Experiencing a torn earlobe can be painful and stressful, especially if your earlobe is injured suddenly by a pulled earring, but this condition is highly treatable.
Knowing how to care for your earlobe during an emergency can preserve both its form and function, while minimizing discomfort. With the right care, you’ll probably make a full recovery after experiencing earlobe trauma; in fact, many of our patients are able to wear earrings again after healing fully. We can also assist you if your earlobes have stretched or split due to gauging or long-time earring use.
What to Do if Your Earlobe Tears
Sudden earlobe tears usually happen when a child or pet grabs an earring and pulls on it. More rarely, torn earlobes occur when dangling earrings get caught in hair or clothing. Regardless of what causes your earlobe to tear, you’ll need to act quickly to treat your injury: The earlobes naturally receive very little blood flow (they have poorer circulation than other extremities, like the hands and feet), so they need to be repaired promptly to prevent permanent tissue damage.
Immediately after your injury, place gauze over the wound and apply gentle pressure to slow the bleeding. (If you don’t have gauze on hand, try using a clean washcloth to control bleeding.) Don’t place ice directly on the wound; ice will restrict circulation to the area and potentially delay healing. The extreme cold can also worsen the pain you feel. Instead of grabbing ice cubes, use a cool compress to reduce inflammation. Then, as soon as you’ve covered your wound, head to the nearest emergency room to have the tear closed with sutures. Don’t leave it to nature to take care of it.
Sometimes, a small portion of tissue gets torn from the ear during a traumatic injury. If this happens to you, dampen a piece of gauze or cloth and carefully wrap up the severed piece of tissue. Place the wrapped piece of earlobe on a bed of ice cubes, then drive to the nearest hospital immediately. Be aware, however, that severed pieces of earlobe cannot always be successfully reattached (because of the poor blood flow to the area). In most cases, severely torn earlobes require the attention of a skilled plastic surgeon, who can surgically reconstruct the shape of your earlobe.
How to Treat Tears and Holes Caused by Earlobe Stretching
Earlobe stretching is sometimes done intentionally (a practice called ear gauging), but it can also happen accidentally over time. Frequently wearing heavy, dangling earrings often causes earring holes to gradually enlarge, usually over the course of two to three decades. This happens due to the combined effects of gravity and collagen loss: The skin, cartilage, and connective tissues in your ears become weaker as collagen levels drop with age. As a result of this collagen loss, the earlobes can’t support the weight of heavy earrings anymore, and both the lobes and the holes in them elongate. If this stretching isn’t treated, the earlobes may split below the earring holes, making it impossible to wear earrings.
If you catch the signs of earlobe stretching early, you may be able to treat this condition at home. Though your earlobes won’t heal without medical intervention, you can prevent further stretching by avoiding the use of heavy earrings. You can also buy “earlobe support patches. They are on Amazon! These attach to the earlobes with adhesive, where they provide firm support for earrings. Support patches don’t typically work on gauged ears, however.
If your earlobes are severely stretched or split, you’ll need to seek medical care if you want to restore their form and function. Though stretched or split earlobes that result from earring use (not injury) aren’t considered an emergency, they still require the attention of an experienced plastic surgeon. Without surgical intervention, your stretched earlobes won’t be able to support earrings anymore, and they’ll retain a saggy look that ages your face. If you’ve gauged your ears in the past, your earlobes may look particularly wrinkled, distorted, and unsightly when you remove your plugs. Because earlobe repair surgery is quick, affordable, and generally painless, most people prefer to have their stretched earlobes fixed in our clinic, rather than having to live with them.
How Do We Surgically Repair Torn, Stretched, or Sagging Earlobes?
Whether your earlobes have been damaged by sudden trauma, natural aging, or gauging, earlobe repair surgery can restore their original shape. This operation doesn’t require sedation (it can be performed with just local anesthetic), and it can usually be completed in under an hour, so you shouldn’t let fear of having surgery dissuade you from fixing your earlobes. This type of procedure is only minimally invasive, and our doctors will completely numb your earlobes to ensure your comfort during repair. You’ll also be able to go home right after your operation and resume light activities, before returning to work the following day.
