Ear stretching, or gauging as some may call it, is one of those things that people either really like or dislike; there’s no in-between. It is an aesthetic body modification that is usually associated with western punk rock bands. Yet, it also has a cultural significance that dates back to King Tutankhamun, Easter Island heads, Buddha, Aztecs, and Mayans.
Whether it is to look rebellious, announce becoming a woman, highlight one’s beauty, or signify royalty, people across different cultures and eras have stretched and will continue stretching their ears.
What Is Ear Stretching?
The aesthetically-modifying practice stretches a hole in one’s ear lobes over time using different methods such as tapering, which is the most common method. Other methods include taping, scalpelling, dead stretching, and with silicone plugs.
What is Tapering?
Tapering is a method of stretching your ears using a taper, being a long conical tool with a gradual lessening in thickness. Tapers are either made of acrylic or steel; acrylic is more affordable, while steel is safer.
The popularity of tapering stems from its gradual process of enlarging the ear lobe and its suitability for beginners. It is best to stick with the most common method to avoid problems that other methods may cause.
What Do You Need?
- Tapers of the desired size
- Warm Compress
What Are the Basic Steps?
Prep the area by applying a warm compress on the pierced ear lobe and cleaning the ear and taper thoroughly. Next, apply a lubricant such as Jojoba or vitamin E oils to the pierced area and taper. Then, slide the thinner side of the taper gently until the proper size, which is one size up at a time. Finally, put the plugs on the thicker side of the taper.
A slight feeling of discomfort or a tiny sting is normal. What is not normal is extreme pain, bleeding, or skin turning white around the taper, which could mean you’re over-stretching or stretching too quickly, which could result in “blowouts” that we will explain. If extreme pain and bleeding persist, you should see a doctor.
What Is a Blowout Ear?
A blowout is what everyone is worried about getting when they stretch their ears.
It is an undesirable result of stretching too fast and too much or not giving your skin a chance to heal in between stretches. Since ear stretching is a gradual and slow process that needs from 4 to 6 weeks before increasing the size, being too harsh or quick is a recipe for disaster.
Why? Because this pressure twists the stretched hole inside out and leaves an ugly ring of scar tissue that forms behind the piercing. It is a form of inflammation that needs attention and treatment before causing more complications such as lobe tears and infections.
How Do I Soothe My Ears After Stretching?
Treating your blowouts includes a lot of the usual aftercare practices for soothing your ears.
For blowouts, you should downsize by two or three sizes to give your ear a proper chance to heal and relieve the pressure.
Another treatment is dunking your irritated ear lobe two to three times a day in a solution of 1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon of non-iodized sea salt and one cup of warm distilled or bottled water.
Don’t clean your ears with rubbing alcohol or hydrogen peroxide because they can dry out your ears. Keep alcohol to sterilizing your tools before lubricating them.
In addition, you want to give your blown-out ear a week or two to heal before jumping into the next step, which is consistent massaging.
You massage your stretched ear, whether it’s healthy for maintenance or blown-out as treatment, for five to ten minutes every night using your lubricant of choice, ideally vitamin E oil, after taking out the plugs. The point of massage is to break down any scar tissue formed from ear stretching.
We also recommend tucking the blowouts, meaning putting your plugs back in from behind your ear instead of from the front after you lubricate your ears.
Finally, remember to wait four to six weeks before going up a size and never skip sizes.
Frequently Asked Questions:
How Long Does the Pain Last After Stretching Your Ears?
The mild pain or discomfort lasts for a few days up to two weeks, which is expected from any body modification. This discomfort may include itching or swelling.
However, if your stretched ears still experience severity or persistence in pain after two weeks, this may be a sign of serious damage to the skin cells. Also, watch out for infected ear stretching, which you detect through seeing yellow or green discharge, fever, or swollen lymph nodes. Contacting a professional in these cases is a must.
Can I Reverse Ear Stretching?
Before you start to stretch your ears, remember that at a certain point, it can’t be reversed without surgery. The point of no return in ear lobe sizes changes from one person to another because some people stretch their lobes to larger sizes, and they still shrink, while others are stuck in pretty minimal sizes.
You can shrink the size of the holes gradually if they’re within a certain size range. First, you start by downsizing your tapers gradually. Next, you gently remove them and wipe your lobes with water. Then, massage your ears with a lubricant consistently for months until they close.
Can I Wear Tapers as Every Day Ear Jewelry?
You may be tempted to use tapers as jewelry because it feels like less effort than using separate jewelry. However, most of them are meant to be stretching tools, not everyday jewelry, because they may put uneven pressure on your stretched ear, especially the larger ones.
If you’re not sure about the type of your taper and whether you can use it for anything besides stretching, consult a professional.
We hope that we helped minimize your possibility of soreness, infections, or bleeding after ear stretching by educating you on the subject. To ensure that you got the message right, let’s go through the highlights one more time.
Tapering, the most popular method, is done by gently inserting a sterilized taper into a moisturized ear lobe. Proper aftercare and treating any potential blowouts can be done by consistent massaging, soaking ear lobes in a sea salt solution, and downsizing when necessary. Don’t forget to wait up to six weeks before going up a size.
Last but not least, whenever you’re unsure, consulting a professional always helps.
Andreea is a fitness enthusiast with a keen interest in nutrition. She has gone from 98Kg to 70Kg through relentless hard work and getting her nutrition right with the help of a personal trainer.
She writes articles to empower anyone to take control and not let go of their mental and physical health.