Stretching piercings takes time and patience. Scar tissue can build up and create ugly, problematic piercings that can be difficult to stretch. A good general rule is to wait three times as long as it took to heal before the first stretch. This allows the new skin some time to thicken and toughen up before it gets traumatized by the enlarging process.
Each new size becomes larger exponentially (14-12, 12-10, 10-8 etc). 10ga to 8ga doesn't seem like much, but 1/2" to 9/16" is a major jump even though it is the very next size. The larger your hole, the more time you should allow between stretchings. Usually you can start out with a month or two between stretchings and, as you get larger, begin extending that time frame in some cases 6 months to a year. Stretching piercings can be traumatic and sometimes painful, but it doesn't always have to be. Knowing how and when will help.
Since lobes are the most commonly stretched piercings, special attention must be paid to them. Lobes get plenty of circulation so they tend to heal quickly and grow new cells easily. But it's also easy to injure the soft tissues of the lobe. To avoid injury, soak the tissue in hot water prior to stretching to increase circulation and soften and relax the tissue. Massage is also a good way to help the tissue relax.
Using insertion tapers is the best way to stretch a piercing. A taper is a long, needle-like tool that gradually thickens to the size you desire.
When you're ready to begin stretching, it's come see on of our piercers. The stretching procedure should be completed following the same aseptic techniques used during a piercing procedure. Even though a piercing is healed, the skin can become so thin that it can become susceptible to infection or even rip (this is why it is so important to wait the appropriate amount of time inbetween stretches)
Allowing lobes to relax:
There are many benefits to allowing your lobes to relax for a few hours each day. While wearing jewelry, no matter what type, stress is being put on your lobe, thus restricting the flow of blood, oxygen, nutrients, etc. to the bottom of your lobe. Over time, this can cause your lobe to thin out, and also cause it to become irritated. One of the best ways to alleviate this problem is to take your jewelry out for a few hours each day to allow the piercing to breath and increase blood flow to the bottom of your lobe. Over time, this will promote healthier lobes, including thickening the tissue, thus providing more room to stretch in the future.
There is no steadfast rule on when it is a good idea to start allowing your lobes to relax. We personally believe that at ANY size it is beneficial to leave your plugs out for at least a little while, and that at any size larger than 2 gauge (1/4') anyone should be able to leave their jewelry out overnight. If you are concerned about leaving your jewelry out, take it out for a progressively longer period of time each day until you find the amount of time that is the longest you feel comfortable with. If you have trouble reinserting your jewelry after leaving it out, a hot compress for 5-10 minutes and some lube along with a taper will quickly resolve your problem
By far the two most important things that you can do for healed lobes are oil massages and relaxing your lobes. Relaxing your lobes is described above. For massaging your lobes, the two most popular types of oil to use are jojoba oil and Vitamin E oil. Jojoba oil is good because it is an extremely close match to the oil that your body naturally secretes, and it therefore much less likely to irritate your skin. Vitamin E oil also has an extremely beneficial effect, as it breaks down scar tissue. In stretching, scar tissue is the enemy, making future stretches much more difficult and making your lobes less supple. By doing Vitamin E oil massages, you help enable the breakdown of any scar tissue that has formed and keep your ears as healthy as possible. Another benefit to oil massages is that it helps to promote blood flow throughout your lobes, thickening them up (often substantially) over time.
What is this gunk on my jewelry? I thought my ears were healed...
If your ears are healed and you seem to have some funky suff on your jewelry when you take it out, this is most likely dead skin cells. Your entire body sheds dead skin cells as it grows new skin, you just don't see it (guess what a good part of the dust in your house is!). Since there's a signifigant amount of skin touching your plug, those dead skin cells don't have anywhere to go, so they build up on your jewelry. This effect and the smell that goes along with it varies from person to person and from material to material, with metals generally seeming worse than other materials, like organics.
After stretching my lobes are very sore / bleeding - HELP!
If you are experiencing any of these problems, then you have stretched your lobes too quickly. Unfortunately, this means that you are going to have to backtrack to heal your lobes before you can consider stretching again. Downsize your jewelry to at least your previous size (if not farther) and treat your ears as if they are a fresh piercing or fresh stretch. Once you think that your ears are completely healed, wait another two weeks and begin doing vitamin e oil massages for at least another month prior to stretching. Properly healing your piercing after a damaging stretch should take 2-4 months to be safe.
I think I have a blowout! What exactly is this and what do I do about it?
A blowout happens when one stretches too fast. These generally happen during or immediately proceeding (within 48hrs) a stretch. A blowout occurs when the pressure on the insides of the piercing is too great, and the hole deforms itself by twisting inside out, resulting in the "blowout," or section of tissue that appears as a flap on (generally) the backside of the piercing. There are a few things you can do to try and recover from a blowout. First a foremost, you must downsize immediately. Being stubborn and not taking this action could result in the blowout healing, which almost always requires surgery to fix. Second of all, the piercing absolutely must be treated like a brand new piercing. This means religious sea salt soaks and aftercare. Blowouts go hand in hand with tears, and most blowouts result in at least minimal tears to the lobe, so the aftercare becomes especially important.
Materials:What materials are appropriate for fresh stretches?Titanium, Niobium, 316L or 316LVM implant grade surgical stainless steel (sss), Glass, implant grade PTFE (Teflon)
Benefits of certain materials (organics & glass):
There are certain materials that offer something extra to the person who is stretching their ears because they offer additional properties that make them more appealing. Glass is very popular, as it is a special material termed a 'super-cooled liquid'. This means that there is much less chance for any edges, and that the surface is super-smooth. Glass is also hypo-allergenic, which is a great advantage for people who have skin that is very sensitive.
The other group of materials that have something special to offer is organics. I am a personal advocate of organics in healed piercings. Many people have found that the body tends to accept them extremely well, often resulting in increased comfort and decreased amount of smell and 'ear cheese' being given off. However it is important that you pay attention to the type of wood the jewelery is made of as some woods are toxic.
(toxic wood to the human body - rosewoods, kingwood, violet wood, sono wood, cocobolo,sugar maple, birch,camphorwood, ziricote, bocote, macassar ebony, bubinga, pau ferro,wenge, purpleheart, snakewood, willow, teak, thuya burl, padauk, red oak, american mahogany, afromosia, australian blackwood,
greenheart, mansonia, sassafras, satinwood, cedar, hemlock, pine, yew)
info thanks to Botanical dermatology: Plants and plant products injurious to the skin
Dangers of acrylic / improper materials:
An entire book could be written on the dangers of acrylic and other improper materials being utilized as long-term body jewelry. There are many different types of NOVELTY jewelry that are produced out of a wide array of materials. This jewelry is just what is says: a novelty. There is no great danger in wearing them for a short while, but they should not be the primary jewelry worn as they are not of the same high quality as the other materials available. Acrylic is a porous substance and its use can lead to irritation. It also begins to react with your skin over time - breaking down tissue and releasing toxic chemicals/fumes to be absorbed by your skin.