Ear Stretching Guide
Ear Taper - A tapered object (only use steel or glass) used to stretch a piercing such as an ear lobe.
Ear Plugs / Ear Tunnels (Eyelets) / Ear Spacers - Jewelry that you can wear inside your stretched lobe.
Ear Stretching (not “gauging”) - The process of stretching / increasing the diameter of a piercing.
O-rings - Rubber or silicone rings that hold jewelry in place within your ear lobe.
Double Flared Ear Plugs - Ear plugs that are flared on both ends.
Single Flared Ear Plugs - Ear plugs that are only flared on one end. These plugs usually have one O-ring in order to keep the jewelry in place.
Non Flared Ear Plugs - Ear plugs that are not flared and require two O-rings to stay in place. Most jewelry comes with all O-rings necessary to be worn.
Caliper - a device used to measure the distance between two opposite sides of an object. Ideal for measuring stone, glass, wood and acrylic plugs and tunnels.
Autoclave – Sterilization using high pressure steam, done in an autoclave machine
If you have established, healed regular earring piercings and you wear earrings regularly, you should be fine starting with a simple taper starter kit. The starting point for most people is 14g, which is just slightly larger than a regular earring.
If you’ve only recently healed from a regular ear piercing, you may want to start out with 16g tapers just to be on the safe side. There is no such thing as stretching too slowly, but stretching too quickly can cause scarring, injury, and prevent ears from healing evenly and properly.
Find out what size your earlobe piercings are. Most standard piercings start at 16g or 14g, but can be done bigger by request. Years of wearing long, dangly earrings and tugging on your piercings may make your piercings bigger! Professional body piercers can actually measure your ears to see what size they are.
Decide on a stopping point.
It’s a good idea to have a general idea of how far you want to take your ear stretching journey. If you want to enjoy the temporary benefits of being able to wear plugs and tunnels but don’t want to commit to the look permanently, it’s important to consider the size you’ll need to stop stretching to in order for your ears to heal completely shut again. Every person is different and many factors such as the elasticity of your skin and the time and method of stretching can affect this. Most people can go between 2g (6mm) – 00g (10mm) and expect their ears to revert back to a normal piercing after a few months of healing.
If you want don’t want stretched ears to be a permanent part of your look stay in that smaller 6mm-10mm range and be sure to stretch slowly and never skip sizes. When you skip sizes and stretch too quickly it does more ripping of your skin than actual stretching. This can make your holes much larger and more permanent in the long run. To optimize your chances of having normal looking lobes if you decide to take them out, you will want to make sure to stretch one size at a time and wait a minimum of a month between each stretch.
The more slowly you stretch, the healthier your ears will be! Also the slower you go, the thicker your lobes will be in the long run and this is very important if you plan on going to a large size.
Tapers - A taper is a long cylinder-shaped tool that is your desired size on one end and several sizes smaller on the other with a gradual size increase between the two. Tapers are often used for the smaller size stretches, generally under 2g (6mm). The first few stretches (14g – 8g, depending on your elasticity), you might be able to just put in the earring. Tapers are not jewelry, however, and should only be used as tools to stretch to the next size, and follow up with your tunnel/plug. Treat a stretched piercing as a new piercing.
So once you have decided on what size of taper you need to use, the next part is getting the stretch done. The first thing you will need is a lubricant to use on your taper. Lubricant will make the taper super slick so it will slide through really easy. Lubricants also make a stretch easier. While you're out getting a new taper, get some Jojoba oil, Vitamin E oil or Surgilube. (Neosporin and Vaseline are not good lubes for ear stretching).
Lube up your ears and also the taper. Slowly insert the taper all the way up to the base of the bigger side. If it takes you a few minutes to get it through it is ok, you shouldn’t rush it. Once it is through then just take your plugs and follow through after the taper.
Some people say taking a hot shower beforehand helps to make your ear a bit stretchy, and massage it to get the blood flowing.
When stretching, one stretch should start by pushing the taper in from the front, then the next stretch you should push the taper in from the back, then front, then back, and so on. This helps to keep scar tissue from forming and keeps stretching easier.
Tape Wrapping - Once you get to a larger size (generally around 0 gauge) then using the tape wrapping method is a good option to use for stretching and it is the method almost everyone uses over 1 inch. To stretch with the tape wrapping method, take a set of plugs of your current size and do 2-3 wraps of tape around your plugs to slowly increase the size of your piercing. Only use PTFE or bondage tape. Remove the tape and clean the jewelry and your ears and then apply new tape daily. It is also recommended to apply jojoba, or another skin conditioning oil, daily to keep your skin moisturized and more elastic. Tape can harbor bacteria so it shouldn’t be reused or left on for multiple days. Every week or two, do an additional 2-3 wraps to continue increasing the size of the plug. After about 1-2 months you should be at your next size. It's highly recommended to use a set of single flare plugs or tunnels so you can easily trim the excess tape. What's good about the tape wrapping method is that you can really take your time and slowly increase the size of your piercing without the healing issues of tapers. It's a lot slower than using tapers but it is a really efficient and gradual way to stretch with minimal risk. Click HERE for our PTFE tape.
