The Marie Reyes Blog

Hipster Repair: Closing the Gauge

  • By Marie Reyes

Hipster Repair: Closing the Gauge

Look. You can't be a hipster forever. 

Earlobe repair and other extreme body modification reversal procedures are growing increasingly popular among former body-mod enthusiasts.

A couple of decades ago this quest to be cool via ear gauges was sometimes associated with the hippie, punk or rock scenes. But over the past 15 years or so, ear stretching has all but entered the mainstream, with people from all walks of life being drawn to the practice due to fashion, media and celebrity-related influences.

For whatever reason someone may decide to stretch their earlobes, many are deciding to reverse the look. 

To understand why people ultimately decide to have earlobe gauges removed, it’s important to understand the practice itself. Earlobe stretching works by inserting a plug, or “gauge”, into the earlobe. Over time, bigger gauges are inserted one at a time to continue stretching the earlobe.

People with gauges who choose to undergo earlobe repair surgery are looking to reverse course and restore their ears to their original shape. However, as a result of having stretched their earlobes so dramatically, the skin cannot retract to its former shape without help from a surgeon. Otherwise, upon removing the gauge, the skin immediately hangs. This is because it has been stretched to such an extent that it’s lost its former elasticity.

It goes without saying that this is an unwelcome turn of events for anyone who has decided they want to cease wearing gauges. As a result, many people are now turning to plastic surgeons to address the problem, because in order to repair the ear, surgery is needed to close the opening and excise any extra tissue around the lobe.

People’s motivations for seeking body modification reversal are as varied as their reasons for modifying their bodies in the first place. Sometimes it’s simply a change of heart or aesthetic preference. 

Surgeons may use slightly different techniques to repair the earlobe but, generally speaking, the procedure is considered to be relatively straightforward and safe.

Dr. Light performs the procedure in his office with local anesthesia. First, the area of piercing or gauge is removed in a wedge fashion, the back skin is closed, the middle tissue is repositioned (to provide strength), the margin of the earlobe is lined up and the skin closed in a straight line. If the earlobe is stretched, as with patients that have used gauges, the excess thin skin and earlobe are removed and a new smaller earlobe is created with closure of an upper wedge or flaps.

As with any surgical procedure, there are some risks associated with earlobe repair, but most are minor. These include new scars, asymmetric earlobes and deformation of the tissue around the old piercing, as well as difficulty piercing the new area. There are risks of infection when closing some piercings if all of the skin within the pierced hole has not been removed. Recovery is short, with the stitches being left in place for five days, scar care commencing in three weeks and potential for a new ear piercing as early as three weeks postoperatively.

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