All About You

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The Undoing

Lots of people, perhaps when they’re young, may think it’s a great idea to get that tattoo or piercing, imagining they will love it forever. A few years down the road, however, circumstances – and tastes – can change. Suddenly, those large ear piercings or neck tattoos don’t seem like such great ideas.

[pullquote]“The employer didn’t like the enlarged piercing, or a person has the need to look presentable for a job interview. If they feel like people are going to think about their big piercing, it’s something that can be corrected easily.”[/pullquote]

Dr. Arch Miller, board-certified plastic surgeon at Tulsa Plastic Surgery, says that when these decisions made years ago no longer fit a lifestyle, there are options open to correcting them.

Tattoo removal, closing large piercings and downsizing breast implants are procedures that Miller regularly performs.

He says that many men and women are having neck and forearm tattoos removed because of the U.S. Army’s requirements for entry.

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“[People] have gotten tattoos on their neck and forearms, and they want to join the Army, but the Army won’t let them,” he says.

Miller says that depending on how large the tattoo is, there are two options for removal.

“One is to cut the tattoo off and close it. You will have a scar, but it works,” he says. “The second best way is to laser it, but the problem is that you leave a ghost. If you can get rid of the tattoo, the skin color is lighter, or there is a pattern or outline. A lot can be rid of, but you have 10, 12, 15 treatments to get there.”
Miller recommends that men and women get tattooed in areas that can’t be seen, or get tattoos small enough that they can be removed.

Dr. Angelo Cuzalina, a cosmetic surgeon at Tulsa Surgical Arts, says that he has had to perform surgery on earlobes that have been disfigured by enlarged ear piercings. He says that one woman liked her gaged piercings, but she was entering the military, and she was required to close the holes.

“A lot is job-related,” Cuzalina says. “The employer didn’t like the enlarged piercing, or a person has the need to look presentable for a job interview. If they feel like people are going to think about their big piercing, it’s something that can be corrected easily.”

Cuzalina says it’s a lot easier to correct the large piercing holes than it is to laser off a tattoo.

“A lot of people are mistaken that if you have a tattoo, lasers can take it off,” he says. “They do not work well in general for tattoos. Depending on the person’s coloring and the type of ink, it can work, but for others, it can still cause skin discoloration.”

He says that people shouldn’t get tattoos believing that they can be erased in a couple of years.

Miller says that to correct a large piercing, the skin that has been stretched is put back together in a coil. Then, skin is closed over it so that the lobe appears normal again. It is possible to re-pierce the earlobe after nine months of healing.

Some women receive breast implants when they are young, only to find that as they age, the implants may sag or begin to feel too large.

“The most common corrective surgery I do is for women who get good-sized implants, and maybe they’re the right size or a little larger, then they sag as they grow older or gain breast tissue,” Cuzalina says.

Some women may opt to have the implants removed, he says, or have a lift, but most women opt to have the extra tissue removed, which will make the breasts smaller and perkier. Cuzalina adds that the goal is typically to improve appearance of the breasts in clothing.

Both surgeons caution that not every problem can be fixed, so exercise caution when making decisions regarding altering your appearance.

2013 Top 5 Cosmetic Surgical Procedures

  • Breast augmentation 290,000
  • Nose reshaping 221,000
  • Eyelid surgery 216,000
  • Liposuction 200,000
  • Facelift 133,000

Source: American Society of Plastic Surgeons