Take your time
Stretching too quickly and skipping sizes is a common problem that can do some serious damage to your piercings. When you do this, you really are doing more ripping of your skin than actual stretching. Human skin only has a certain elasticity so going too big and too fast is enough to cause ripping and tearing of your skin. It's highly recommended to wait at least a full month between each stretch and to never skip sizes so your ears will have minimal chances for long term problems. Also the slower you go, the thicker and healthier your ears will be in the long run (which is really important if you plan on going to a large size).
This is a good guideline to determine how long you should wait in between stretches:
- 16g to 14g - 1 month
- 14g to 12g - 1 month
- 12g to 10g - 1.5 months
- 10g to 8g - 2 months
- 8g to 6g - 3 months
- 6g to 4g - 3 month
- 4g to 2g - 3 months
- 2g to 0g - 4 months
- 0g to 00g - 4 months
Bleeding and pain should never occur during the stretching process! A mild tingling sensation is o.k., but if you feel pain or see blood you are stretching too quickly and should stop, downsize and wait for your piercing to fully heal before attempting to do any more stretching.
To prevent blowouts while ear stretching make sure you size up gradually, only stretch once you have healed from the previous stretch. Another tip to prevent blowouts is to use a lubricant while stretching. The lubricant will keep your ears moisturized and more protected vs dry stretching.
Keep it clean! Do sea salt soaks (1/8 teaspoon of sea salt dissolved into a cup of warm water) twice daily for the first week or so. Use ear care solution for cleaning away crusties, or little bits of sand-like tissue that comes out of your ears.
You’ll want to clean your ears at least daily (recommended twice a day) during the stretching process. H2Ocean spray is a great investment.
Use jojoba oil to moisturize your piercing and care for organic plugs.
Jojoba oil is an all-around great product. Its best uses are to soften skin, reduce scar tissue, thicken lobes, and to moisturize. By massaging jojoba oil daily on your lobes, it helps to thicken them up over time and to keep them healthy. It also helps to reduce the size of blowouts over time if massaged daily.
If you think you could have an infection:
If you are noticing issues such as extreme swelling, redness, discharge, itching, and hotness then you more than likely have an infection. An infection can be a serious problem so it's best to take care of it as soon as possible. If you have recently stretched your ears and are having all of the above problems then it's for sure best to downsize and let your ears get back to normal. Also wearing jewelry like steel or glass is the best to wear with an irritated piercing (these materials will minimize your risk of prolonging the infection). When in doubt, see a doctor. Don’t ignore an infection that isn’t obviously healing!
Ear stretching tips:
- Invest in a set of calipers! They are not very expensive and worth their weight in gold for the headache they will save you in determining and understanding size.
- All bio-organic jewelry should be kept dry, but moisturized. Stay away from showering or swimming with wooden plugs. Doing so will cause the wood to warp and expand open from the shower steam, opening little pores for bacteria to hang out in. Wood, bone, and horn jewelry should be oiled at least monthly with vitamin E oil. If not properly cared for, they will crack!
- Don't skip sizes when stretching. This can cause an ear blowout, or other unwanted effects to your piercing, including infection and splitting of the skin. Go up one size at a time. Patience grasshopper.
- Weights are not a good way to stretch as this places more pressure on the bottom of the piercing and can lead to breaking the piercing.
- Consider taking some sort of vitamins and/or herbal immune boosters while you're stretching. Vitamins C, E, B-Complex, antioxidants, and Echinacea can help the skin heal faster and in turn reduce the risk of infection.
- Only stretch with surgical steel, titanium or glass. Do NOT stretch with silicone, acrylic, wood, bone, or horn. Silicone and acrylic can’t be autoclaved so even after washing with antimicrobial soap, there may still be trace amounts of bacteria. This is fine for a healed piercing, but not ok to stretch with or in a freshly stretched ear. Organic materials are porous and freshly stretched skin can heal into those pores basically fusing your skin to the jewelry. Organic is beautiful and natural but only for well healed skin.
- Make sure you search the web for people's own accounts on lobe stretching. Educating yourself with as many resources as possible is always a great idea!
- Clean your ears! They're just like a fresh piercing! You need to clean them at least once (preferably twice) a day for as long as they're healing! Saline cleaning solution is a really good investment. Provon is a great antimicrobial soap for your hands, ears, and non-porous jewelry to kill any bacteria that may be growing. Don't use hydrogen peroxide to clean them. It's cytotoxic (cell killing) meaning it kills ALL the cells, both good and bad. Do not use neosporin/other ointment creams. These can prevent air from getting to your ear and slows the healing process.
- Acrylic is safe to wear for short periods of time. Acrylic plugs can be worn during the day but should be replaced with steel overnight. Prolonged exposure to acrylic can cause skin irritation.