Wondering how to stretch your ears? You’ve come to the right place.
Read on to find out about the most common methods for stretching, plus troubleshooting and answers and common questions.
Table of Contents
- What Gauge Should You Start Stretching With?
- How Far Can You Stretch Without Permanent Holes?
- How Long Do I Wait Between Stretches?
- Tapers or the Taping Method?
- Frequently Asked Questions
What Gauge Should You Start Stretching With?
This is probably the first question that most people have when they begin stretching. After making sure that your ears are fully healed from the initial piercing, you can start stretching at a 16 gauge. Most regular piercings are at 18 gauge. You'll only want to go one size bigger during each stretch.
You need to remember that your ears have never been stretched before and that they will need to be taken care of. The first step to proper care is to start stretching slowly. Stretching slowly and at the right size will help you stretch more in the future.
How Far Can You Stretch Without Permanent Holes?
When it comes to stretching "beyond the point of no return, you’ll hear a different answer from everyone you ask.
Every person's ear lobes are different and have different elasticity. However, we won't know what exactly that point is until we reach it.
Most professionals in the piercing world suggest going no larger than a 0 gauge, preferably a 2 gauge, if you want your ears to shrink back to standard size. If you stop at this point, you should have no problem with your ears shrinking back. Of course, you have to keep in mind that every person is different – some people find that their ears don’t shrink back at all.
Stretching slowly can be a huge factor in whether your lobes will go back to standard size. As said in the beginning, stretching slowly and carefully will help with your earlobe health. If you took your time and didn't skip sizes, this will greatly affect your chances of your ear lobes being able to shrink back down to normal. If you have stretched way too fast and tore your earlobes, it's going to be harder for your earlobes to shrink back down to a normal size. There are so many reasons to not skip sizes when stretching, and this is a big one!
Have you stretched too far and are scared that your ear lobes are never going to shrink down to standard size? That’s possible if you’ve stretched to a very large size.
After a certain point, there’s one way to get your ears back to normal and it's surgery. Something that you want to keep in mind before stretching is the fact that you may need surgery if you stretch too big and then change your mind. Another reason to take good care of your lobes!
How Long Do I Wait Between Stretches?
This is also another popular question that has a lot of opinions. Because of the fact that everyone's body reacts differently, this answer varies.
It is recommended that you wait at least 6 weeks in between stretches. This will give your earlobes time to heal up and become a little loose.
However, we recommend that you wait 2-6 months between each stretch. This will really give your lobes the optimal time to heal, reduce the risk of tearing, let your ear lobes thicken up, and get your circulation back in your skin.
Your earlobe is a part of your body and it needs taken care of! Remember, if you want to get to a large size, the key is to stretch slowly!
How to Stretch
Now that you know that basics of stretching, it’s time to get to the how-to!
There are two popular methods for stretching:
- The Taping Method
Using tapers is probably the most common method, especially at smaller sizes.
Once you get to 0g and larger, the taping method makes it easier to stretch gradually when there are larger jumps between sizes.
To begin your ear stretching journey, you'll need to know all about tapers. A taper is going to help you safely stretch your ear over time.
- 1. To stretch with tapers, the first thing you need to do is wash your hands and anything going in your ear lobe. This will help keep the stretch clean and reduce the risk of infection.
- 2. Next, you'll want to pick a lubricant. You can use jojoba oil, vitamin e oil, or any other lubricant oil. The lubricant with help the taper go in easily and reduce the risk of tearing your lobe.
- 3. Put the lubricant on the taper and your earlobe and then slowly put the taper in. You should do this slowly and it shouldn't be painful. You don't need to rush through this process, but your ear should stretch pretty easily.
- 4. Once you have the taper through, you'll put the plug in right after.
We have a big selection of tapers made from different materials here on UBJ.
Tapers are normally made out of acrylic or stainless steel and are exactly as they sound: tapered. They are round at one end, normally the gauge that you are going up to, and then taper down to a point for easy insertion. First, you'll need to learn all the details about sizes and material. These are very important factors when picking the right taper.
Acrylic tapers are going to be your cheapest option. The material isn't good to wear since it can hold bacteria, but you can stretch with it if you need to. You'll need to make sure you wash everything beforehand because if you happen you tear your ear, the acrylic has more of a risk of carrying bacteria than steel. Don't get me wrong, they are okay to stretch with (though not to wear!), but we recommend steel.
Steel tapers are recommended for a few reasons. They are easier to stretch with than acrylic because they are slicker than acrylic. Steel is able to be sterilized which results in a safer stretch because you won't be accidentally introducing bacteria. They are in the same shape as the acrylic tapers; just in a different material.
Concave Steel Tapers
The concave steel tapers are just like the steel tapers; they're safe to stretch with since they can be sterilized and are easier to use than acrylic.
However, there is something special about these tapers compared to others: the concave part. This means that they have a dip in the back where you can put your new plugs at. As you're pushing the tapers through, this puts the new plug in place without the hassle of having to wait until your ear is ready to put the new size in. With steel tapers, when you stretch you normally have to wait a bit or fight with the new, bigger plugs to get them in. This is what makes the concave tapers better. They make the job quick and easy. These tapers are a bit more expensive than acrylic or steel, but they are worth the few extra dollars!
The Tape Method
The tape wrapping method is usually used once you get above a 0 gauge. The tape wrapping method helps to stretch your lobes slowly and carefully. It is used by a lot of people who stretch over an inch as well.
- 1. Take tape (we will talk about the kinds of tape a little later) and wrap it around your current plugs about two or three times. This may not seem like a lot but it makes a difference in size!
