Arka - Ear Stretching Jewellery Shop in the UK.
Ear Stretching Information
Links to other useful and interesting websites.
|How to stretch your ears |
Remember, ear stretching is a body modification and should be taken seriously and responsibly. It's your choice and your body and your responsibility. We accept no responsibility for any injury you sustain using any of our jewellery or advice. The below information is our opinion only and expert medical advice should be sought if you encounter any injury.
Right, got that out of the way...
Well, first you need the ear pierced. Just a standard ear piercing, not close to the edge of the lobe, then you need to wait. Generally its best to wait at least 2 months before you stretch, some people think you should wait even longer. Anyway, once you have a fully healed standard earring piercing, then you can start to stretch it.
The best way to stretch your ears is patiently and gently.
Different people have different ways of stretching. This is my method, the taper method. You can google for other methods of stretching, like the taping method which uses bondage tape wound around a plug to increase its diameter. The taping method seems more popular when people get to the large sizes.
You must stretch up very slowly, moving a taper further in, gently stretching the hole, over a period of days... A taper or stretcher is a shape that gently expands the hole as you push it into the ear. What shape is up to you. Some people prefer straight tapers, others circular or spiral tapers. We have lots to choose from.
If you are going to stretch your own piercings, be sure to wash your hands with hot water and a liquid, antibacterial soap.
If you are just starting to stretch from a fully healed standard ear piercing hole, then start with a 1.6 or 2mm taper. Push it in as far as it will easily go, then give it another slight twist and push, then stop. It should feel uncomfortable but not really painful. It shouldnt really 'hurt' , it definately shouldnt bleed, there should just be a warm glow in the lobe. Go slowly. You risk a 'blow out' (see below) if you try and stretch too quick. This can cause permanent damage to your lobe.
Leave the taper in the ear. Wait for the ear to settle down before continuing. This varies greatly between people, it might be a few hours or it could be a day or two. Everyone is different, listen to your body. Once it feels ready give it another twist and push deeper in. Dont be too vigorous, you can seriously damage your ear lobes by rushing this. Remember, take your time... Go slowly. It could take a day to go up a millimeter, it could take a week, everyones different. Dont rush. However long it takes, the taper should be removed often, so you can clean the ear and give it a salt bath (see below)
Keep up the process until the taper is fully in. I then leave it for another day or two before I change to some other jewellery. Dont try and use double flared plugs for some weeks (see below). Stick to jewellery that doesnt require a further stretch for a few weeks.
Although I didnt use lubricants, because I tend to stretch very slowly, some people find a little lubrication helps. If you want to use a lubricant, choose wisely. There are conflicting opinions on what is a safe lubricant to use. I have heard of people using vaseline or olive oil, probably a safer option would be to use a mild, liquid anti-microbial soap (obviously without fragrance). I'd recommend that whatever you use, make sure to wash it all off after with warm water.
Saline Solution (Salt Bathing)
Clean your fresh stretches at least once a day with saline solution (salt water). Dissolve half a teaspoon of salt in a cup of boiling water, wait for the water to cool down, remove the jewellery and soak the lobe, this helps prevent infection and aids healing. Use non-iodized, fine-grain sea salt for your soaks, It is better than regular table salt, which typically contains additives that could be incompatible with wound healing.
I find pouring the salt water into an egg cup is the easiest way to apply the solution to the lobe.. You can 'dunk' your lobes into the egg cup, and leave them soaking in the solution for a couple of minutes.. swishing them around.
For those of you who want an aftercare solution in a bottle, we now supply BPA Stretching aftercare solution This has added ingredients to help your stretch heal, like Vitamin E and Tea Tree oil. It comes in a handy sized bottle that you can take around with you to add a few drops every now and then.
Remember to keep your ears clean. Remove the jewellery regularily and wash the lobes with anti-bacterial soap. Massaging the lobes is a good idea, use olive oil, or even better, use 'Holey Buttr' which is specially formulated for stretched lobes.
The larger your holes get the more dead skin, moisture, bacteria, and dust can collect in them. This smelly, (cheesy) oily substance which forms (called sebum) needs to be cleaned out on a regular basis. It seems that the build up of sebum is not as bad with 'organic' materials as these allow the ear to 'breathe'.
When you want to stretch again, a taper or crescent with a gentle increase in diameter of a millimeter or two from your current hole size should be chosen.
Only stretch up by a millimeter or two at a time. Then wait for the hole to completely heal and feel fine before stretching again. Probably 4 or 5 weeks later. Dont rush it or you'll damage the ear lobe and increase the risk of infection.
There are other ways of stretching your ears... using ear weights is one.. another way is the 'tape' method, where bondage tape or ptfe tape is wrapped around a plug to increase its diameter.
Some people seem to be getting very large gauge piercings now, 5mm and even larger. A whole chunk is taken from the ear. This obviously isnt ear 'stretching' at all, and in our opinion the resultant hole will present problems if the person wants to stretch larger later. In our opinion its better to stretch slowly like its always been done.
|Tapers and Expanders|
An item suitable for ear stretching will gradually get thicker over its length.
