Mother-of-four, 62, tries the new ‘eartox’ (with some VERY surprising results)
Whenever Susan Johnston wanted to feel special, she’d put on her favourite pair of sapphire earrings, confident in the knowledge they made her look polished and glamorous.
But as the years went by, it become clear they were having precisely the opposite effect.
‘It started with comments from strangers on the train or at parties,’ explains Susan, 62, a health visitor from Weybridge, Surrey. ‘People would tap me on the shoulder and say: “I think you’re losing an earring,” because it looked like they were dropping off.
‘In fact, my lobes had lost so much volume and firmness that they’d tip downwards and face the floor.’
Like many women of her age, mother-of-four Susan had her ears pierced in the Seventies, soon after the introduction of piercing guns, which made it cheap, easy and relatively pain free.
But decades of wearing heavy statement earrings meant that gravity had gradually taken its toll. ‘My earlobes felt empty and deflated like a shrivelled balloon,’ she says.
So Susan decided to turn back time by having an ‘eartox’ — an increasingly popular way to rejuvenate long, saggy lobes.
After spotting an advert for the procedure on a website, Susan had 0.75 ml of hyaluronic acid filler — a liquid which plumps up the skin — injected into each lobe. The procedure, which takes around ten minutes, costs from £250.
Susan says: ‘The injection felt like a wasp or bee sting without the after burn. But as soon as I had it done, the effects were immediate and I thought “Wow!” My lobes had got their old volume back and lifted my whole face.
‘I felt confident enough to wear my hair up to show my ears and wear my earring collection again.’
So, are earlobes just another part of the body women are under pressure to fret about? Or is modern life — more sunshine holidays, heavier earrings and hours with our phones pressed to our ears — to blame?
According to GP and cosmetic doctor Kathryn Taylor-Barnes, earlobes are vulnerable to a unique set of challenges which can age them prematurely.
‘Shampoos, conditioners, perfumes and hairsprays often come into contact with the earlobes and can dry the skin if they contain alcohol,’ she explains. ‘Yet I don’t know anyone who moisturises their earlobes. Over time, the effects start to show.’
And, of course, the fashion for increasingly heavy statement earrings puts extraordinary strain on earlobes over the years. Sometimes, they also distort piercing holes into long slits, which in extreme cases have to be sewn up.
Dr Taylor-Barnes says: ‘In the Eighties, women used to wear those big, hoop earrings which could get snagged on clothes when they were undressing and rip the earlobe. There are a lot of women with ears like that who are reaching their 60s today.’
All this accelerates the natural elongation of the lobes which happens as levels of collagen and elastin in the skin fall — around 1.5 per cent a year after the age of about 30.
‘This is also made worse by a drop in oestrogen in the menopause which causes collagen to break down in the skin,’ adds Dr Taylor-Barnes.
According to a study by the British Medical Journal, our earlobes already lengthen by an average of 0.22mm a year owing to the breakdown of these fibres. Plastic surgeons say around 75 per cent of patients asking about facial rejuvenation also have elongated earlobes — and are having them fixed at the same time.
Surgeons have found a way of cutting, trimming and re-attaching the earlobe without leaving visible scars under local anaesthetic. But is it really such a good idea to add one more item to the anti-ageing wish list?
Once some women realise such treatments exist, experts say they automatically start to believe there must be a problem to fix.
Psychologist Deanne Jade, founder of the National Centre for Eating Disorders, says the emergence of treatments such as ear rejuvenation has merely created one more area for women to worry about.
‘If a body part starts attracting this kind of attention, then we start scrutinising it anxiously, and it can then appear “worse” than it is. It then becomes a “problem” for which a solution has to be found.’
Fleur Kinally, a 55-year-old former nurse from Guildford, Surrey, doesn’t regret having her earlobes treated. After years of wearing earrings, her lobes had drooped to the extent that studs and drops no longer sat at the correct angle.
But she didn’t want to give up wearing her beloved diamond earrings which her husband, Gerry, gave her eight years ago.
‘I’d been wearing earrings 15 hours a day, seven days a week for years. Putting them on is part of my daily ritual and I do feel undressed if I’m not wearing them.’
Just before Christmas, Fleur had dermal filler injected into each lobe. Now they have plumped up enough to hold the earrings in a much better position.
‘Before, the pull of a heavier earring was quite painful after a few hours,’ she explains. ‘Since the treatment, the pulling sensation isn’t there. Now I can wear them pain-free for an evening.’
As women tend to wear more jewellery as they get older — in part as a display of status — we are likely to notice our lobes much more, according to psychologist Deanne Jade. She says: ‘If we wear earrings for beautification or as a statement of wealth, we can end up looking at our ears every day.’
However Dr Taylor-Barnes, of The Real You Clinic in Richmond, Surrey, says one consolation is that earlobes, once plumped up, don’t need regular top-ups, unlike, say, the lips.
This is because the earlobes do not contain any muscle — which produces an enzyme called hyaluronidase which over time breaks down filler.
Dr Taylor-Barnes says: ‘When muscle contracts (as in the lips), it agitates the area and there is a secretion of the hyaluronidase enzyme which effectively breaks down the hyaluronic acid.’
For Susan, undergoing an ‘eartox’ was a small tweak which made a big difference to her confidence. Although she was told to wait for three to four days after the treatment, she couldn’t resist putting on her pearl earrings just for a few hours to show off her new look at a Christmas party.
She was also thrilled to get a new pair of dangly earrings from her husband Michael to celebrate her rejuvenated earlobes.
‘If anyone is looking at my ears now, I know it’s because of the earrings, not because my lobes are letting me down.’