- Unlike the rest of the outer ear, the earlobe contains no cartilage, rendering it susceptible to stretching over time.
- There are two common types of earlobes: connected and free-hanging
- Loboplasty is the surgical reshaping and resizing of the earlobe. It is used to repair stretched, malformed, and torn earlobes.
- Earlobe repair surgery is an outpatient procedure performed in the surgeon’s office under local anesthesia.
- Common reasons for loboplasty include stretched earlobes due to aging and regularly wearing heavy earrings, earlobe injuries, including torn earlobes from having earrings yanked out, and misshapen ears from congenital disabilities.
In 2016, singer Beyonce was performing on stage before a large crowd when one of her earrings snagged on something and got ripped out of her ear. The force of the trauma split her earlobe into two pieces. The singer was so caught up in her performance that she didn’t notice she’d been injured until she touched her ear and her finger came away with blood. A trooper, Beyonce finished her performance but afterward had to have her damaged earlobe repaired surgically.
Earlobe stretching and tearing due to wearing large and heavy earrings is a common reason for earlobe repair surgery. Here, we discuss the surgery and ways that you can protect the shape and integrity of your earlobes.
What is earlobe repair surgery?
Loboplasty is the technical term for reshaping and resizing the earlobe. It is a relatively simple procedure that is done in the plastic surgeon’s office under local anesthesia. The length of the surgery depends on the extent of the necessary repairs but generally takes between 15 minutes to an hour to complete.
To minimize scarring, most surgeons use an incision technique called Z-plasty. In Z-plasty, the surgeon creates a Z-shaped wound rather than a straight-edged one and then stitches the edges together. Another name for this technique is L-plasty. Avoiding a straight-line incision prevents scar shrinkage and notching at the free edge of the earlobe.
If the earlobe requires extensive reconstruction, such as in the cause of gauging, other techniques may be used to reconstruct an aesthetically-pleasing earlobe. In some cases, there may not be much tissue available, resulting in a shortened lobe that is nonetheless symmetrical and well-shaped.
Why is earlobe repair surgery done?
There are many reasons why people undergo this surgical procedure. Here are the most common reasons people opt to have this surgery:
- Stretched earlobes – The earlobe can stretch due to aging or from the habitual and frequent wearing of large or heavy earrings.
- Ear gauging – The earlobe is purposely stretched with incrementally larger plugs or gauges, making a large hole in its center.
- Asymmetry – Through a congenital disability, one or both ears may be misshapen.
- Earlobe injury – Whether it occurs from a sports injury or an earring catching on something and ripping free, this kind of injury can result in an unsightly condition known as split earlobe. A split earlobe is just what it sounds like: an earlobe that has been cut in two, usually along the line of the piercing hole.
What is recovery and aftercare like?
There is very little pain and swelling following the procedure and patients can usually resume their normal activities right away. Discomfort is managed with over-the-counter pain medication, such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen.
Generally, the patient is sent home with stitches and a dressing over the earlobes to prevent infection, minimize swelling, and to help the new lobe maintain its shape. The dressing should be left on for a few days post-op.
Healing after loboplasty usually takes between six to eight weeks, at which time the final results of the procedure will be evident. It is important that patients wait two to three months post-op to re-pierce their ears, should they wish to do so.
Another important thing to note is that the earlobes will be weaker following the repair, so heavy earrings should be avoided.
What is the cost of surgery?
To repair one earlobe the price range is $800-$1,000. For both earlobes it will cost $1,200-$1,400.
How to prevent stretched or torn earlobes
The best way to avoid earlobe surgery is to prevent your earlobes from becoming stretched or torn. You cannot prevent the sagging that comes from age but, by following a few of the simple tips below, you can avoid the surgeon’s knife:
- If you must wear large or long earrings, choose plastic. Plastic earrings are lighter than metal earrings and will not drag down your earlobes as much.
- Save the heavy earrings for special occasions. Limiting the amount of time you wear them will minimize the stretching.
- Take your earrings out when you sleep at night. Even while you sleep, earrings can pull at your earlobes, stretching them out over time.
- Avoid wearing heavy earrings while exercising. Not only is gravity not your friend in this situation, but there is also a chance that the earrings could snag on something and injure your earlobe.
- Apply witch hazel to your earlobes twice daily. Witch hazel is an astringent and helps to tighten the skin
- Massage coconut or olive oil into your earlobes to introduce more moisture and plump them up
- Crush effervescent aspirin tablets and add water to make a paste. Apply it to the earlobes to tighten them.
- Pair heavy earrings with Lobe Wonder. Lobe Wonder consists of adhesive stickers that go on the back of the ears to help support the weight of the earrings.
- Avoid earlobe gauging. It might be in fashion now, but the damage it causes can be expensive to repair.
Non-Surgical alternative – dermal fillers
For those not wanting to undergo surgery or those who cannot, there is another treatment that can help to restore plumpness and tighten the earlobe skin. Hyaluronic acid dermal fillers such as Restylane can add volume to sagging earlobes and firm up the tissue.
However, dermal fillers will only work in cases where the earlobe is merely sagging. For torn earlobes or earlobes stretched by gauging, surgery remains the only option.