Everything you ever wanted to know about plugs and tunnels as well as quite a bit you didn't.
A popular debate among ear stretching enthusiasts is how to actually refer to plugs or tunnels. Aficionados will be quick to correct you when gauged plugs or tunnels are referred to as "gauges", but this terminology is often accepted without criticism. While we're of a firm belief that the use or misuse of the term "gauges" is strictly a semantics debate, since there are numerous words in the English language whose misuse has been widely accepted in popular culture, it's still important to understand why it's sometimes deemed improper to use the phrase "ear gauges." Generally when referring to ear stretching, a gauge is a unit of measurement, e.g. the plugs and tunnels are 0 gauge or 00 gauge. Since the largest jewelry gauge size is 00g or close to 3/8", any larger earring sizes are not measured by gauge, but inches or millimeters. However, a gauge is also an instrument used to measure, so the argument could be made that "ear gauges" are an instrument that measures the size of your holes in your ears. Therefore asking the question, "How big are your gauges?" could technically be referring to the instrument of measurement you are wearing and not just refer to the measurement of size. While the phrase "stretching" makes more sense grammatically than "gauging," both terms are used in regular conversation, which is why you'll see us using both on our website. When looking for information or products related to ear stretching, individuals often search for plugs and tunnels as well as ear gauges; therefore, in the end, while we love to educate our customers on the history, proper methods and terms for ear stretching, we still want to be found.
Non-flared plug and tunnel earrings do not have a flare on either side of the plug or tunnel. The use of o-rings is often needed in order to keep these types of plugs in place; otherwise, you run the risk of having them fall out if they're not tightly fitted within the ear. The advantage to wearing this style of gauged plugs is that they're much easier to insert than flared versions since you can just push the earring straight into your piercing.
Screw top plugs or tunnels are another great alternative if you don't want to deal with inserting flares. Screw top plugs are generally the same diameter throughout the length of the plug with the exception of the "top," which is a slightly larger diameter then the rest of the plug. The top unscrews from the plug, which makes them just as easy to insert as non-flared plugs with the added advantage of not having to deal with o-rings that can fall off when wearing.
Single flared plugs and tunnels are a hybrid style which combines a non flared style and a flared saddle style. As the name suggests, one end of the plug or tunnel is flared whereas the other end has no flare and will still insert similar to the standard non flared gauged plug. This style will additionally require the use of an o-ring for the non-flared end in order to keep the earring from falling out but will give the appearance of a flared saddle plug when worn with the flare facing outwards.
Double flared plugs have raised flares on both sides of the plug and are often referred to as saddle plugs due to their resemblance to the way a saddle flares out on both ends. The gauge size of double flared plugs is taken from the center, with the flares often being much larger (1mm or more at the larger sizes). Once inserted, you will not need to use o-rings to keep double flared plugs in your ears; however, they can be particularly difficult to insert at smaller gauge sizes since your stretched ears typically aren't as flexible as they will be at larger gauge sizes. Be very careful when inserting them as they can damage your ear if you over stretch, and do not attempt to wear them when you're still healing from a recent stretch. When inserting double flared plugs, you insert them like you would a button; put the plug at an angle to your hole and gently press towards the hole and slightly down. If you are having difficulty inserting double flared plugs, try using lubricant and/or soak your ear in some hot water.
Eyelets are tunnels with either a single or double flare. The flare on an eyelet is generally not as large as a traditional saddle plug but there is no hard rule on the size of flare. Eyelets are meant to fit snugly around the earring hole, blocking the hole from view, and giving a merged /fused look with the ear. In theory the design of an eyelet makes sense, but often times because the flare is so minimal an o-ring is required to keep it from falling out.
The general approach with plugs and tunnels is to wear plugs when you're first starting out and then as your gauge size gets bigger transition into tunnels. Plugs are the suggested style to use at the smaller gauge sizes (2G or smaller) simply because a tunnel at the smaller gauge size isn't as dramatic looking with a tiny hole. As your gauge size gets bigger the tunnel opening becomes more noticeable and as a result tunnels become the more popular choice. Other than simply aesthetic preferences, plugs are less desired at larger sizes due to the increased weight. Tunnels, being hollow, are generally lighter than plugs and therefore will cause less unintentional stretching due to weight. If you are at your desired gauge size, it is highly suggested to wear tunnels or plugs made of light-weight materials like wood or bone.