What is Alarplasty?
Alarplasty (also known as alar base reduction) is a cosmetic surgery that changes the shape and width of the nostrils. The alar base is the lower portion of the nose that connects to the upper lip and cheek. It’s the triangular outline you see when looking up at the nose from below. Although often inconspicuous, the alar base plays an important role in the proportions of the face. For example, when it is too big, it might seem out of balance with the mouth, cheeks and eyes. Overly wide or flaring nostrils can also detract from other pleasing features and cause some to feel dissatisfied with their overall appearance.
The purpose of alarplasty is to reduce the size or width of the nostril base. It can be performed on its own or combined with rhinoplasty for more comprehensive results. As a standalone procedure, alarplasty uses small, discreet incisions at the base of the nose to narrow the nostrils and improve facial symmetry — no bone reshaping is necessary. This means a shorter recovery and less downtime than similar procedures.
How Does Alarplasty Differ from Rhinoplasty?
Rhinoplasty is a surgical procedure that makes a wide range of structural changes to the nose, altering its size, shape, angle or proportions to bring it into harmony with the rest of the face. It can be done for aesthetic reasons or to improve functionality if breathing issues occur. Compared to alarplasty, rhinoplasty is a more invasive procedure that often involves reshaping of the bone and cartilage to achieve a desired result. Alarplasty adjusts the width of the bottom portion of the nose to improve nasal symmetry, requiring only minor incisions to remove a small wedge of tissue in the alar base.
Candidates for Alarplasty
Many people who undergo alarplasty do so because they feel that their nostrils are too big. Others want to reduce nasal flaring and create a more proportional appearance. When performed on its own, this procedure is ideal for those who are happy with the size or shape of their nose but want to narrow their nostrils to improve their nasal symmetry. For patients undergoing a classical rhinoplasty, Dr. Younger may recommend including an alarplasty for satisfactory and balanced results. If you’re considering this procedure, you may be a good candidate if you are:
- Bothered by overly wide or prominent nostrils
- Looking to reduce nasal flaring
- Unhappy with asymmetrical nostrils
- In good overall health
- Not a smoker, or willing to quit prior to surgery
- Realistic about treatment outcomes
During a consultation, Dr. Younger will thoroughly evaluate your concerns and expectations to determine if alarplasty can help you reach your goals. In some cases, a full rhinoplasty may be better suited to achieve your desired results, but alarplasty can be an effective way to bring the nose into alignment with your other facial features.
There are a few different techniques that Dr. Younger may use to reshape the nostrils depending on your concerns and goals. As one of Vancouver’s leading facial plastic surgeons, he is adept with each approach and will select the method best suited to your needs. The incision and tissue removal techniques for alarplasty include the following:
Alar Wedge Excision
Wedge excisions work by removing a small portion of the curved, fleshy part of the nose where it meets the cheek. Incisions are externally placed but well-hidden in naturally occurring creases to minimize scarring. This technique doesn’t narrow the nostrils and is best suited for patients concerned about nasal flaring.
Nostril Sill Excision
Sill excisions are used to achieve narrowing of the alar base and reduce nostril width. Incisions are placed inside of the nose and aren’t visible after surgery. This technique is often combined with wedge excisions to decrease flaring and downsize the nostrils.
The Weir technique is a refinement of the wedge excision. The incision follows the curve of the nose to minimize scarring and can reduce both nostril flaring and width. Afterward, the sutures used help further develop the desired contours. This is one of the most commonly used alarplasty methods.
What to Expect During Surgery
Alarplasty is less invasive than a full rhinoplasty. As a standalone procedure, it is usually performed under local anesthesia and takes less than an hour to complete. If combined with other facial procedures, general or local anesthesia may be used, depending on your preferences and the extent of correction needed. Dr. Younger will review the details of your surgery before proceeding, so you feel comfortable moving forward.
During surgery, Dr. Younger will carefully mark and measure the base of the nose to determine how much tissue should be removed from each nostril. Then, a small incision will be made and a sufficient amount of cartilage will be carved out to sculpt narrower, more balanced nasal contours. Once this has been accomplished, the incisions will be closed with sutures that help stabilize the new outline of the alae, or the wings of the nostrils.
Afterward, you’ll be able to return home to begin the recovery process. There’s usually less downtime compared to more invasive procedures, but you can expect typical side effects such as redness or swelling that will persist until the nose begins to heal.
Alarplasty Recovery & Results
Most patients take a week of social downtime following their alarplasty procedure. Mild redness and swelling are more apparent during this time, but will gradually subside in the next week or two. Stitches are typically removed after five to seven days at a follow-up appointment, where Dr. Younger will check to make sure the nose is healing properly. The full recovery process can last for up to three weeks, but most patients feel ready to return to work and other daily activities sooner than this. Strenuous exercise may be restricted for a short time to avoid injuring or straining the new nostril structure.
Results are immediately visible following surgery, but will fully develop as post-operative swelling continues to recede. Depending on how much tissue was removed, the nostrils will appear slimmer, narrower and more aligned with the rest of the face. Alarplasty won’t affect the bridge or other features of the nose, but can deliver dramatic results for patients who feel their nostrils are disproportionately wide and detract from their overall appearance.
Schedule a Consultation
Dr. Ritchie Younger is one of Canada’s leading facial plastic surgeons, with decades of experience in helping patients bring the nose into harmony with their natural features. If you’re unhappy with the size or width of your nostrils and want to learn more about alarplasty, contact or call the Younger Facial Surgery Centre in Vancouver today at 604-670-0510.