A beauty consultant and former hairdresser by profession, Jayne has been helping men and women improve their appearance for almost 20 years.
Nothing looks cooler than stretched earlobes, but you have to stretch them properly, or it can result in an ugly disaster. This article shows you how to stretch your ears safely.
The correct term is "stretching" and not "gauging," but whatever you call it, stretched earlobes look cool whether you're a man or a woman.
Although it's a form of body modification, stretching is harmless and fun as long as you do it properly. It's mostly a question of taking your time, so don't rush things, no matter how eager you are.
But fun as it may be, choosing to stretch your ears is by no means a non-committal decision. Therefore, give it a lot of serious thought before you begin.
What You Need to Know Before Stretching
What Is the "Point of No Return?"
The "point of no return" is the point at which a stretched piercing will never shrink back to its original size. For most people, it's 00g (see gauge conversion table below), but it could be less or more for you—everybody is different. That means surgery might be the only way to close your stretched earlobes, even if you don't go beyond what for most people is the "point of no return."
If you know from the outset that stretched ears will one day be inappropriate in certain facets of your life, don't stretch. Earrings and fake plugs are a better choice for you.
The Effects of Scarring
One reason a stretched piercing might not shrink or close up again is scarring, which is caused by stretching too fast and/or inserting jewelry that is too big.
The damage occurs beneath the skin, so you can't actually see what's happening—but you can feel it. If you experience pain, stop what you're doing, put your smaller gauge jewelry back in, and wait a month before you continue to stretch.
Another problem is that scar tissue can make it difficult or near impossible to stretch further.
You can easily prevent scarring by stretching very slowly and gently.
What Is a "Blow Out?"
If you insert jewelry that is too large, the piercing will turn in on itself and create an ugly disfiguration. This is what is called a "blow out." The only thing to do is revert to smaller gauge jewelry and hope it corrects itself. If there's no improvement after a couple of days, consult a piercer.
Gauge Conversion Table
6.0 - 6.5 mm
9.0 - 10.0 mm
What You Need to Stretch Your Ears
- A taper in the size or gauge you want to stretch your ears to (tapers are long, conical-shaped stretching tools, also called "stretchers" or "expanders")
- Flesh tunnels (use only non-porous materials like glass, stainless steel, or titanium, and don't use double flared plugs until at least two weeks after stretching)
- Liquid antibacterial soap of medical grade
- Saline solution
- Wheat germ or jojoba oil
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The Primary Step of Stretching: Piercing
Before you can even think about stretching, you need to pierce your ears. Get it done by a piercer—a jeweler's gun is likely to pierce askew, which makes stretching difficult.
You should never stretch a piercing unless it is fully healed, so get your ears pierced at least two months before you begin to stretch.
With Which Gauge Should You Begin to Stretch?
- If a jeweler pierced your ears with a gun, your piercings are 18 or 20g. In that case, you can start stretching at 14 or 16g.
- If you got your ears pierced at a piercing studio, they're probably 14 or 16g, which means you can begin at 12g.
- Ask a piercer if you don't know which size your piercings presently are.
- Stretch your ears one gauge at a time, and leave at least a month between each stretching.
How to Stretch Your Ears
Step One: Soften Tissue
Start by taking a steamy bath or shower to soften the tissue. This eases the stretching process.
Step Two: Clean
- Wash the taper, the jewelry, your earlobes and your hands thoroughly with medical-grade antibacterial soap.
- To be absolutely certain that everything is sterile, you can boil metal tapers and jewelry, or hold a flame to them. Just make sure they've cooled down before handling or inserting.
Step Three: Lubricate
- Apply liquid antibacterial soap to your earlobe and the taper.
- You can buy lubricants formulated specifically for stretching, but antibacterial soap is as good as anything.
- Whatever you do, don't use oil or oil-based products like Vaseline—they propagate bacteria and cause infection.
Step Four: Insert Taper
- Insert the taper into your piercing as far as it will go without force, then move it slowly and gently to and fro. You should experience a slight tingling sensation as the piercing widens.
- If you feel even the slightest discomfort, you're working too quickly. In this case, fix the taper in place with its O rings and wait an hour or two until your ear has calmed down.
- If your ear starts to feel sore and inflamed, put your old jewelry back in and wait a month before attempting to stretch again.
- Because they're not of a balanced shape and weight, tapers are not suitable as permanent jewelry. If you want to use a stretching tool as jewelry, you need a spiral, which works in the same way as a taper.
Step Five: Insert the Jewelry
- When the broad end of the taper is flush with your earlobe, use the unfastened flesh tunnel to push it right through.
- When the taper drops out, the flesh tunnel should have taken its place in your piercing.
If You've Stretched Your Ears Properly
- If you've stretched your ears properly, there will be no blood and no pain.
- Leave your ears alone for a couple of days until the larger jewelry feels comfortable or doesn't feel tight. After that, clean your piercing and the jewelry daily with antibacterial soap. If you don't, sebum and dead skin cells will build up and may cause infection.
- You can also massage stretched piercings with jojoba or wheat germ oil to stimulate circulation and speed up the healing process, but wait until the new jewelry feels comfortable.
If You Experience Pain and Soreness
If you experience pain and soreness, it's probably the result of stretching too fast or inserting jewelry that is too big.
- Take the larger jewelry out immediately and replace it with the previous, smaller jewelry.
- Clean the jewelry and inflamed piercing daily with antibacterial soap, as well as bathing the piercing in a saline solution for five to ten minutes. You can either mix the solution yourself with sea salt and water or buy it from a pharmacy.
- If the soreness persists after two or three days, consult a piercer or medical practitioner.
- Don't try to stretch again until your ear has completely recovered, which could take up to six weeks.
Stretching With the Taping Method
After you've stretched to 6 or 4g, you might want to expand further using the taping method. Although tapers are available in sizes of up to one inch, the taping method is a more comfortable and gentle way of stretching.
Just wind two or three layers of either bondage tape or PTFE tape around your plug or flesh tunnel, adding new layers once every two or three weeks.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2014 Jayne Lancer
Jayne Lancer (author) from West London, UK on June 13, 2014:
Thank you, Misterhollywood!
John Hollywood from Hollywood, CA on June 12, 2014:
Interesting article. I always wondered how this was done. You put a lot of time into this hub and it shows!