As an early-aughts kid, some (read: many) of the choices I made were questionable. They usually had to do with boys, crazy raver outfits or body modification—and occasionally a dangerous combo of all three. Hindsight is 20/20 and I’ve learned from my mistakes, but regret can linger—especially when body modification is involved.
At 14, I was a burgeoning raver, and I was desperate to do what the cool kids were doing. I already owned the prerequisite Jinco jeans, so the natural progression was to gauge—or stretch—my earlobes, a practice that, at the time, was as ubiquitous as getting multiple piercings in your ears is today. Stretching one’s ears involves wearing slightly larger jewellery in the earlobes to create larger-than-typical pierced holes. I started with tapers, cone-shaped earrings that are used to stretch piercings. Luckily for future me, my mom came to the rescue before I could do major damage. She noticed the hot-pink spikes at the dinner table and forcibly removed them from my ears—perhaps her best parenting move to date.
I may have dodged two bullet-sized holes in my earlobes, but sadly they weren’t safe for long. I became (and still am) a real-life fashion victim. The perpetrator? Statement earrings. The crime? Turning my earring holes into sad, droopy, stretched-out slits. And time and gravity are both accomplices.
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I’m not alone with this struggle. Over the past decade, the popularity of OTT earrings has surged, and as a result, the demand to repair stretched-out earring holes is also on the rise. The good news is that there’s a quick in-office fix that can combat the drooping: filler. Having your ears injected with hyaluronic-acid filler is becoming a thing. It’s a non-invasive way to plump up the area and lift sagging lobes. Essentially, it creates extra support and cushion to hold up hefty earrings while protecting holes from further stretching.
The bad news is the equally hefty price: It costs between $500 and $700, which wouldn’t be so bad if it were a permanent fix, but you’ll need touch-ups once or twice a year. A more permanent option is surgical reconstruction; this takes about 30 minutes and is done under local anaesthesia, but the cost is even greater, varying from $1,200 to $2,000.
If the expense of a medi-spa visit is too steep but you’re not ready to throw in the towel on statement earrings, fret not—there’s hope. I turned to two iconic Canadian jewellery designers—Jenny Bird, who has her own eponymous line, and Corrine Anestopoulos of Biko—to get their insight. Here, they share their tips on how to avoid further damage and which earring styles will give your ears oomph while disguising stretched holes.
1. Find the right balance
When Bird designs her pieces, she’s always thinking about how to prevent holes from stretching, and a key consideration is weight distribution. “If the weight is heavier on the bottom of the earring, this increases the swing, and swing is the enemy of healthy, toned holes,” she says.
2. Disguise the droop
There are plenty of styles that will cover your elongated holes; Anestopoulos suggests wearing one that hugs the lobe. “Look for an earring top that covers the hole,” she says. This can be done with a dramatic piece or even a simple stud or hoop.
3. Look for support
It’s not just about what’s happening up front; fitted backings are a must to help prevent further damage. “Don’t feel like you always have to use the backings your earrings come with,” says Bird. She prefers a bullet backing over a butterfly backing, and Anestopoulos likes disc-like backings. “This adds comfort and helps the weight of the earrings to be distributed over a larger area and not just the earring hole itself,” says Anestopoulos.
4. Discover your perfect fit
Do you think earrings are one-size-fits-all? So did we, but they’re not. Earrings should sit flat against the front of the lobe so the two pieces can compress the ear and support each other. Bird likens this to a sandwich. “A stable lobe sandwich requires as much real estate [metal surface] as possible,” she says. This ensures that less weight is on the hole.
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5. Give your lobes a night off
We know that we shouldn’t go to sleep with massive hoops, but how about a medium or small pair? Best not to—both Anestopoulos and Bird say our piercings need a break, especially if the lobes are stretched. However, Bird warns about removal. “Be conscious [and gentle] when you’re taking them out—frequent removal can cause damage over time.”
6. Material matters…
If your lobes are droopy but you’re craving some dangling drama, skip the beaded shoulder dusters or jewel-encrusted chandeliers and look for fabric or lightweight metal instead. “The weight of the earring is so important,” says Anestopoulos. “I aim to keep all Biko earrings as lightweight as possible.” Bird suggests choosing a hollow style. “They provide the illusion of luxurious volume without the weight, and there are lots of good tube hoops on the market these days,” she says.
7. And so does size
If your piercings are already compromised, you need to take it easy on the length. “Earrings longer than midi-length [1.5 inches] will have a swing, and that momentum is bad news,” says Bird.
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Shop statement earrings that won’t damage your ears:
If you’re looking to mitigate damage but also desperate for some drama, try one of these comfortable styles with serious fashion payoff.
Single Bold Hook Stud, $60, mejuri.com
Treat yourself to these cuff-like stud earrings that hold on tight and give stretched piercings full coverage.
Ora Lobe Hugger Earrings, $160, cadettejewelry.com
Hide your stretched piercings with these elegant lobe huggers.
Izzy Studs, $85, ilovebiko.com
A statement stud can pack a punch. These lightweight wave-inspired studs have even weight distribution, which means they won’t swing around—and they cover holes.
The Sabines, $95, jenny-bird.ca
These high-shine side-sitting hoops deliver big on style while not being oversized. Bonus: They disguise stretched piercings.
Sachin & Babi Erin Clip-On Drop Earrings, $135, anthropologie.com
It’s no risk and all reward with these bright and bold beaded clip-on earrings.
Laura Lombardi Gold Mini Curved Hollow Hoops, $110, ssense.com
These lightweight hoops are totally tubular. Pun aside, they really are hollow, which means they’re lightweight.
Fringe Tassel Earrings, $8, lechateau.com
Bring on the playfulness with these lightweight tassel earrings.
Taj Stud Earrings, $38, baublebar.com
A hybrid of an ear jacket and a crawler, this unique design has a pavé-covered loop that climbs up the lobe and cuffs around the ear to stay in place. All the drama and none of the weight.