Stretching is the gradual enlargement of a piercing. Stretching a piercing can be easy and safe so long as the risks are considered and some basic precautions are followed.
WHEN TO STRETCH
HOW LARGE CAN YOU GO AND STILL HAVE THE PIERCING RETURN TO ITS PRIOR APPEARANCE IF YOU TAKE THE JEWELRY OUT?
OVERSTRETCHING (GOING TOO FAR AND/OR TOO FAST)
Your body needs sufficient time to rejuvenate blood flow and produce new healthy tissue, this can take weeks or months.
STRETCHING YOUR PIERCING
If you choose to stretch your piercing yourself, the safest method is to allow your initial jewelry to remain in place for an extended period of time. So long as your piercing is showing no signs of tenderness, discharge or general irritation, a properly cleaned or sterilized piece of jewelry (that is no more than one gauge size larger than your current jewelry) may be gently inserted into your piercing. Forcing jewelry in using pressure is not a proper practice when stretching. You want to allow the piercing to relax enough that it can accept the next size with little or no effort. If the jewelry does not go in easily, or if you experience any significant discomfort or bleeding, immediately stop. This may mean your piercing is not ready to be stretched or that you require professional assistance.
Seeking out a professional piercer can be a wise choice for stretching, particularly if you have a larger goal size. Your piercer can evaluate your piercing and set realistic goals for stretching. A professional can help you choose the proper jewelry material, size, and style. Having your jewelry properly cleaned or sterilized, and inserted for you can help avoid overstretching or other damage that can lead to scarring. In some situations a tool called an insertion taper may be necessary to properly install your selected jewelry. Tapers should be considered a professional instrument, the same as a piercing needle. Tapers are not meant to force excessively large jewelry into a piercing, merely to help aid insertion. Misuse of any instrument can result in damage.
DOES STRETCHING HURT?
• Alternative materials (such as the ones listed above) may be worn, if desired, after the area has fully healed. See the APP brochure “Jewelry for Healed Piercings” for details.
• Solid plugs and hollow eyelets are especially popular styles. For initial stretches, they should be single flared or non-flared, and preferably without grooves for O-rings. Caution: It can be damaging to put double-flared jewelry in a freshly stretched piercing.
• In the USA, jewelry thickness is most commonly measured by gauge* (rather than millimeters), and above a certain size (00 gauge), by fractions of an inch. The measurements become progressively bigger, so the stretch from 14 to 12 gauge is comparatively minimal (.43mm), but going from 4 up to 2 gauge is a substantial jump (1.36mm). The larger you go, the longer you usually need to wait between stretches. This is due to the escalating size differences between gauges, and also because the tissue often becomes more difficult to expand as you strain its capacity. If available, jewelry sized by millimeter (commonly used outside of the USA) increments will result in more gradual stretching.
• Do not use externally threaded jewelry or any jewelry with sharp edges for stretching as these can easily tear or scratch your piercing.
• Many large or heavy ornaments – especially hanging pieces – are not suited as a means of stretching or for freshly stretched piercings. Heavy rings, for example, can put excessive pressure against the bottom of a piercing and cause uneven stretching and/or thinning of the tissue. Once the area has recovered from enlargement, wearing heavier jewelry can be worn and may result in additional stretching.
• Do not wear tapered jewelry such as talons, taper pins, or spirals to stretch. These are not meant to be used as stretching tools and can frequently cause tissue damage from expanding too quickly. When tapered jewelry is used for stretching, the O-rings that keep the ornament in place can cause irritation and tissue thinning from excessive pressure.
Follow your piercer’s advice about leaving your new, larger jewelry in place for a sufficient time. It could be difficult or impossible to reinsert the jewelry if removed too soon – even briefly – because the channel could shrink very quickly. Avoid removing jewelry in a recently stretched piercing for several days, possibly weeks.
A newly stretched piercing may experience some tenderness and inflammation. It is usually mild and may pass in as little as a few days. Still, it is prudent to follow the care suggested for new piercings. For details, consult your piercer and refer to the APP “Suggested Aftercare Guidelines” brochures.
RESTING (ESPECIALLY FOR EARLOBES)
MASSAGE & MOISTURIZING
Soreness, redness, weeping, or inflammation of your tissue may indicate a problem. You may have stretched too far, too quickly, or you may be having a negative reaction to the material, size, or style of your jewelry. Treat an overstretched piercing like a brand-new one and follow appropriate care and cleaning. Failure to do so can result in serious consequences, including infection and tissue loss.
You may need to downsize (go back to your previous size) if the piercing is significantly irritated. Although you’re probably eager to get to your goal size, downsizing is a great way to keep your tissue healthy. Afterwards, you will need to wait at least a few additional months before attempting further stretching. Go slow from the start and avoid having to downsize or stall your process.
The most common location for a blowout is the earlobe. It may not be as painful as it looks, but it does indicate a problem. You should consult your piercer. You may need to downsize, resume aftercare procedures, and/or follow other suggestions as outlined by your piercer.
Association of Profession Piercers