Ear Stretching Info


Stretching

Stretching piercings, which is sometimes also referred to as gauging, is the process of slowly expanding your piercing. This is most commonly done to ear lobes, but it is also not out of the ordinary to have stretched septum, tongue, lip, nipple and genital piercings.

If done properly, and most importantly slowly, ear stretching is a relatively painless experience. It should not be taken lightly though, as it is still a fairly severe body modification. Holes of up to around 6mm will usually shrink down to a size where they will not be noticable, although this depends very much on the individual. The speed at which the piercing has been stretched is also a big factor on how far, or even if, it will close back down. Stretch too fast, and sorry mate - you're stuck with it!

How fast you can stretch depends on the individual. The most important thing to do is to listen to your body. Allow your ears to fully heal between stretches, and do not jump sizes. Going too fast only leads to scar tissue formation, which in turn can lead to blow-outs and at the very least will make it much more difficult to stretch further. Scarring also means your piercing is less likely to shrink down should you wish to get rid of it.

We recommend waiting at least a few weeks between stretches, and not going up more than one size at a time.

Methods of Stretching

There are several different methods for stretching piercings.

Tapering - This is the most common method for stretching piercings, and is the only method we use and recommend. Tapering involves the use of stretching tapers, crescents or insertion pins to enlarge your piercing.

In the case of tapers and insertion pins, size is identified by the gauge of the larger end of the taper, which is the size you are stretching up to. For stretching crescents, the thickest part is in the middle of the crescent.

If using a taper, you will need a plug or tunnel of the size you are stretching to, to wear while your stretch is healing. If using crescents, these can be worn as jewellery and you do not need separate jewellery.

Before you begin your stretch, make sure your hands, ear lobes and the jewellery are clean. Insert the smaller end of the taper into your piercing, and push through. It helps if the taper is lubricated. It is normal to feel tightness (obviously!) and a tingling sensation, but it should not be painful and your ear should not bleed. Once the taper is inserted, hold the plug up to the end of it and push through to insert the plug, as if it is an extension of the taper.

Many people wear their tapers as jewellery instead of using plugs. We recommend that tapers are not worn while the stretch is healing as wearing a taper puts extra pressure on your ear which may slow down the healing process.

'Professional' Stretching  - This is basically just the same method as above, but instead of you inserting the taper yourself, your piercer will do it for you. There are positives and negatives to getting your piercing enlarged by a piercer. On the positive side, as long as you choose a reputable piercer, your stretch will be done with appropriate tapers, in a sterile environment. On the negative side, it is more expensive, and the stretch may be done too quickly and cause damage to your ear. If you are pushing the taper through yourself, you can feel when you need to slow down and can have a rest and take as long as you need to insert it. When someone else is stretching your piercing, they can't feel it like you can and it may not be done at an appropriate pace for you.

Dead Stretching - This is the process of stretching by simply inserting larger jewellery into your piercing - otherwise known, at least round these parts, as 'just ramming it through'! It is a common stretching method for large ear stretches, as once ears get to a certain size, you will probably find they start to stretch a little on their own.

Dead stretching can be incredibly traumatic to the ear, and can cause all sorts of nasty complications such as torn ear lobes or blow-outs.

Silicone Plug Stretching - Silicone plugs are soft and squashy, so it is usually easy to insert a larger plug than you usually wear into your piercing. Once the plug is inserted, it expands to its size, stretching your ear in the process. We have seen several cases where this type of stretching was very successful - however, we have also had to cut a silicone plug out of a boy's ear after he found he could no longer remove it after using it to stretch up.

Teflon Tape - This involves wrapping a layer of non-adhesive Teflon tape around your existing plug or tunnel to slightly increase the size of it, then re-inserting the plug. The process is repeated until the piercing has stretched enough to insert new jewellery of the next size up.

Weights - This method involves using heavy jewellery, such as large gauge ball closure rings or horseshoes, or weights to stretch the piercing. It is a method commonly used among various tribes who practice extreme ear lobe elongation.

Dermal Punch or Scalpel Method - This is when a dermal punch or a scalpel is used to cut a hole in the skin rather than gradually stretching an existing piercing. Holes which have been created using this method do not close again, as the tissue is actually removed in the process. It can be extremely painful and have severe complications.

Keeping Your Stretches Healthy

The most important thing to do to keep your stretches, and any piercings in general, healthy, is to keep them clean. Try to take out your plugs every day to clean the piercing and the jewellery. Rubbing your ear lobes with vitamin E, jojoba or similar oils can keep them supple and improve the blood flow, which in turn keeps your ear lobes nice and thick and prevents scar tissue formation. Thin lobes and scarring will make it very difficult to stretch further, so it's worth taking the time to look after your stretches and not rushing to go too big, too fast.

Blow-Outs - Blow outs are caused by over stretching, stretching too fast or skipping sizes. They happen when the pressure inside the piercing becomes too great, causing the piercing to deform and twist inside out, leaving an ugly flap of skin around the piercing. If a blow-out occurs, the most important thing is to go down a size immediately, and there is a possibility that the flap will be reabsorbed. Being stubborn and refusing to budge from your size will lead to wrecked ears, which will need surgery to repair, if they can be repaired at all.

Infection - Infections occur due to the presence of bacteria in the vicinity of broken skin. Stretching your piercing causes micro-tears to form in your skin, which is effectively a new piercing, so you should look after your new stretch as you would a new piercing. Symptoms of infection include pain and the area being tender, red and swollen. There may also be bleeding, or a discharge. To treat the infection, the piercing should be cleaned regularly by soaking it in saline solution. It should not usually be necessary to remove your piercing completely. Keep the area clean and avoid touching it or moving your jewellery. If the irritation does not calm down within a few days or you are still worried, consult your doctor or your local piercing studio who will be able to look at your piercing and advise you.

Jewellery For Stretched Piercings

Jewellery for stretched ears comes in many shapes and materials. The most common types of jewellery are plugs and flesh tunnels.

Common materials include acrylic, surgical steel, titanium, silicone, wood, horn, bone, glass.

Organic materials such as wood or horn can be useful to try and combat the build-up of sebum in your stretches. Sebum is basically just all the gunk that your body produces - dead skin cells, sweat etc - building up on your plugs. If your plugs aren't cleaned on a regular basis, the smell which results is rather lovely. Acrylic plugs and tunnels are the worst for this as they don't allow your skin to breathe as well as some organic materials do.

As long as you look after your piercings and your jewellery you should be able to wear whatever plugs you fancy without any problems.

We hope this guide answers any questions you may have about stretching piercings. If you have any other questions, please feel free to contact us.

Gauge size conversion table

Gauge

mm

20g

0.8mm

18g

1mm

16g

1.2mm

14g

1.6mm

12g

2mm

10g

2.5mm

8g

3mm

6g

4mm

4g

5mm

2g

6mm

1g

7mm

0g

8mm

00g

10mm

7/16"

11mm

1/2"

12mm

9/16"

14mm

5/8"

16mm

3/4"

19mm

7/8"

22mm

1"

24mm/25mm

1 1/4"

31mm

 

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