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Ear Stretching 101: What to Know Stretching Earlobe Piercings

Ear Lobe Stretching

Stretching ears (Ear Stretching), also known as earlobe piercing stretching or "ear gauging", is the action of purposefully expanding the piercing hole of the earlobes to become enlarged so that new jewelry can fit into the stretched ear piercing holes.

Ear Stretching involves proper methods to stretch, using particular kinds of tools, proper use of time while preventing issues when stretching those delicate lobes, and it has been a practice used in many cultures for thousands of years.

Traditionally used primarily for beauty purposes and signifying social status, the practice of stretching ears has been used to enhance one's look, with bigger ears representing higher-rank for men and signifying a girl reaching womanhood for women, according to American Academy of Pediatrics (2017). Ear spools and ear flares preceded the ear plugs and tunnels that are well known today for stretched ears jewelry. The entire Ear Stretching History is fascinating, if you're interested in how this practice came to be.

Today, ear stretching right requires a multi-disciplined approach for knowing sizes, timelines and caring for the stretched ears throughout the stretching journey. As a result, questions arise regarding how to start ear stretching. We answer that question along with cover similar topics in this guide.


👂 Ear Stretching Guide

Gradually increasing the size of a piercing hole in your earlobe to accommodate larger pieces of jewelry like plugs (sometimes incorrectly referred to as "gauges") is what ear stretching is all about. But don't get too excited - stretching too fast can potentially lead to unwanted issues. So patience is key, and following best practices for safe ear stretching is a must.

Here are the topics we're covering in this guide:

With the Plug Your Holes brand offering a variety of quality stretched ear jewelry for stretching, this guide is here to help you along your journey. Since 2006, over time and with dedicated efforts, we know how the diameter of the earlobe piercing holes increase from widths spanning from the size of a needle up to an impressive 5.5-inch radius, if desired.

Stretching ears is a way to show off a unique personality and artistic flair, with various adornments such as ear plugs, tunnels, tapers and hanger weights available for purchase. Plus, there are many different types of jewelry available for stretched ears, from dangles, teardrops, and more. Ears are the most popular type of piercing so it’s no wonder that stretching them has become so popular in recent years.

We'll explore the basics of earlobe stretching and learn about recommended methods for starting your stretch. In the basics to ear stretching, we will cover what you need to know to "gauging-up" stretching sizes along with a quick checklist for what to expect.

Remember, stretching your ears is a journey, not a race!


Stretching Your Earlobes: The Basics

Healthy stretched ears are the desired outcome when stretching earlobes.

Ear piercings naturally expand over time, particularly when consistently wearing heavy earrings that add pressure and stretch the skin tissue of the earlobes. Deliberately stretching earlobes, though, helps you to arrive at the body art altercation quicker.

Earlobe stretching is like a slow-motion magic trick for your ears, though. But before you start, here are some definitions to know:

  • Ear Stretching: This is the process of gradually increasing the size of your ear piercing hole by inserting larger pieces of jewelry over time.

  • Gauging: Gauging is just a fancy word for increasing the size of piercing holes using the unit of measurement, Gauge (g), size of your stretched piercings. It's essential to monitor your advancement so you don't stretch too far unintentionally.

  • Sizing Chart: Sizes range from 20 gauge (the smallest) to 00 gauge or beyond. Make sure you understand the sizes before you start stretching.

  • Piercing Care: Cleanliness is key when it comes to earlobe stretching. You don't want any bacteria hanging out in your ear holes. Regular cleaning with a saline solution or mild soap will help prevent infections.

  • Material Matters: Not all materials are created equal when it comes to earlobe stretching. Surgical steel and glass are good choices for beginners because they're hypoallergenic and less likely to cause irritation. More options for materials to stretch are also available.

Commitment is essential for stretching, but you must be patient to maintain healthy lobes.

Even starting with smaller sizes from an initial piercing, like, 20g, 14g or 16g to stretch are fine to start, to progress slowly up towards your desired size. The beginners guide to ear stretching is ideal for taking your original piercing hole to the next size-up if its your first time, and the rest of this guide will help you navigate all about stretching from that point so you can plug your holes, properly.


How does ear stretching work?

Stretching works by widening piercing holes, slowly over time, using body-safe materials to insert into ear piercing holes. There are some basic guidelines that should always be followed when performing an ear stretch in order to safely increase the size of your ear holes without causing any damage.

