Stretched Lobes and Frostbite: A Cautionary Tale


Be warned: This is a pretty grisly story, and the photos after the jump are not pretty. We’ll let the gentleman pictured above take it away:

“It’s a chilly Saturday morning and snowboarding sounded like precisely what the day needed. Unfortunatly, the closest New Hampshire mountain was a bone chilling -14 degrees with a 30 mph wind chill. But did this stop me? Nahhh. I packed up and a friend and I headed up to good ole NH for some morning/afternoon shredding.

“After approximately five or six hours of being blasted in the face with negative-degree weather, I thought not feeling my ears was a side effect of just being a bit under-dressed for the occasion — no big deal …

“VERY BIG DEAL. Getting home, I noticed my lobes — or whatever skin I had from my 1 1/4″ stretched lobes — was frozen solid. Literally, to the touch, frozen, and to make it better? The bottom skin was black. So I, being the smart person I am, decided to just go sleep and let them defrost. Wrong again. I woke up a few hours later and noticed some bleeding, some liquid discharge, and some ripping. Forcing the plug out was no easy task, by any means; they were basically frozen to my skin. Finally, after getting them both off, I popped a seemingly gross mid-sized bubble of liquidy stuff and the skin just peeled off like a grape … revealing fresh, bare, bleeding skin.

“Noticing a pattern here, I decided to go to the ER and try to get Medicare, because in this situation, of course, I don’t have any insurance. That’d be ridiculous, right? All the nurses were shocked my earlobes were still attached, as if they would’ve just fallen right off my face for some reason. Basically, the worst day ever. I am not allowed to wear any earrings for about three months to see if anything heals itself or if they have to re-construct or just cut the lobe off.

Don’t go outside and risk life and — literally — limb. Be cautious. That’s my moral for this story.

116 thoughts on “Stretched Lobes and Frostbite: A Cautionary Tale

  1. This is a big problem! I thought I was being over cautious and always covered mine up. Would wearing silcone vs metal vs bone make a difference? And stretched lobes would be more suseptiable to frost bite yes?

    I hope they heal! They looks so big fat and beautiful :(

  2. what kind of jewelry was he wearing? i know if i wear any kind of tunnel when i ski, they get so cold it HURTS

  3. katy, when i ski, i only wear solid kaos silicone in my 1-1/2″ lobes. solid wood is my 2nd choice.
    anything other then that is a death sentence

  4. Horrible!

    I thought I was just being paranoid always covering my babies up, guess not. Would wearing silicone vs. metal vs. bone or something else make a difference? And I reckon bigger stretched lobes would be more susceptible to frost bite, yes? Or would it make a difference if they were all thin and whimpy or fatties like this fellows?

    So many questions.

    They look so big and fat and beautiful and were probably very very healthy :/

    Good post.

  5. I think that we should see a good and informative post about this! With this season upon us, and not everyone prepared, it sounds like a GREAT idea!

  6. i had a verry similar problem like this last early spring. i was wearing my steel tunnels while shoveling snow and they started hurting like crazy. they never got black and this gnarly but steel definitely is a bad idea in the cold it reacts a certain way that tends to fuck ears up

  7. #6 Kaitlin thanks

    Love Kaos its the only silicone that doesn’t make my ear freak out and go scabby.

  8. if its too cold for a tshirt then i dont wear my plugs, flip my lobes over my ears and wear a hat, no way im gonna risk freezing my lobes lol ive always beenaparnoid about this

  9. Oh, man. This is just so depressing. My sympathy extends to this guy, and hope healing goes well for him.

  10. arrgh! fuck me that looks so soooorreeee.

    yeh id recommend NOT metal as it conducts the cold temperature like nothing else and once its cold fuck it burns.
    they should make little battery-powered heated plugs.

  11. So what I’m gathering is, solid plugs are best for cold weather, preferably silicone or wood. And cover your ears when you can.

    I guess I’ve heard about this problem once or twice, but it never struck me as a major concern. I live in Minnesota and it’s been below zero for weeks, and I’ve had no issues with my lobes. And I usually never wear a hat.

