The Piercer's Corner - Stretching

Stretching

I get quite a few people call or come by the shop to inquire about stretching and I am amazed how many people have mis-information and think their friends are experts on the subject. So, I thought I would take a moment to clarify some very important details of this ever growing popular practice.

Stretching or gauging as it is commonly referred to is a body modification practice that allows someone to enlarge a body piercing to accommodate a larger size of jewelry. This practice is repeated until the desired size is achieved. You can do this an unlimited number of times as long as it is done correctly. Incorrect practices can result in tears, bleeding with increased chance of infection and potential scarring which can make future sizes painful and downright difficult. Stretching should be a slow, NON PAINFUL practice. If it hurts, then you are rushing your body. The process is a journey that takes patience and dedication where your optimal size is the “pot of gold” at the end of the rainbow.

Nearly any piercing in the body can be stretched. However those considered surface piercings risk migration and rejection. These typically are eyebrow, navel, and nape. If the piercings entry and exit holes aren’t parallel to each other, the risk of rejection are greater.

General time frames to move up a size is as follows:

  • Earlobes: 2-3 months
  • Oral Cavity: 2-3 months
  • Soft Tissue: 6 months on average
  • Cartilage: 6-12 months
  • Genitals: 3-12 months

A good rule of thumb is one stretch every other month. The longer you wait, the healthier your ears will be – this is important if you ever wish to downsize

Stretching a piercing is a very individual act, and every body is different. Your skin may be more or less elastic, or your body may heal faster or slower, so it is best to simply pay attention to what your body is telling you. Stretching should not be painful, nor should you have to ‘force’ anything into your piercing.

Are your earlobes gonna shrink down? That is a difficult question to answer. Every body is different and therefore everyones shrink up point will vary. Stretching is not an exact science and should not be taken lightly.

Before discussing methods it is important to note that it is very important that you take your time, listen to your body, allow adequate healing time and only stretch one size at a time. The development of scar tissue resulting from improper stretching can make future stretching painful or impossible, affect blood flow to the ear resulting in tissue thinning, and greatly reduce the chances that your ears (or any other stretched piercing) will ever shrink in size should it be necessary.

Before and after each stretch you should be massaging your lobes or newly stretched piercing to increase blood circulation. Blood brings nutrients, and essentially “life” to our body parts. Increasing the circulation will keep the tissues pliable, help heal the tissues in anticipation of moving up to the next size.

One method that I just love is using a product by SnapPlugs. It is a integrated, seamless stretching system that allows the user to move up many increments between main sizes, and this can bee done in your own home and on your terms and timeframe. Once you have us help you get up to size 4g, you can pick up the first series for only $20 and go from 4g to 0g all on your own. If you want to continue you can pick up series 2 for $29.99 which will take you from 0g to 1/2″.

Of course to get you to the 4g size to use the SnapPlugs I would help you get there by using tapers. A taper is a piece of smooth, tapered material which is smaller than the size of your piercing on one end and the next size you wish to get to on the other side.

Another great way to get through sizes comfortably and safely is using weights. Historically, weight has been used across many cultures as a way to stretch piercings. It is possible to stretch using heavy jewelry (solid stone plugs at larger sizes, for example), by wearing jewelry specifically design to act as a hanging weight, or by wearing weight through tunnels. Weight through tunnels is the healthiest method for stretching because it allows you to vary the amount of weight, and the tunnel allows the weight itself to be distributed across a larger surface area. We offer some amazingly beautiful weights, both in house and by custom order from Glasswear Studios and Gorilla Glass. We can also order more adorned, hand crafted pieces from South America if that is the style you desire. Weight should only be used periodically and you should permit your lobes extra time to relax after their use.

If the jewelry won’t go in easily, the piercing is not ready. Do not force your body to do things it is not ready to do, you will only be impeding your own progress later and doing yourself a disservice.

What is the lesson here? Be patient, diligent, listen to your body and don’t worry about costs. You are not in a race and no, your friends do not know better. Remember, you get what you pay for. Safe, quality jewelry and safe and sanitary body piercing is not cheap. There is an old saying that goes “A cheap tattoo isn’t good and a good tattoo isn’t cheap”, body modification is just the same.