Skin Deep Volume 2: The Long And Winding Lobe
Throughout our lives we put a lot of stress on our ear lobes. We might tug on them, stick holes through them, make those holes bigger, and/or challenge their strength with heavy dangly earrings.
(Especially in the 80’s. It was a hard time for lobes.)
Because of this wear, many people (especially older women, who have worn lots of thin, heavy earrings over the decades) end up with tears in their lobes. Earrings hang down near the bottom of their lobes instead of in the center, threatening to break right through.
People often ask us if repiercing can fix it, and in some cases it can. If there is enough space to pierce at a safe distance from the original hole, then we can do that, giving the person a fresh start. (It’s important that we pierce far enough away from the original hole that your new piercing doesn’t slide back into the already damaged piercing channel.)
If there isn’t enough space to do that, then the only remaining option to fix a torn lobe is reconstructive surgery, called lobuloplasty (a fancy word that simply means earlobe repair).
We chatted with a local clinic that performs the surgery to get a few of your most common questions answered.
How does the surgery work?
- Torn or stretched lobes are repaired by removing a thin layer of tissue in the piercing channel, then sewing the two sides together to create a normal appearing lobe.
Is it painful?
- Local anesthetic is used to keep the procedure pain free.
What is healing like?
- Healing is relatively simple. One ear is repaired, and given time to heal, and then the second ear is repaired at a later date. Since dissolving sutures are used, there is no need to return to have stitches removed.
How long until the lobe can be repierced?
- Although the clinic indicated that it would be safe to repierce as early as 6 weeks post surgery, a reputable piercer will likely have you wait a few months at least. Scar tissue needs time to settle and stabilize or else there is a chance that the jewelry will migrate in the new piercing… which kind of defeats the purpose of having it repaired.
How much does it cost?
- Pricing varies depending on how much damage there is to the lobe, but prices start at $600/ear, and can go up to $800 or even $1000 per ear for more complicated procedures like repairing lobes that have been stretched up to a very large size.
- (It should be noted that these fees are a sample from one clinic only.)
Next up, let’s discuss stretched lobes in more detail. If wearing standard earrings can tear through earlobes over time, then how is it that people can wear giant heavy things like this without their ears tearing in half?
(The 80’s has nothing on these sweet megalodon earrings.)
Contrary to what most people might think, thicker gauge earrings are less likely to tear through your lobes then the wire thin styles that most people wear. A larger surface area means that the weight of the earring is distributed over more of your earlobe, which anchors it in place more. Thinner styles (especially ones that are heavy) slice through your ear over time because all of weight is focused on a very small area. (We call this the cheese slicer effect – cheese slicers are made of just very thin wire, that are able to cut through cheese even though that are not sharp.)
If you need more proof that large, stretched lobes are strong, look no further then the parts of the world where the trend originated.
Of course, stretching has its risks as well. If done improperly, stretched ears can become thin and tear right through. This would require a more complicated (and expensive) surgery to repair, if repair is even possible.
In order to avoid this unpleasant fate, it’s important to stretch your ears slowly and carefully. At our shop, we like helping our clients move up from size to size, that way we can check and be sure that their ears are ready. Stretching too quickly can create scar tissue. Since scar tissue is tougher and less elastic then your original skin, it can both prevent you from moving up to your goal size, as well as make moving back down to smaller sized difficult. (Remember that stretching shouldn’t be excessively painful.)
Here are a few tips to help you stretch safely:
- Always use jewelry of appropriate quality. (Organic materials should be avoided as they can gather bacteria.) Tapers – jewelry that starts thin and becomes thicker – should be avoided as they force the lobe to stretch too quickly.
- Wait at least a month between stretches, that way your lobes have time to heal.
- When you are ready to move up to the next size, gently warm and massage your ears with your fingers, then use a dab of lube to help the new jewelry slide in easily.
In conclusion, (short of surgery) you only get one set of earlobes, so take care of them.
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