  12. Wow, I get into 28 degree weather in AZ and it makes the inside of my lobes slough off. I didn’t think it was frostbite, but wearing steel plugs while anemic in cold weather is probably it.

  13. I didn’t think they looked that bad either, seen worse, kinda thing…
    that’s why I rarely wear jewellery in my lobes in the cold weather!

  14. I wear silicone plugs and have done lots of bike riding through -35degC weather plus wind chill. I wear a balaclava, toque, and ski goggles at that point though. Also, I keep them well moisturized with cocoa butter (also helps to provide a little bit of a layer if put on the skin before you go out).

  15. Honestly I think it was stupid of him. Anyone who lives in the cold knows not to wear metal.

    I live in the northern US and know not to wear any metal in the winter. And if you want to (for some stupid reason) you wear ear muffs.

  16. i’m with ubbaken i have a few ear piercings(non stretched tho) and a 2ga septum and i wear a balaclava its toasty gets more wierd looks than piercings though

  17. With all the warnings before the cut, I expected more terrifying pictures than these, modblog is infamous for squicky pictures.
    But still, they look painful. D:

  18. That looks painful but not bad. The fact that they are so pink might be a good thing. But the fact they were actually frozen and previously black is not. If they turn black again, say goodbye to them. :/

  19. this really strikes me as just nothing more than neglect.
    why not just take your plugs out completely and wear a tuque (or anything) that covers your ears well?

    i dont drive, and winters here are cold and windy.
    like -40 cold. and i’ve never had a problem.

    i’ll let someone else pick up my portion of the sympathy…

  20. last winter my lobes got frostbite and it sucked and i had a hat on,now they are healed and big enough to flip over my ear.when i do wear plugs and its cold i only wear silicone.

  21. He should skin graft that bloke’s eyebrow onto them. Hairy lobes. Then they’d be warmer too.

  22. That happened to me but it wasn’t NEARLY as bad. It happened when it was like -30C but felt like -42C that day. And I was only outside for 30 minutes. Luckily for me it was just one ear and it only took a week to heal.
    But he’s stupid for thinking that his ears would be fine for 5 hours out in the cold with no protection.

  23. i had one of my ears split after a winter holiday ,never wear metal plugs in winter ,,,does anyone know of a piecer that will reconstruct it in the uk ???

  24. You can use baby socks. Im at 2″ and use them when on a motorcycle, along with my other gear. Newborn socks are great for this.

  25. It looks painful and I feel for the poor bastard. (Putting ear muffs on my shopping list) But it’s not as bad as I’d imagined it. Will be good to see how it heals.

  26. wood and bone are probably the least conductive of cold, followed by silicone, acrylics, glass, then metals, if memory serves right.

    either way, this sucks. hope they heal for you!

  27. Well, getting outdoor in -degree weather with wrong jewelry (I guess he had steel or something) really hurts after a while.

    Hope they heal and hope you made your lesson =)

  28. Never thought about that!

    Now I will think twice before going against this strong Canadian winter wind I face for half the season!

  29. Love the idea with the babysocks, though the first thing that came to my mind was to invent some freaky, battery-powered heated plugs for the winter. How cool would that be (pun not intended…)

  30. Lobes frozen solid? Black skin? I think the first hint to go to a doctor or ER was etheir of those things. Thats like fracturing a bone and sleeping it off to see if it’ll set itself.

  31. for winter sports i wear solid kaos then a beanie, earmuffs, then goggles and a bandana over my face and tucked into my goggles in the back..

    fuck getting frost bite

  32. Having just made the transition from Fl to NY, the frozen plug has been a fun battle. Bandanas worn through eyelets to keep them up and your plugs close to the sides of your head. My wife knit me a wee teeny pair of plugs to put inside my eyelets to block the wind and keep in body heat. We’ve been messing around with putting little slips of those instant pocket warmers in the middle to give it a kick. Maybe not such a bad idea…

  33. I live in northern Finland where -14 degrees in wintertime is not even chilly :D I was on a shortfilm project that was filmed outside and it was about -25 to -28 degrees, but I managed by wearing smaller jewelry, a warm hat and my hood pulled over my head. And you can forget about wearing titanium or stainless steel because they are a suicide on cold weather.

