Ah, the follies of youth. From the late 20th century until just recently, a big trend among high school and college students was to stretch out their earlobes. Younger people would pierce their ears, then slowly stretch out the hole in the lobe, until it was any where from a quarter of an inch to over an inch in diameter.
The stretched, holey earlobe look might work for nights out at a club or around town, but it didn’t work so well once the people who had the piercings began to get older and began to start looking for professional jobs. Stretched earlobes, or ear gauges, can actually keep people from joining the armed forces, playing professional golf, and finding the job of their dreams.
A surgical procedure can repair the earlobes, restoring them to a more natural size and shape. The surgery, earlobe repair, has become pretty big over in the UK, where young adults are having to face the music about their past body modification choices. It’s also an option in the US and is worth considering if your lobes are stretched out from years of wearing ear gauges. You might also consider the surgery if you’ve frequently worn heavy earrings and are dealing with a lobe that’s stretched or torn.
Understanding the Surgery
While it can take years for a person to stretch out his or her lobes to the desired size, the surgery to repair the stretched earlobes is relatively quick. It usually only requires local anesthesia and generally takes less than a couple of hours to perform.
Earlobe repair might be a less complicated surgery than rhinoplasty or other procedures, but it’s important to remember that it is still surgery. Usually, the surgeon will evaluate a patient before the procedure to make sure he or she is in good health. If you have any habits that can affect the surgery or healing afterwards, your surgeon will ask you to stop, at least a few weeks before and after the procedure. For example, you’ll be asked to stop smoking, as the nicotine in tobacco can interfere with the healing process and make you more likely to bleed. Certain medicines, such as aspirin, should also be avoided before and after the surgery.
Typically, the surgery involves repairing the hole made by the gauges and removing any extra skin from the lobe. It’s common for a surgeon to use clear stitches, so that the healing lobes don’t stand out. Depending on how stretched out the earlobes were before surgery, the results of the procedure might be very noticeable right away.
Getting Back to Normal
Usually, patients are able to bounce back pretty quickly after earlobe repair. In many cases, people are back on their feet after a week or so. You may be able to get back to your regular activities right away, depending on the size of the repair.
You might have to treat your earlobes with care going forward, though. While in some cases, it’s okay to re-pierce the ears at a later date, in others, the repaired area might be too weak to support an earring and a hole, even if the earring is lightweight. If you are thinking about re-piercing the area, it’s a good idea to consult with your surgeon first. He might advise against it or recommend re-piercing in a different spot.
What About Fillers?
Injectable fillers, such as Juvederm, are sometimes injected into the earlobes to improve their shape and reduce droopiness. A filler can be a good, temporary option if your ears are pulled long due to the aging process. But, a filler won’t fix a torn earlobe or an earlobe that’s been stretched out by a gauge.
If you stretched out your earlobes as a teenager or in your early 20s and are now wondering "what was I thinking?", help is available. Dr. Michael Schwartz, a board certified facial plastic surgeon in West Palm Beach, Florida, provides earlobe repair and reduction surgeries. Find out more about the surgery and your options by calling 561-228-5888 for an appointment.