Piercing Stretching 101: What to Know Stretching Body Piercings
A place to learn about the world of piercing stretching and stretching jewelry. Especially Plug Your Holes here since 2006. The most recent articles are published below, or you can go directly to the separate blogs at these links to learn more.
Ear stretching piercing holes and stretching septum piercing sites, known collectively as Piercing Stretching, involves the widening of a healed piercing hole to expand for the purposes of wearing particular kinds of body jewelry.
Stretching a part of the body requires careful attention and patience as improper stretching, such as stretching too fast, can potentially cause unwanted complications. The push for assisting family physicians about the potential issues that may arise from body piercings stretched improperly at the local-level has been an initiative championed by experts since the beginning of the 21st century according to researchers at The American Family Physician (2005). There's still work to do in educating the public about stretching properly, though.
As a result, questions arise regarding how to stretch body piercings, the proper methods to stretch, which kinds of jewelry is right for stretching, along with a requirement to start with a healed piercing site before stretching. In this guide to piercing stretching, we evaluate the most popular types of piercing stretching sites, best ways to stretch and more tips so you can wear the perfect kind of jewelry when stretching.
Only those with stretched piercings can wear the gorgeous body piercing jewelry that PlugYourHoles.com is known for, and in this guide, we delve into the world of stretching piercings: covering everything from gauge sizes and proper techniques to different types of jewelry and accessories used in the process.
Stretching Piercing Guide
As the piercing hole expands, the increased size allows you options for more elaborate jewelry available to you. The safest method to stretch the piercing hole is by way of stretching to allow the jewelry, up to 1 gauge larger than your current piercing size, to stay in place in the piercing for an extended amount of time.
If you're thinking of stretching your piercings, this guide covers the stretchability of body piercings, how to extend piercings securely, and the most suitable practices for stretching.
What is a Gauge Piercing?
The term Gauge Piercing refers to a stretched piercing. Gauge (g) specifies the diameter (width size) of the jewelry which can be worn comfortably in the stretched piercing hole, and gauge is considered a unit of measurement in stretched body piercings.
- The gauged ears meaning comes from the gauge piercing convention in which "gauging" a body piercing essentially means: to stretch it.
- When gauging a septum, it follows the principle of stretching the piercing to a larger size, and also uses the same gauge measurement system.
Gauging involves stretching an existing piercing to accommodate larger and more interesting pieces of jewelry, in general.
Sizing is counterintuitive, though. With Gauges' Sizes, as the numeric value increases, the smaller the thickness of the jewelry becomes. So if you want to stretch piercings, you stretch the piercing hole bigger, and select appropriate sized jewelry using the sizing chart.
How do Gauge Sizes for Stretching Piercings Work?
Gauge sizes, which measure the thickness of jewelry in America, are distinct from millimeters that are usually used elsewhere around the world. As the thickness of a piercing's earrings get wider, their corresponding gauge size measurement decreases. For example, a 14-gauge earring is smaller than a 12-gauge one. The standard size for piercings ranges between 20g and 14g.
Everywhere else but America uses the metric system, so you have multiple measuring systems for consideration before determining the desired size you need for your piercing hole/s. A 160 year old measuring system and the conversion problems that have stemmed from the popularity of body jewelry around the world, the video below from Founder of PlugYourHoles, Sam Dean, provides for details:
Stretching is the gradual enlargement of a piercing hole, transitioning from the current size to a size larger. The current size of the piercing hole dictates the next size up for stretching and ends at your final goal size, going one size at a time.
What is the best way to stretch a piercing?
The best way to stretch a piercing is to do so slowly and gradually for helping to prevent tearing or other damage to the tissue. Ensure the piercing is fully healed, though, before attempting to stretch. Use a lubricant and select the right jewelry and tools to insert into the piercing. Depending on the type of piercing, you could use tools such as tapers, the taping method or more advanced techniques to help stretch the piercing.
If you're looking to stretch your piercing, slow and steady is the way to go. Once you're ready, choose appropriate jewelry and tools for insertion into the piercing.
For example, a method of stretching ears involves the use of wraps of tape (e.g. bondage tape) which typically yields better results than the use of Dead Stretching. The actual stretching process you use is important. Depending on the type of piercing you are stretching, it may end of up being a permanent choice (e.g. septum piercing stretches are typically permanent), temporary (e.g. ear stretches can be both temporary of permanent depending on how far you stretch) and some may require a surgical procedure to reverse (e.g. if you change your mind about the piercing in the future). Avoid uneven stretching at all stages, though.
What are the types of jewelry and accessories used for stretching piercings?
Plugs are the most common type of jewelry for stretched piercings. They come in three styles: straight, single-flared, and double-flared. Tapers may be needed to don your chosen jewelry; these are accessories that let you slowly up the size of your piercing while keeping it comfy.