  34. lol @ #52 troll.

    I think freckles are cute.

    I feel really bad about those lobes. Living in Michigan, mine get really cold too. So far I just wear Kaos earskins and hats, and I’m fine. His lobes look like they were so healthy before they got the frostbite =[ It makes me sad when things like this happen to people with nice lobes.

  35. Well if it’s frozen outside just take your jewelry out,it will help a lot cause there will be more blood pressure going trough your lobes!…

    Personnaly i wear 35mm plugs and i take them off when the weather is cold and i never had any trouble!
    You can also rub a little oil on them,can help too!

    It sucks to loose lobes,that’s my nightmare!

    ;-)

  36. That’s no joke, man. I have a friend whose lobe is in two pieces thanks to frostbite. Turned black like his, and then broke in two. Be careful friends, and make sure to cover your ears!!!

  37. #31 totally agreed, If you have large lobes like that I’d like to believe you would know better than going into exetreme cold like that without having them atleast covered if not wearing no jewelry. Sorry for your lobes dude but

  38. yea 31 and 64. i totally agree. i feel bad for you man, but that was stupid. im sure its a mistake he wont make again.

  39. I agree, I was prepared for more shocking pictures.
    I’m so happy it never gets that cold in North East England :)
    And lmao at number 42 ^_^

  40. OWWWYYY

    I don’t wear metal plugs in the winter. It gets cold here (in Buffalo…) and just experiencing not even 10 minutes of cold combined with the feeling of frozen metal and my skin made me think uhmmm… this probably isn’t good. So I switched to Acrylic for the time being…

  41. sorry but when i clicked thru i was expecting worse…

    when did pink and swollen w/ a little blood become ‘grisly’?

  42. Jackass

    That’s all I can say when I see stuff like this
    You live where it gets this cold and you have obviously had stretched lobes for a while, you didn’t think twice?

  43. If he’s in the US then I assume it’s -14 Farenheit? For Canadians, that’s -25 or so Celcius. We’ve been blasted with that general temperature pretty much across the country lately. Up in Northern Ontario, we’ve been below -30 *before* the wind chill within the last week… It’s ‘orrible.

    Me, I usually take my jewelry out and tuck the lobes under my toque. This will do until the missus knits me custom shaped ear warmers ;)

  44. Ive Had Similar Problems,Silicone And My Ears Reacting In The Glorious Scottish Weather,The Just Became Really Soft And Started To Scab,No Sign Of Infection Tho :( Had To Remove Em…Bye Bye Inchies :(

  45. Dayum, I know when I go out snow boarding I flip my lobes (2 3/4″) up over my ears and wear a hat. I think I would cry if that shit would have happend to me.

  46. My 30mms have fallen foul of this, nowhere near as serious as this poor guy, but after a few days of being stiff to put plugs in, I decided to downsize the left to 28mm, its been fine so far. The right one was ok, but started behaving in the same way, except more painful. I noticed some swelling, took the plug out and noticed a little tear towards the back of the hole, so that one was swiftly taken down to 26mm.

    2 days of sheer panic and vitamin e lotion massages and both are doing well. Hoping to get back up to 30mm in the summer (or the british excuse for a summer…)

    Ive also found that switching to acrylic/natural materials instead of metal in the winter helps (lighter and less easy to conduct heat away from your lobe)

  47. i always wear a hat outside and no jewllery when its cold. i also think #56 should get over themselves.

  48. OUCH!!!!

    Still…. after reading the description i feared it would look MUCH WORSE. That looks gory, ouch and really unhappy, but also kind of healing properly. Now, there will be quite a loss of diameter, and due to scarring extra hard work to restretch, but that is on the right way. I tohougt about dark purple with a load of black speckles due to completely destroyed vasculature (and that would be the death of the tissue).

