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How to Safely Stretch Your Ears With Gauges

I love having gauges and I want to share some of my personal wisdom about them with the rest of you.

Bodyartforms.com has a very large selection of plugs and other piercing-related items.

Bodyartforms.com has a very large selection of plugs and other piercing-related items.

I've been stretching my ears for about 2 years. Last September I reached my initial goal of 1 inch. My new goal is 1 1/2 inches.

I figured that since I see so many people ruining their ears (stretching too fast, blow-outs, using the wrong materials, etc.) that I'd post some helpful tips that I've picked up over time.

Things to Consider

It's important to really think about whether or not you want to stretch your ears. Think about:

  • Future job opportunities
  • How people will view and treat you
  • Whether or not you want to join the military
  • The health risks.

If you don't care or have already thought about the implications, then you should just skip this noise.

Job Opportunities

Job market employers are all going to be different. Some won't have any problem with smaller gauges. Some will write you off as soon as you walk in the door. The basic rule of thumb is that the larger your ears get, the more sparse your job opportunities will be.

Judgment From Others

People will judge you. This is just something to keep in mind. People ask me questions about my gauges on a regular basis. Every other time I go to the bar or diner, a stranger approaches me to discuss my ears. They ask me an array of questions ranging from, "Does it hurt?" to "What does your family think?" to "How do you pay your rent?" I even had a man approach me to tell me that if his children had big holes in their ears, he would rip them out.

The Military

Before my friend decided to join the military, he had his ears stretched to 00 gauge. He had let his ears close up a few months before he spoke to a recruiter. The recruiter stretched my friend's ear a little bit to find out if he could see through the hole (he couldn't). He then told my friend that if light is visible through the hole while it's being pulled on, his ears would have to be sewn shut. I don't know how many recruiters would actually make you sew your ears back together, but I figured I'd share the story anyway.

Health Risks

Lastly, there are some health risks involved in stretching ears. Some common ones include blow-outs, tears, and infections, which leave your ears looking deformed. There are also a few uncommon risks, such as infections that spread from your ears and can actually be life-threatening if left untreated.

If you do get gauges, then decide you don't want them, you can get your earlobes repaired by a surgeon. I haven't looked into the exact prices, but the interwebs tell me you should expect to pay at least a couple hundred.

Stretching Your Ears Is Not a Race

The mistakes I most often notice people making trying to see how quickly they can go up in size. If you want thin lobes that look like loose buttholes, then go as fast as you want and don't bother reading on. However, if you want thick, healthy-looking lobes, then you'll want to pay attention.

Everybody's body is different, which means that the time that it takes for your ears to heal may be longer or shorter than your friends. Just because your friend can stretch his/her ears at a faster rate doesn't mean that you should try to match him/her.

This was my problem when I first started stretching. My friends and I treated stretching like a race. We wanted to be bigger faster. When my plugs aren't in my ears, the holes shrink to about half an inch and look wrinkled. This is because I didn't allow my ears to heal all the way before I shoved a new plug in. I used this method until I was at a half-inch.

Gauge charts are useful.

Gauge charts are useful.

Gauge Sizes (and How to Stretch Your Ears)

I read somewhere scientific that every time you stretch your ears, you create "micro-tears." This means every time you go up a size; whether it hurts or not, you need to let your ears heal or at least adjust to the new gauge.

Smaller Gauges

  • At smaller gauges (14 g to about 7/16 in.), three to four weeks is a pretty average amount of time your body will need to heal.
  • Some professionals recommend waiting for up to six months between stretches, so your ears can retain some memory.
  • If you can get the new piece of jewelry in without forcing it, then your ear is ready.
  • If it hurts when you try to put larger jewelry in, stop trying and wait a little longer.
  • If you've been waiting forever, and they still won't go in, try using Teflon tape, also known as PTFE tape, or bondage tape.

Larger Gauges

  • Once you get to the larger sizes (1/2 in. and up), there should be a noticeable space between your plug and ear when you pull on the plug.
  • I usually have to use bondage tape between sizes.

Never force tapers/plugs in when gauging. That's how you get blowouts (a rim of extra skin around your gauge) and tears. I've blown both of my ears out twice. The first time I blew them out was when I was stretching to 3/4 inch. I was able to salvage my ears by gauging down a few sizes (allowing the blowout to suck itself back in). The second time was when I put my one-inch plugs in. My ears were less than a millimeter too small (truth), but forcing them in caused nasty things to happen.

