Stretching can be done I various place such as the nose, tongue or lips, but the most common form that is used is the stretched ear piercing. Stretched ear piercings have been around since the dawn of mankind, various tribes from Asia, Africa or both Americas have been practicing it. There purpose was mainly of traditional, cultural and religious nature. The materials they used have varied from stone, wood, bone and horn carving them up purposefully for stretching. Even organic materials such as shells, teeth and claws have been used.
So what is Stretching in essence? The basic explanation is a deliberate expanding of the fistula that has already healed over time. So at first glance it all seems that simple, you just apply larger items to your piercing until you have gotten to your desired size. But don't be fooled by that, as I said in the beginning stretching will require all of your patience and an ability that every experienced piercer will ask you muster up before even considering stretching, the ability "to listen to your body". And that's an ability that absolutely no one, not even me can tell you, cause of the simple fact that everyone's piercing story is different. You alone carry the responsibility of how much stretching your ear piercing can take. If something is go wrong it is entirely your fault cause of your bad judgment.
Always have that on your mind when considering going the next step. This also applies when you have to choose which method of stretching to use as there are various and unique in their own way. The most common methods used are tapering, weights stretching, Teflon tape stretching and a dermal punch. The first thing you need to be aware is that an initial stretching or fresh stretch is basically a standard piercing.
What experienced piercers do is get ahead start by piecing with a large gauge using a scalpel, a dermal punch or a large gauge piercing needle. If the ear is large, there is no true limit how much it can be pierced initially, but the common limit for an initial piercing is at four to six gauges. After that you should wait for the piercing to be fully healed.
The most common forms of jewelry that is used are plugs, eyelets and larger captive bead rings. Some hanging style jewelry can be good too but may cause skin migration. The most optimal materials that the jewelry should be made of are titanium, stainless steel and glass as they can't corrode and don't have microscopic holes that can house bacteria that can endanger your piercing. After the healing period (6 to 8 weeks) you are ready for the real test of patience. As I said earlier there are several methods of stretching and I will now explain the most common ones, it is entirely up to you which one will suit you and your body.
-Tapering: The most common method that you see used by modern day piercing studios. By using a so called “taper”, a rod of conical shape that is lubricated the less wide end of it is pushed through the fistula until it is level with the wider end of the rod. In the back of the taper is usually a larger jewel that ends up getting placed. Tapers are categorized by gauge of their large end, there length is varied but usually around two to three inches and are made out of surgical steel or acrylic. Tapering is viable to sizes about 2ga, going above that is not encouraged by professional piercers.
-Teflon tape stretching: A practical method where Teflon tape is used. You remove you’re the current jewelry that you use and wrap it in a thin layer of non-adhesive Teflon tape and then re-inserted back in the pierced spot where it will adapt to the new diameter. As time goes by you will add more layers of the tape to the jewel. Teflon tape is very easy to come by in most hardware stores; there is also an alternative such as bondage tape that is the same as Teflon tape but a bit thicker.
-Weights use: Usually by using heavier jewelry or weighted object to achieve the stretching effect. While popular by some people, the use of weights has gone down in recent times as it has been proven to cause uneven stretching, migration of the piercing itself and the thinning of the bottom tissue of the piercing.
-Dermal punch: The dermal punch is a sort of round needle, a razor sharp round cookie cutter for skin. Unlike the other methods, this one cuts a portion of your tissue right off. Usually used cartilage piercings, they can be also applied to lobe area of the ear. Most piercer will discourage you from doing this on the soft tissue as it is easier to stretch it with Tapering.
There is also the big issue of permanency of the stretching. You can stretch to at least two gauges and your tissue will be able to go back to normal if you consider removing it. Going beyond that is basically the “point of no return” where the elastic limit of the skin has been passed and where closing of the hole is not possible. There are surgery procedures that can help rebuild the earlobe that has been stretched but they are rather expensive. So think hard and think well before entering the world of stretched piercings.
Aftercare for a stretched piercing is pretty simple, but it will still require your attention. Cleaning should be done regularly with anti bacterial soap. Apply a gentle massage using creams/ oils such as Emu oils, Jojoba and even extra virgin olive oil if fine too. They will speed up the healing and suppress the scar tissue build up. Try finding cream that are rich in vitamin E as it is one of the key vitamins that are generally good for your skin. You have to always be careful of not overstretching; usually most people are able to stretch it an inch per year. Overstretching leads to of the nasty earlobe tearing and migration piercing leaving you with scar tissue that will in the end slow down you're stretching. To prevent that simply downsize the piercing, that way you give the skin around your piercing more breathing space to build up. On a dry piercing that has healed and is just being stretched such as this it is best to use thick high quality wooden jewelry.
So there you have it stretched ear piercings are in the end a test of your patience. If you find that patience in your heart and follow the advice that the piercing studios are offering you freely you should be ok. In the end patience truly is a virtue.