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Why Earlobe Reconstruction Surgery is Trending

Allure logo Allure 3/07/2017 Sarah Kinonen

© Getty Images When I was in high school, I had crushes on all the boys in bands who wore studded belts and had stretched earlobes. My teenage heart yearned for these dudes who called themselves "emo" — no matter what my parents thought. Of course, they couldn't stop talking about how those stretched lobes were expanded to the point of no return, and that those boys would have to live with loose, lengthened lobes for the rest of their lives. Turns out, mom and dad were so very wrong.

Stretching one's ears (or another pierced body part) involves a process wherein slightly larger jewellery is installed into the earlobes to create larger-than-typical-pierced holes, explains John Joyce, a piercing artist and the owner of Scarab Body Arts in Syracuse, New York. If someone with stretched lobes has come to a point in their life where they no longer desire the elasticized look, there's a surprisingly easy fix: a quick snip procedure called earlobe reconstruction. And apparently, it's been gaining traction in the plastic surgery space.

"We have seen an increase [in requests for the procedure] — with the popularity of earrings that stretch the earlobe, the demographic has become significantly younger, like 18 to 30," says Min S. Ahn, a double-board certified plastic surgeon in Boston. "Traditionally the patient is older, like 45 to 65, has a long history of wearing heavy earrings, and is seeking other facial rejuvenations options, such as a facelift or mini-lift."

The surgical reconstruction, which can take anywhere from 15 minutes to an hour, is done under local anesthesia. Once the patient is numbed, "the inner lining of the elongated earlobe hole is removed surgically, and the edges are put back together with stitches," Dr. Ahn explains. "The placement and design of the suturing will make the length of the earlobe shorter."

During this time, the surgeon must tap into his or her design skills to re-shape the lobe, says Los Angeles-based dermatologist Sandra Lee, a.k.a. Dr. Pimple Popper. "Essentially, for you to 'close a hole,' you have to refresh the edges of skin so that they stick back together again," says Lee. "If the earlobe has been significantly stretched, the surgeon has to be a little creative in order to devise a way to stick the cut edges back together, so that it looks like a normal earlobe."

About a week after the procedure, the stitches are removed from the lobes, which may be bumpy in texture with slight bruising and redness, but that's normal, says Lee. "In terms of pain, it's very minimal. Your earlobes will be a little sore, but no pain medication is needed, usually not even an over the counter acetaminophen, like Tylenol."

Lately, the treatment has been popping up all over social media, thanks to Lee, who occasionally features patients undergoing the technique on her YouTube channel. In her most recent video, she transformed the earlobes of 21-year-old Elias Teutimez, who tells Allure he first started stretched when he was 17, and eventually reached the size of a whopping two inches. But then he stopped. "The whole stretching process is addicting, but once you get to the biggest size and there's nothing after it, it starts to lose its appeal," he says. "And after wearing jewellery for so long, sometimes you start to develop allergies, which I did, and my ears would get irritated really easily. It just became a really big hassle."

Which is why, when he emailed Lee on a whim about his widened lobes and received an immediate response, he was ready to reinvent them. In doing so, Teutimez says he's now happy and hassle-free. "I always thought I'd have my lobes hanging — not that I minded — but it's nice to have regular earlobes again," he says, adding: "I do not regret a single second of [stretching]. I loved my lobes, I loved the process, and I would not change it for the world. To anyone who is thinking about stretching, go ahead and do it. It's not permanent, it's reversible, and honestly, it's a lot of fun."

On the flip side, Ahn says the reconstruction procedure can bolster that same sort of self-assurance as one feels when stretching. "It can be a huge confidence booster to patients who have been unhappy with their earlobes," he says. "Not only does it make their earlobes look more youthful, but it allows the patient to pull their hair back again and wear earrings."

Joyce emphasizes patience when it comes to stretching your lobes. "Stretching your earlobes is not a race! Take your time, wait the appropriate time between stretches," he advises. "Rushing can lead to scar tissue build up, blow-outs, thinning ears, torn ears, etc. And I really can't stress enough how important it is to keep in mind that this should be considered a permanent change — don't count on them closing on their own."

The procedure, which ranges on complexity, averages from $500 to $2,000 for both earlobes.


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