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Repairing Expanded Earlobes

My youngest daughter wanted to stretch her earring piercings to wear the ear plugs that are so popular with youth today. I cautioned her that once the earlobe was stretched to a certain point, it would not shrink back to normal size again. Like most Moms, I wanted her to consider how she would look as a grandmother with over sized holes in her earlobes. That was enough to convince her to resist the urge to follow her friends.

When my Mom was a young girl, the standard for piercing ears was to numb them with ice or a clothes pin and feed a needle and string through the hole. During the healing process the thread would be moved through the hole with alcohol until earrings could be inserted. One of the boys she went to school with thought it would be funny to pull the strings, not realizing it would tear the tissue. As a result she could only wear larger pieces of jewelry or they would slip right through the holes in her earlobes.

Nowadays there are options for healing torn tissue or fistula to enhance the look of expanded earlobes. These are two of the most popular and successful methods.

  1. Restylane. The most popular use for Restylane is to fill in fine lines around the mouth. (Restylane is made from hyaluronic acid, a natural acid found in human skin.) However, this dermal filler can also be used to plump the skin on the earlobe to decrease the size of the hole. This method is recommended for holes that have been over stretched by wearing heavy dangly earrings. Once the earlobe is repaired, oversized earring backs should be used to help bear the weight over heavy earrings. This procedure should be performed by a dermatologist or plastic surgeon.
  2. Surgical repair. If the tearing or stretching is too significant for Restylane injections, surgical repair may be the only option. A plastic surgeon can perform this surgery in the office under local anesthesia. The earring hole is stitched closed and sutured in place. Once healed the ear can be re-pierced. In some cases, it might be possible to insert an earring and prevent the need for re-piercing. Sutures are normally left in place for 2 weeks. If the earlobe was over stretched by gauging, another surgical procedure called z-plasty may need to be performed. Keloid scars may form after the surgery and the earlobes may be smaller than they were prior to the stretching process.

The best way to prevent the need for earlobe repair is to be gentle and not wear heavily weighted earrings without proper support on a regular basis. When wearing heavy jewelry give the lobe assistance to bear the additional weight. Give the ears a rest. Minimal over stretching can heal on its own over time if the damage is not repeated routinely.


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