Before starting to stretch, you need the piercing site healed completely. Then, you can start the journey of slowly expanding the piercings. You begin stretching with your current piercing size, ensuring your ears are properly sanitized prior to stretching.

1. Cleanse Earlobes: Hygiene is essential during this process to keep bacteria at bay. Soak the earlobes twice daily in warm salt water solution (using 1/4 tablespoon of salt per cup of water).

2. Start Slowly With Small Gauges And Gradually Increase Size Over Time: Choose the appropriate size of jewelry for your current piercing. Patiently progress by gradually increasing the size of your jewelry over time while allowing ample healing periods between stretches (typically at least one month).

Stretching ear piercings involves gradually increasing the size of the jewelry to expand the hole. To do this safely and effectively, it's crucial to understand how gauge sizes work.

Gauging, in this process, involves gradually expanding the pierced holes in earlobes, and each stretch aims to take the ear lobe further so it can comfortably fit the next size up of larger-sized jewelry. The final stretch goal can vary from person to person; some may aim for a small gauge for smaller-sized plugs while others might desire larger plugs.

Gradually increasing the size of your ear piercing hole is the name of the game. Always give your body enough time to heal before moving onto the next size. For safe stretching, know how to stretch the ears properly.


How to Stretch Ears

Proper stretching technique is crucial to ensure a successful stretching process. Always start with a fully healed piercing and use a lubricant to ease the insertion of jewelry. Whether you're continuing from a previous stretch or wanting to know how to gauge your ears properly, it's essential to stretch gradually, increasing size by no more than 1-2 millimeters at a time, and waiting at least a month between stretches.

Safety First: Always ensure your hands and equipment are clean prior to handling your piercings. Use sterile jewelry.

Next follow the guidance for stretching the ears from the comfort of your own home:

  1. Stretch Slowly

Stretch ears slowly. It is important to gradually increase the size of your jewelry by stretching slowly in order to avoid potential issues ranging from mild to serious as stretched piercings are susceptible to infection and damage, if not properly stretched. That's why it's crucial that you take things slow when stretching.

  1. Start with the appropriate gauge size

Start stretching ears by using the appropriate gauge size for your piercings. Always start with the current gauge size for your earlobes and stretch up one size at at time. Refer to a gauge sizing chart to consider which size to stretch to next.

  1. Wear Appropriate Jewelry

Wear appropriate jewelry when stretching ears. The process of “ear gauging” is carried out using an array of different sized jewelry: Plugs and Tunnels are the common jewelry for stretched earlobe piercings.

Listen to Your Body: If something doesn't feel right during any stage of the stretching process - stop immediately and seek professional advice if needed. Don't force your ears to stretch beyond their limits and always prioritize your health and safety.

Ear Piercings can be stretched to a larger sizes at a frequency that your earlobes allow, which is why we cover the timing to expect in stretching-up.


The Timeline Instructions for Stretching Ears

Wait enough time for your ears to completely heal before the next stretch. Know when to stretch, and when to rest. No matter which size to begin, stretching is a gradual process which requires giving the earlobe time to adjust and heal before progressing to the next size. For a more comprehensive analysis, review the Ear Stretching Timeline to help you use your time efficiently throughout the stretching process.

This timeline helps you to avoid potential issues when stretching over time. Remember that everyone's body heals differently, so listen closely to what yours tells you sizing-up.


Sizing-Up: The Ear Stretching Sizes

When it comes to stretching, "sizing-up" means increasing your earlobe's piercing hole size gradually. Start at your current gauge size and work your way up to your desired size.

To find your current gauge size, examine the ear stretching sizes to determine the current size of your earlobe holes. From there, one size up from that is the perfect size to aim for in stretching the earlobes next.

A standard piercing gauge size varies anywhere from 20g to 14g with 20g being microscopic holes and 14g resembling more of a regular piercing -- however, it's based on which piercing needle your piercer used so it's always important to double-check your current sizes before stretching.

Understanding sizes is crucial before embarking on a stretching adventure. Below is a size chart to reference during your stretching journey.

