BY: ADAM THRUSH
The creation of large holes in earlobes: an act some alternative, religious or tribal communities have done for centuries. Depending on the size of these holes, the end product of “spacing” or “gauging” your earlobes could be permanent. But what happens when you grow tired of being able to put your fingers through your ears, or want to erase any evidence that you previously listened to emo bands?
The answer: lobuloplasty.
Spacing your ears is normally done by putting a tapered cone shaped object into your earlobe after it has already been pierced. This is the taper method. The small end of the taper will be smaller or equal to the size of the current ‘gauge size’. The wider end would then have the ‘gauge size’ that you’re intending to obtain, or an intermediate size working your way up to that size. After leaving the taper in your earlobe for a couple of weeks or so (depending how fast it heals), you can put in new larger jewelry of that specific gauge, or continue to stretch your lobes. For me, I went from a normally pierced ear (with a 1.4mm diameter hole) to a 3mm hole. Then from 3mm to 6mm, 6mm to 10mm, and 10mm to 14mm. I can still see my parents shaking their heads as I screamed in pain doing this in front of our bathroom mirror. Stupid teenagers.
At the age of 27 and 12 years after I made the decision to space my ears, I decided to investigate solutions. To repair the damage my teenage self had caused in the name of fashion. Everyone heals differently but in my case 14mm gauges were a little too much for my body to handle on its own, thus lobuloplasty (cosmetic surgery of the earlobe) was the only solution.
Cosmetic surgeries are not covered by our Canadian healthcare system (nor should they be), but as someone who is extremely cheap I was a little put off by my initial research into prices. I had checked with multiple plastic surgeons in Canada (specifically around Toronto and Vancouver) generally resulting in prices starting at $1400 (for the pair, including consultation fee) and up depending how much of a mess you got yourself into. To say the least, it was more than I wanted to pay, so I continued my search southwards. EARonically, the solution came to me in Moctezuma country (Mexico City), where the Aztecs culturally stretched their ear lobes as well.
I was a little worried about considering a (albeit minor) cosmetic surgery in a foreign country (the horror stories are plentiful) and not having any personal experiences to go off of. However, after chatting with an experienced surgeon, specifically with this procedure, and seeing the price, I was convinced.
Despite the surgeon working out of one of the best private hospitals in Mexico, the price was around 50% cheaper compared to my Canadian findings. The total price I paid was 10,000 Mexican pesos (which at the time was around $700 Canadian) to repair both lobes, including the removal of my stitches a week after the surgery.
Here’s how it’s done.
First the surgeon injects anathesia into the ear lobe. This obviously prevents you from feeling the skin slicing that’s about to happen (however, you still have to listen to it). The surgeon then cuts a thin layer of skin from the circumference of the inner hole, which is necessary to induce healing afterwards (the holes can’t simply be sewn up without the skin being exposed first). A cut is then made across the hole to make it easier to seamlessly sew the hole together. If you plan on having the surgery but are still wanting to pierce your ears again normally, a ‘Z’ cut is used across the hole. This method doesn’t heal as nicely but leaves space for future piercings. The cut straight across does not allow for this as your scar will be located in the centre point of your ear lobe, however it tends to look much better after healing. The hole is then stitched together on both sides of your earlobe. The whole operation, from the time I entered the office to the time I left was around 45 minutes. Quick and easy!
During the first few weeks, it is advised to apply Polysporin three times a day in order to prevent potential infections. Seven to 10 days after the operation, the stitches are removed. Along with avoiding physical activity for the next couple weeks as the hole continues to heal without the support of stitches, it is also advised to avoid prolonged sunlight exposure to the earlobes. While skin colour darkens with sun exposure, it also lightens with a lack of it. However, darkened scars on the skin may retain their darkness, thus being more apparent and visible in the future (I can’t tell you how many times I had to explain to friends why I was applying sunscreen to my earlobes over the summer).
There are many reasons to have this operation done. For me, it was a personal choice. I simply did not want to have a small open hole in each earlobe for the rest of my life. So if you’re considering doing this, know that there are plenty of good options in Canada, many of which have photos from past operations. However, also know that for the same price you can also have a week long vacation in Mexico attached to this unique surgical experience (just keep those earlobes out of the sun)!