It is possible for the ears to recover from earlobe stretching if a person decides to stop stretching or wants to actively reverse the process. In earlobe stretching, progressively larger earrings and plugs are placed into a pierced ear over time to stretch out the tissue. This practice is very ancient in some communities and can be seen in practice around the world. People may also accidentally end up with stretched ears if they have a habit of wearing very heavy earrings regularly. If stretched earlobes are no longer desirable, there are a number of options to allow them to recover their former shape and size.
In situations where the stretchers used are no larger than two gauge, the ears can often recover on their own. It will be necessary to take the earrings out to give the ears a rest, and it can be helpful to massage the ears periodically to stimulate blood flow and encourage the hole to close. Compounds like vitamin E oil can sometimes speed the process of healing. It may take several months for the holes to shrink to a manageable size and close entirely. A doctor may be able to speed the process with an injection of filler into the skin around the hole.
When ears are stretched to a larger diameter, healing is more complex. The hole is usually too big to close on its own, and the patient may need earlobe reconstruction. In a reconstruction, a plastic surgeon will close the hole manually. For very large ear stretching cases, the surgeon may need to perform a two-part surgery to create cartilage and skin grafts to close the hole. Once it heals completely, if the patient wants pierced ears again, it is possible to re-pierce, although attempting another round of earlobe stretching is not a good idea.
Some patients may perform earlobe stretching too fast, and this can endanger their earlobes. Stretching normally takes place over the course of years, and each stretch increases the gauge gradually. This allows the ears to slowly flex and stretch over time to accommodate the larger size. When stretching occurs too quickly, it is possible to tear the ears or develop tissue necrosis, where part of the skin dies because it does not get enough blood. In this case, a surgical repair is necessary to clean up the dead skin and reconstruct the earlobe.
After the ears heal completely from earlobe stretching, the lobes may look slightly different, and some scarring will be present around the site of the hole. Patients concerned about the appearance of the lobes can discuss options with a plastic surgeon to see if it is possible to minimize the scarring and give the lobes a smoother appearance.