    Hearing “frozen literally stiff (good that you didn’t got any hard shock, thay would have broken like ice – they were ice), and seeing stuff on the healing side is not that common.

    Now… -14F, or roughly -26 degrees Centigrade AND Windchill due to movement can cost you non-pierced ears (and not only the lobes) when they are not really well protected. I wonder what the guy thought before riding the board.?! Likely it was not a lot.
    This temperature and sport…. Without proper protection you will lose ears, probably nose, even fingers are in acute danger…. think before…

  49. Personally, I want to see the guy with baby socks on his lobes.

    But yeah…I always keep a scarf wrapped around my head when it’s cold here. Even if all I’m doing is walking across campus. Yeah Michigan winter!

  50. I feel for you dude, but I’d expect more intelligence regarding your mods. It was -35 here with the windchill last week– I dont even have STRETCHED lobes and my ears still get wonky from the cold. Were talking standard size 16 or 14 gauge earrings, 15 of them. I still get near frostbite even just stepping outside with them.

    Leaving your large gauge lobes exposed to the elements for 5 hours? You kind of had it coming :[

  51. In that sort of weather, I’d have flipped my lobes over my ears and/or worn ear muffs for def.
    I’m always terrified about getting frost bitten lobes.

  52. I live in alaska and i had this happen one day while out sking, dumb me id woren steel tunnels with out even thinking of the cold, 6 hours later when i got hopemy skin had frozen to my tunnels, and they hurt for 3 weeks easy

  53. i take my tunnels out if i’m walking outside for more than 5 minuets. over pre-cautious?
    probably. but in my opinion, it’s not worth risking it.

  54. I recently climbed kilimanjaro for a second time (last time with no piercings) and I just decided to take my 16mm out for the whole time, there is no way Id risk anything happening to them….mind you it was -35 when we did the final ascent.

    Even with no earrings in, and being partially covered I still experienced a bit of numbness, especially on the inside of my lobes.

  55. OWWWW!
    I’m definitely experiencing sympathy pains.

    I make sure that before I set foot outside that I’m wearing my touque with ear flaps. I’m sooo paranoid about fucking up my ears it’s not even funny. I feel bad for this guy.

    I hope they get better! :)

  56. I have never understood why anyone would wear their lobe jewelry while boarding. One it gets stupid cold out there with or without a hat sometimes. Two what about taking a bail and losing plugs in the snow? Meh sorry to hear hes having a hard time but i hardly even wear jewelry in winter let alone when going to the mountain.

  57. I think the battery powered heated plugs are a great idea…although a battery that holds enough charge to keep your ears warm for several hours would either have to be a) pretty big or b) kind of expensive, if I’m not mistaken. Electronics people?

  58. I rarely wear jewelry in the winter…glass, steel, titanium, gold, niobium, any metals or glass will damage your ears…organics are alright, silicone is acceptable…not wearing anything is even better.

    Although I think perhaps BMEShop should start investing in developing new head gear for winter purposes…I believe someone was making them before, knitting I believe…toques/hats that had like “ear pouches” for you to slip your ears into to keep warm

  59. God that sucks so badly.

    I am wearing glass plugs right now in the cold and it’s like 20 to 30 below and it is awful.

  60. #72; I’m from Scotland, woohoo!
    I just wear silicone in winter. My ears don’t bode too well in winter, my skin never does, so by the time October rolls around it’s time to bring out the earmuffs!
    I have a have that has earflaps…I wear my silicone tunnels, my earmuffs and then the hat over that.
    Eep. x]

    awww, poor boy and poor lobes. :( hope they heal soon! that’ll teach him though, haha.

  61. that’s a much more severe version of what happened to my ears in a snowstorm in Norway. Metal tunnels + snow + being up a freakin mountain + woolly hat that doesnt cover your ears fully = ear pain

  62. it was -30c earlier today and I WILL NOT go out without a hood AND scarf combo!

  63. i only wear silicone when it’s cold, and because i have no earmuffs, i always make sure my hood is over my head.

