There are several basic styles of tapers. While standard tapers are suggested to be primarily used as a tool for assisting in stretching your ear from one gauge to another and not for general wear, there are specialized tapers which are designed for daily wear.
The most commonly suggested tapers to use for stretching include the straight or standard taper or a simple curved taper. The straight or curved tapers are small on one end and gradually increase in size (taper up) to a larger flat end. Once completely inserted, the flat end of the taper is used to assist in inserting the new larger sized plug. This is accomplished by pushing the plug against the flat end of the taper until the taper has been pushed completely out of the stretched ear hole, leaving just the new plug in your stretched ear. The gauge size of standard or curved tapers is found by measuring the thickest part of the earring which is generally the large flat end of the taper. Curved tapers are also known as talons tapers, which are long with a small curve on the tapered end, or claws tapers, which appear more circular with a more drastic curve.
Talon or clawed tapers may also be worn for decoration in healed stretched ears since they're generally well balanced, but you should always be careful that they do not get caught on objects or tug on your ear lobes. Wearing straight or curved tapers for everyday use can cause thin or uneven spots in your lobes due to the unbalanced weight of this style of tapers, which is why we suggest wearing these styles, in healed ears, for only for brief periods of time and switching to a plug or tunnel for everyday wear and sleeping. Due to the uneven weight distribution of straight or curved tapers, at the larger gauge sizes they can turn your lobe in an odd direction causing the earring to rub uncomfortably on other parts of your ear.
Spirals, hangers, and crescent tapers are mainly used for decoration or fashion purposes and do not end with a flat surface. Spiral tapers are circular spirals with the smallest tapered end on the outside of the spiral, and ending in a larger sized end somewhere near the center of the curl. Spiral tapers can be difficult to size correctly, but generally the gauge size of spirals can be measured at the widest portion of the curve, right before the spiral beings to curl inwards. Ear hanger tapers, also referred to as hooks, come in various styles and lengths; however, we suggest only purchasing styles which are balanced in weight. Generally hanger style choice is a personal preference, but keep in mind that longer hangers or intricate styles may become annoying or even cause undesired stretching if they are long enough to touch your shoulders or so elaborate that they become caught on other objects. Crescent tapers are crescent moon shaped with two pointed ends, and are worn in the middle at the largest gauge size so that the earring is evenly weighted across the ear. Crescent tapers are also commonly called pinchers or buffalo style; however we prefer not to use the term buffalo to describe this style of taper, as earrings are also made from buffalo horn and therefore can lead to confusion on what material was used to create the crescent taper.
Spiral, hanger, and crescent tapers are made in several different types of materials including lighter materials such as wood, bone, and acrylics as well as heavier materials such as stone and steel. If you are wearing a larger gauge size, we highly suggest choosing earrings made of lighter materials to avoid unintentional stretching. At the larger gauge sizes, some people use heavier steel spiral, coil, or hanger tapers as weights. While weights give a unique look for larger gauged ears, we highly suggest wearing them conservatively, never for stretching purposes. If you do decide to wear them, be wary of the possibility for thinning of the lower ear lobe which can lead to rips or tears.
A third type of taper referred to as a concave taper, is only used for stretching and can offer the smoothest transition from one gauge size to the next. The concave tapers have an indention on the back end of the taper that allows you to insert your larger sized plug into the inside of the taper, so you just pull the taper through and easily insert your new plug at the same time. The advantage over the straight taper is that it ensures there's no gap between the taper and the earring plug and that the plug is perfectly lined up when inserting. While the concave tapers seem to be the best choice, most people choose to go with traditional tapers, due to the extra costs of concave tapers.