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Ear Stretching Guide

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Bandaru's Ear Stretching Guide
Additional Info and Guides
Ear Stretching Origins
Ear Stretching Origins
Care of your Jewelry
Care of your Jewelry
Ear Stretching Basics Material Types
Material Types
Plugs and Tunnels Guide
Plugs and Tunnels
Why stretch your ears?
Why stretch your ears?
All About Tapers and Hangers
All About Tapers and Hangers
Ear stretching Basics Common Styles
Common Styles
Teardrops, Squares, Triangles...
Teardrops, Squares, Triangles...
Ear Stretching Recommended Techniques
Recommended Techniques
Vee's Stretching Journey
Vee's Stretching Journey

Ear Stretching Origins

The art of stretching your ear has been around for a very long time. It's a custom found, past and present, all over the world and originally practiced by indigenous tribes in the Americas, Africa, Europe, and Asia. Both men and women wore gauged earrings in indigenous tribes. For men it was often ritualistic in nature to signify status within the tribe or other accomplishments. For women, while ear stretching was sometimes used to signify the transition from girl to woman, it was mostly done for aesthetics. As one might expect, organic materials such as wood, bone, and horn were used for gauged jewelry due in part to the connection to the earth but also due to ease of access and familiarity with working the material.

Why do you want to stretch your ears?

Ear stretching is a great form of self-expression

Ear stretching is a great form of self-expression, but it is not a decision that should be made lightly. Stretching to larger gauge sizes is not a quick process, nor is it easily reversible. Typically, ear stretching is not encouraged for teenagers under eighteen. Stretching requires patience, discipline, and constant upkeep to ensure healthy ears. Additionally, while smaller gauge sizes will typically heal back to normal when left open, there's a possibility for the results to become permanent. Society as a whole has become more accepting in recent years, but there's still a stigma on it which needs to be recognized. Take it slow! Examples of damage that can result from stretching too quickly and with too little care, can be seen by running a Google search with the keywords "stretching blow outs." Think of it like getting a tattoo in a visible area: it's a body modification that should be done only after a lot of thought and careful preparation.

The Basics: Material Types

Types of materials include silicone, organics, acrylics, steel, and glass

There are many different types of materials that can be used as ear gauges. We'll touch on the common ones, but the most important thing to consider when choosing the material is whether it will be safe for your ears. The last thing you want to do is mess up all of your hard work due to an infection or tearing. The other main consideration is whether or not your ears are fully healed. Some materials are better than others when you're actively stretching or healing from stretching.


Silicone is often chosen because it's easy to insert into an existing piercing due to the fact that it's soft and flexible. However that is also the reason why we typically don't recommend it, especially with newly stretched ears. Silicone can bend perfectly with your skin, creating an air tight fit that can trap bacteria and cause infection. This isn't nearly as common with fully healed gauges, so as long as you're not stretching up and aren't prone to infection, silicone should be an acceptable material provided you monitor and clean the area regularly.


Organic gauges such as wood, horn, and bone are another popular choice because of their natural aesthetics and ability to be carved into amazing designs. But the main issue with organics is that the materials are naturally porous, which make them a very poor choice when you're attempting to stretch your ears to a larger size. The porous nature of the material allows for bacteria to get trapped, which can lead to a higher instance of infection when your ears aren't fully healed. So while we definitely recommend organic earrings for well healed ears, please refrain from using them if you're new to stretching or aren't fully healed from your last gauge up.


Acrylics are an extremely popular choice for ear stretching due to their very low price point, but keep in mind that they are still porous and need to be cleaned regularly if using them for ear stretching. To reduce the risk of infection, don't leave them in for extended periods. It's very hard to beat the economic value of acrylics, especially when you're trying to gauge up, but steel and glass are always going to be the safer options for stretching.


Steel, specifically 316l surgical steel, is widely considered the best choice when stretching your ears from one gauge to another. It can be boiled or autoclaved (if you have one available) and is non-porous, which greatly reduces the chance for infection. They generally insert smoother than other types of material and are virtually indestructible. Stainless steel can be a perfectly acceptable alternative to surgical steel, but it can contain nickel, so if you're sensitive to nickel at all you need to either pay a bit more for surgical steel or go with glass.

