Just like a tattoo of a sweetheart's name, the decision to gauge, or stretch, your earlobes can be full of personal meaning, and may be a decision you later come to regret. Whether it's for reasons of employment, military duty, or simply a change of heart, you're now faced with the distressing question of how to reverse the process. For most people with stretched earlobes, surgery is the best method of restoring their ears to their original appearances.
Beginning the Reversal Process
If you want to restore your earlobes to their original appearances, first remove the plugs and give your lobes a rest. Dr. Michael Bermant, a plastic surgeon in Chester, Virginia, suggests that any potential earlobe surgery wait until the ear tissue has shrunk as much as it will naturally. If you don't want the holes in your earlobes to be visible while they're shrinking, you can insert progressively smaller plugs as the ear shrinks. Use plugs that match your flesh tone to minimize their visibility.
Unfortunately, this natural repair has its limits. According to Melissa Dahl of MSNBC.com, any gauge hole wider than six millimeters will result in a permanent deformity that can only be fixed by surgery. According to plastic surgeon Dr. Barry Eppley, stretching the earlobes with plugs creates permanent damage to the quality of the earlobe tissue, and runs the risk of keloids, or a large buildup of scar tissue.
Finding a Plastic Surgeon
Once your earlobes have shrunk as far as they will go, seek out a local plastic surgeon with experience in repairing stretched earlobes. The surgeon will examine your earlobes and determine how best to reconstruct them. According to Dr. Brian S. Glatt, every stretched earlobe is slightly different, and requires its own specialized plan. Dr. Eppley states that steroid injections or even radiation may be necessary in cases where keloid tissue has formed around the earlobe.
Restoring the Earlobe
Most surgeries to repair stretched earlobes involve slitting the earlobe in two and cutting around the edge of the hole. Then the surgeon will trim away any extra skin and sew the two pieces back together. The surgery is an outpatient procedure that takes roughly 15 minutes to half an hour per earlobe, and is performed under local anesthesia. According to Dr. Eppley, the surgery often results in an earlobe that's smaller than the earlobe was before it was stretched.
After surgery, the earlobe will have a scar that runs down the middle of the lobe to the edge. Afterwards, the earlobe will slowly heal. Dr. Glatt states that the ear can then be pierced again in order to detract from the scar; however, the earlobe cannot be re-stretched, as this might literally tear the ear in two. At $1,500 to $3,000 per operation, this surgery is an investment you won't want to make twice.