Ah, graduation: Flipping that tassel can stir up all sorts of feels. Which is why the milestone has long ushered in a languorous time of self-discovery and reinvention. But, today, it seems, recent grads are more likely to “find themselves” in doctors’ offices than on the road, Kerouac style. “Cosmetic treatments as graduation gifts are definitely on the rise, and in my experience, they’re not without merit," said New York City dermatologist Shereene Idriss. According to the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery, millennials aged 19-34 accounted for 17.6 percent of the total aesthetic procedures performed in 2016.
Underlying the celebratory procedures is an intended confidence boost, she notes, sharing the case of one patient, whose parents gifted him a series of laser treatments to remedy the acne scars that had always held him back socially. In dermatologist Whitney Bowe’s New York City office, fat-freezing CoolSculpting sessions are a popular present — be it for double chins that have “dramatically affected a child’s self-esteem,” she said, or stubborn body bulges that even a healthy diet and regular exercise can’t bust. “Modern parents are very open to helping their children feel good about their bodies, especially when the downtime and risks are so minimal, and the results can really increase self-confidence,” she said. MiraDry, a professional energy-based treatment that destroys under-arm sweat glands, is “all the rage” with grads in dermatologist Karyn Grossman’s Santa Monica office, as it saves them from embarrassing pit stains and odor during anxiety-provoking job interviews.
The transition from college to career — and that (potential) break in between — also allows for more significant transformations, granting the downtime they may demand. “Rhinoplasty [a.k.a. a nose job] is a huge graduation gift — my summers are booked solid with young people getting this surgery before starting a new gig,” said Dara Liotta, a facial plastic and reconstructive surgeon in New York City. Those footing the bill — usually parents or grandparents — often tell Liotta that the patient has forever been preoccupied by how his or her nose looks at certain angles, and they want their loved one to “enter into the next phase of life feeling confident and strong,” she said. An equally sought-after surgery for grads is otoplasty, which “involves reducing the angle between the ears and scalp, and can also make the ears smaller, or recreate their natural curves,” explains New York City plastic surgeon Melissa Doft, adding that the procedure tends to relieve the psychological distress experienced by many with prominent ears.
According to Lara Devgan, a plastic and reconstructive surgeon in New York City, breast augmentation and reduction, and labiaplasty surgery, are among the most common parent-bestowed grad gifts in her office. (The latter is typically performed to alleviate “chafing, rashes, discomfort, and limitations with sports and other activities,” she notes.) “When kids are getting ready to make a change, and meet a new set of people, some degree of reinvention is inevitable, and plastic surgery can be a part of that, especially for those with lingering insecurities,” said Devgan, noting that such face- or body-altering gifts are generally well thought-out decisions — carefully arrived at by parents and children together — rather than what-do-you-get-the-graduate-who-has-everything impulse buys.
And, really, if a sparkling self-image and sense of assurance are one’s ultimate destination, does it really matter what path we take to get there?