Erik Hansen is a graduate student pursuing a Master of Public Policy and the “When I Was a Mustang…” columnist.

Last week we covered tattoo removal. Now let us go over removing the tattoo’s more mild-mannered cousin, the piercing.

Specifically, this article is directed at anyone who:

– Has/had plugs in their ears up to a gauge of about four.

– Let their friend pierce their ears with a rusty safety pin at the age of 14, only to have been left with a couple of discolored holes they still wear earrings in.

– Or, is (a male) stuck with pock marks in both ears after the *NSYNC hoop earring wave slowly and regretfully receded.

Those lip, eyebrow and nipple piercings you hide from your parents every time you head home for winter break will usually heal on their own once you take the jewelry out, or are already nondescript. However, while you will fit right in with the rest of the bike messenger crew in San Francisco or Williamsburg with those plugs in your ears (along with that snazzy tattoo of a bike on your calf), even if you take them out, the holes in your ears will still make you look goofy at your new job at American International Group, Inc. after you graduate.

Do not be sullen though; there is hope for you yet! In an age where you can get implants in your butt to look like Jennifer Lopez, stitching up your ears is chump change. Time to make an appointment with your favorite dermatologist — typically the same one you go to get all your Retin-A from to clear up those post-puberty zits that just won’t go away. Dermatologists deal with piercings and plugs often; from tears and infections to minor surgeries.

Once you have made your appointment and are seated in the doctor’s chair, a nurse will put a topical anesthetic on your ears and give you a shot in both ears to numb them. The shots are pretty important because the doctor is about to slice off the skin around the holes. This will usually only be done to the front of your ears (no one sees the back anyway), as the doctor does not want a new hole to form by slicing up the back as well. The doctor will then place one (or two for plugs) stitches on both ears, pulling the skin together and that is it — all done!

The procedure is quick, lasting no more than 10 minutes. Post-procedure care is easy too, only requiring your lazy ass to put Vaseline on the stitches in the morning and evening for the first five days — surely you can handle that. The stiches come out in two weeks and if you want to re-pierce your ears you can do that in six weeks (or whenever *NSYNC has that reunion tour you’ve been waiting for).

Beware that there are a couple of things to keep in mind. The whole procedure will cost you about $200 to $300 per ear and, unless it is a life-threatening infection, insurance will not cover it. Also, similar to getting your tattoos removed, you will still likely be stuck with some sort of permanent reminder of decisions past. This will be in the form of very small, white scars on your ears where the stitches were. Like all scars, they will fade over time. A couple months after the procedure, they will only be noticeable if someone is uncomfortably close to you. Finally, anyone with plugs larger than a gauge of about four can still get a consultation from their dermatologist, but will likely be referred to a plastic surgeon.

I wish you all the best of luck stitching up those regretful holes in your head.

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