For stretched ears, you can use accessories such an insertion taper using concave tapers (e.g. concave steel tapers or acrylic tapers) to stretch ears with tapers. Alternatively, ears without tapers also works fine with proper piercing stretching methods such as taping and gradually sizing up with larger pieces of jewelry.
Safe materials for stretching jewelry are typically those made of non-porous materials. Non-porous materials include stainless steel and glass, as they are considered body safe materials for ear plugs to use when stretching.
In contrast, avoid alternative materials made of biocompatible material such as organic plugs made of wood when stretching, but it is fine to wear those organic materials once the piercing is fully healed from stretching. In general, avoid wood plugs, acrylic plugs, and silicone plugs during stretching phases, but the materials are fine to wear after having a state of completely healed stretched sites.
You can also add some 'flare' to your body jewelry. Flared jewelry options are available in both single flare and double flare jewelry. For example, flared plugs come in both single flare plugs and double-flared plugs as options available for you.
The current jewelry worn during the stretching process can also sometimes be used for various piercings such as clickers usable for both septums and earlobes, and outgrown earrings used as dangles for inserting into tunnels, if desired.
What to Know About Stretching Different Piercings?
Ear piercings and septum piercings are widely popular, and are the top choices for stretched piercings. The desired outcomes when stretching a piercing is usually for the purpose of wearing a bigger type of body piercing jewelry. Below are more guidelines to help you stretch your piercings.
How does Stretching differ based on Piercing Types?
A prolonged and stylized method of enlarging piercing holes is known as stretching piercings which is useful for aesthetic, social, or spiritual reasons. Of the popular piercing sites to stretch, we'll focus on covering what to know about stretching ear piercings and septum piercings by first starting on the most popular of them all: ear piercing stretches.
Stretching Ear Piercing
Ear Piercing Stretching is the most popular piercing site to stretch. Accounts on lobe stretching span thousands of years, first originating from ancient tribal cultures, and the modernized ear stretching process is still popular today. The practice of ear stretching involves gradually increasing the size of the earlobe piercing hole to accommodate larger jewelry. The ear stretching journey is personal one, but always requires a slow process in order to avoid potential complications.
Similar to stretching ear piercings, stretching a nose piercing can be an exciting way to alter your appearance. More recently, young adults show a significant interest in non-earlobe piercings with Pew Research reporting that of young adults surveyed, “23% had piercings in locations other than an earlobe,” according to research conducted by The American Academy of Pediatrics. Nose piercings are the second most popular piercing to stretch.
Since nose piercings are the second most popular piercing to stretch, we'll cover the topic of stretching nasal septum piercings next.
Stretching Nose Piercing
Septum Piercing Stretching are the second most popular piercing site to stretch. Nasal septum piercings can be stretched by inserting progressively larger jewelry. Similar to ear stretching, it's important to wait until the piercing is fully healed before starting the stretching process. The process of septum stretching involves gradually increasing the size of the piercing hole of the septum (between the left and right nostrils) to be enlarged for fitting various styles and sizes of septum jewelry. Nasal septum piercings can take longer to heal than ear piercings, so be patient when stretching these type of piercings, too.
Stretching Different Piercings
Different piercings necessitate varying techniques when it comes to stretching.
Let's recap the 2 Main Types of Piercings that require different stretching approaches:
Earlobe piercings - With a tendency to heal well, earlobe piercings are the most common type of stretched piercing and can accommodate larger jewelry sizes.
Nasal septum piercings - While less common, nasal septum piercings can also be stretched with similar methods. However, it's important to use appropriate jewelry types, such as clickers or plugs designed safely for septum wear.
The stretching journey can be very personal as it's based on your individual preferences of style and desire to stretch, and every body is different so healing times differ as well as skin elasticity. Proceed with the stretching journey of your choice by being understanding all your options for the piercing types available for you to stretch.
Which Types of Piercings are Better for Stretching than Others?
In general, when selecting a piercing type to stretch, consider factors such as your personal style preferences and comfort level with various materials and designs.
Here are some popular piercing sites that are better suited for stretching:
Earlobes: Earlobe piercings are the most common type stretched due to their flexibility and ease in accommodating larger gauge sizes. A regular ear piercing can be stretched up until a point and still shrink to its original size, if desired.
Nasal Septum: The septum is another popular choice for stretching, as it allows you to wear unique and eye-catching pieces like clickers or horseshoes. Unlike a lobe piercing, septum piercings typically won't revert back nor close-up when jewelry is removed.
Tongue: Although less common, tongue piercings can also be stretched using barbells with thicker gauges.
Lip Piercing (Labret): Labret piercings can be safely stretched using internally threaded or threadless labret studs designed specifically for this purpose.
With the common piercings above, you can start stretching at your initial piercing. A fresh piercing needs time to heal before stretching. After a fresh stretch, the piercing hole needs additional time to normalize.
How long does a stretching piercing take to heal?