Glass or Stone

Glass is another great choice for stretching to a new gauge size, but you need to be picky with the type and style to ensure that it's not prone to breaking. Typically avoid glass or stone tunnels and stick with either a single flare or no flare plugs. Stone can also be used when stretching using the "dead stretching" technique since stone is generally a heavier material. However, different types of stone are more porous than others, so if using stone for ear stretching, non-porous stones such as quartz, obsidian, or opalite would be desirable. For those who have reactions to certain types of metal, glass or stone is often the best choice since it does not react with the body. While 316l steel plugs are usually safe, there's always the possibility that the material was misclassified.

The Basics: Common Styles

Plugs & Tunnels
Common styles of earrings include plugs, tunnels, hangers, and tapers

Plugs are the most commonly worn gauged earring type and come in a variety of styles. The gauge size for a plug is measured from the middle of the plug; when the sides of the plug are a different gauge size than the center it's referred to as a flare. Flared plugs can either be single or double flare, with single flared plugs being uniform in size to the center on one end and flared on the other. The size of the flare varies, but it can make for a challenge to insert, especially with double flared plugs, also referred to as saddle plugs. When moving from one gauge size to another, only use single flared or no flare plugs to avoid damaging your ears due to over stretching. For single or no flared plugs an o-ring can be used to keep the plug in place if it's not staying securely within the gauged ear. Tunnels are a variant of plugs that are hollow in the center, allowing the viewer to look completely through the gauged ear hole.


Tapers are conically shaped, with the largest end representing the gauge size of the taper. Lengths can vary widely, but in general they're between one to two inches in length and are typically straight. While mainly used for stretching to the next gauge size, tapers can also be used for aesthetics, but the practice is usually discouraged. If you're actively stretching your ear or if you're still healing from a new stretch, it is definitely not recommended to wear tapers with the exception of the short period they're in while inserting the next gauge size (in the stretching process described below). The main reason not to wear tapers when you're in the middle of stretching your ear is that the gauge size can be inconsistent based on where you are wearing the taper. Additionally, because of the way tapers stick out from the ear, the weight of the taper is unevenly distributed over your ear, which can negatively impact the health of your lobes. While we typically don't recommend wearing straight tapers in for long periods, wearing curved tapered hangers that more evenly distribute the weight is typically fine provided your ears are healed fully.


Hangers, as the name suggests, are designed to hang from the lobe and vary widely in shape and size. Hangers insert similarly to tapers in that they usually taper off at the end and gradually increase in diameter until reaching the specified gauged size. The similarity typically ends there though, as hangers are curved and do not necessarily decrease uniformly in size from end to end. Hangers are often very intricate in design and can be made from a variety of materials. In general we recommend wearing lightweight materials such as wood, bone, or acrylics for comfort and to avoid unintentionally stretching your ears more than desired. While weighted or heavy hangers can be used as a tool for stretching, do not use excessive weight as it can ruin the elasticity of your ears and lead to permanent damage.

Non-Circular Plugs and Tunnels

Uniquely shaped plugs and tunnels have become more popular in recent years, and include styles such as teardrops, rectangles, and triangles. Similar to other non-standard styles uniquely shaped plugs and tunnels should only be worn for short periods of time, and generally should not be worn while sleeping. The reason they should not be worn for longer periods of time is that they apply pressure unevenly to the ear, with most of the pressure being exerted at the corners or hard edges of the plugs. One of the major drawbacks to uniquely shaped plugs is that sizing them against standard circular plugs isn't completely straight forward, which can lead to issues with proper fit. As with any new stretching jewelry pay close attention to how your ears feel; if you start to experience pain or discomfort then you should change them out. With that said, uniquely shaped plugs can create a very distinctive look and are safe to wear provided proper care and attention is exercised when wearing them.

