How to Stretch Your Ears Safely—The Complete Guide
Not Sure How to Stretch Your Ears?
Then you're in the right place! Stretched ears can look great and be easy to achieve, but if you don't know what you're doing (and I didn't, when I started), then you could be in for a lot of pain and misery and even do permanent damage to your ears. You don't want that! You want to keep your ears fabulous for years to come.
Done right, though, it's a perfectly safe process with minimal discomfort. As long as you're careful and patient, you should be able to stretch your ears to whatever size you're after without any drama. And once you're done, let the compliments roll!
What's In the Guide:
Standard 'I am not a doctor, this is not professional medical advice' disclaimer applies to all of the information on this page. I am also not a piercer! I'm just an average person who stretched their ears and made mistakes and learned things along the way. This is just what I figured out myself.
If something about your ears is making you worry, get thee to a doctor! You do not want to have something horrible and permanent happen to your ears because you ignored a gut feeling about something being wrong.
Haven't had the piercing you want to stretch done yet? Then you've got an opportunity to make stretching easier by going to a professional piercer and asking them to pierce it at a larger gauge. Piercing needles go up to a 10g, and a needle piercing will leave less scar tissue than a gun piercing, making it easier to stretch!
Things to Think About Before Stretching Your Ears
Before you start poking tapers in your ears, here are some things to think about:
- How long have you had the initial hole? A piercing that's years old should be fine to stretch right away, but you shouldn't be stretching one that's only just healed. Give it a month or two after initial healing time before you start to stretch.
- What size would you like to stretch to? It's worth looking at the kinds of plugs you want to wear and figuring out what sizes they come in. Also, consider things like dress codes at work and how easy it'll be to hide your stretched holes.
- Are you allergic to any materials that might be used in plugs or tapers? Be extra careful about allergies and newly stretched piercings. They're not quite an open wound, but they are more sensitive than regular, undamaged areas of skin.
- While you'll be able to reverse a stretch up to a certain size—that varies person to person—there's a point at which that stretching is for life or until you can get your lobes surgically fixed. Be sure you're willing to commit to stretched holes before you go past the point of no return!
Tip: Stretching on a Budget?
If your funds are really limited, here's a tip for you: You only need one taper in each size. You can stretch each ear separately with just the one, though it's faster doing both at once. You will still need two plugs, obviously, if you're stretching both ears.
Things You'll Need to Stretch Your Ears
- Tapers and plugs for each gauge between where you are and your goal size. You can get stretching kits for this, but you should avoid acrylic plugs, since they're porous and harbour bacteria that will irritate your piercing and make your ears smell (and no one likes smelly ears, right?).
- Some kind of balm or moisturiser. This should at very least contain vitamin E. Almond, jojoba, tea tree, rosemary, and lavender oils are also beneficial. Gauge Gear stretching balm is pretty awesome, but you can probably pick something up in your local drugstore or supermarket.
- A lubricant. Vaseline is okay, for a well-healed piercing, but a water-based personal lubricant is ideal for stretching and much safer.
- Optional: at larger sizes, you may need PTFE or bondage tape to increase your gauge. More on that below!
- Patience. Patience is huge when it comes to stretching your ears, and completely necessary, but well-rewarded. (I was impatient at times. It hurt. I learned a valuable lesson about waiting for the things you want.)
An Extra Note on Stretching Gear
As tempting as it probably is to use cheap and brightly coloured acrylic plugs for your new stretches, don't do it. You need to leave a stretch for a minimum of two weeks, and in that time, you'll have a lot of bacteria build up in the plastic. Live with boring steel or glass (although they can look really cool! Honest!) until you're at your goal size or taking a long break, and don't wear any other material long-term.
Glass and steel are the best because they're non-porous and sterilizable. You can boil them at home, and that should be more than adequate, but you can also take them to your local piercer and get them to autoclave them for you, usually for a small fee. Autoclaving is just lab-grade sterilisation, and worthwhile if you're finding your ears get infected easily. You should, as an aside, not use a piercer who doesn't have an autoclave.
Also, don't get double-flared plugs to stretch with. You'll never get them into a fresh stretch and you'll only hurt yourself trying. Double-flares are only for healed stretches. Use single or no-flare plugs to gauge up.
Getting Down to Business: Your First Stretch
Okay, so, now you've got your tapers and plugs and you're excited to get started! Here's how to do your first stretch, pain free and easily:
- Wash your hands. No really. Wash them. Use an antibacterial soap. You don't want germs in your piercing.
- If your tapers didn't come sterile, sterilize them. Again, germs in piercing = bad.
