While stretching piercings requires a similar routine no matter where the piercing is located, ear cartilage is one of the more difficult areas to stretch. There are currently two piercings located on the upper ear that are most popular for stretching. Similarly, there are two main stretching procedures depending on how big you want your piercing to be. These should both be considered thoroughly since one of them requires more work to heal and have done. That being said, aftercare is much the same as with normal piercings. Make sure you know what you want for your ear cartilage and stretching experience before you choose either way!
Which Cartilage Piercings are Commonly Stretched?
The two most common piercings to stretch on the upper ear are flats piercings (located on the flat part of your upper ear) and conch piercings (located on the rounded inner part of your ear). Stretching either of these piercings will make them easier to see and give them a unique look that will set your piercing apart. The most important question to consider is how large you want your piercing. There are two main methods to get to a larger size: traditional stretching or dermal punching. Traditional stretching is better for smaller sizes, while dermal punching is ideal for larger sizes.
What is Traditional Stretching?
Traditional stretching is the practice of widening your piercing little by little, usually with a small taper. Stretching this way is best if you’re going for a smaller size. Any size up to a 4g can be obtained through traditional stretching if you’re willing to be patient. You would start your piercing at a small size like a 14 or 12g and incrementally stretch up to the size you desire. Every three to four months, you would move up to the next size. This may seem like a slow process, but keep in mind that cartilage piercings are significantly more difficult to stretch than piercings on soft tissue. Cartilage piercings simply take longer to heal from that trauma. Be sure to take your time if you’re going for a smaller size.
If you are unsure about this method, try using traditional stretching to go up a size from your current size and see if you like it. This will ensure you are able to handle the pain management, as well as the healing process, before making a more serious commitment. You can always return to your normal size if you don’t like it.
What is Dermal Punching?
If you’re thinking of stretching to a larger size, dermal punching may be the way to go. Dermal punching is recommended for sizes larger than a 4g so that there is no prolonged stress of stretching on the cartilage. Instead of a slow process, dermal punches remove the entirety of the desired tissue so that your piercing is instantly a larger size. This is a more intense procedure, but it’s done in a snap and there’s no slow stretching involved. The healing process is consistent with healing a regular piercing, but there will be more swelling the first week or two since a larger chunk of tissue has been removed.
Keep in mind that there is some legal grey area around dermal punching. It isn’t exactly legal or illegal and many piercers do not want anything to do with it because of this. Dermal punching is also a more technical procedure than piercing since it requires removing living tissue. Seeking a dermal punch will require some homework. You will have to find someone who will do the procedure and they may not be in your immediate area. This option is obviously more involved and should only be sought out if you’re absolutely sure that you’re ready for a large cartilage piercing.
What Jewelry Looks Good in Stretched Cartilage?
Whichever stretching method you choose; single flare jewelry is a good idea for any sort of stretching. Single flare jewelry has a flare on the front of the jewelry to keep it intact, but with an open-ended back, so it will slide on easily to a stretched piercing. Glass tack plugs are popular single flare styles that are easy to use since they are rounded on the back. Glass tacks also make healing easier since there’s no rough edges to deal with during insertion. They are relatively common jewelry and should be available at any piercing shop.
How do I Care for a Stretched Piercing?
Whether you chose the dermal punch or traditional stretching method, the aftercare for each piercing is largely the same. Salt-water spray is of the best ways to care for your healing piercing. NeilMed makes a great salt-water spray that is sold at most piercing shops and it’s very simple to use. Wash your hands and use the spray on both the front and back of your piercing. This will ensure any build up that may have accumulated will be loosened up and no longer irritate your piercing. You can take the corner of a paper towel and gently remove the debris. Try not to move your piercing as much as possible.
It is a good idea to keep a close eye on your piercing the first week or two if you chose the dermal punch. Swelling will be more pronounced on these piercings and more frequent cleaning is preferred. Being attentive and keeping the area clean will decrease the chance of infection or complications.
Another simple way to clean your cartilage piercing is in the shower. Hold or stand under the showerhead and rinse your piercing. This should help to irrigate your ear cartilage so that any build-up is washed away, and it stays clean.
Cartilage stretching is a process that should be considered carefully. It will either require lots of prolonged time and healing between each stretch, or a more invasive and technical procedure that is more intense to heal. However, the outcome of these processes is worth the wait and offers personality that other piercings can’t match. Make sure you consider all of the above before making your choice!
Disclaimer: If you have any questions or concerns about your piercings please visit your local Professional Piercer or Medical Doctor.