What is Stretching?
Stretching is a process that slowly enlarges the fistula of a piercing to accommodate increasingly larger sizes of jewellery.
It is done by slowly stretching the tissue and allowing it to relax and heal. This process can be performed unlimited times as long as the process is done correctly.
Incorrect stretching can lead to tears, bleeding, a chance of infection and potential scarring – slow and proper stretching will leave the piercing elastic and healthy.
Stretching should not be a painful process and you should not have to force anything into your piercing.
This guide predominantly relates to earlobe stretching but can be applied to any piercing, though longer wait times between stretches should be observed for piercings in cartilage and in areas such as the navel or genitals.
It is recommended to wait a minimum of 3-4 months before stretching a fresh lobe piercing and you should begin by stretching no more than 1mm.
For healed piercings it is safe to stretch 1-1.5mm every 30 days but it is best to stretch every other month – the longer you wait, the healthier your piercings will be.
Cartilage can take anywhere up to 6 months or longer to heal from an initial stretching procedure and you should wait several months in between stretches.
It should be remembered that your body heals a wound from the outside in – healing the outer area firsts protects it from bacteria entering and allows the inner part to heal properly. Just because it looks “normal” it doesn’t necessarily mean that your piercing has healed.
Stretching should not be a race – don’t set yourself a goal size to reach in a certain number of months. The process is a journey and takes patience and the ability to understand the health and healing characteristics of the only body you have. Have patience and respect yourself.
There is no guarantee that your stretch will shrink back up if you remove your jewellery. Please bear this in mind when deciding what size to stretch to and ensure that you will be comfortable with that size when you’re old and wrinkly and with having your children/grandchildren asking why you have huge holes in your ears.
The development of scar tissue can make future stretches painful or in some cases impossible, which is why you must take as much time as possible. Scarring effects the blood flow to the area and greatly reduces the chances of your stretch shrinking back.
Tapers are a tool used by professional piercers to guide a piece of jewellery into place.
These should never be made from acrylic or any other porous material as they are unable to be sterilised appropriately, meaning that scratches can harbour bacteria and body fluids.
Tapers are only intended for the insertion of jewellery and should never be worn as they cause excess pressure on the back and bottom of the piercing and will thin out the bottom of your earlobe.
A professional piercer will have access to titanium tapers/guide pins and will be able to source appropriate jewellery for you to wear in your fresh stretch.
Avoid stretching kits as these will usually come with low quality jewellery and try to avoid stretching at home as this often leads to stretching too quickly, which will likely cause tearing, excess scar tissue and/or blow outs.
Rae would be more than happy to give you a hand stretching or sourcing appropriate jewellery for stretched lobes!
You should wear single/non flared jewellery in your new stretch, never double flared or shaped pieces such as teardrops as they have an uneven weight distribution and disrupt healthy blood flow to the area.
Do not stretch with double flared or silicone jewellery.
The jewellery should be made from AFTM F138 implant grade compliant steel, ASTM F136 implant grade compliant titanium, glass or certain types of natural stone.
Avoid low quality jewellery like those available from chain stores or online.
Acrylic should never be stretched with or worn in a stretch and avoid wood or silicone for the same sterilisation reasons as above.
You should wait a minimum of 6-8 weeks between stretches, but you may find you have to wait up to 3 months or longer.
Listen to your body - if you are experiencing any pain or bleeding you are stretching too quickly. If this happens stop, downsize and wait a little longer.
Taping involves wrapping a thin layer of PTFE/Bondage tape around a piece of jewellery every so often to help slowly increase the size of the jewellery and thus the piercing. In most cases this is completely unnecessary and this method should be avoided.
There is no known documentation that states that any type of tape is safe to be worn inside the body and using any sort of tape to stretch is going against the manufacturer’s instructions.
Tips on Stretching
Frequent massaging can help to encourage healthy blood flow, reduce scarring and promote cell growth. This can either be dry or with Vitamin E oil such as Bio Oil, though this oil should only be used on completely healed stretches.
When the piercing has healed to the point where it is comfortable to remove the jewellery for at least a few minutes at a time, it is greatly beneficial to gently massage the tissue.
Don’t be afraid to purposely downsize – you will be eager to reach your goal size and it will seem like you’re going backwards, but this can be a great way to keep lobes thick and healthy.
Once your piercing has healed, wearing heavier jewellery made out of stone or glass can help aid the stretching process, but it should be noted that wearing heavier/hanging jewellery for long periods can lead to uneven stretches or thinning tissue and the bottom of the earlobe.
The best found method for stretching is time – the longer you wait between stretches the healthier your piercings will be.
Stretching should be a long and slow process, there’s no need at all to rush!
Each size has it’s own benefits and different jewellery selections. Don’t stretch unless you’re certain you’re going to be happy with the end results.
To naturally stretch, wear a piece of inert jewellery such as borosilicate glass for a few weeks/months until it feels ‘loose’, then the next size up should be able to be fitted without any discomfort.
If you would rather not wait for your lobes to stretch themselves naturally, you can visit a professional piercer and have your piercing stretched with a taper.
Rae provide this service for a small fee which covers the cost of your jewellery and any sundries used for the procedure. Please get in touch if you’re interested in stretching your piercing!
If your jewellery needs to be removed, it is advisable to wear a flesh coloured retainer to ensure that your stretch doesn’t shrink or heal up.
As mentioned you should never stretch more than 1mm every 4 weeks and if you are stretching in increments of 2mm you should wait at least 8 weeks between each, though it is recommended to never stretch more than 1mm at a time.
Stretching prematurely can lead to blow outs which usually appear at the back of the piercing. This is a build up of scar tissue where the body has produced too much collagen in response to the trauma in the area.
If you experience a blow out or thin lobes, you should stop stretching and downsize immediately, maybe even by several sizes.This reduces the pressure on the area & and by doing this your body will hopefully reabsorb the scar tissue – this can be aided by regular massaging of the area.