- Now you're ready to insert! Remove any jewellery you have in your hole—with your clean hands—and apply a little lubricant to the hole and the taper. Not too much! You should only need a very thin coating on each.
- Insert the taper as though you were inserting an earring. Pay attention to what you're doing and stop when you meet resistance. Don't force it! It probably won't go the whole way in on the first go. That's perfectly okay!
- Leave your ear to recover for a while. It will have swollen up, so let the swelling go down before you do anything else. Read a book or check your emails or something while you wait.
- Wash your hands again before pushing the taper in further. As you push, a little pressure is fine, but stop and take a break if you're in pain. DO NOT twist the taper to get it in. If it's too tight, what you'll do is tear the skin off the inside of your hole. This is painful and incredibly unpleasant and bloody.
- Repeat until you get the taper all the way in. Leave it for at least a couple of hours, ideally overnight. Later or in the morning, keep pushing the taper out and insert your sterilized plug with your clean hands.
- Congrats on successfully completing your first stretch!
Help! My Ear is Bleeding After I Stretched It!
- Don't panic. It's okay, it happens, and you probably haven't done irreversible damage.
- You've probably torn the skin on the inside of the hole, or made a little tear on the very edge. This is fine, it will heal.
- Remove the taper or plug you've got in carefully. It might hurt, but you'll probably find it relieves a lot of pressure. Also, you're probably going to bleed everywhere. If you're squeamish about blood, get a friend to help.
- Clean up your ear and give it a wipe with some antibacterial wipes or wash. Be gentle, and try to stop the bleeding as much as you can.
- Once your ear stops throbbing, insert a plug a size smaller. Make sure it's clean and be careful doing it.
- Leave your ear to heal for a couple of weeks before stretching again. I know it's a pain, but it'll be worth it in the long run.
If you're really worried, let me reassure you that doing this a couple of times is fine. Especially at larger sizes, I made both ears bleed a couple of times, and mine have now both healed perfectly with no issues. Don't worry! Everything is going to be okay. Just be careful next time.
Why PTFE/Bondage Tape?
PTFE and bondage tape have a very important property in common—they only stick to themselves, not your skin. This is essential in using the taping method to stretch, because you don't want the tape sticking to your ears and possibly tearing the delicate skin.
The Taping Method of Stretching
After about a 0g or a 00g, the supply of tapers, well, tapers off. These holes are really too big for the tapering method of stretching, so you need to move on to taping. Taping can also benefit smaller sizes (though not too small) by offering a more gentle, gradual method of stretching. How? Here we go:
- Take your current plug—ideally glass, but steel will also work—and grab some PTFE or bondage tape. Both of these are readily available online. PTFE tape can be bought at hardware stores, but you'll have to go to an adult store to get bondage tape.
- Wrap a couple of layers of tape around your plug. Not too many! Two or three should be more than enough.
- Apply lubricant to the plug and gently insert it into your hole.
- Repeat on a twice-weekly basis until your hole is at the new size you want it at.
Personally, I had to use tape to get from a 2g to a 0g, because it's a 2mm stretch, which is hard to do all in one go. You might want to start there as well, or you might not need to until you get to 00g (if you're going that far).
Taking Care of Your Holes After Stretching
To keep your ears in top condition, you should use a good quality balm or moisturiser at least a couple of times a week, ideally daily, and whenever you swap out your plugs—especially if they're double flared, which do put a little pressure on your ears when you first put them in.
Otherwise, stretched ears are fairly low maintenance. You should try to wear a plug made of glass or steel (or titanium, if you prefer) overnight and when you're not all dressed up, but otherwise anything goes, and you can enjoy and show off your stretched holes!
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Other Ear Stretching Troubleshooting
- Help! The outsides of my hole are red and sore.
If the edges of your holes are red and itchy, it might be that you're allergic to your o-rings. Black o-rings are mostly made of a substance called nitrile, which a lot of people are sensitive to. Switch to silicone o-rings and you should be fine!
- I can't get this taper in, no matter what I do!
See the taping method above. If it's a small size or your first stretch, you might want to try a sea salt soak, massaging your ears with some vitamin E oil, or stretching right after a warm shower, when your ears are at their most supple. Also, make sure you're only trying to go up one size! Check the gauge of your tapers to be sure they're correct.
- My holes have this weird puffy ring around them...
This is (affectionately) called 'catbutt' holes and is a side-effect of stretching too fast. The best way to solve it is to go back down a size and be sure to keep your ear well moisturised while the hole shrinks back. Then leave it to heal for longer than you have been, and try again.
If that doesn't work, the puffy part can be scalpled off (which should only be done by a professional) but that will hurt and probably scar. This is why healing times between stretches are really important.