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Ear Gauging

Safe Ways to Stretch Your Ear Piercings

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Earlobe Gauging

Earlobes that Have Been Stretched

Photo by Medioimages/Photodisc/Getty Images

What Is ear gauging?

It's trendy right now to wear pierced earrings fashioned from plugs or with thick, decorative posts and rings. Even if your ears were pierced to a standard size, you can stretch the holes using a gradual process that is commonly referred to as gauging or simply gauge. Piercing pros will tell you that is not the correct term, but it's become the word most people use to describe the stretching process.

It will take time to gauge your pierced areas, but if you do it carefully you'll be able to wear thicker body jewelry and keep your ears healthy.

What's a normal ear gauge?

Most people's earlobes are initially pierced with a 20 or 18-gauge needle. Common gauge sizes are named in even numbers down to 00, and the actual size increases as the numbers decrease. Larger gauges are expressed as fractions.

Isn't it easier to punch larger holes to begin with?

Most piercers refuse to punch large holes, because totally removing a huge plug of tissue makes it difficult, if not impossible, to size back down later. Skin is resilient, so leaving it as intact as possible, but forcing a hole to stretch, makes it somewhat easier to return the hole to a smaller diameter if you decide to gauge down. However, you may never be able to restore your earlobes to the appearance they had before stretching (see: video about plastic surgery for gauged ears.

How should I gauge my ear piercings?

The method I'll describe is the technique I used to stretch my own ears. It worked for me, but not everyone agrees that this technique is an acceptable way to change sizes. Speak with a piercing professional before you attempt to stretch the holes of any of your own piercings.

It's important to change your gauge gradually, allowing ample healing time between sizes. If you move too fast, you might damage the skin enough to create scar tissue. Scars will make your earlobe look as if it is cracking around the hole and also make it very difficult to change gauge, up or down.

Jewelry grade surgical stainless steel (SSS) rings or plugs can be used to stretch earlobe holes. SSS is not a porous material, so it does not absorb bacteria and dirt that can cause infections, and its heavier weight aids the stretching process. Save the decorative plastic and wooden pegs until your ears are completely healed.

I used these techniques to stretch my ear lobes to accept 6 gauge earrings. Everyone is different, so listen to your body during your own ear gauging process. Do not move on to a larger size until you feel comfortable about the change, and again, talk with a piercing pro if you have any questions or would like individual help with the process.

  1. Compare your earring posts to a gauge chart to determine your current gauge.

  2. Buy rings in the next largest size. For instance, if your current gauge is 20, purchase 18 gauge rings.

  3. Wash your hands and earlobes with antibacterial soap.

  4. Massage one of your ear lobes.

  5. Insert the larger ring in that lobe. The new ring won't slide right in, so take it easy or you'll tear your ear and make it bleed. A little antibacterial soap, such as Provon or Dial, will help the rings go in more smoothly.

  6. Repeat the steps for your other ear.

Expect some soreness as your ears heal and adjust to the new hole size. When they are fully healed, repeat the process to step up one more size.

I waited about two weeks between sizes, but many people find they must allow more time between step-ups. Listen to your body.

About Tapers

Special devices called tapering rings or insertion tapers can be used to stretch earlobe holes. They are round shafts that gradually taper from a smaller to larger gauge along their lengths. Your piercing professional can show you how to use the tapers, or do it for you. Not everyone agrees that using tapers is a good method for ear gauging.

Keep Your Piercings Clean

Clean your jewelry and earlobes once or twice every day with an unscented antibacterial soap. Try cleaning them when you are in the shower, because heat and moisture combined make it easier, and more comfortable, to manipulate a sore area.

Saturate your ear lobes with lather and use a cotton ball or disposable cloth to remove crusty residue. Turn the rings gently to work soap into the area and to keep them from sticking to your skin. Rinse thoroughly and pat dry.

Now soak your ear lobes in a solution made by combining a pinch of sea salt in a cup of distilled water. Soak for five to ten minutes.

Talk to a Piercing Pro

Remember to talk to a professional body piercer any time you need advice about any of your piercings.

Watch Our Earlobe Gauging Videos

Types of Ear Gauges
Ear Gauging Advice

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