Stretching earlobes has been around for years but this is not a history lesson. I have always been in awe with piercings and it all started in grade 5 with my first earring set. Back in the day, my mom used to tell me that more than a pair and you’d be labeled a good for nothing punk and wouldn’t be able to find a job easily. But you know…I rebelled…and got more and more as the years went on.
I’m pretty done with adding holes to my ears so the next stage was stretching! I always liked the look of glass plugs and more recently the aesthetics of tunnels. And after reading tons of articles on dos and don’ts, I’ve come up with a set of rules that works great for me. No pain, easy progression, low cost and lots of patience. You can actually go to a tattoo shop and get a piercer to do the stretching for you but I’m not made out of money and can’t afford it. Besides, I’m a DIY kinda person so why not save some dough at the same time?
I’m not quite sure what gauge my ears were pierced at, but it was always at a rinky dink jewelery shop you’d find in a mall. I know, I know, it’s way better going to a tattoo shop with an experienced piercer instead of some teenage sales associate, but let’s face it…the price is astronomical at tattoo shops and I was a teenager.
A little about gauges: the smaller the number the larger it is. Most places pierce your ears at 2o or 18 gauge depending on where you go. Over the last decade, I’ve sized them up to a 10g using only captive rings. This was done easily enough.
1. Wash your hands in anti-bacterial soap
2. Wash the jewelery in anti-bacterial soap and as a second measure, soak in alcohol or hydrogen peroxide
3. I used an ointment called Mecca, it was an all natural ointment that was an antiseptic. I don’t think they make it anymore so you can use something similar to lube your piercing.
4. Massage the piercing hole and insert through the back towards the front. Because there was always resistance, I gently massaged the front to help coerce the end of the piercing through. Add the captive ring ball back on.
5. Clean twice a day with anti-bacterial soap and lube it with an antiseptic ointment.
There is a good reasons why I used the ointment. I felt that it kept the piercing moisturized and during the day I would move it once in a while so it didn’t stick. It helped the jewelery glide through the hole
Now the juicy bit….gauging up to the bad boys!
There are so many dos and don’ts out there on several piercing sites and forums. Most of them are totally legit and some of them is up to your discretion.
Here are the absolute signs that you’re doing it wrong:
1. It hurts. Believe it or not, you should never say “ow!” during the process. If it ain’t happin’, don’t force it, try it again in a couple of weeks. Scar tissue in and around your holes takes even longer so be patient…I know it’s hard, take up wood whittling or something.
2. Bleeding – oops you’ve gone and torn something…yuck. Clean it out, put the old gauge back in, let it heal and try again when you’re not such a forceful moron.
3. It won’t fit…wait a minute, did you skip a gauge? Don’t you know that the road to success is not skipping steps? Go back to stage one and do it right this time, one gauge at a time.
4. Mega swelling…so it’s been day 3 since you’ve put your last gauge in and your ear is super plump, red and sore. This is your piercing hole telling you it’s not ready. Retract…go back to the previous stage and wait.
So what’s the secret? Listen to your body, treat stretching like open wounds, clean regularly and be prepared to wait several months until you get to your desired size.
I am goin’ for 0g, people say that 2g is the last stage that your holes will shrink back if you decide that having stretched holes is not cool anymore. I say it’ll totally depend on your body…you may have flappy earlobes with holes in them when you’re 90 but I’m sure you can fill them with seashells or something.
Here’s how I went about it. I realized that paying $30-$40 a pair at a tattoo shop for captive rings was going to be more than I wanted to spend considering how I had to go up 6 sizes so I opted for good ol’ trusty eBay…my friend. After tons of research, I decided I wanted to buy a set of tapers and a set of tunnels for my journey. (as a side note, I discovered that sizing up using only captive rings was nearly impossible after a certain size and tapers were the only answer)
I bought my stretching set through the seller Zaya Body Jewelery for $32.99 US plus $3.50 for shipping and handling. What did it include? A set of stainless steel single tapers ranging from 14g to 0g and a set (2 of each) tunnels ranging in the same sizes. Hooray! Way cheaper than any tattoo shop.
Granted, acrylic jewelery is way cheaper but I’ve read that it is porous and can cause infection easier, so why not pay a little extra for something my sensitive ears will appreciate.
What’s a taper? It’s a type of jewelery that starts of very small and gradually increases in size to the gauge indicated. It is mostly used to gradually stretch the hole so that you can insert the matching tunnel or plug. The fancier ones let you attach the tunnel/plug directly to the taper so you can do it all in one motion. Mine however, do not attach. They often come with two O rings in case you decide to keep them in your ear.
Now on to the stretching!
Step 1: Since I’m stretching my first holes on either ear, I am doing it one ear at a time since I only have one taper. Also…it makes it feel like I’m always stretching since I stagger the two holes, this makes me less impatient. Pick the taper that is your next gauge size and clean with antibacterial soap and if you want, drown it in hydrogen peroxide of alcohol. Lube the taper lightly with antiseptic ointment.
Step 2: Slowly insert the taper into the ear hole. Once you feel resistance, take a deep breath and try to go little bit further gently. This part is up to your discretion. I found that at the smaller gauges, I could push the taper all the way to close to the end but the larger I got, the harder it was. I push until I feel tension, no pain, feels a little tight and then I put the O rings on the front and the back to keep it secure. The O ring at the back is right up against my ear, and the one in the front I leave a tiny gap in case my ear swells a tiny bit.
Step 3: I then leave it for around 8 hours and then clean, lube the top and push again a little bit more. This was the best method for me…it usually took a good 24 hours to have the taper pushed all the way through, pushing a little bit every 8 hours. Keep in mind that all the way through means it’s at the thickest part of the taper, you still need about 1/4″ left at the end so you can put the O ring on the front and not have it slip out. Once it was all the way through, I’d leave it in for another 8 hours until I put the tunnel in.
Step 4: Even though technically the taper is now at the same size as the tunnel in the last phase, I feel that putting the tunnel in right away is hard because the hole is still very tight. Leaving it for several hours seems to loosen the hole and let it relax so I can insert the taper easily. Be gentle, use the tunnel to push the taper out and replace it in the hole. I hope you didn’t forget to clean that taper first!
Et voila, a newly stretched earhole. Be diligent, keep cleaning the hole and while you’re at it, give the other ones some love if you have ’em. I clean my piercings in the shower every day since they’re so sensitive and will get infected if I neglect them too long.