- 2. Lubricate the plugs, put them in your ears, and let them heal
- 3. Repeat every 2-3 weeks until you get to a bigger size.
The few wraps of tape on your plugs will help to slowly and safely stretch your ears.
Taping takes longer than using a taper, but it will help you keep your ear lobes thick and healthy for the bigger sized gauges.
Most people assume that they can use regular tape, electrical tape, or duct tape but this is not true! You'll want to use tape that is not only safe for your ears but is also thin enough to use properly. You can use PTFE tape and Bondage tape.
PTFE is a great and inexpensive tape that you can use to stretch. The good things about it is that it is very reasonable in price, non-adhesive so it only sticks to itself, super thin so you can slowly increase your size, and it doesn't irritate your ears like some tapes do (such as electric tape). It is about ½" in width so it fits well on almost all plugs under 1 inch.
Bondage tape is the second best tape used during the taping method. The bondage tape is self-adhesive just like the PTFE tape. It is wide enough to fit on your plugs but thin enough to be able to stretch with. It’s smooth which makes for easy insertion after you have wrapped your plugs over and over, and it’s also just as safe as PTFE (but just a little more expensive).
Frequently Asked Questions
Will stretching too fast really hurt my ear lobes?
Simply put, yes! Skipping sizes or stretching when your ear aren't healed can cause a lot of problems. You can easily tear your ears. This can introduce infection, pain and bleeding, as well as hurt the elasticity in your ears. When you stretch your ears too quickly, you really aren't stretching your ears, but tearing your skin.
This is the reason we recommend that you wait at least a month between stretches, if not longer. If you stretch slowly, you will be able to stretch your ears much bigger in the end. Stretch slowly and never skip sizes!
Gross, ear funk! Why do I get it and how can I fix it?
Ear funk, also commonly called ear cheese, is the gross smell that you'll notice once you start stretching your ears. No, this doesn't mean your ear lobes are infected! This is actually a normal reaction that happens when you stretch your ears.
In reality, ear funk is actually dead skin cells. You probably know that, all over your body, dead skin cells fall off as new ones grow. This is what is happening with your ears, but the dead skin cells are held in place by your jewelry. The dead skin cells are building up and create this awful smelling stuff. You can fix it by making sure you wash your ears daily while you're in the shower. Wearing organic plugs also helps to reduce the odor, or using a product like Smelly Gelly or Funk Off Ear Stretching Deodorant.
Blowouts?! How do I fix them?
Blowouts are probably something you've heard of while researching stretched ears. A blowout is another common problem that happens when you stretch too quickly or skip sizes.
All healed piercings form a fistula, a tunnel of skin that your jewelry goes through. When you stretch too fast, this fistula literally is forced out of the piercing. This will leave extra skin around your ears.
If you keep stretching with it, your blowout will just get worse. It can even become permanent, making it much harder to stretch to bigger sizes.
Essentially, what you need to do is take your plugs out and let it heal. You either let them rest with no jewelry, or you can try using plugs that are 2 to 3 sizes smaller than where you were before you stretched. This will keep your ear lobes stretched while also allowing room for your ear lobe to heal.
Healing a blowout is important because it can affect your earlobe health and halt any further stretching. Besides downsizing a few sizes, you can also massage your ears a few times a day with vitamin e oil to help aid the process of healing along.
How do I insert double flared plugs?
Double flared plugs can be a pain to put in. What the flares are made to do is to keep your plug in. Because of this, that means the flares (not the plugs, just the outsides) are slightly larger than the size of your plug that you are putting in.
We recommend using the lubricant of your choice, for example vitamin e or jojoba oil. You can then lubricant both the lobe and the plug and start to put it in sideways. If you are putting the plug in at an angle, you are easing the process of putting this "larger" size in your ear lobe.
Double-flared plugs should only be worn in well-healed piercings. They shouldn’t be painful to put in! Be careful, and if it starts to hurt, wait a few weeks before trying again.
The smaller your ear lobes are, the harder it is to wear double flared plugs. It isn't impossible, but it is a bit harder to put through. You could try the taping method that we mentioned above to help put them in, but you'll need to lubricate them before you take them back out.
How should I care for my piercings?
Keeping your lobes moisturized is important. Not only does it aid in healing, but it also helps your ear lobe circulation and greatly reduces the risk of tearing and blowouts. This will keep your ear lobes thick and healthy and ready to stretch up to the next size. You can use jojoba oil, vitamin e oil, or Holey Butt'r. Taking care of your ear lobes is a vital part of the stretching process!
How do I care for organic plugs?
Organic plugs need to be taken care of just like other plugs. Organic plugs are made out of wood, horns, bones and many other materials. Because they are made of living things, they need to be cared for. You don't need to do a whole routine, but you need to make sure that you know what you'll need to do to take care of them. For example, if you're using wood plugs, you'll need to know that when they get wet that will expand. And when you are using bone to make sure to use jojoba oil on them. This will keep the plugs looking nice and shiny just as if you were washing your steel plugs.
Do I have an infection? How do I treat it?
Be on the lookout for anything unusual like red, swollen ear lobes, extreme itching, discharge, or a warmth coming from your lobes. This more than likely means that you have an infection.
An infection in your ear lobes needs to be treated like any other infection, as it can cause serious problems. The first thing you'll need to do is to switch your jewelry to something like steel or glass. This will help keep your ear from being irritated first of all. You'll want to downsize a size or two if you've just stretch your lobes as this can be the cause of the infection.
And lastly if you feel that the infection is getting worse, you'll need to see a doctor. Infections are important to get taken care of as soon as possible so that they don't turn into something worse.