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High Quality? Part 13 – Stretching

A Karen woman from Myanmar with stretched earlobes

Stretched piercings can be found in cultures all across the globe. From stretched ear lobes to stretched lip piercings and even stretched genital piercings. Stretching can give a very distinctive look and as long as it is carried out carefully it is a safe practice. This weeks blog will be explaining how to stretch safely to prevent damage and have large piercings that last a lifetime.

Stretching is a simple process where larger and larger jewellery is inserted into the piercing over time. It has become common practice in the UK to use tapers to stretch piercings. This is NOT recommended as it is very easy to cause permanent damage using a taper. A slow approach that involves listening to your body is required to achieve end results that are free from scars.

How to Stretch Safely

Stretching - Single Flare Plugs from Gorilla Glass. Available in the webstore here
Single Flare Plugs from Gorilla Glass. Available in the webstore here

At Rogue we recommend to use single flare glass plugs to stretch piercings. This is because glass jewellery is available in 1mm diameter increments and glass is the smoothest body jewellery material available so it helps to insert and for the body to heal around.

Stretching is a slow process! Do not attempt to rush or you can permanently damage your piercings.

Once your piercing has fully healed for a minimum of 6 months you will be able to begin stretching. If your piercing started at 1.2 or 1.6mm then we would recommend the first stretch to be to a 2mm single flare plug. This piece will be worn for 3 months and then a 3mm plug will be able to be inserted. This pattern can then be continued all the way up to your goal size. 3 months is recommended to allow the skin to relax and become supple again. When inserting the next size there should be no pain or forcing. If it hurts then stop and wait another month.


Unsafe acrylic tapers

Tapers are a tool used by piercers for the insertion of jewellery. Tapers should not be used to stretch piercings home. Incorrect use of a taper can lead to splits and tears in the piercing channel and these can become scar tissue. Scar tissue will not stretch like skin so if stretching continues then the healthy skin will get damaged which leads to more scar tissue. If this pattern continues then there is a high risk of a blow out.

Tapers are rarely made from safe materials. The most common material is acrylic. Acrylic has been linked to releasing carcinogenic chemicals at body temperature. This will severely damage the health of a piercing over time and potentially your health in general.

Tapers are NOT jewellery. The weight distribution is imbalanced due to the long tail. Wearing a taper in a piercing for a prolonged period can lead to deformation of the piercing and even blow outs. There is also a much higher snag risk.

Tapers come in gauge sizes rather than mm increments. This means that they can expand your piercing more than the skin is able to deal with. If you look at the percentage change of circumference it explains how tears and scar tissue happen.

Stretching from 4mm example:

The next size from 4mm for single flare plugs would be 5mm.
The circumference of a 4mm plug is Pi (3.142) x Diameter (4) = 12.568mm
The circumference of a 5mm plug is Pi (3.142) x Diameter (5) = 15.71mm
This means the skin has to stretch 3.142mm to accommodate the next size.

The next size from 4mm for tapers would be 6mm.
The circumference of a 4mm plug is Pi (3.142) x Diameter (4) = 12.568mm
The circumference of a 5mm plug is Pi (3.142) x Diameter (6) = 18.852mm
This means the skin has to stretch 6.284mm to accommodate the next size.

The body just can’t handle stretching that much without damage. Different tissue types on different people will have different elasticities. We can’t stress enough how important it is to listen to your body. If it hurts, then it is too soon to stretch.

Blow Outs

A example of a blown out earlobe

A blow out is when the skin from the inside of the piercing channel gets damaged and pushed out. A blow out is likely to be permanent. If a blow out is caught very early on you can attempt to reverse the damage by removing the jewellery for at least 8 weeks and doing twice daily massages using an oil such as vitamin E. Sometimes the tissue can be slowly massaged back into place but this does not always work.

If after 1-3 months the blowout is still there then the only option would be surgical removal of the scar tissue. This is a service that plastic surgeons and body modification practitioners can carry out but there are varying results and varying legality.

The best way to prevent blowouts is to not get them in the first place. Prevention is better than cure. Stretch slowly and your piercings will be happy and healthy no matter the size.

Almost any piercing can be stretched. Here is a video showing the Nostril Plugs of the Apatani women of North East India. These practices are sadly dying out.

If you require help with your stretched piercings, would like new jewellery or would like us to stretch your piercings for you then book an appointment using the book now button above.

That’s it for this week. We’ll be back next week with a blog all about sterilisation. Have a good week everyone!