Let’s stretch!

Stretched piercings have a long and intricate history, spanning several cultures over thousands of years. While lobe piercings are most commonly associated with stretching, many other piercings can be stretched. These guides will cover the best ways to stretch each type of piercing. Stretching is a major commitment and should not be done lightly, as there is no guarantee that your piercing will revert back to its original size. It depends entirely on the elasticity and general health of your skin.

Stretching shouldn’t be done unless you are comfortable with having a stretched piercing forever. The most commonly agreed upon “point of no return” is between a 2g-0g for lobes and 8g for most other piercings. Properly stretched ears can be healthy and beautiful. Improperly stretched ears can be unsightly, unhealthy and lead to constant problems. Proper methods and care are crucial to a properly stretched piercing.

It is extremely important while stretching to only go up one gauge at a time and to wait the appropriate amount of time before stretching to the next biggest size. The first few stretches can be easy, but don’t be fooled. As the surface area increases, so do the jumps. Putting too much stress on your freshly stretched hole can lead to problems like blowouts and tears. Listen to your body: if it hurts, you’re probably going too fast.

METHODS

A taper is a piece of jewelry that expands from your starting size to the next size up. It is extremely important while stretching with tapers to only go up one gauge at a time and wait one to three months between stretches. Listen to your body: if it hurts you’re going too fast. It is also very important that the tapers are smooth and non-porous. Any nicks and ridges in the material can harbour bacteria, encouraging infection. Acceptable materials include implant grade surgical steel, titanium, glass and Lucite. Organic material such as bone, horn and wood are porous and should not be used to stretch – however they dramatically increase the health of already stretched ears because the porosity allows the piercing to breathe.

Taper Instruction:

  1. Take a hot shower or apply a hot compress to soften up the skin around the piercing.
  2. Wash your hands and the taper with anti-bacterial soap and water.
  3. Apply a water-based lubricant (BodyMods StretchAide or KY Jelly –  NOT Vaseline or Polysporin) to the taper and push through your piercing as far as it will go until you feel resistance.
  4.  Slip an o-ring on the back to hold it in place and repeat as often as you feel comfortable until the taper is all the way through. The time between attempts to stretch varies with everybody; some people find that they can get their Tapers through all in one go, while other find that every few hours or even days works best.
  5. If desired, another piece of jewelry can be worn at this point. Avoid double flare anything for the first month after stretching.

Click here to learn more about tapers.

Teflon tape (aka plumber’s tape) can be an excellent and inexpensive way to stretch. Teflon tape is bio-compatible and only sticks to itself and metal without adhesives. Other types of tape such as electrical, scotch or duct tape are not recommended because they are made from materials that can irritate the skin and have adhesives that collect and harbour bacteria. The tape method can be especially useful for stretching past 00g, as tapers become increasingly less common at this size.

Teflon Tape Instruction:

  1. Take a hot shower or apply a hot compress to soften up the skin around the piercing.
  2. Wash your hands and plug or tunnel with anti-bacterial soap and water.
  3. Wrap one layer of tape once a week around your plug or tunnel.
  4. Apply a water-based lubricant (BodyMods StretchAide or KY Jelly – NOT Vaseline or Polysporin) to the plug or tunnel and insert it into the lobe.

Stretching by weights has the benefit of stretching very slowly without the risk of tears or blowouts. However, it’s not generally recommended because it has a tendency to stretch unevenly and can cause thin spots toward the bottom of the piercing. Stretching by weights can help to stretch half-sizes to insert double flare plugs or tunnels.

Weights Instruction:

  1. Take a hot shower or apply a hot compress to soften up the skin around the piercing.
  2. Wash your hand and heavy gauge ring with anti-bacterial soap and water.
  3. Insert the heavy gauge ring into the piercing. Wearing several rings through a tunnel is also an acceptable method.

STRETCHING TIPS

If you plan on stretching your ear lobes and currently don’t have your ears pierced, you might want your initial piercing to be a heavier gauge. Starting with a 10g-8g will help you reach your goal size faster without the risk of tearing or blowouts. After you’re healed, you should be ready for your first stretch.

Tapers work well in this case because they’re not extremely heavy and they are easy to care for. Tapers are the easiest and most common way to stretch an ear. Massage regularly with jojoba oil or vitamin E oil once healed. All above methods could be used to stretch your ears.

