The Ear Factor: Tips on being kind to your lobes despite heavy earrings

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Jewelers recommend keeping earrings under a half-ounce—but that doesn’t mean they have to be dainty


Spectacular hoops, intricate chandeliers, dazzling drops.

Big earrings demand attention, draw the eye to the face and make or break a look.

They can also make or break an ear.

Heavy earrings cause a couple of problems, says Dr. Michelle Pagoda, a New York cosmetic surgeon. A sudden tear can occur when an earring gets caught in hair or clothing, resulting in a painful cut that may never heal on its own. Weighty earrings can also cause elongation of the piercing over time. This makes earrings tilt forward and hang in the wrong place and can lead to an unattractive, droopy lobe.

The best approach to safely wearing big, bold earrings is to look for dazzlers that pack punch but not pounds.

Anton Heunis, a jewelry designer based in Madrid, typically keeps his earrings under a half-ounce, the threshold he determined

works for most of his customers. Kelly Clarkson wore Heunis’ “Barbarella Star” earrings when she belted the National Anthem at the 2012 Super Bowl. Though they feature large gems and drip with metal, the Barbarellas are light enough to wear all day and through the night.

When a client desires a bigger bauble, Heunis employs this rule of thumb: His creation must be so amazing it’s worth it for a client to endure a bit of discomfort.

Lauren Russell, a Los Angeles-based jewelry designer, also carefully considers weight when she’s dreaming up the designs for her pieces, which feature black diamonds and black jade and tend to have a rock ‘n’ roll vibe.

In the ’80s, the decade of the oversized, she wore her mom’s earrings and couldn’t stand the way they weighed her down. She recommends giving earrings a 20-minute test drive before making a purchase to be sure they feel right.

Dr. Pagoda says it can be even simpler than that:

– When post earrings tilt down or forward, they are too heavy.

– When hoops or dangling earrings pull the earlobe down, they weigh too much.

If earlobes are showing signs of wear (but not yet a tear) doctors can inject a filler to head off further damage. If it’s too late for prevention, there’s no need to despair. Most often, tears or elongated holes can be fixed with surgery.


-October 2012