Hi guys! I'm taking a break from the FBFN series this week to do another informative post!
If you follow me on Instagram, or by some chance know me in real life or went to school with me, you'll know that my ears are gauged. I've had them gauged three different times now, and always get questions about "going up", if they hurt, how to keep them clean and if they smell, and where I buy mine. So I figured I might as well make a post to answer those questions!
Ear gauging (otherwise known as stretching) has been around forever, and I do mean that, King Tut was the first "historically famous" person known by scientist to have stretched ears, but mummified remains of the "Ice Man", who is said to have died in 3,300BC, had stretched lobes as well! Our Westernized version of it, comes from indigenous tribes in places like Africa, Eurasia and even Native American tribes doing it (does anyone remember my post on Kimonos, that had become Westernized during the Japonism craze in the 1800s?). The ritual was originally performed for cultural (coming in to "Manhood" or ranking up in a tribe hierarchy), religious or traditional purposes. Most of today's stretchers do it as a form of self-expression, something away from the "norm" that allows them another creative outlet (I mean has you seen some of the plugs and pinchers some people come out with now? They're works of art in their own!). And though society may look down on those with the huge holes in their ears, or those who have they lip plate or nasal piercing gauged, everyone I know of the way is honestly some of the sweetest people ever.
Before I go on with this post, let me simply state that this article is based off of my own personal experience with stretching/gauging, as well as the many hours of research I did before I ever thought of doing so the first time. Your negative or backhanded comments are not wanted, it's our body, our choice of modification, and doesn't affect your life in any way, shape or form! This post is also just for the stretching of the lobes, since I don't have my lip plate or nose region stretched, I don't feel comfortable or right covering those topics!
THE STRETCHING PROCESSSo you know for sure that you want to gauge your ears, done your research and all that good stuff. Now what do you do? Decide what method you'll use to stretch. For most people it's the "tapering" method, available at most stores like Hot Topic, Spencer's, piercing parlors and even eBay or Amazon. This method is done by slowly stretching the lobe until you reach the desired size.
(a handful of tapers from urbanbodyjewelry.com)
But here are some other methods of doing so:
• Teflon-Stretching: Where body-safe tape is wrapped thinly around the existing piece of jewelry and reinserted in the hole, where the ear adjust to the new size.
• Dermal Punch: Controversial, but still used for those who can afford it and don't want to wait, where a circular razor is pressed to the skin and then cuts through for the desired diameter, kind of like a gauging cookie cutter. This method does not however, allow the ear to return to its previous piercing size (rather than if you had started from a standard ear piercing hole like myself).
• Silicon Plugs: Where the wearer takes a plug of a bigger size, folds it, and then inserts it so that the new plug will expand and stretch when it unfolds.
And also, the more controversial methods of doing so, I do not personally recommend these methods at all, but then again, everyone has their different ways of doing things!
• Dead Stretching: Where you insert the desired size into the whole you have. this is the equivalent of me taking my 2g tapers, and shoving them into my 20g standard piercing hole. you seriously risk severely damaging the soft tissue of your ear, or worse, risk a blow out (where your lobe rips and requires surgical attention).
The only time the other is ever okay, and even this statement is seen as a no-no for some people, is is you're deciding to start out at a 14g or 12g for stretching. This is usually only done by people who have gauged before though, like myself since we already have the "elasticity" established with our lobe and know what we can and can't take.
• Weights: Where heavy objects are put through the hole to stretch the ears. This is the method usually used by indigenous people, who are stretching for traditional methods and have no desire to go back to their previous size.
• Scalpelling: Usually done to combine to piercings, this is where you cut the region with a scalpel to achieve a bigger gauge.
As I said, the taper method is the most common method used. A standard ear piercing hole is 20g (20 gauge), and you would go up in increments with your first taper usually being an 18g (or ~1mm), and then going up from there until you get to your wanted gauge. See the chart below for reference!
I am frequently asked what size I am. Right now I am a 2g (6.5mm), and I will probably stop there due to scar tissue from a previous infect ear piercing on my left lobe (I had my ears first pierced when I was about 6 months old, when I was around 11 it got infected and closed up, and at 12 I got my ears re-done, and started gauging at around 16).