[Tk: Size Chart Image]


To help you understand the difference of sizes used in body jewelry, check out the video produced by Plug Your Holes Founder, Sam Dean:


To understand the variance of sizes used in body jewelry, check out the video:


To understand how big is too big when it comes to stretching ears, check out this video:


During sizing-up, consider aesthetics and human biology factors like skin elasticity. Piercing hole elasticity depends on various factors, and slower stretching increases the chances of it returning to normal, if desired. In her 2009 book titled The Piercing Bible: The Definitive Guide to Safe Body Piercing published by Cross Press, author Elayne Angel said, “The slower you go, the better you will preserve your tissue elasticity, which increases the chances that the hole will shrink back down if jewelry is removed.” Massaging your lobes daily with natural oils like jojoba or coconut oil can also help keep your skin healthy and promote healing after each stretch.

Take your time when progressing to larger sizes - give your body the chance to become accustomed before making a jump. Patience is key. It's important to wait between stretches to avoid damaging your piercing. As you progress to larger gauge sizes for stretching piercings, the waiting period between stretches typically extends.


What are the recommended methods for stretching your ears?

The top methods for stretching include the Taping Method, Tapering Method and the use of jewelry. If using the Dead Stretching Method, it's important to use additional caution as you want to be careful to stretch properly with that technique. Before getting started, it's important to understand the best methods for stretching.

If you're increasing the size of your earlobe piercings from a small to medium size, it's common to use tapers. Once you reach sizes of 8mm (0g) or larger, it's safer and easier to use the taping method, especially when you want to go up by larger increments.

Things needed for using the ear stretching methods, include:

✔️ Tapers for Stretching: Tapers are cone-shaped tools that gradually increase in diameter, allowing for a slow and safe stretch. For those wanting to expand their earlobes, stretching ears with tapers are the recommended starting point. The size of your current piercings and the extent to which you'd like them to expand will determine the method employed. Using tapers or alternative stretching methods that can also be used to help safely stretch the ears. However, you can also stretch ears without tapers (e.g. using tape and plugs).

✔️ Plugs for Stretching: No doubt, you will need jewelry items, such as plugs, to insert into the stretched holes for reinforcing the stretch after each stretching session. Choose from body safe materials and be mindful of the piercing site to identify any issues, if issues arise.

✔️ Lubricant for Stretching: To help prevent unwanted issues, always use ample amounts of Ear Stretching Lubricants such as applying to lobes with jojoba oil applying it to the jewelry itself. Use a water-based lubricant to ease the stretching process. Additionally, try stretching when your skin is more pliable due to the heat from taking a warm shower or by using a hot compress.

In addition to proper stretching techniques, we recommended an alternative option for safe stretching with the use of a variety of tools commonly found in ear stretching kits. An ear gauge kit such as the Essentials Plugs and Tunnels Pack includes several pairs of ear stretching jewelry, which everything you need for a safe and successful stretch.

Plugs and a lubricant are necessary tools when stretching. A kit is optional. With the proper tools and techniques, it's possible to safely and properly stretch your ears without any issues. When stretching you also want to be aware of the type of material that your jewelry is made of for ensuring that the material of the jewelry won't cause potential issues neither.

What materials are commonly used for ear stretching jewelry?

Common stretching materials for jewelry include surgical steel, glass, silicone, and wood. Surgical steel is hypoallergenic and durable, making it ideal for those with sensitive skin. Glass is smooth and easy to clean, while natural materials like wood provide a unique appearance but may require more care and cleaning.

Stretching is a personal journey, and the material you choose plays a crucial role. No matter what ear stretching material you choose, always ensure that your body piercing jewelry is clean before inserting into stretched ear lobes first.

Why is the material of ear stretching jewelry important?

The material of your jewelry can affect your comfort and healing process when stretching ears.

What should I consider when choosing ear stretching jewelry?

When choosing jewelry, consider the material, size, shape, and design. When selecting stretching jewelry, think about the material that works best with your skin type and daily habits.

With all of the material options available, it's essential to use the right materials when stretching and follow a proper method to properly care for the ears.

Caring for Stretched Ears

Caring for your stretched ears is crucial to have healthy stretched ears. For healthy stretched ears, follow these recommendations:

  • Clean: Wash your ears daily with a mild antibacterial soap to remove bacteria buildup. This helps prevent infections and keeps the stretching process hygienic.

  • Sterilize: Regularly clean your jewelry using appropriate methods based on their specific material type to avoid infection or irritation. Always sterilize before inserting them into your lobes.

  • Maintain: Regularly moisturize your lobes to keep them healthy and flexible.