To perform earlobe repair surgery, our doctors make an incision in each earlobe, then they remove any damaged tissue that is present. (This step generally entails removing the tissue around each earring hole.) Then, the patient’s incisions are closed with sutures, which are typically removed after one to two weeks. Removing damaged tissue makes elongated earlobes smaller and allows healthy earlobe tissue to heal together, which closes previously gaping or split earring holes.
Recovering from earlobe surgery is typically very easy: You’ll notice some redness and swelling for a few days, then your earlobes will return to normal. Still, it’s important to understand that while your earlobes may look better after a week, deeper tissue healing takes a long time. Caring for your ears correctly while they heal is absolutely essential if you want to prevent future stretching.
After you have earlobe surgery, keep your ears protected from sun exposure when you go outside (no matter what the weather is like). Ultraviolet radiation slows healing, damages collagen in the skin, and contributes to the development of thick, dark scar tissue, so avoiding it is imperative to good results. Don’t scratch, tug, or pick at your earlobe incisions, either.
Though most people can wear earrings after having their earlobes repaired, you’ll need to wait at least two months before having your ears pierced again. Wearing earrings too early during recovery will damage your earlobes; you may also experience pain and significant irritation if you pierce your ears prematurely. Before you attempt to wear earrings again, see our doctors for a follow-up examination – they can tell you whether or not you’re ready to take this step.
To maintain the results of your earlobe repair procedure, we recommend only wearing heavy or dangling earrings on rare occasions. When you do wear these kind of earrings, apply support tape to your earlobes to help offset their weight.
Can I Use Dermal Fillers to Repair My Earlobes?
In some cases, dermal filler injections can improve the appearance of stretched earlobes, though fillers can’t mend split earlobes on their own. Dermal fillers can be used in place of surgery (if your earlobes have not split), or they can be used to enhance the results of traditional earlobe repair, e.g., through scar revision.
Fillers like Juvéderm® and Restylane® rejuvenate the earlobes by increasing tissue volume and stimulating the production of new collagen. When fillers are injected into the earlobes, they fill in loose, sagging skin and partially close elongated earring holes. Hyaluronic acid, the main ingredient in most dermal fillers, is also a collagen precursor: When this compound is injected into the skin, it sends signals to the brain that increase natural collagen production around the injection site. Over a period of two to three months, this collagen gradually strengthens skin and connective tissues in the earlobes, making these tissues more resistant to stretching and sagging. Your earlobes will also take on a smoother, more youthful appearance as your fillers counteract the effects of aging.
When dermal fillers are injected into scar tissue, they elevate indentations in the skin, thereby making scars less visible. They also encourage long-term tissue healing. If you had your earlobes sutured after a traumatic injury and don’t like the way your scars look, dermal fillers may be able to help.
Dermal filler injections are safe and painless, but they don’t last forever. If you want to use fillers to repair your earlobes, you’ll need to have your injections repeated once or twice per year. Earlobe repair surgery, on the other hand, produces results that last ten years or longer (with appropriate care).
Can Earlobe Repair be Combined with Other Facial Procedures?
Age-related earlobe stretching usually occurs alongside facial sagging, so it’s not uncommon for our patients to ask if they can incorporate earlobe repair into their personalized facial rejuvenation plan. In most cases, we can easily combine earlobe repair surgery with other facial procedures, such as facelift or Acculift surgery. We’ll perform both of your chosen procedures at the same time, as this approach will reduce your total recovery time (and reduce the amount of follow-up appointments you’ll need), allowing you to return to your regular activities more quickly.
If you’ve chosen to use dermal fillers to repair your stretched earlobes, we can inject fillers into your lips, cheeks, and nasolabial creases during your appointment to give your face a subtly lifted look.
Some of our patients also choose to have fractional CO2 laser skin resurfacing performed on their face and ears after earlobe repair: The procedure erases fine lines, signs of photoaging, and small scars, so it’s a great way to refresh your skin, with or without surgery.
Arrange an Earlobe Repair Consultation in Jackson, Mississippi with Faces PLLC
Torn, stretched, or saggy earlobes can take attention away from your best features and limit the type of earrings and hairstyles you can wear. To find out which earlobe repair method is right for you, contact Faces PLLC in Jackson to arrange your personal consultation. Our team of double board-certified plastic surgeons have extensive experience performing earlobe procedures, including earlobe repair, otoplasty, and non-surgical earlobe rejuvenation.