Whether you’re looking to stretch your ear piercings to fit a specific piece of jewellery, or you want a stretch that would make the Maasai peoples of Kenya proud - it’s important to do ear stretching right. Proper technique ensures safety, effectiveness, and achieving the desired look.
Ear stretching is a practice dating back as far as human history, reaching all corners of the globe.
In Egypt, King Tut’s sarcophagus depicts him with stretched ears. Buddha statues always show him with unornamented stretched ears, as a way of showing his rejection of wealth through the removal of jewellery. And in the Americas the Aztecs and Mayans were known to stretch their ears, with ornamentation showing off their status.
Today ear stretching lives on in some cultures, as with the Maasai. But it has also been adopted in Western civilization for its aesthetic and to make its wearer stand out.
Is ear stretching permanent?
Ear stretching isn’t necessarily permanent. But there are a few factors that determine whether or not your ear can recover from the stretching:
- Stretching speed
- Gauge size
Earlobe stretching is not a race. Taking things slowly is the safest bet, especially if you want the option of shrinking the hole one day. Stretching too fast or skipping sizes can cause earlobe tearing, preventing the hole from being able to shrink.
The gauge size you use for ear stretching can affect your ears ability to heal. Unsurprisingly, if you don’t want the stretch to be permanent, smaller gauge sizes are preferable. Most piercing experts recommend gauge sizes between 0 and 2 for those who don’t want permanent stretching.
You can safely go much larger on gauge size if desired, but the ability for the hole to shrink decreases as you go bigger.
Your body’s natural ability to heal, time allowed to heal between stretchings, and following piercing aftercare
all affect the ability to return ears to their original shape. Even if permanency isn’t a concern for you, allowing for proper healing should be. It prevents health complications and pain.
Ear stretching methods
The two most common methods for ear stretching are tapers and taping. Which you use really comes down to how large of a gauge size you’re working up to. Tapers are the preferred method, but once you exceed 0g, most switch to taping.
Ear stretching with tapers
Tapers for ear stretching are solid conical pieces that slide inside your ear piercing. They are often available as singles, but if you are jumping more than one size it is best to purchase a kit. A kit has multiple tapers with incrementally larger gauges. Tapers are most often made of acrylic or steel.
Before inserting each taper your hands, earlobe, and taper should all be washed thoroughly to prevent infection. Then you should lubricate the taper with an oil. Vitamin E oil is a popular choice, but ask your piercing artis
t to make some recommendations when you get the initial piercing.
Place the lubricated taper into your ear piercing. Slide slowly and the piercing should stretch easily. If it is painful or difficult you may have started with too large of a gauge. Decrease the size if this is the case.
Once the taper goes through you can insert the plug. Nice and simple, no wonder tapers are the preferred method.
Taping method for ear stretching
Most people will use tapers until they hit a 0 gauge size. At this point, it’s common to switch over to taping. Taping is as simple as it sounds, you wrap tape around your current plug to expand its size. Usually it involves just 2-4 wraps at a time.
Taping is slower than tapers, but it encourages healthier healing which is imperative for large sizes. PTFE and Bondage tapes are both good options for tape. They are thin enough to use and safe for ears.
You start the process by wrapping tape around your existing plug 2-4 times. Then you wash up, lubricate, insert, and allow to heal. Repeat this process until you get to the next gauge size. Then start again with the next plug, until you reach the desired size.
How long between ear stretches
How long you should wait between stretches does vary from case to case. In part it relies on how long it takes your body to heal and what ear stretching method you are using. Giving enough time is important because it prevents tearing and allows for healthy circulation and recovery.
If you are using the taper method it is best to wait at least 2 months before going up a size. However, for some, longer is better. Wait until the earlobes thicken up and circulation returns. If recovery is slow, you may want to wait as long as 6 months.
When using the taping method the wait time is shorter since the size increase is smaller. Usually you can wait just 2-3 weeks between taping stretches. However, once you hit a new gauge size it can be worthwhile to take a bit longer of a rest to ensure recovery.
Staying safe with stretching ear piercings
Done properly earlobe stretching is safe, involves minimal pain, and is reversible. By following the right safety protocols you can help to improve your chances of a healthy and problem free stretching.
Ear piercing safety starts with picking the best piercing artists
. Look for artists who work in a sanitary, safety-oriented piercing studio. The best piercers have loads of experience and can provide much more advice on aftercare and on ear stretching techniques. When you go in for a piercing, take advantage of their knowledge and ask any questions you need.
Once you pick out your piercing artist and/or studio start preparing for your ear piercing
the day before. Eat well, and stay hydrated. The healthier you are, the easier your recovery.
Even if you follow proper aftercare and progress slowly with stretching you may notice a build up or smell inside your earlobe piercing. Don’t worry, this doesn't necessarily mean an infection. It is fairly common in ear stretching.
The build up is dead skin cells falling off as the stretched piercing repairs itself. This actually just means your body is healing well. But there is something you can do about it. Wash your ears gently every day to clear out the build up and prevent smell. Keep this up until it has fully healed and the build up stops.
If you progress slowly, avoid skipping sizes, and allow yourself time to heal you can have a safe, healthy and reversible ear lobe stretching.