Use safe practices for ear stretching care. By following these simple tips for properly caring for your ears, you can keep your stretched ears healthy and happy. Follow aftercare instructions to prevent infection and promote healing while stretching, though.


What is the proper aftercare routine for stretched ears?

A proper aftercare routine for stretched ears can help you minimize the risk of infection while promoting healthy stretching.

Aftercare is vital in maintaining healthy stretched earlobes and preventing potential issues.

For additional insights on aftercare, check out the video produced on this topic:

Remember, proper aftercare is essential for healthy and happy stretched ears. If you notice symptoms like itchy gauges, redness inside the stretched area, soreness, or an unpleasant smell from the piercing site, these could be signs of improper aftercare techniques or signal potential issues ranging from mild to serious.

Now we'll cover more of the risks of the risks to look out for when stretching.


What are some common complications of ear stretching?

There are risks associated with stretching that you want to avoid. Unhealthy stretched ears can be caused by many factors, including, stretching too quickly, using the wrong stretching methods which can cause serious issues like blowouts, thinning of skin, and even long-term disfigurement.

A mild issue with stretching is dead skin cells that can accumulate in the lobes resulting in an undesirable ear cheese odor, for instance. To learn more about the stinky odor derived from improper stretching, check out the video on ear cheese below:

The ear stretching complications can include infection, scarring, tearing, and keloids. In extreme blowout cases, ear tissue tears can result in the earlobe detaching from the head. These can be prevented, though, by choosing the right jewelry, cleaning your jewelry and ears regularly, and stretching your ears slowly.


Does it hurt to stretch your ears?

It should never feel too stressed or painful when stretching your ears. Pain is a sign of stretched piercings gone wrong.

To learn more about piercings gone wrong, check out the video below:

If the progression of stretching your ears isn't working for you, there is always the possibility of downsizing to reverse the process.


Downsizing and Reversibility of Ear Stretching

A stretched ear can be downsized if you didn't stretch it too far. The earlobe hole will shrink back gradually without the use of jewelry, and this works as long as you don't stretch it beyond the point of no return. We'll cover the factors for reversibility, how far you can go for considering downsizing and explore the point of no return in our final section to this guide.


Is ear stretching reversible?

Yes, it is reversible if you didn't stretch it beyond the point of no return. Since the earlobe is made of soft skin and fatty tissue, the elasticity of the earlobe is conducive to enabling you to revert back to the a more manageable piercing hole when they shrink back. However, not all stretched holes will shrink back to their original piercing size.

What factors determine the possibility of your earlobes returning to their original size?


How can you downsize your stretched ears?

Most experts advise to gradually downsize stretched ears just like you would size-up: by going one size at a time. Since the natural tendency of a piercing hole is to shrink without the use of jewelry, it's common practice to use stretching jewelry one size down to insert into the shrinking hole until it is noticeable, and from that point, using smaller gauge sized jewelry.

The concept is to repeat the process (of using incrementally smaller sized jewelry) until you arrive at your desired size or have the piercing hole close-up (by removing jewelry entirely) at a certain point.


How far can you stretch the lobes before leaving permanent holes?

Wondering about the point of no return in ear stretching? Generally, it falls around the 0g-00g mark. If you remove your gauges permanently at this stage, your ears may not shrink back completely. This varies from person-to-person due to individual healing abilities and skin elasticity but generally occurs around the 0-00g mark. At this stage, if you decide not to wear plugs anymore, your ears might not shrink back completely leaving them permanently stretched.

4g to 6g is typically the range referenced by experts when determining whether the piercing hole itself will close-up without the use of jewelry.


Stretching Ears Takeaway

Now that you know how to stretch your ears, you might be excited to begin enjoying a successful stretching experience with this timeless body modification approach. By using these tips on caring for your stretched ears with the help of appropriate maintenance routines and aftercare procedures, you're now empowered to stretch responsibly; your lobes will thank you later.

If you're ready to get started stretching, you can get started by checking out our products and feel free to contact us anytime if you have any questions.

Disclaimer: Any statements made within this website are based on a combination of vast professional experience, common sense, along with extensive research and practice. No products produced, manufactured, marketed, or distributed are intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease, and should not be misconstrued as medical advice. If you suspect a medical emergency, seek professional attention. Consult your physician before beginning any piercing stretching, if you suspect any concern based on personal circumstances.