"How long should I wait until I go up a gauge?"
Typically for me, when I'm gauging from a 14 (1.6mm) or 12 (2.06mm), I wait three weeks or more before putting new tapers in, and when I get into the bigger ones like 6g-4g, I wait a month or so.
"Does it hurt?"
Everyone has their own pain tolerance, so this is a hard question to answer. But for me, no, it doesn't hurt. When I put in new tapers, I slather the taper with either Vitamin E oil or Neosporin, as well as the gauge hole, and they usually just slid in, no problem! I'm not sure if anyone else does this, but I also twist my tapers down when I'm putting them in, and then twist them (while holding my lobe of course), periodically throughout the day. They will be red, swollen and sore for the first day, which is why I taper up in the mornings after my shower, so they're not so tender when I go to bed!
"Will they ever close back up?"
Typically, the point of no return is 0g or 00g, and bigger than that and you will either have to live with droopy lobes when you decide to take them out, or have the surgically reconstructed. Yes my lobes return to their normal size, this is my 3rd time gauging now, and every time they go back to normal with 2-3 weeks. My ears heal exceptionally well and fast, but that is not the case for everyone. I've heard of someone with just a 4g (5.2 mm) hole taking over two months to return to normal. The only thing that sucks, for me, when they un-gauge, is that I can't wear heavy earrings in my first hole. They don't sag terribly, but enough to where I just don't feel comfortable. Fortunately though I'm not much of an earring person!
KEEPING THEM CLEAN
Much like a regular ear piercing, or any piercing, you need to keep it clean to ward of infection! Most people go all out with fairly expensive sea-salt sprays and such, but I honestly just take mine out when I'm in the shower and soap them up with hypoallergenic and unscented body wash (I buy a small travel size bottle just for them).
"Do they smell?"
Again, a hard question to answer because everyone is different. But no, mine never smell, like ever. I can even go a week or more without cleaning and they still wouldn't smell, and believe me, I've even had people ask for me to take my plugs out so they can smell my ear because they just don't believe me! Some people smell, some don't.
"What should I do if they become infected?"
Take them out, both out, immediately and treat accordingly. Your ears are a very sensitive spot on your body as far as infection and healing goes, so if you ever want to gauge again after the incident, take them out!
SO MANY CHOICES
Today there an an array of "gauge holding" ear jewelry, anything from a skin colored silicon plug, to elaborate pincher-types made from bone and stones!
Your basic plugs come in two styles, single or double flare. For some people, double flares are a pain in the ass, like for me. So I personally stick to single flares. They come in an array or materials, from acrylic to turquoise, and vary in price, just like everything.
single flare pink chinese jade plugs from Intrepid Jewelry on Etsy
double flare sono wood plugs from Bandaru Organics on Etsy
You also have silicone plugs, but be warned, everyone I know who has these, complains that they have to be cleaned super well and they tend to stink faster!
Tunnels are pretty neat, and allow you to see through your gauge hole, these tend to draw the most attention from other people, since they're not used to a "see through" hole!
these gorgeous tunnels are available at Chrysalism on Etsy!
available are RONIBIZA on Etsy
Pinchers are another type of taper, or they can be, since they start out at a point and flare up, but they are typically in a horseshoe pattern and varying materials as well!
Tarqs on Etsy
You also have varying types of tapes, most these are elaborate and can be pretty heavy as well, but they're so beautiful!
Available at Body Art Forms here
from Body Art Forms here
because who wouldn't want dinosaurs in their ears?? available here
And now, here are some cuties with gauged ears! I tried to source/name as many as I could, so if I missed someone, please let me know and provide a link (because we all know how helpful WeHeartIt & Tumblr can be with sourcing ~sarcasm~)!
Mega-babe Audrey Kitching actually has her first hole gauged (you can see more by following her on Insta @akitching)
thought this was Gerard Way at first, but apparently it's some kid from a band calle 5SOS??
via the @thecobrashop on Insta
And other than that, that's all I think. If you have any questions, please comment below and I'll be sure to answer to the best of my knowledge!