Recovering from a piercing stretch might take a few weeks, months, or sometimes longer, based on the specific piercing and your body. Additionally, you must allow time for the tissue surrounding the piercing to heal before restretching. The piercing should be fully healed and pliable before graduating to a larger gauge size. How much patience is key for safely stretching?
Below is a helpful chart to guide you determine wait times.
|Piercing Stretching Type
|Wait Time to Heal
|Wait 6 to 12 weeks or longer before the next stretch
|Wait a minimum of three months is required; some may need more time
Waiting additional months for time between stretches is advised if you're unsure whether the piercing has healed appropriately. As a general rule, wait 3 to 4 weeks between each stretch up to 6 to 8 weeks before deciding on stretching again.
You want to allow sufficient time for healing to occur. This way you can avoid complications such as blowouts over time.
What are the issues with stretched piercings?
Common issues with stretched piercings range from experiencing tenderness, inflammation or full blowouts, depending on the specific kind of piercing and its condition. Below are the top issues to avoid when stretching piercings:
Mild Symptoms: A newly stretched piercing is more susceptible to mild tenderness and inflammation surrounding the stretched piercing.
Blowouts: These are more common with existing stretched piercings, and are typically a result of stretching too fast. Blowouts result in a reduction of blood flow coupled with scar tissue building up around the piercing which results in skin tissue pushing out from the piercing hole which is all typically caused by overstretching.
Overstretching: Caused by either stretching a piercing too fast or stretching it too far, overstretching is known for damaging the surrounding tissue, thinning the remaining tissue or ultimately resulting in the loss of the piercing -- sometimes requiring professional assistance.
Forcing Jewelry: Another potential issue with stretched piercings is the forcing of jewelry to fit unnecessarily into a stretched piercing. Forcing excessive pressure isn't necessary for properly stretching piercings. Stop forcing jewelry into the piercing hole if you experience bleeding or excessive discomfort, as the next-sized jewelry should be accepted in the piercing effortlessly when at ease.
When in doubt, opt for sizing up with half-sizes (never more than one full gauge size at a time), and do this once rested between stretches. This way, you can avoid some of the potential complications of stretching such as tissue loss, generating scar tissues or risking permanent damage.
Below are potential complications with body piercings.
Types of Body Piercings
|Allergic reaction, auricular perichondritis, embedded earrings, infection, keloid formation, perichondral abscess, and traumatic tear
|Infection, jewelry swallowing or aspiration, perichondritis and necrosis of the nasal wall, and septal hematoma formation
*Avoid complications when stretching ears such as ear cheese smell from dead skin cells or risking earlobe health due to a potential blowout in ear stretching.
What are recommended solutions to prevent or treat problems with piercing stretches?
To prevent a negative reaction stretching, take the following precautions:
Rest the piercing without jewelry and consider dropping to a smaller size for everyday discomfort from piercing stretches.
Prevent problems by using a lubrication beforehand and using proper stretching practices.
In case of extreme discomfort, visit a professional piercer or medical professional, depending on the severity.
Your current health also plays a factor in healing times so make sure to consider that area in your life when considering to prevent and treat complications so always stretch with care.
How to Care for Piercings After Stretching?
Care for piercings after stretches with proper aftercare. Aftercare practices differ per piercing type, but following aftercare procedures is important for caring for piercing sites after stretches. The general aftercare instructions are provided below and check the aftercare directions per piercing type more detailed guidance (e.g. when to use warm water, Vitamin E oil, antibacterial soap or antimicrobial soap depending on stretching stage using with either an ear or septum stretch), as advised.
Follow best practices to care for your piercings with the following tips:
Proper Hygiene: Use a saline solution ≥ 2 times per day by applying on the piercing itself, and avoid bacterial growth by avoiding unnecessary touching the piercing.
Rest & Relax: Resting the stretched piercing is important for relieving the surrounding skin tissue around the piercing. This is done by removing jewelry to relieve pressure from the heavier jewelry being worn.
Massage & Moisturize: Gently massage the piercing and surrounding area to stimulate healthy blood circulation without the use of jewelry during rest.
Following a proper aftercare routine during your stretches is vitally important. Aftercare steps help to ensure healthy tissue so you can continue to build on your previous stretching successes to rock more elaborate jewelry of your choice.
Seek more guidance for Stretched Piercings, if needed
Stretching your piercing requires patience, technique, and knowledge of gauge sizes, jewelry types, and knowledge about piercing site location-specific differences. When it comes to body jewelry, our team is always here to help you select the perfect type based on your current size.
Time tested advice to help keep your ears looking gorgeous:
Healing, sealing, and great feeling. Ear Butter is just the right flavor of ear stretching care for your ears.
Sam talks about the ingredients and their benefits:
10 fun facts about ear stretching and plugs, just because:
Sam tackles the much requested issue of blowouts and how to deal with them.
What? You thought that there wouldn't be some horror stories surrounding the art of stretching piercings in our ears to preposterous sizes?
Well we asked, and we received. Now here they are!
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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.