Cartilage is a firm, structural support for the ear and nose. Unlike skin, it does not have its own blood supply. Cartilage receives almost all of its blood from the surrounding skin, so stretching cartilage is an extremely slow process. If ear cartilage is stretched too quickly the tissue can become so tight that blood cannot get to the cartilage which can cause necrosis (AKA tissue death). Cartilage can also crack and shatter like glass. This damage can be irreparable and dangerous to your health. Slow is the only way you can stretch your cartilage, a maximum of one stretch a year. If you looking for stretched cartilage now, there’s a couple of shortcuts.

  • Scalpeling is not generally recommended for “stretching” a piercing. It’s much more invasive procedure. Scalpels do not actually remove any tissue – they cut a curved slit into which the jewelry is inserted.
  • Dermal punch is recommend for “stretching” extremely resistant tissue such as cartilage. Dermal punches cut out a section of tissue into which the jewelry is inserted.
  • Scalpeling and dermal punches must be carried out by highly trained professional body piercers.

The proper placement of a septum piercing puts it through skin rather than cartilage. But, even a perfectly placed Septum piercing can be nearly impossible to stretch (depending on your nose). This is an easy one to “listen” to because it can become extremely painful to stretch and remain sore for days following a stretching. Crescent tapers, weights and dermal punching are the most common ways to stretch your septum.

In general, oral piercings are easy to stretch and tend to do so on their own with time. These piercings heal very quickly and produce new skin at an amazing rate. Still – listen to your body while stretching and don’t rush it. All methods of stretching could be used with lip piercings.

Not only is the tongue a popular piercing, but stretching it is becoming increasingly popular. The big concern with this is avoiding damage to the soft palette, teeth and gums. The beads of a barbell get larger with each gauge. Eventually the size of the balls alone can make wearing jewelry very uncomfortable. At heavy gauges, custom jewelry with domed balls or disks works much better than large balls for your tongue. Stretching the tongue can cause an amazing amount of discomfort, sometimes more than the original piercing. All methods but Teflon Tape can work in aiding you to stretching your tongue.

Since navel piercings take such a long time to heal, it can be 3-4 years before some navels are ready to be stretched. Navel piercings are still surface piercings, so they require extra attention to size, weight and time. Listen to your body – if it hurts, you’re going too fast. Small tapers work best here.

Nipples can be stretched to heavier gauges but require a lot of time. All stretching methods can be used except dermal punching.

  • Keep in mind the more wiggle room a piece of jewelry has, the higher the chance of keloids, migration and rejection. Be careful with this one.

In general, genital piercings are easy to stretch and tend to do so on their own with time. These piercings heal very quickly and produce new skin at an amazing rate – especially Prince Alberts and Labia. Listen to your body – if it hurts, you’re going too fast. Using weight is the most common way to stretch genital piercings. Use big CBRs, CBBs or large beads to aid in your stretching.

COMPLICATIONS AND RISKS:

Your piercing can be torn by stretching too quickly or by skipping gauges (if you bleed you’ve torn). Tears can cause thin, uneven spots and possibly scar tissue that make stretching past a certain point difficult, if not impossible. They also compromise the general health of your piercing, leading to uneven blood flow and excessive or foul smelling dead skin cells, white blood cells and lymphatic fluid. If you’ve torn your piercing, downsize immediately and treat your piercing like a new piercing for about three months (or longer depending on how severe your tear is) before attempting to stretch again.

The inside of your piercing is comprised of a tunnel of scar tissue called the fistula. If you attempt to push something too big through the fistula (AKA if you’re skipping gauges) it can pop out the back of the piercing. We call this cauliflower ear – hopefully that’s enough of a visual to spare you the google search.

Blowouts can become permanent if left for too long. Downsize immediately and treat your piercing like a new piercing for about three months to allow the tissue to re-absorb itself and heal. Massaging olive oil or vitamin E oil into the piercing can help with healing blowouts as well.

  • BodyMods StretchAide Lubricant
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  • BodyMods StretchAide Tape
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    BodyMods StretchAide Tape

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2023-08-10T20:27:39-07:00Modipedia|

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About the Author:

Mandy is BodyMods' head office and marketing manager. She maintains our social media, blog, and the Modipedia, along with planning our fundraising events. Outside of work she loves long walks with her dog, movie nights, and collecting house plants.

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