – at any age. But the risks of performing cosmetic surgery on bodies that have not reached maturation make the stakes even higher for teens. The operative complications and long term physical changes created by these procedures – and the psychological implications of surgery on a developing body image – must be considered first by teenagers and their families before taking the first steps towards cosmetic surgery upon completion of their breast development.


The above information is general in nature and does not constitute medical advice. All surgery carries benefits and risks, and we recommend visiting the specific page related to the procedure you are interested in to learn more.