Recommended Ear Stretching Techniques


As you would expect, tapering involves the use of tapers to stretch your ears from one gauge size to the next size up. To put it simply, when your ears are completely healed and you're ready to move up to the next gauge size, you'll gradually insert a taper in the new gauge size until you reach the base of the wider end of it. At that point you begin to insert your plug (in the new larger gauge size) and follow it through. The end result of the exercise will be the plug pushing the taper out of the stretched ear hole so that only the plug remains. While tapers work great for increasing your gauge size at the smaller gauges, once you've reached 2G (6mm) it's better to switch to the tape method described below. The reason is that up until 2G you're only going up 1mm at most between gauge sizes. But from 2G onward you'll be going up 2mm at a time, and it's not recommended to stretch your ear that quickly since it can lead to tearing or an ear blow out. Do not leave the taper in your ear for an extended period (more than a couple of minutes) with a new stretch. By design they're a bit larger than the next gauge size up to assist with inserting the plug. They can be worn for aesthetics once your ears have completely healed; but care must be taken, as an uneven weight distribution could cause damage.

Tape Method
Ear Stretching Technique: Tape Method using shiny PVC tape

The tape method is a much more measured approach to stretching your ears and is the only method we recommend at sizes larger then 2G. To start, take a pair of plugs at your current gauge size and wrap them in tape two or three times depending upon your comfort level. Insert the plugs, wait a week, and then repeat the process. After one or two months you'll be ready for the next gauge size. This method minimizes the risk of damaging your ear and is a steady way of going up to the next gauge size. Plumber's tape or PFTE tape is the most commonly used tape because it's body safe and doesn't stick to your skin. The thin, flexible material makes for a close wrap allowing for fine tuned control of increasing gauge size. As you reach the larger gauge sizes you may want to switch to non-adhesive PVC tape (binding tape), as it is wider and will give uniform cover over the plug; be aware however that binding tape may contain latex which can cause a reaction in some individuals. Avoid all other types of adhesive tapes since you don't want to run the risk of it sticking to your skin. The two tapes mentioned above are both non-adhesive to everything but themselves.

Other Ear Stretching Techniques

While we recommend going with the two techniques above, dead stretching is another common method of stretching your ears. We only mention it so that you understand the risks behind it and proceed carefully if you're going to go this route. The technique involves inserting a larger gauge size into the existing ear gauge without the use of a taper or any other device aid. This can lead to tearing or a blow out if your ear isn't ready for it. This method can work if you've been at your gauge size for quite a while, as the weight of the earrings can naturally cause your ear to stretch. People who choose to dead stretch, often wear gauged earrings made of heavier materials such as stone or wear hanging weights through tunnels. Often times this method is used much too early, which is why we recommend against it. Before even attempting to dead stretch make sure that you lubricate your jewelry to minimize sticking, and do not force it in. If you're having trouble pushing the plug in, then your ear isn't ready for the next size up.

How quickly can I stretch my ears?

Everyone is different, but as a general rule wait at least one to two months before attempting to gauge up to the next size. If your ear does not look fully healed you need to wait longer. Do not attempt to stretch up to the next size if your ear is red or looks irritated. You want your ears to be as healthy as possible throughout the process. We highly recommend that you proceed slowly; otherwise you run the risk of not being able to reach the larger sizes and/or causing permanent damage. Proceeding at a slow, measured pace will also increase the chances that your lobes will be able to revert back to normal in the event that you decide to remove your gauges. However, keep in mind that if you stretch beyond 2G your ears may never be able to totally close back up.

Cleaning & After-Care

When cleaning your stretched ears you can use mild anti-bacterial hand soap, and the plug does not need to be removed during cleaning. Additionally some individuals find that soaking their ear in a sea salt solution for a few minutes works well. In addition to cleaning, massaging your lobes with either vitamin E or jojoba oil a few times a week is recommended. Not only can this lead to moisturized and healthy skin, but it can also help to thicken your lobes and reduce scarring. We advise against using rubbing alcohol or hydrogen peroxide as it will cause your skin to dry out. Your goal is to keep your ears well moisturized and clean in order to properly stretch.

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