How to stretch your ears
Remember ear stretching is a body modification and should be approached accordingly! There are many opinions on the best and safest ways of stretching. Below is described the method recommended by our piercing studio Urban Piercings.
Stretching is a very gradual process allowing plenty of time for your ear to adjust to each stretch, particularly in the smaller sizes.
Stretching should never be extremely painful, draw blood, or cause any long lasting discomfort. The pain of stretching can be best described as a ‘hot’ feeling, uncomfortable but not too painful.
From a standard ear piercing the first stretch should be to 1.6mm but if your piercing is already at a 1.6mm gauge the first stretch should be with a 2mm taper. Beyond that the next available size up should be used. So from 1.6mm follows 2mm, 3.2mm, 4mm, 5mm and 6mm. From 6mm the sizes generally rise in 2mm increments so; 6mm, 8mm,10mm, 12mm and so on.
Having bought your taper at the appropriate size lubricate it well. We have found P.D.I to be the best lubricant to use, and as no blood should be drawn from the stretch it is perfectly safe. (For more info on P.D.I lubricant click here.) With your taper lubricated, gently start to push it through your piercing. When you start to feel some resistance twist the taper gently while pushing, and continue to do so until the taper is comfortably seated in your ear as would a piece of jewellery. The whole process should be one smooth, quick, but not rushed, action. However listen to your body, if you experience excessive pain or the taper needs more than only a light amount of force it is best to withdraw the taper, replace your original jewellery and start again another day.
With the taper in your ear the next stage should be decided on. Do you insert jewellery into your freshly stretched piercing or do you seat the o-rings on the taper and leave it in until your next stretch?
For the first option, an appropriate piece of jewellery will be required. This obviously means choosing jewellery the same gauge as the taper you have just used. It also means choosing only ‘straight’ jewellery, as tunnels or plugs that are in any way flared at both ends are slightly larger on the outsides than the middle measurement. (The measurement they are sold at.) At Urban Piercings we also recommend this initial piece of jewellery is plain steel, plastic or titanium as colourings can sometimes have a reaction to a freshly stretched piercing. With the o-rings removed from the taper, butt the slightly lubricated jewellery against the end of the taper and supporting the surrounding lobe as best you can with your fingers. In one smooth motion use the plug to push the taper out of the piercing, leaving the new jewellery in the piercing.
To leave the taper in your piercing simply place the o-rings on each side of your piercing. We have found a curved taper to sit more comfortably than a straight one if it is to be worn for a length of time. Then all that is left is to keep your stretched piercing clean to avoid a build up of plasma, or ‘ear cheese’. Simple anti-bacterial soap will do this well, ensuring the jewellery and lobe are well cleaned.
Ear Stretching FAQ
What is the difference between gauges and millimetres? Millimetres are the European measurement and gauges are commonly associated with American jewellery. While similar, the two ways of gauging jewellery do not always come up precisely the same. Hence a lot of gauged jewellery will come up as odd U.K sizes, such as 11mm.
What size can I stretch up to before it won’t shrink back to normal? In our experience at Urban Piercings a 6mm stretched lobe will return back to a normal size. 8mm is also fine for most, but 10mm is the point of no return. However everyone is different and there are other contributing factors, namely how fast the piercing has been stretched and in what way. Just remember, the guideline sizes above are based on the methods described in how to stretch your ears.
Why use lubricant? Lubricant makes the whole process quicker, and much less painful. It will also ensure you do not split the skin in the process, making stretching relatively painless and cancelling out the risk of infection because of split skin. At Urban Piercings we use P.D.I lubricant, and have found this to be the most effective lubricant. Whatever you do choose, water based lubricants are far better than oil based, such as Vaseline.
How much does stretching hurt? Done correctly stretching should be no more than a very hot stinging sensation. And sensation is a more appropriate word than pain. If you are following the guidelines in how to stretch your ears you should not experience any more than a mild discomfort afterwards while your ear adjusts.
My ear is swollen and red, is this normal? A small amount of swelling, redness and discomfort is perfectly normal for a day or two after stretching. However excessive swelling and your ear being sore to touch is not. This is generally a result of to large a stretch or a ‘dry’ stretch with no lubricant, causing the skin to tear. If your ear reaches this state remove the jewellery straight away and replace it with the size you have just stretched from. In severe cases this will not help and the jewellery may have to be removed entirely. Either way a warm sea salt solution compress (tea-spoon of sea salt to a cup of boiling water and allowed to cool.) with a cotton pad should help to settle your piercing down. Ensure your piercing is fully comfortable before stretching again.
Why stretch so slowly? My mate stretched to 8mm in two days! It is not a case of whether you can stretch so quickly, but more how easy and comfortable the process is, and how it looks and heal back should you want to remove them. An ear stretched with the method described in how to stretch your ears will look good when the desired size is reached, and heal back a lot quicker and cleaner. Rushing your stretching will result in an un-necessary amount of scar tissue which will distort your ear, sometimes leading to a ’blow out’ or a keloid scar growth. These can sometimes become impossible to heal. For more information please follow this link to the wikipedia keloid scar page.
What is the lump on the back of my ear? Lumps on the back of stretched ear lobes are called keloid scarring, or more commonly ‘blow outs’. The best way to get rid of them is to remove the jewellery, allow your body to re-absorb the scar tissue and allow to fully heal before re-stretching. It is best to do this at the first sign of a keloid, as allowed to progress it can, in some extreme cases, be near impossible to remove without surgery, and even that is not guaranteed to fully remove it. For more information please follow this link to the wikipedia keloid scar page.