First Stretch from a standard ear piercing should be to 1.6mm or 2mm.
Then go up in 2mm increments.
|Problems with Ear Stretching |
If you follow the above instructions you wont have any problems. If for whatever reason though, your lobe does becomes infected, (swollen, painful, leaking blood or puss) bathing with salt water is the first thing you should do. Treat the ear as you would a wound. Remove the jewellery then clean the lobe properly and then bathe in salted water. Dissolve a teaspoon of salt in a cup of boiling water, wait for the water to cool down, and soak the lobe. Pouring the salt water into an egg cup makes this easier. We also supply a stretching aftercare solution here. Piercing aftercare solution
Be sensible about what jewellery you put back into an infected ear, If you have blood or puss on a wooden item for example, its probably not advisable to put this back in ! even if you have cleaned it. Surgical steel items would be the safest to put into an infected earlobe, as you can sterilise them by boiling. Whatever you choose make sure its clean and sterile. Dont try and continue stretching for a few days. If the swelling or pain doesnt subside in a couple of days, go and see your doctor.
People react differently to different materials, so its important that you pay attention to what your body is telling you. If an item of jewellery doesnt feel 'right' or a lobe is still hurting days after the stretch, take the jewellery out. Try a different material.
We have a lot of questions about which items are suitable for stretching and for fresh stretches, and as far as we're concerned there is no definitive answer. I know people who have stretched their ears with all sorts of materials (acrylic, wood, horn etc) without any problems at all. I also know people who have had problems when using surgical steel 316L for stretching. I know some people can react badly to wood.
It seems everyone is different in the way their bodies react to different materials. I advise people that its their body and their own responsibility when using our products. At the first sign of any irritation remove the jewellery and replace with another material.
Speaking generally, of course the safest material to stretch with and wear in a fresh stretch would be surgial steel 316L. So surgical steel would be the most conservative approach. However, bear in mind that people have been stretching their ears for thousands of years... before any kind of steel was made.
If you stretch as we advise above you shouldnt experience any bleeding, however the most common causes of bleeding are;
Stretching too quickly
Stetching too quickly will increase the risk of infection, tearing the lobe and causing a blow out. Be patient.
Trying to put a new item in too soon
Your going out Friday night and you want to show off your new plugs... Dont do it. Wait until a stretch is fully healed before trying to insert new plugs... especially double flared plugs. Try and but up the new tunnel to the back of an expander to get it in.. Dont just push like a nutcase.. Be gentle and have patience.
Wearing inappropriate items while sleeping
One of the most common causes of injury from an item is to wear the wrong item while sleeping. Apart from the obvious spikes on some jewellery that can cause injury, Some tunnels and plugs can be forced into the ear by lying on them while sleeping. I have one friend who woke up with blood running down his neck because the steel tunnels he was wearing while asleep had actually been forced into his ear.. The lip had sunk into his hole and cut his ear, it was hard for him to remove the tunnel.. It was a painful lesson. We advise removing jewellery while sleeping to avoid injury. The only items we recommend for wearing while sleeping are the 'soft' silicon tunnels.
If you have had some bleeding then treat as you would any wound. Clean the ear regularily, use a salt bathe as described above. Make your own decisions regarding your health. Ideally after bleeding wear a steralised surgical steel item until your ear is healed. If you have bled on an organic item, remove it... Be sensible, dont wear a dirty item in a wounded ear!
Blow outs happen when people stretch too fast, or try to insert a big plug in a small hole !
The pressure on the inside of the piercing is too much and the hole deforms itself by kinda twisting inside out. Some tissue pops out of the back of the hole. This can permanently deform the ear, and it looks ruff.
You dont want this to happen ! Stretch slowly. Dont force plugs or expanders in.
If it does happen, take the plugs out straight away. Downsize. Hope that the tissue is re-absorbed.
Plugs stuck in ear
Remove double flared plugs from your ears every day. We have heard stories of people leaving double flared plugs in their ears for weeks and then having trouble removing them, because the ear has shrunk around the plug. Be sensible. Remove them often.
Choose sensibly the plugs and tunnels to wear while sleeping. The only items we can safely recommend for wearing while asleep are the soft silicon plugs and tunnels. All other items carry a degree of risk. Some items have spikes which could cause injury while sleeping. Some flared items can slip deeper into the ear than intended while leaning on them while asleep. Getting a piece stuck in the ear can be a painful experience you wont want to repeat. Organic tunnels (especially in the larger sizes) can be fairly fragile and might break is squashed by a head during the night.. Be sensible... think about what you wear to sleep and take care.
My ear wont stretch
Sometimes people encounter an ear that just wont stretch. This can be down to a number of reasons.. every ones ears are different, but a build up of scar tissue due to stretching too quickly is the most common reason. Scar tissue is much harder to stretch, but it will if you take your time. When ears are hard to stretch there is a much bigger risk of bleeding and infection, so be even more careful. Just go even slower, wear an expander that you dont mind wearing for a while, it can be a tedious affair to get past this point... be patient.
|How to insert Flesh Plugs|
So you've used an expander or taper, and you've gradually moved it further into the ear over a few days, and now you want to put those tunnels you bought in. Once you can push the taper straight through your ear, and out the other side, youre ready to put those plugs in.
