EDITORIAL

Plastic not fantastic

A ban on cosmetic treatment for children and teens has been suggested after it was revealed that a third of youth here approve of it, according to a survey reported in the Singapore Medical Journal. That would be jumping the gun as only 1 per cent of youngsters, by their own admission, had plastic surgery. The number could be higher but is unlikely to match the scale of such surgery on American patients below age 18 - about 230,000 cosmetic procedures in 2011. For now, compulsory reporting by plastic surgeons giving Botox jabs and offering double eyelids and other such fixes to the young would suffice. In addition, the profession should take it upon itself to guide the public about the known medical risks of remodelling one's looks.

There is nothing wrong with plastic surgery in itself. Restorative surgery for structural and functional purposes is justified, and when the surgeon moulds - the meaning of plastikos, the Greek-derived root word - the aesthetic factor is shaped by the prevailing culture. In that sense, beauty is truly plastic, varying with time, geography and mores. Guidance on "perfect" looks can no more be found from the before-and-after photos in advertisements or from TV shows like True Beauty. Such cheesy offerings can hardly claim to set standards after loftier undertakings have yielded no certain answers, such as ancient and modern studies of aesthetics.

Teens who seek validation in appearance might learn of the futility of the pursuit over time. Those of influence in their lives can help by probing any peer hankering after "cutting-edge" looks. "Can we talk?", as the late Joan Rivers loved to utter, might lead to a useful discussion on the objectification of beauty and the true essence of self-worth. She herself joked so much about her obsession with plastic surgery that a tweeted tribute was on how a body part of her lives on though she is gone - her nose, "because it is made of polyurethane". That sounds tasteless to some but in talking about the false glamorisation of plastic looks by celebrities, there is no need to mince one's words.