  64. I wouldn’t wear silicone in the winter either, especially if you don’t have a hat.

    I have seen it stick to earlobes in about -2 C weather and it honestly TORE A STRIP off of the inside of the earlobe. It wasn’t on me, thank god, but watching it heal was painful enough!!

    Just wear an earflap toque, people. And find a friend who knits.

  65. i have to walk just over a mile to work and this year i converted those stretchy coton gloves to a pocket put those over my 2 7/8″ lobes wrap a scarf around my neck, and outside my ears, a winter cap2 hoodies hood up and my jacket. if that doesn’t keep them warm nothing will. and i wont walk if it’s under 20 degrees out. i’ll take the bus.

  66. EEk. I was in whistler this christmas and suffering in the -26 Celsius in the apine. i always made sure that i’m wearing horn or wood jewelry, and something is covering my lobes (usually a helmet with ear flaps.)

  67. Owwww, my ears did the same thing two years ago (extremely cold winter, -30 degrees celsius), and healed in a month or so… but not without infernal suffering.

  68. when i saw this on modblog i was surprised it was even on here. getting attention for being a fucking retard. its common sense. anybody with stretched lobes should know this. u guys are picking this apart wondering what to wear and what not to wear. ever seen a christmas story where the boy sticks his tongue to the pole. come the fuck on. this isnt rocket science. take ur shit out when ur outside in the cold for long periods of time. even if u just stretched. lose the stretch instead of lose ur lobes. im at almost 3 inches after 11 yrs it comes naturally. i dont feel sorry for him and he deserves what he gets. and to top it off i bet he had hardcore scene stainless steel tough guy tunnels in. quit giving this retard love.

    ps. im not a dick, i just have common sense and it makes me fucking puke how u guys feel sorry for him.

  69. damn i just realized thats why my ears are always cold i forgot to think that metal conducts cold air and my lobes are at 12g right now i gotta be more careful now when i stretch them down to 8 this week hope they heal well and cover up keep them warm

  70. I wish id taken pics of when i forced a 1″ inch gauge in. I thought the pain was normal. It felt like someone had stuck a machete in my brain. After about 8 hours and alot of vicodin i just couldnt take it anymore so i had my mom help me cut the earrings out. which lead to the entire inside of my earlobes coming off in a complete circle. it was like a ring. I could put it on my finger like a ring. it was nasty. i then had to take antibiotics because of a massive infection that led to me having HUGE grapefruit like lymphnodes. it was a nasty experience.

  71. my ears are fine now. they shrunk to 1/2 and havent gone down any further than that. this happened back in like 2008. its been about 2 years now.. so everythings good

  72. @#104

    ouch reggie, way to be a total dick. they weren’t tough guy eyelets. im a piercer by profession and i DO know the differences and the do’s and dont’s of weather and jewelry. it was clearly a poor decision. i had my ears covered. the wind was brutal and just seep’d through enough to cause damage without me actually knowing. so blah blah blah its over with.

  73. I work in -40 degree freezers and have 1inch gauges. I’m going through this right now. I had to take mine out as well, thank god I was wearing silicone so they were easy to get out. It sounds like you had 3rd degree frostbite. I have 2nd degree. I got some pretty bad blisters.

  74. I was once taking an ex boyfriend home one (who had 1 1/2 gauges) and he was complaining there way I was blaring the A/C was putting him and his lubes in extreme pain… me being an ass hole thinking it was funny turned it even lower… now I have gauged ears… joke isn’t funny anymore for some reason…lol

  75. I went out snowshoeing today for my conservation class and felt a small amount of frost on my ears, thankfully they seem safe now, but the night hasnt ended yet so hopefully they’ll be fine tomorrow! I’d be heartbroken if my 1-5/8th ears were done in.

  76. Thankfully my ears arent dead, but theyre hibernating for the winter…. This has been the worst experience ever, my ears got so chappened and have pealed. Hate. Winter.

  77. Quit bashing. We’re all human and make mistakes, whether you’d like to admit it or not.

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