This website has a plethora of stretching supplies.

This website has a plethora of stretching supplies.

Materials Needed

  • Stainless-steel or acrylic material: Surgical stainless steel or 316 L stainless steel are the best materials to use. It's non-porous and won't adhere to your ears while they're healing. Acrylic is also an acceptable material.
  • Bondage tape: Bondage tape is also very helpful to bridge the gap between sizes. I prefer bondage tape over Teflon tape because Teflon tape is flimsy and soaks up any fluid that gets near it.
  • Lubricant: You'll also want a lubricant. Olive oil is one of my favorites (it's cheap and softens the skin). Jojoba oil is another favorite (unfortunately, it's expensive). Lastly, unscented vitamin E oil is also a great option (just go with olive oil or jojoba oil).

Never use any other material to stretch your ears or wear any other material until your ears are healed. Wood and silicone are notorious for adhering to your skin because the materials are porous. Some stupid kid on my Facebook had to have his wood plugs surgically removed because he put them in the day after a stretch.

Some person wearing wood plugs. I don't know why the image is sideways.

Some person wearing wood plugs. I don't know why the image is sideways.

More Tips and Recommendations

  • Don't use weights. Weights thin earlobes out. Thin earlobes are susceptible to tears.
  • Don't wear tunnels or eyelets to parties. Drunk people like to stick their fingers through them. Stupid drunk people like to tug on them once their fingers are through. Assholes like to yank on them.
  • I oil my ears and rub each one for about 5 to 10 minutes every day to keep them healthy. I recommend you do this, too. It keeps the skin from drying out and cracking.
  • I recommend you sleep with your plugs in your ears. Sleeping without them can cause irritation, dryness, and cracking. (This could just be my preference.)
  • Once your ears completely heal, purchase a pair of wood plugs. Wood is very porous, which allows your ears to breathe and reduces ear funk.
  • If you do end up blowing your ears out, take out the new jewelry and put in a smaller gauge of jewelry. I recommend downsizing about two sizes. So if you tried putting in a one-inch plug and that caused a blowout, downsize to 3/4 inch. Downsizing allows the blown-out flesh to suck back into where it's supposed to be.
  • When dealing with a blow-out, make sure you clean your ears once in the morning and once in the evening with saltwater or whatever you think is best. (I'm not a doctor, but that's what I did.) Some people recommend not wearing any jewelry until the blowout is healed to reduce the risk of infection.
  • Don't waste your money on a bunch of jewelry unless you plan to stay at that size. If you're rich—then do whatever you want.
  • Before you order jewelry online, make sure you can actually wear it. I bought three pairs of plugs a few months ago that fit the diameter of my ear, but the wearable area (length) was too short on all of them. Don't make this mistake. You can't return body jewelry. (If you can, you shouldn't be buying from that source.)

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.

© 2012 torgenheimer

Comments, Questions, And Criticisms Are Welcome.

Kase15 on June 27, 2014:

1.) taping your ears can be dangerous. It's been reviewed by official piercers and isn't recommended.

2.) acrylic is EXTREMELY bad for you. It releases toxins into your skin. Why wear something poisonous?

3.) tapers are bad for you. Use stone, or weights.

I'm really concerned that you're giving out "advise" on a topic you know nothing about. 1 year to get to an inch is NOT slow. Stainless steel, bought from where? Hot topic/Spencer's? They've been known to sell extreme low quality material that is damaging. Please, no one listen to this idiot.

Next time, do your homework.

Dhgkctjoncg on February 23, 2014:

Seriously? They aren't called gauges!

jessidinorawr on September 13, 2012:

I do just want to say quickly that not all sources who let you return body jewelry are bad and you can still buy from them. I work at Spencer's and we accept returns on body jewelry, but they never make it back out to the sales floor and are destroyed. All of the jewelry sold is safe and never used, so a better suggestion would be to know the policy of the store you're purchasing from and what they do with that returned body jewelry.

malibupinup on August 17, 2012:

You should not use tapers past a 00g! Stretch up using tape. It also is not good to sleep with your plugs in. You heal better without them in. Cheap plugs are the worst thing for ears when in the process of stretching. Stone plugs are best. Never acrylic or plastic, or dyed metal. It isn't much more money to buy stone plugs. Plastic and acrylic are a guaranteed way to allow bacteria. :) Slow and steady! It took me 1 year and a half to get to 9/16".