What Plastic Surgeons Really Think About Body Modification
I was recently sitting at my local bank branch waiting to chat with a financial manager, when I noticed a young man dressed in a suit and tie nervously tapping on his ear. I noticed he was armed with his leather briefcase and holding copies of his resume, (which he kept scanning), so I assumed he was waiting for a job interview. As I looked a bit more closely at him, I noticed his earlobe and was immediately struck by its gaping hole. At first I thought he might have been in some kind of accident, but I quickly realized he probably had to remove one of his rather large earlobe modification pieces in the hopes of snagging this position. And although his suit covered his arms and neck, his exposed fingers were inked with a variety of Chinese symbols. Whether or not this young man’s appearance had any bearing on whether or not he actually got the job is something I won’t ever know, but the fact remains that he is part of a growing segment of job applicants who are currently sporting some type of body modification.
Over the last decade, I’ve noticed tattoos and body piercings are no longer the counterculture’s mainstay. Just watch any professional sports game and you’ll see a large population of the players sporting tattoos. According to a poll by The Wall Street Journal, the number of young adults who say they, or someone in their home, has a tattoo has increased from 21% in 1999 to 40% today. And while people of all ages get tattoos and piercings, millennials seem to be getting them more. I read a post about a 42 year-old man who is planning to have his 29 tattoos of Miley Cyrus removed with a laser ablation procedure (which is expected to cost more than getting the tattoos themselves!). This made me wonder - What do plastic surgeons think about body modifications, especially those who are called upon to remove or alter them?
In practical terms, “body modification” can include anything from tattoos, piercing and subcutaneous implantations including breast implants.
Dr. Yaremchuk feels that body modification should not be grouped with aesthetic plastic surgery, (like breast implants), because the meaning of body modification has really come to identify changes to one’s appearance that do not involve a plastic surgeon, (e.g. earlobe stretching, tattooing, etc.)
Further, patients, who have undergone a type of body modification including piercings and tattoos, later tend to have body modification remorse. Such is typically not the case with plastic surgery, so long as the procedure performed met the patient’s expectations, which are always identified and addressed beforehand, Yaremchuk explains.
That said, the good news is that plastic surgeons can help to reverse the tattoo and piercing modifications to some extent for those who have come to regret them. There can be some scarring and irregularities from the reversal process, but with the advances in laser treatments, such as Picosound lasers, (which are faster and less painful), tattoos of all colors, sizes and featuring different types of inks can be removed with relative ease. Earlobe repair is a common procedure as well that can be performed under local anesthesia on an outpatient basis.
Dr. Larry Weinstein echoes Dr. Yaremchuk’s sentiments and reiterates that most people with body art and piercings eventually grow to regret them, particularly when they are entering the workforce or the military.
“I have seen a number of enlarged earlobes on men from progressively sized rings that increase the size of the earlobe.” noted Dr. Weinstein. “I have seen numerous successful earlobe reduction procedures performed, but body modification procedures can still become dangerous. I have seen several infections and tissue reactions that were painful for the patients resulting from piercings and tattoos,” explains Weinstein. It is important, whether you are getting breast implants or a tattoo that you find a tattoo artist or certified physician that is qualified in the type of modification you are about to undergo. Complications can occur with any procedure or body modification. Finding the right person to perform the procedure is the first step.
The difference between plastic surgery and body modification is pretty significant, notably that plastic surgery attempts to enhance the body through aesthetic techniques that have been time-tested and peer reviewed,” he notes. “Those performing body modification are typically unlicensed, with only a basic understanding of sterile techniques and the potential consequences of placing heavy metal into or underneath the skin. Patients should be aware of this and know they are putting their health at risk when undergoing such procedures. Further, anyone pursuing tattooing or piercing will not benefit from an anesthetic numbing agent as they would in a medical office undergoing a cosmetic procedure.”
Bottom line? Although body modification appears to be on the rise, these two plastic surgeons seem to be somewhat opposed to these procedures and emphasize that they can lead to health issues and with high probability of plenty of remorse at a later date. While both regularly perform reversals for patients who have in fact come to regret their body modification, both surgeons know that it isn’t always possible to completely undo or correct the damage. If patients plan to undergo body modification, they need to understand that it is still relatively permanent and while you can pursue a surgical reversal or correction, there is a possibility that it will not completely resemble your physical appearance pre-body modification.
If changing your body through plastic surgery or body modification makes you happy, then by all means, go for it - but just remember that some things can’t be completely reversed if you change your mind.