Is 14 too young to get a nose job? Bella Hadid’s surgery and the notion of beauty

The model's admission has started conversations about plastic surgery for teenagers and visual identity in the social media age

Bella Hadid in 2010, left, and in 2021. The model has revealed she underwent a rhinoplasty procedure at the age of 14, after saying she was upset at being Gigi's 'uglier sister'. Getty Images, AP
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After years of speculation about her changing appearance, Palestinian-Dutch model, Bella Hadid this week revealed she underwent rhinoplasty, commonly known as a nose job, at the age of 14.

Speaking to US Vogue, which notes that the model, 25, “regrets” getting the surgery, she said: “I wish I had kept the nose of my ancestors, I think I would have grown into it.”

Hadid’s nose had been the subject of public and media scrutiny thanks to her appearances on reality TV show The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills in which her mother, Dutch model Yolanda Hadid, starred in three seasons.

The model's admission has lead to many online debates.

Should teens get cosmetic surgery?

Bella Hadid with her father, Mohamed. Her admission about her nose surgery at aged 14 has started conversations about plastic surgery for teenagers. GC Images

In its Standards for Non-Surgical Cosmetic Services directive of 2018, the Dubai Health Authority states: “Patients under the age of 18 years seeking non-surgical cosmetic procedures shall not be considered for non-surgical cosmetic procedures unless it is clinically justifiable and written approval has been granted by their legal guardian.”

“Like anywhere in the world it is considered unethical to operate on those in their adolescent years or teenagers just for aesthetic purposes,” says Dr Maurizio Viel, founder of Cornerstone Clinics. “Our surgeons will not even consider this as an option unless it is for medical conditions where we would refer to an ENT surgeon.”

The main issues concerning going under the knife so young stems from the fact that at 14, teenagers’ bodies are still going through the changes that puberty brings. According to the NHS in the UK, the average age for girls to begin puberty is 11, and for boys it's 12, with the process taking about four years.

“When you are aged 14, you are still developing physically, and it is difficult to be completely sure of how your features will look when you are finished growing and have reached adulthood,” says Dr Dany Kayle, founder of Dr Kayle Aesthetic Clinic.

“A surgical procedure such as a rhinoplasty involves cutting away cartilage that has not finished developing yet, so I would never perform this sort of surgery on anyone who is legally a child.”

‘The body is not completely formed’

Bella and Gigi Hadid with their mother, former model Yolanda. WireImage

It’s impossible to have a conversation about body image in relation to young people without acknowledging the impact social media and the internet have on the way teenagers view themselves.

According to its own research, which was leaked to the Wall Street Journal last year, Facebook has long been aware that Instagram, which Facebook purchased in 2012, has exacerbated body image issues, especially for teenage girls.

In one Facebook study of teenagers in the UK and the US, more than 40 per cent of Instagram users who admitted to feeling “unattractive” said the feeling began while using the app.

“One of the dangers is that the body is not completely formed, and psychologically this could impact children who are not making the right choices and some of these surgeries are not reversible,” says Dr Viel. “It is important to look at the psychological impact the surgery will have on young or older teens.”

Dr Kayle says: “I firmly believe it is not advisable or responsible at all to undertake any cosmetic surgery until you reach adulthood, which is recognised as 18 years of age.”

Fingers have been pointed at Bella’s mother, Yolanda, whose time on RHOHB was marked by consistent references to her daughters’ diets and looks, once referring to Bella and Gigi, her daughters with Palestinian property developer Mohamed Hadid as “the black swan and the white swan.”

During an interview with W magazine, Yolanda also described Gigi as “all-American” and Bella as “darker and exotic.”

Bella admitted to Vogue: “I was the uglier sister. I was the brunette. I wasn’t as cool as Gigi, not as outgoing. That’s really what people said about me. And unfortunately when you get told things so many times, you do just believe it.”

Updated: March 17, 2022, 1:13 PM