Teen body image under pressure

What does it mean to be a teenager surrounded by an increasing emphasis on cosmetic procedures? 

Teenage girls – and boys – have doubtless always felt compelled to look good but visual social media, where teens are bombarded by a barrage of celebrity images of idealised style and beauty, has now ramped up the pressure.

The result is they feel it is compulsory to look their very best, 24/7, and increasingly they know there are ways to change their looks that are more drastic than make-up.

Cosmetic procedures might not exactly be the norm but, over the past decade, minimally invasive procedures, such as wrinkle-softening Botox injections and facial fillers, have become normalised to the extent that many teenagers know someone who has had work done.

This is the message from an official 2013 Department of Health report on regulation of cosmetic interventions which found that teenage girls, who are consuming the same media as adult women, are developing a similar interest in and awareness of cosmetic procedures.

Over the past decade, minimally invasive procedures, such as wrinkle-softening Botox injections and facial fillers, have become normalised

What these girls really notice is all the speculation around whether celebrities have enhanced their looks and occasionally, when a star admits to a little “work”, their suspicions are confirmed – everyone seems to be at it. So, should they be thinking about cosmetic enhancement too? The report adds that some of the girls interviewed were already making plans to have a procedure in the future.

What can be done to help teenagers handle the pressure, apart from urging them not to compare themselves to others and calling for a ban on treating under-18s?

It all comes down to encouraging girls’ self-confidence so they feel they do not need to fit some cookie-cutter template of beauty. Dove, a brand which attempts to boost teenage girls’ self-esteem, says it is “on a mission to help the next generation of women develop a positive relationship with the way they look” and has a pile of sensible online advice for parents, teachers and mentors.

Also on the case is Sport England, a government agency that promotes an active, healthy lifestyle, which has launched a nationwide initiative called This Girl Can. It encourages women aged 14 and over to get moving with empowering slogans such as “I swim because I love my body, not because I hate it.”

WHAT INCREASES AWARENESS AMONG TEENAGERS OF NON-SURGICAL AND SURGICAL PROCEDURES?

  • Magazines, particularly celebrity gossip stories
  • Online news channels featuring celebrities
  • Twitter and Instagram when stars tag their doctors and surgeons
  • Reality television shows
  • Leaflets from high-street salons
  • Advertising
  • Word of mouth from older people they know

Source: Department of Health