Frequently Asked Questions

What's the difference between stretching and gauging? Why do you use the word "gauging" on this site even though it's incorrect?

Gauging is a colloquial term for the process of stretching. Even though it is not grammatically correct (gauge is a term used to refer to the size of plugs or other jewelry, i.e. 10 gauge or 4 gauge), it is used by many people and has evolved into an alternative slang term for the process. Similarly, the word gauges is sometimes used (also incorrectly) to refer to plugs or other jewelry for stretched ears.

The word gauging appears in limited fashion on this website so that it can be found by people who are using that term to find information. We fully support and encourage the use of the correct words by almost always using stretching and plugs instead of the slang terms gauging and gauges.

Some people who are involved with stretching or other body modification take great offense to the use of incorrect or slang terms such as gauging, so be careful whom you use these words around! Similarly, we encourage those who use the correct terms not to get angry with others who do not. Politely correct their terminology if you feel it necessary, and direct them to a website like How to Stretch Your Ears so they can learn more accurate information about the subject!

How long should I wait before stretching?

The amount of time you should wait before stretching depends greatly on what size you are stretching to and when you were pierced or stretched most recently. Additionally, the amount of time needed to wait can vary greatly from person to person. Above all else, you should only stretch when your ears are fully healed. Pay attention to how your ears feel as you stretch them, and stop immediately if you encounter any pain, bleeding, or strong resistance.

The chart below represents the recommended MINIMUM time you should wait between stretches.

Fresh piercing to first stretch: 4-6 months
18g to 16g: 1 month
16g to 14g: 1 month
14g to 12g: 1 month
12g to 10g: 1 month
10g to 8g: 1 month
8g to 6g: 1.5 months
6g to 4g: 1.5 months
4g to 2g: 1.5 months
2g to 0g: 2 months
0g to 00g: 2 months
00g and above: 2 months

As always, never force your ears to stretch no matter how long you've waited. Skin elasticity and healing times vary greatly from person to person, and you might have to wait longer than others to safely stretch your ears. Additionally, if you encounter any complications due to stretching, healing a stretch, or healing a fresh piercing, you should extend the time you wait before attempting to stretch again. The minimum times listed above are assuming no complications. Regardless of how long you've waited to stretch, your ears should be fully healed.

What kinds of jewelry or plugs are safe to wear in my stretched ears?

For an initial stretch, you should only use single flared or no flared plugs made of smooth, non-porous materials. Only use jewelry made of surgical steel, titanium, glass or Pyrex for your initial stretch.

Note: Some single flared or no flared plugs that are otherwise safe have small grooves to keep the o-rings from sliding around. You should avoid these for an initial stretch, as the grooves can get caught on your ear and cause damage or bleeding.

After your ears are healed from a stretch, there are other materials that are safe to use in your stretched lobes. Plugs and other jewelry made of silicone or organic materials (such as wood, bone, or horn) are safe to use in stretched ears that have been healed from their most recent stretch. Acrylic or plastic jewelry is also okay for fully healed ears.

Double-flared plugs can also be worn in fully healed ears, but it will likely take some additional waiting time. Even if your ears are healed, it can take much longer for them to become loose enough to insert double flares. Additionally, flare sizes can vary greatly between double-flared plugs. Only wear these plugs when it can be done without pain, and never force them into your ears.

Can I skip sizes to stretch my ears faster?

No, you should never skip sizes when stretching. Skipping sizes greatly increases the chances of causing trauma or damage to your ears, and may actually slow down or entirely halt your stretching progress!

Why can't I wear tapers as jewelry?

Tapers should be used only as a tool to help safely stretch your ears. Tapers are not designed to be worn like jewelry. Wearing tapers in this manner can put uneven pressure on your stretched ears, and makes you look silly and uneducated about body modification! After using a taper to stretch your ears, you should put in a pair of single-flared or no-flared jewelry that is the same size as the taper and safe for fresh stretches.

Will my ears ever go back to a normal size after I stretch them?

There is no way to know how much your piercings will shrink after they have been stretched, so stretching should be considered a permanent modification. If you're not okay with having stretched ears for the rest of your life, you shouldn't do it!

Although there are no guarantees about how much your ears will shrink or close, almost everyone's stretched lobes will shrink to some degree if you leave your plugs out for an extended period of time. The size of 2g is largely considered the "point of no return", meaning that 4g is approximately the largest size you can stretch your ears if you want them to shrink back to a standard earring size of around 16g-14g.

What will happen if I stretch too fast or skip sizes?

Stretching too fast and forcing your ears to stretch when they're not ready or not completely healed can result in a number of complications and unattractive results.

A blowout is the term used when the inside (fistula) of a stretched hole is forced out the back of the piercing due to strong pressure. This results in an unattractive lip developing around the back of the piercing. If ignored, the blowout can grow larger and more unsightly, and may become a permanent disfiguration.

Catbutt is a word used to refer to the appearance that a stretched piercing can get when it is stretched too quickly. The hole (fistula) will develop an ugly and wrinkled appearance, similar to a cat's anus!

Torn tissue can result from stretching your ears too quickly, causes bleeding, and may contribute to the development of a blowout or the appearance of catbutt. Additionally, this damaged tissue can turn into scar tissue, which is extremely difficult to stretch.

Uneven, thin or weak earlobe tissue can also develop from stretching improperly. If the tissue around the piercing is not allowed to fully recover between stretches, it can develop an unattractive and painful-looking appearance that may become permanent.

If you experience any of these issues, you should immediately downsize your ears and treat them as if they were fresh piercings. Perform daily sea salt soaks and avoid touching the area. You should wait several weeks before attempting to stretch again.

Ultimately, stretching your ears too quickly, skipping sizes, or otherwise stretching improperly can result in many problems and may actually delay your stretching further! If you want to stretch your ears as fast as possible, the best thing to do is to stretch properly and safely so you can avoid these kinds of complications.

How can I stretch my ears faster?

The best thing you can do to stretch faster and minimize healing time is to live a healthy lifestyle and avoid damaging your earlobe tissue in any way. Do not force your ears to stretch before they are ready, as this can actually delay your progress as you deal with the many complications of improperly stretched piercings!

Eat a healthy and balanced diet, and care for your earlobe skin with regular oil massages. Stretch your ears only when they are fully healed and ready, and you'll have beautifully stretched lobes by the time you reach your goal!

How do I insert or remove double flared plugs?

Double flared plugs should only be worn when your ears are completely healed from your most recent stretch and have developed the natural elasticity required to insert the flare. Don't force double flared plugs into your ears before they're ready, as this can result in the same complications as if you were stretching your ears improperly!

The best time to try inserting double flared plugs is after a hot shower. Lubricate your ears and the plugs, and insert the plugs similarly to how you would put a button through a hole. Put one edge of the flare through your ear, then pull down on the plug and pop the other edge of the flare through your ear. Stop immediately if you experience any pain or severe discomfort, and listen to your body! If you can't insert your plugs comfortably, wait several days and try again.

You should remove double flared plugs the same way you put them in. Sometimes removal can be more difficult than insertion. Be gentle, and don't damage your ears! You might need to fiddle with your plugs a bit to loosen them up so they'll pop out more easily. Do this with clean hands and plenty of lubrication!