More Teens Get Botox, But Why?

A recent survey finds Botox treatments for teenagers are on the rise. But, as David Pitman reports, that doesn't necessarily mean more teens are seeking injections to treat wrinkles they don't yet have.

Between 2008 and 2009, there was an almost 50 percent increase in the number of teenagers receiving Botox injections.  That's according to the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery.  It reported that nearly 8,200 patients aged 18 and younger got the treatments in 2008.  That number rose last year to a little more than 12,000.   To put that in perspective, teen Botox treatments make up just one-half of one percent of the more than two-and-a-half million Botox procedures performed across the country in 2009.

Dr. Anthony Brisette is the director of facial, plastic, and reconstructive surgery for Baylor College of Medicine. He says he doesn't consider more teens receiving Botox a worrisome trend, mostly because the numbers from the ASAPS do not specify why those treatments were administered.

"Although there may be some increase in the procedures that we're seeing, I'm not sure how many of those might be cosmetic, how many of those may potentially be reconstructive, or functional."

Dr. Brisette says he won't give teens Botox for cosmetic reasons.  But he says the toxin can help teens with all sorts of other problems, like uncontrollable eye twitching, or neck spasms...

"Sometimes there are children that have significant issues in relationship to sweating, that can be a problem in teen years.  There are other issues in relationship to pain and or headaches that Botox can be used for as well."

We contacted more than half-a-dozen other plastic surgeons in Houston specializing in injectible treatments like Botox.  The two who responded say they do not administer Botox to minors. 

Current FDA regulations don't prohibit cosmetic Botox use for teens.  But Dr. Brisette says there's an important reason to think twice before following through.

"Although we've been using Botox for a very, very long time, to subject a teenager to the overall impact of Botox over the course of a 50, 60-year timeframe would really cause us to at least wonder and question what the extreme long-term results and effects are in that scenario."

Dr. Brisette says he tells teenagers who ask for Botox as a way to head off the changes that come with aging to instead stay out of the sun, wear sunscreen when they are outdoors, and use cleansers and moisturizers.  He adds that he routinely refers teens he can't talk out of unnecessary procedures to mental health professionals -- the ones who can treat the psychological issues that often drive teens to ask for cosmetic surgery in the first place.

Bio photo of David Pitman

David Pitman

Local Host, Morning Edition

The one question David hears most often isn't "What is it like to work for an NPR member station?" or "Have you ever met Terry Gross?" (he has)...