With age, so many body parts lose their youthful tautness and become stretched out, limp, and, well, loose. Known as volume loss (caused by a decrease in collagen and elastin), when the plump tissue of the ears starts to dwindle, in its place surfaces wrinkled, aged, and flaccid earlobes. “Just like how we lose volume in the face, which causes it to become sunken and aged, the same thing happens to the ears,” says Jason D. Bloom, MD, a double board certified facial plastic and reconstructive surgeon in Bryn Mawr, PA.
If you are familiar with the treatment options employed to address facial volume loss, then you are already familiar with the minimally invasive procedure that can restore your lobes. The same dermal filler that rejuvenates the face can be injected to revive sagging earlobes, and we’re breaking down everything you need to know.
What Causes Earlobe Volume Loss
Before we discuss earlobe filler as a treatment, it’s important to understand why your lobes deflate in the first place. Collagen, the naturally occurring protein that supports plump, firm skin, starts to degrade at a rate of about one percent per year after 30. A loss of collagen equates to aged earlobes. Dr. Bloom compares aging ears to the transformative journey of a grape. “When you think of a fresh, young grape, it is ripe with fullness, but, as it loses volume, it shrinks down to a raisin,” he says. “The same thing happens to the ears. Over time, they lose fullness and begin to look long and droopy.” Whether you realize it or not, “it’s a lack of volume that can make the ears appear longer than they are,” Dr. Bloom adds.
But it’s not just time, age, genetics, and gravity that take their toll on the ears and cause skin laxity. Kathleen S. Viscusi, MD, a board certified dermatologist in Marietta, GA, says heavy earrings that pull on the skin over time can cause stretched-out earlobes, too. “The earlobes are especially vulnerable,” she shares. “Heavy earrings can draw down the skin and elongate the hole more so than it does naturally over time.” If you’re not ready to part with your ear party, at least pay attention to how you wear them. “When wearing heavy earrings, be sure that the backings support the weight of the earring,” she notes.
The Quick Fix for Sagging Earlobes
A few injections of hyaluronic acid (HA)-based filler can drastically transform sinking earlobes into perky ones. Dr. Bloom says that adding HA filler directly around pierced holes plumps them and the lobe, which prompts earrings to sit up better. “The key is to inject a bit of Restylane® or Juvéderm® right where the hole is — not too high above it or below,” he explains.
But HA fillers aren’t the only injectable that can restore volume. Jennifer Segal, MD, a board certified dermatologist in Houston, TX, reveals that she sometimes uses Sculptra® (a biostimulatory poly-L-lactic acid filler) right above and below a pierced hole. “Both injectable products add support to the earlobe and give a tightening effect to the hole,” she says. Often times, the urgency of the procedure is how she determines which filler to use. “If a patient needs a quick fix, like for an event, I’ll use hyaluronic acid,” she explains. “Otherwise, I like to inject Sculptra®.” For creases in the earlobe, Dr. Segal notes that hyaluronic acid fillers do a better job at smoothing out lines and wrinkles.
In the case of HA, the effects of the virtually painless procedure are immediate and last anywhere from nine to 12 months. “In the ears, there is no movement, unlike the lips and facial folds, so the lobes can retain and hold filler there for a pretty long time,” Dr. Bloom explains. Post-treatment care will have you donning bare ears for a few days. “That’s because the ears can swell, and earrings can compress it,” Dr. Segal says.
But it’s not always just the earlobe that needs tending to. Dr. Segal says that the fat pad that sits right in front of the ear can also have an aging effect. “As we get older, we lose definition in the jaw, and the shape of the face transforms,” she says. “The sharp contours are lost, the face appears rounder, and the area in front of the ear becomes more wrinkled as changes occur to the underlying structure.” The fix? “By adding back some of the lost volume, the triangle area right in front of the ear — where the jaw and ear meet — looks less hollow and more youthful,” Dr. Segal explains. “Bypassing this area can sometimes cause the ears to look overly large and sort of like Dumbo.”
Beyond the Needle
Fillers work wonders for most age-related ear concerns, but there are some instances where surgery is necessary. For example, if the circumference of the earlobe changes, only a surgical procedure can permanently correct it. While fillers plump the area, earlobe surgery excises loose skin and corrects severely marred piercings by either cutting out or trimming the holes, stitching them up, and then re-piercing the ears. While surgery may be required for some, “hyaluronic acid fillers are what I use 90 percent of the time to correct aging ears,” Dr. Bloom notes.
If a quick round of injections isn’t your thing, a quick treatment of microneedling with radiofrequency (RF) is another option. “It helps with volume loss, too,” says Dr. Segal, who performs secret™ RF in her practice. The combination of RF and microneedling works nicely because the energy portion of the treatment encourages tissue tightening, which complements the collagen induction therapy.
And then there are those who are concerned about brown spots and sun damage. “The ears are exposed to dangerous UV rays, which can cause aging and also skin cancer,” Dr. Viscusi warns. Since it’s far easier to prevent damage than it is to correct it, she recommends applying your facial sunscreen to the “often overlooked” ears on a daily basis. “I tell patients to think of applying sunscreen to the ears like brushing their teeth — you wouldn’t leave the house in the morning without doing this important step,” she says. Similarly, your lightening and brightening skincare products can be applied to the ears as well. “So often, skincare routines stop at the face and neck, but it should extend to our earlobes,” Dr. Viscusi adds.
If earrings are your favorite accessory to sport but heavy hoops and mega danglers are painful to wear, filler can help revive stretched-out earlobes. The result of this quick fix is younger and plumper-looking earlobes that allow your favorite studs to sit perfectly upright.
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