Vol.2, No.4

Ear piercing stretching

Many cultures have stretched piercings in the ears since ancient times. Today, this practice has become quite fashionable, and it can be done easily.

Plug stretched ear piercing
Photo Credit: Rick Rhay
Various cultures around the world have stretched the flesh of their ears since ancient times. Today, this practice has become quite fashionable, more so for aesthetic reasons, rather than cultural or spiritual.

The ears, especially the lobes, are very easy to stretch because they are so fleshy and pliable. When you move further up into the cartilage of the ear, it will take longer for a stretched piercing to heal.

Stretching is also know as gauging. The term "gaguing up" can be confusing because you are adding jewelry that is larger in size, but the bigger the jewelry, the smaller the gauge size. Standard earrings have a gauge of 20, or 18. Piercing studs are usually 16. From a size 16, for example, you would gauge up to 14, 12, 10, 8, and so on.

If at some point you decide to stop stretching your piercing, it will eventually close. This is due to the elastic qualities of the ear lobes, and the good blood circulation that occurs here. There is a point where your holes will probably not shrink down to their original size. This is usually around a size 2 gauge.

While stretching ear piercings, there is no set time that will work for everyone. For some, it can take as little as two weeks for the stretch to heal. Others may not feel that their ears are completely healed for a month.

After the ear is completely healed, allow ample time for the newly stretched skin to thicken and harden before stretching again. A good time is about 3 times as long as it took for the ear to heal. A lot of people don't do this. It's exciting as you progress toward larger jewelry, but rushing can cause scarring, which makes it harder to stretch piercings.

Methods

Stretching can be uncomfortable, but it should not be very painful, and it should not cause a bleeding. The initial stinging and discomfort should be gone within a day but your ear will feel quite sensitive as it heals. It may also feel uncomfortable the first couple nights that you sleep on them. For this reason, you may want to stretch piercings in both ears one at a time.

Use stainless steel rings or plugs to stretch a piercing. Don't stretch or wear wood or acrylic jewelry until the piercing has healed. These materials are much more porous than stainless steel. Porous materials leave more room for bacteria to form.

All ears are different. Some people can fit new jewelry into the ears with little difficulty, and others cannot. Let's take a look at a couple stretching methods:

- Insertion tapers are short rods with one end that tapers down to a smaller size at the other end. These should be inserted, and gradually pushed through, one size at a time. Use a taper that is at least 3 inches in length for a smooth and gradual sizing.

- Taper rings are pieces of jewelry that stretch piercings. They are similar to insertion tapers in that one end is larger than the other. Taper rings come in many styles and variations.

- Taper spikes work like insertion tapers, but they are shorter and can be worn as jewelry, secured with small plastic bands. Push them through gradually, over time, as the ear heals.

Stretching

Soak the ears in hot water to relax the tissues before starting.

Wash your hands with an anti-bacterial soap.

Cover the jewelry in a water-based lubricant. This will make it easier to stretch your ears.

Insert the jewelry, slowly working it into the ear. Do not force it in quickly because you want to give your ears time to adjust.

Care

Wash twice daily with unscented anti-bacterial soap.

Don't use petroleum ointments to heal your ears. These can promote the presence of bacteria, which can cause infection.

Sea salt will help the ears to heal. Combine a bit if it with distilled water, and soak for 5 to 10 minutes.