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Knowing how to carry out ear lobe stretching properly can help save you from a great deal of pain and grief, because if carried out the wrong way, stretching earlobes can damage your ears.
Ear lobe stretching, also known as ear lobe gauging or earlobe stretching, is a very old practice used by old civilizations as a status symbol or for religious reasons. It was not just restricted to earlobes, and was applied to lips, tongues and other parts of the body, sometimes to monumental levels. The same basic technique is used in each case, irrespective of the part of the body concerned.
Most ear lobe stretching, or gauging, is followed by ear jewelry designed to fit the expanded hole in the lobe. These can be traditional earrings, hanging decorations or even flesh tunnels designed to emphasis the hole through the ear lobe. These can be made of plastic or metal, and often gold since it is a non-allergenic metal.
The first stage is to have your ears pierced in the normal away, although if you intend to stretch the piercing then it is strongly advised that you have the initial piercing carried out by a professional who can pierce your ear to 16 gauge, or 1.2-1.3 mm. The actual millimeter equivalents of the various gauging can vary between sources, but most non-pros can pierce to gauge 20 – 18 (0.8 – 1.0 mm). Needle piercing is preferred to a gun if you intend stretching it.
Gauging drops with increasing hole diameter, so the higher the g number, the smaller the ear piercing. It is very important that your piercing has healed before you start ear lobe stretching, and also that each stage has healed (3 weeks- 3 months according to the person) before going on to the next stage. Never skip sizes, but go up in size (down in gauge) from one level to the next.
Get your tools together, because without the right stretching tools you will make a total mess of it. Never use plastic or wood that can hold bacteria. Surgical steel is best, followed by gold and so on. It must be metal – if you can. If you can, get the tapers autoclaved by a tattoo salon then placed in a clean wrap for you take home. Otherwise boil them first. You should wash the taper with disinfectant before use, and then rub it over with a lubricant such as emu oil or jojoba oil – or anything water based. Vaseline and other oil-based lubricants can store germs, so don’t use these.
Here are the steps:
First have a shower or wash your ears with warm water. This makes them softer and helps prevent tearing. Then wash your hands and earlobe with an anti-bacterial soap – preferably not perfumed. Smear the antiseptic over the taper and then you are all set to start.
Ear Lobe Stretching Methods
There are many methods you can use, such as tapering, Teflon taping, weights and scalpeling that involves cutting out the larger hole with a scalpel, but it is not recommended that you try that yourself! The old method, used by Africans for their ears and lips, involves hanging a weight form the piercing and stretching the hole mechanically. Again not recommended!
The best way for you to use yourself is tapering. There are three basic ways of doing this, but the principle is the same with each: you insert the thin end of the taper into your healed piercing and then work the taper through until the thicker end is reached. There are now three possibilities for tapered ear lobe stretching:
Insertion Taper: This is about 3 inches long, and is gradually inserted into the ear. The earring or other jewelry is inserted right at the back (thicker) of the end of the taper, and then all are pushed right through. The taper comes out and the ring with the larger pin is in your ear.
Taper Spike: This is inserted in the same way as the insertion taper, only the jewelry doesn’t follow. The spike is retained in the hole with elastic bands until it has healed and then the next size is inserted – and so on until the required gauge has been reached.
Taper Ring: The earring itself has a tapered spike that is inserted in the same as above, and then fixed as normal.
Teflon: Basically you add a layer or two of Teflon tape to your ear jewelry and force it into your piercing. Wait a few weeks and then do the same again and so on. It works eventually, but is not as guaranteed as the tapering methods to reach any specific size, and is basically a simple DIY method. This could be tried if you can’t afford the tapers, and not subject to bacterial infection as the other types of polymers or plastics.
You can also use the dead stretching method, involving simply forcing the larger ear jewelry into your smaller piercing. This can hurt and is not recommended, although many use it. It can go wrong if it causes bleeding.
After-Care of Ear Lobe Stretching
Irrespective of the method used, the ear lobe should be washed with anti-bacterial soap after each stretching. Sea salt can be used to keep the piercing clean at a high concentration (about 3 tablespoons in sufficient water to soak your ear lobe in it). Clean it frequently until fully healed before carrying on with the next gauge. Never use any alcohol-based or peroxide-based antiseptic because they can destroy white blood cells and dehydrate the cells around the piercing.
Stick to these rules and you should be able to carry out your own ear lobe stretching and get the result that you want. One important thing to remember: this should not hurt much, and should not bleed. In either of these cases stop, wait until your piercing has healed and try again.