Humans like to alter their appearance — some in temporary ways like haircuts and spray tans, while others choose more permanent enhancements like tattoos and cosmetic surgery.
Unfortunately, not all of those permanent enhancements stand the test of time. CBC News reports that many who have spent years stretching their earlobes have been going to the doctor to get the process surgically reversed.
The same story is repeated in offices around the country. People in their teens and early 20s pierce their ears, start to stretch them to fit larger gauge jewelry, and then years later, they're left with saggy, stretched lobes right around the time they're looking for a job that requires a more conservative appearance. Or, they move on to other fashion trends. Unlike tattoos — which you can get on body parts you can hide — earlobes are front and center.
According to the doctors who perform the surgeries, the patients are largely young men starting their professional careers. While plastic surgeons' groups aren't tracking this like they do tattoo removals or liposuction, they do have a name for the ear stitching procedure: earlobeplasty.
Not all stretched piercings need surgery. NBC notes that the holes usually shrink back on their own if they are less than half an inch. Many of the holes discussed in the articles are considerably larger. For example, 25-year-old Kurt Barnett ended up with 1.7-inch gaps in his ears, making surgery a necessity if he wanted his ears to go back to the way they were pre-stretch.
What a stretched earlobe looks like without any jewelry in it. (Photo: Axel Bueckert/Shutterstock)
Barnett stopped wearing the jewelry when his job as a spray-foam installer called for him to wear head equipment that didn’t fit properly. And then, as sometimes happens, his tastes changed. "I don't really want to have these big huge holes in my ears because it just looks horrible. Every time I look in the mirror, I just see it and shake my head," said Barnett who started stretching when he was 19.
How much will the procedure set him back? Estimates put it between $1,500 and $3,000. That's not a lot compared to other forms of cosmetic surgery, but for a young person just starting his career, it's a meaningful chunk of change.
Because the skin is so stretched, piecing the lobe back together often involves snipping off some extra skin and reconstructing the area with what’s left. At the end of the procedure, the only evidence is one small scar in the middle.
Of course, some people are well aware that they might one day not love their stretched lobes and opt to pay the price. One user on Reddit wrote in response to the article, "I'm fully aware I might eventually not care for my stretched ears, but I came into this keeping that in mind. If I ever decide to have surgery to make them 'normal' again, so be it. I won't regret the time I enjoyed having them and going through the stretching process."
But for those who want to revert back to their previous look, there are options.
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