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Arctic Buffalo has your guide to all things ear stretching. Here, we give you the common terms you need to get you started, and the resources you will need to become familiar with. The guide goes into detail about the initial stretching process and different methods to get you to your desired size, comfortably and safely. We provide you with long-term stretching methods and how to reach your goal size without injury, infections and blowouts. We also go over the best cleaning practices for your ears and jewelry.
Dive in!

Common Terms

Ear Taper - A tapered object (only use steel or glass) used to stretch a piercing such as an ear lobe. Go To Tapers
Ear Plugs / Ear Tunnels (Eyelets) / Ear Spacers - Jewelry that you can wear inside your stretched lobe.  Go To Plugs/Tunnels
Ear Stretching (not “gauging”) - The process of stretching / increasing the diameter of a piercing. Go To Best Plugs for Stretching
O-rings - Rubber or silicone rings that hold jewelry in place within your ear lobe.  Go To O-rings
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 to keep the jewelry in place.  Go To Single Flare Plugs
Non-Flared Ear Plugs - Ear plugs that are not flared and require two O-rings to stay in place. All jewelry comes with all O-rings necessary to be worn. Go To No Flare Plugs
Caliper -  a device used to measure the distance between two opposite sides of an object. Ideal for measuring stone, glass, wood and steel plugs and tunnels. A gauge wheel will measure plugs 18g - 1".  For larger plugs, or to measure the length of your body jewelry, you will need digital calipers.  Go To Calipers
Autoclave Sterilization using high-pressure steam, done in an autoclave machine

Getting Started

If you have established healed, regular earring piercings and you wear earrings regularly, you should be fine starting with our single flare glass plugs. The starting point for most people is 14g, which is just slightly larger than a regular earring. If you were pierced with a piercing gun you are likely at a 20g.

If you’ve only recently healed from a regular ear piercing, you may want to start out with 16g plugs, 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 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 don’t want stretched ears forever, 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 non stretched-looking lobes, you will want to make sure to stretch one size at a time and wait a minimum of a month between each stretch (see chart below).

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.

Stretching Methods

Single Flare Glass - Our single flare glass plugs are our recommended method for stretching (often referred to as "dead stretching"). Many purchasers have had great success with these plugs. We offer them in 1mm increments from 2mm up to 28mm.  The smaller stretch means a quicker heal time and less scar tissue.  The backs of these plugs are rounded to make insertion easier. The wearable of the plug is fairly long to help accommodate any initial swelling you may have. Be sure to lube the plugs and your ears before stretching. Go To Stretching Plugs

Single Flare Steel - Same as our glass single flare plugs, but in stainless steel. The single flare steel plugs come in a larger size range (1.6mm - 38mm) and we have 3 different kits ready to go to get you to certain common milestones.   Go To Steel Plugs

If you are stretching beyond 38mm, the tape wrapping method is preferred (NEVER USE SILICONE TO STRETCH).

Tape Wrapping - Once you get to a larger size, (generally around 0g or 8mm) then using the tape wrapping method is a good option to use for stretching. It's the method almost everyone uses over 1'' or 25mm. To stretch with the tape wrapping method, take a set of plugs in your current size and do 2-3 wraps of tape around them to slowly increase the size of your piercing. Only use PTFE or bondage tape. Remove the tape and clean the jewelry and your ears. 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 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. Go To Tape

Stretching Process (taper method)

Please note we do not recommend this method, but you do you.

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 easy. Lubricants make a stretch easier. While you're out getting a new taper, get some Jojoba oil, Vitamin E oil or GaugeGear Stretching Balm (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's okay, you shouldn’t rush it. Once it is through, take your plugs and follow through after the taper.

When stretching, one stretch should start by pushing the taper in from the front, and the next stretch should be pushed in from the back. Repeat that process a few times. This helps to keep scar tissue from forming and stretching easier.

Some people say taking a hot shower before stretching helps to make your ear a bit more stretchy. Also, massaging it to get the blood flowing is a good way to increase elasticity in the ear lobe before stretching.

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 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 damage. Also, the slower you go the thicker and healthier your ears will be in the long run (which is important if you plan on going to a large size).

This is a good ear size chart 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

Blowout and Injury Prevention

Bleeding and pain should never occur during the stretching process!  A mild tingling sensation is okay, 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 lubricate while stretching. The lubricant will keep your ears moisturized and more protected vs dry stretching. We strongly recommend using GaugeGear Stretching Balm. Rub the balm into your ears just before stretching, and rub some on the jewelry you're about to use to stretch up.  It acts as both a lubricant and conditions the skin. It is also great for daily use to keep your skin soft and nourished.  Go To GaugeGear

Cleaning and Care

Keep it clean and hydrated! 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 of healing. 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 (we recommend twice) during the stretching process.

Benefits of Jojoba Oil

Jojoba oil is an all-around great product. Its best uses are to soften skin, reduce scar tissue and to moisturize. It also helps to reduce the size of blowouts over time if massaged daily.  Go To Jojoba Oil


If you are noticing issues such as extreme swelling, redness, discharge, itching, and hotness, you more than likely have an infection. An infected ear 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 the above problems, then it's for sure best to downsize and let your ears get back to normal. Wearing jewelry like steel or glass is best 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 healing!


Extra Takeaways

  • 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 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 ripping of your piercing.
  • 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 okay to stretch with or be worn in a freshly stretched ear.  Organic materials are porous. 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 personal 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. Don't use hydrogen peroxide to clean your ears. Hydrogen peroxide is cytotoxic (cell-killing), meaning it kills ALL cells, both good and bad.  Do not use Neosporin or 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.