Three Surgeries Later: ‘Little House on the Prairie’ Star Melissa Gilbert on Her Nose Job ‘Complications’

Little House on the Prairie star Melissa Gilbert had her nose done when she turned 18. As she wrote in her memoir, Prairie Tale, “It wasn’t a big deal.” But it wasn’t a one-and-done surgery. The actor had to go in two more times to “fix” what’d happened. And the recovery process was anything but comfortable.

Melissa Gilbert
Melissa Gilbert | The LIFE Picture Collection via Getty Images

How Melissa Gilbert knew she wanted to get a nose job

When Gilbert was young, she thought her nose was “cute.”

“But as I grew up, it grew wider and flatter and it had a little bump in it,” she wrote. “And the fact is your nose keeps growing after the rest of you stops. I feared I would stop at five feet four inches but have the nose of a six-five NFL lineman.”

Every time someone did her makeup, they made a point to contour her nose to make it appear narrower. So, shortly after her 18th birthday, Gilbert said: “Let’s make it permanently narrower.”

The decision wasn’t a big deal for the Little House actor.

“In my family, a nose job was a fairly common and accepted procedure,” she wrote. So she and her mother started doing research on physicians.

Melissa Gilbert
Melissa Gilbert | Ron Galella/Ron Galella Collection via Getty Images

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One day, when Gilbert’s mother was having lunch in Beverly Hills, she saw “a girl with an adorable nose.”

“She stared as if she’d just seen a sweater at Nieman Marcus that she thought would look good on me,” wrote Gilbert.

So the Little House actor’s mother approached the girl and asked her if she’d been “born with that nose or did you have it done?” The girl laughed and gave Gilbert’s mother the name of the doctor she’d seen.

Melissa Gilbert’s surgery and first experience with ‘a heavy dose of pain killers’

Even though Gilbert referred to her nose job as “luxury surgery,” she still came out of the procedure “with my face hurting like hell.”

“The doctor broke the bones beside my nose, drew them in to make my nose narrower, shaved down the cartilage and the bump, and rebuilt the tip,” she wrote. “To stop the bleeding, I’m told they packed my nose with large strips of gauze that had been soaked in liquid cocaine.”

This was also Gilbert’s first experience with major painkillers.

“I was also sent home with a heavy dose of painkillers,” she wrote. “As I found out later, those pills didn’t actually stop the pain. They just made it so I didn’t care. And I liked not caring.”

Melissa Gilbert’s nose job ‘complications’

A few days after Gilbert’s first procedure, the doctor slapped a bandage on her nose and told her she could go about her normal life. And so she did, “But there would be complications.”

“As it healed, the tip became very puggy, making me look like everybody else who’d had a nose job, and about a year after the original operation I would go in again to have it fixed,” wrote Gilbert.

Melissa Gilbert
Melissa Gilbert | Ron Galella, Ltd./Ron Galella Collection via Getty Images

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After the second surgery, Gilbert felt her nose still wasn’t “right.”

“When I was about twenty, I would go in a third time and meet with a specialist who did nothing but fix botched nose jobs and other highly specialized procedures,” she wrote. “Because he had to redo the entire nose, as well as take cartilage from behind my ear, it would be the most painful of my recoveries.”

Throughout the entire process, Gilbert never hid what she’d had done. And, for the most part, no one mentioned it.

“Nobody gave a sh*t. (I certainly didn’t.) If they had, I would have wondered why,” she wrote.