Whether your goal is to rock some statement gauges or upsize a standard ear piercing, stretching your piercings with gauges the right way is crucial. But before you rush into the process, remember that this needs time and skill. Otherwise, it can end in disaster – blown-out lobes, infections, and permanent scarring.
The good news is that you can get your stretch game back on track with some patience and tender loving care. This how-to guide will show you how to stretch your piercings using proper techniques and equipment gradually. Whether you just got your first piercing or are already a stretching pro, read on for tips and tricks to keep your lobes and other piercings healthy as you slowly work up to your goal size.
- Prepare your piercing
Before you start the process of ear lobe stretching, you first need to make sure the piercing is already healed and ready to go. If you just got it done, it’s best to wait for the full healing time.
For earlobes, the healing time can reach about six weeks minimum. Cartilage piercings may need even longer healing time, like six months to a year. So, resist the urge to rush it.
You’ll also want good-quality starter jewelry in there. Ditch the cheap stuff and go for implant-grade titanium or stainless steel. Your piercing will indeed thank you. Having the right jewelry establishes a solid foundation for stretching. And once everything is fully healed, and you’ve got those quality starter studs or hoops in, then you can start your stretching journey.
- Start with a small gauge size increase
It can be pretty tempting to want to jump right to a bigger gauge size. However, stretching too fast can lead to all kinds of issues! Thus, it’s recommended that you start nicely and slowly, preferably with one gauge size at a time.
Most piercings start at 18g or 1mm. From there, go up to 14g. Let your piercing chill there for a good month or two before sizing up again;12G is next, then 10G when you and your piercer agree it’s ready. Small gauge increases keep trauma to a minimum to reach your goals safely.
It might feel tedious to wait weeks or months between stretches. But being patient with your piercing will ensure the progress will go smoothly to where you want it to be.
- Use proper stretching tools
The tools you use make a big difference when it comes to stretching. So, ditch those acrylic tapers and household items like bobby pins. Those can mess up your piercing by putting too much pressure on one side or introducing bacteria, causing piercing infection. Remember that ear piercing infection is quite common and can happen to 10% – 30% of people.
Instead of acrylic tapers, grab some single flare glass plugs or tunnels. Glass is smooth and nonporous. The single flare gently eases the jewelry into place without forcing it through. You can find quality glass plug kits online or at a reputable piercing shop.
Furthermore, don’t use silicone tapers to stretch. Its uneven shape stresses your piercing. So, do your earlobes a favor and invest in some good tools.
- Lubricate and massage the piercing
You may now have the glass plugs or tunnels ready to go. But before you start inserting anything, it’s best to lubricate the piercing first. You can use natural oils like vitamin E or jojoba to really lubricate the piercing and the new jewelry. Massage the oil into your earlobes or wherever you’re stretching to help relax the tissues and get them prepped to stretch comfortably.
You may also use specially formulated stretching balms if you prefer. Just avoid petroleum-based lubes since they can irritate healing tissues. The key here is to ensure everything is slick and moisturized before insertion. Massage the lobes for at least five minutes before sizing up each time.
- Insert the jewelry slowly and carefully
Your piercing should be all lubed up and ready to accept the new jewelry. It’s time to gently work that taper or plug in. When inserting the jewelry, go slowly and never force it. Stop right there if you meet a lot of resistance or feel a sharp pain. That’s a sign your piercing needs more time at the current size.
Ease the new jewelry through the piercing channel bit by bit, taking breaks as needed. You can gently twist the plug as you insert it to help it slide through smoothly. If using a taper tool, once it’s most of the way in, you can switch it out for the matching gauge plug.
- Look for signs your piercing is ready to size up
When you’ve had your piercing at one gauge for a while, you may be wondering how you would know when you’re ready to size up. You can watch out for these signs below to know that your piercing has adjusted and is ready for the next increment:
- The jewelry goes smoothly without any pinching or resistance. This means the channel has naturally widened to accommodate the new size.
- No more gunk and crusties. Healed piercings won’t have persistent discharge or debris.
- The area looks and feels totally normal. No lingering redness, swelling, or tenderness.
Don’t size up until you have all these indicators your piercing has stabilized at its current gauge. Once it’s sliding in jewelry like butter, you’re healing, and there’s no irritation, you can start prepping to stretch to the next increment gently.
- Know when to stop
Seeing your gauge size increase and your piercing goals get closer can be exciting. But at a certain point, you must know when to stop stretching to avoid complications.
Keep an eye on your earlobe thickness as you stretch – you don’t want them to become super thin and transparent around the jewelry. When it’s too thin, that’s a red flag that you’re overstretching.
More importantly, ensure to continue taking care of your piercing by cleaning it one to two times a day using sterile saline spray or wound wash. Then, lubricate the earlobes with vitamin E oil or stretching balm after cleaning to keep the area supple.
Safely stretching piercings to achieve large gauge sizes requires the correct tools, proper techniques, high-quality jewelry, and patience. Taking the process slowly dramatically reduces the risk of injuries and infections. Here’s to healthy, happy stretching and achieving your piercing goals!
Iskra Banović is our seasoned Editor-in-Chief at BlueFashion. She has been steering the website’s content and editorial direction since 2018. With a rich background in fashion design, Iskra’s expertise spans across fashion, interior design, beauty, lifestyle, travel, and culture.