What to Know Before Stretching Your Piercing

What to Know Before Stretching Your Piercing

Stretching in body modification is the gradual enlargement of a piercing, usually to fit larger jewelry. Doing so reveals a new spectrum of options for unique adornment. Stretching ear piercings are the most common form. However, nasal, septum, lip, nipple, and genital piercings can also be stretched.

How far back does ear stretching go?

"Earlobe stretching, like other body modification practices, has been around for thousands of years,” explains Demello, author of the Encyclopedia of Body Adornment, "...but only in the last few years has it become widespread in the united states". She elaborates, "from statues, mummies, and other evidence, we know that stretched ears have been worn in major civilizations around the world, including Egypt, China, and by the Olmecs, Mayans, Aztecs, and Incans.."

"...Tutankhamen, for example, had a stretched ear piercing...In all cases, stretched ears, and the elaborate jewelry worn in them, seem to be associated with elite or royal status and rank. In many cases, we know that the ears were stretched intentionally to wear earplugs, ear spools, and the like. But in other cases, as in China, the ears may have been stretched through the wearing of heavy hanging earrings in regular pierced ears. Today, stretched ears are still worn among some South American and African tribes, and often serves as a rite of passage and a mark of cultural identity for young boys or girls". 


How long does it take to stretch a piercing?

Stretching takes time and commitment so prepare yourself mentally for the patience that will be needed for the journey! No matter the goal, stretch slowly and very gradually from start to finish.

There are various methods to stretch your piercings, but no matter the technique, there are no real shortcuts. Usually, even old piercings that have long been healed won't be able to stretch up to more than one size at a time without causing tissue damage or tearing. Slow stretching is stressed with great importance because the tissue needs a sufficient amount of time in between intervals to heal and “regain its’ suppleness and integrity fully; only then is it safe to go further,” says Angel of The Piercing Bible.

If your eagerness gets the better of you and your lobes are stretched in a hurry, you risk overstretching. Angel explains, "overstretching tends to result in a buildup of scar tissue and reduction of flexibility, which can limit your capacity to stretch in the future—or shrink back to normal, if desired.”

There is no set timeline. However, Angel gives heed to some advice, "after stretching to a thicker gauge, you generally need to let the tissue recuperate and stabilize for a minimum of several months before attempting to fit in the next one.” As the gauge increments get larger (the size difference escalates), you will need to wait longer to heal until moving onto the next size up.

How long should you wait to stretch your ears after piercing?

It is best to wait at least double, preferably triple, the initial healing time of your original piercing that you plan to expand before doing so. Talk with your professional piercer for advice on your specific piercing.

Does stretching a piercing hurt?

The process should be close to painless. There should never be any obvious tearing or bleeding. There can be micro-tears that aren't noticeable and can lead to infection, so it is important to keep up with hygiene. 

Can a piercer stretch your ears?

It is possible, but not as advisable as the other-self options. The process is done by a professional piercer who makes a piercing with a piercing needle, and then right after the initial piercing, they insert a taper to stretch the piercing to a larger gauge. Excessively stretching this soon can lead to delayed healing.

Can I stretch my ears at home?

Four different stretching methods can be easily done at home. Combining the methods to cater to your goals is also possible but be sure to look out for any signs of pain or new sensations that may be a tell-tale to scale back to a smaller size.

  1. Tapering
  • Most common technique
  • Gradual method
  • Use of a conical metal rod known as a taper pushed through the hole until its widest part is even with the skin.
  • Larger tapers and then jewelry will be substituted over time as the hole gets bigger.


    1. Taping
    • Use of Teflon tape (a thin tape found in hardware stores commonly used to seal off pipe threads)
    • Gradual method
    • A piece of tape is wrapped around the existing jewelry, forming a slightly larger diameter
    • More tape is applied gradually till the goal is reached


    1. Dead stretching
    • Simply stretching the hole in the skin until it is large enough to accommodate the desired jewelry
    • It can result in tearing/ pain if not careful


    1. Weight
    • Common in past traditional societies
    • Stretched by the hanging of weights onto the jewelry
    • Multiple rings can be added onto a hoop for weight as well as creativity
    • It can result in tissue tearing and thinning if not careful

    When can I wear silicone tunnels after stretching?

    It is safe to wear other materials like acrylic, silicone, and organics once your piercing and stretched lobe are completely healed

    Materials such as surgical steel, titanium, niobium, gold, platinum, and biocompatible polymers are good for the initial stretch. These materials are said to lower the cause of irritation, allergy, or infections. For a more in-depth look at stretching jewelry, check out our blog Here's What People Say About Acrylic, Surgical Steel, & Silicone To Stretch Your Ears!



    How do you take care of freshly stretched ears?

    Check out our Ear Stretching Care & Aftercare blog for great care and cleaning routine tips!



    That concludes our article. If you have any anecdotes to share, please leave us a comment! We will add it to this post.




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