The best way to insert flesh plugs into a new stretch is to 'butt them up' against the end of the taper, then push the plug against the taper, through the ear. The taper will hold the hole open, making it a lot easier to get the plug or tunnel in. Once the taper falls out the other side, the plugs should follow through. This is by far the easiest way to insert flesh tunnels after a fresh stretch. If you just take the taper out and try inserting the plug on its own.. it will be a lot harder.
Of course, once you've had the plugs in for a while, removing them and inserting others is a doddle.
Bear in mind that double flared plugs (see below) require the hole to be loose, as the ends of double flared plugs are 0.5mm to 1mm bigger than the middle (where the plug sits). For this reason, double flared plugs are not recommended for use after a fresh stretch. Wait a couple of weeks before using them, and there shouldnt be a problem getting them in. A little bit of olive oil on the plug or tunnel will really help if the holes are still tight. Double flared plugs are then very easy to wear, comfortable and hassle free.
|Ear Stretching Kits|
Ear stretching kits are just sets of tapers ranging across the sizes. If you buy a 'kit' it will contain stretchers taking you from say 1mm to 10mm, this process, done properly will take months. We think 'kits' encourage people to stretch too quickly. We advise people to go up a couple of millimeters a time, then let your ear rest at a size before continuing.. so we dont sell 'ear stretching kits'.
We sell expanders, tapers and stretching crescents for every size individually, have a look round the shop.
|Does it hurt to Stretch your ears? |
Not if youre doing it properly. A slight discomfort maybe but no more. Theres a kind of 'warm glow' around the lobes to let you know that you are doing it properly. Actual pain means something is wrong.. Read the problems section.
|Will the hole shrink back?|
The answer to this depends on lots of factors.
Generally though, holes of up to about 6mm or 8mm, and even sometimes as large as 10mm and 12mm, will shrink back down to normal piecing size. (Given enough time)
I do know someone who had stretches of 20mm, which shrunk back to almost nothing. He had very elastic ears.
The factors that affect this are;
How quickly you stretched up... too fast is bad as you can build up scar tissue that might not stretch back down.
How long you rest between each stretch... same reasons as above.
Your skin elasticity... everyone is different.
So, unfortunately, there is no definite answer, everybodys ears react differently to stretching.
Ear stretching is a permanant body modification and as such should be taken seriously. Some Body modders would say if youre already thinking about shrinking your holes, dont bother stretching in the first place. In any case, dont rely on the fact that the holes will disappear.. they may not.
|Basic Types of Ear Stretching Jewellery|
These are the cross section of the basic shapes used in ear stretching jewellery together with a description
|Tapers / Expanders|
A taper or expannder has this basic shape, though they can also be curved.
You can move the expander in gradually, thus making the hole bigger.
O-rings can be used to hold the taper in place.
The size stated is the maximum diameter of the taper.
|Stretching crescents, Stretchers|
Sometimes called stretching tusks, stretching crescents have this shape.
They are a convienient way of stretching the hole slowly. You move the crescent round gradually, slowly expanding the hole.
You can use rubber o-rings to hold the crescent in place.
The size stated is the maximum diameter of the item.
|Double flared flesh plugs and tunnels|
Double flared plugs and tunnels have this shape.
The size stated is the diameter of the part of the plug that sits in the ear.
The flare should be between 1mm and 1.5mm bigger than the part that sits in the ear. They require a slight stretch to pop in.
If your hole is tight because it is new, then double flared plugs will be difficult to get in. When your hole is looser after a month or so, then double flared plugs are easier to insert. A little olive oil on the plug or tunnel will help a lot when getting them in. They are very comfortable to wear, and there is no need for o-rings.
Remove Double Flared Plugs from your ears often (everyday) and reinsert, otherwise, over time, the ear hole can shrink a bit around the plug making them hard to remove. You should of course, be taking the plugs out every day anyway.. to clean the lobes, so this problem shouldnt arise.
However, we've recently heard of people who have left double flared plugs in without removing them for weeks and have then been unable to get the plugs out ! Please dont let that happen to you.
|Threaded flesh tunnels and plugs|
Threaded flesh tunnels and plugs have this shape.
The size stated is the diameter of the part of the tunnel that sits in the ear.
Threaded plugs and tunnels are easy to insert. The size of the lip varies from design to design
|Single flared flesh tunnels and plugs|
Single flared plugs and tunnels have this shape.
The size stated is the diameter of the part of the plug that sits in the ear.
They are easy to insert and are usually held in place by a rubber o-ring fitted around the plug once it is in the ear.
Top hats have this shape. They are like a single flared plug but with an abrupt lip, not flanged like a flared plug. They are usually held in place with rubber o-rings. The size stated is the size at which they sit in the ear.