Watch this before you Stretch Your Ears

5 things to think about before you “gauge” your ears.

We’ve all been there, you have a good idea, you have the cash, and the tattoo or piercing parlour is open, so why not get it done right now?  Stretched ears (some people call them “gauges”) are an easy way to get into the subculture of piercing/tattoo/body art, and can be less noticeable if you decide to let the holes tighten back up, unlike, say, getting a tattoo which requires expensive laser treatments. With any kind of body art, whether it’s a piercing or a tattoo, I always recommend to think about the five things listed below.

Stretching Requires Time and Money

You may decide to go the route of getting a piercer to cut out a circle of flesh from your ears to expedite the process, but most people work up to a certain size.  You need to consider how big you’re going and factor in a month per stretch.  That stretch could be up two sizes, but usually it’s just one.  With that kind of process you are guaranteed to not “blow out” your ear or create micro-tears in the tissues.  If you choose to go faster than this and reach a large size (larger than 00), you will certainly damage your ears to some degree, if not tear them completely.  So, with that said, think of how long you have to take to keep your skin healthy and do the math on the price you’ll have to pay for jewelry and the piercer.  This is nothing to take lightly and if you’re going to go big, you really owe it to yourself to do it safely, as the only way to reverse it once you go to a large size is by a surgical process of cutting the excess skin and stitching it back up to look normal (meaning, spending more money).  If you aren’t all for that as an inevitability, then you should probably stick to the smaller gauges instead.

graphic blown-out ear

::shudders:: This is how you stretch your ears incorrectly

Weather and Hydration Will Effect Your Ears More

Your ears will be prone to becoming inflamed at random times, crusting, and even oozing.  Yuck, right?  This is not a body modification you don’t have to tend to.  If you are wearing a metal tunnel or plug in your ear and extreme heat or extreme cold gets to it, your skin has more surface area to be effected by these climate changes.  You need to think about moisturizing in the summer, and protecting your ears from the cold in the winter.

You Will Need to Properly Cleanse and Moisturize Every Day

“Every day???”  EVERY. DAMN. DAY.  I cannot tell you how repulsive your ear and jewelry can get with this kind of body modification.  Lots of people think, “oh, I’ve had my ears pierced before and I just had to clean them once a week.”  Well, strap yourself in, Sonny Jim, because this isn’t like the every day ear piercing that even an 8-year-old can take care of.  More surface area equals more sloughed skin, more chance of sebum, hair and skin products, and dust to get between the skin and the tunnel or plug.  Your local yeasts will love this set up and get super hyped about multiplying, and when they do it for long enough, your ear will crack and ooze.  FUN TIMES.  Every single day, you will need to take out your jewelry, clean it and your skin thoroughly, and moisturize the area.  I also go one step further and don’t wear my jewelry at night so that my skin has a chance to breathe.  So, basically, this isn’t a “no-maintenance” piercing.

Infected ear.

Your ear will swell up when not properly cared for.

Materials Matter, Don’t Go for the Cheap Jewelry

Furthermore, most people cannot tolerate the cheaper materials that come with inexpensive body jewelry.  You need to spend the money to make sure your body doesn’t try to reject the jewelry, not even stainless steel is good enough in most cases, you have to use implant grade to ensure that the skin is happy.  Porous materials like wood and stone are most often safe bets, but can harbor bacteria, so be sure you figure out what cleansers will do the job without damaging your jewelry. Tea tree oil is usually a safe bet, but make sure your body doesn’t react, put a small amount on your ear to test for allergies so you aren’t surprised by a red hot and swollen ear during your day.

Lobe Repair Before and After

Earlobe repair surgery is easy but costly.

The Bigger You Go, The More Likely It’s Permanent

A lot of piercings offer the luxury of not really being a commitment.  You get it, you get bored with it, you take it out, you only have a small scar to remind you.  With stretched ears, you can usually go back to mostly normal if you are at a 00 or smaller, but once you start passing that mark, you need to think of it as permanent.  Yeah, you may have the cash for reconstructive surgery right now, but what happens if you don’t in the future and those 1″ tunnels are the only thing standing between you and a cushy job (with an unfortunate dress code rule against body modifications).  Are you certain that you’ll be able to scrounge up the $400-$1000 it will cost to fix it? Assume it’s permanent and then ask yourself if you are truly in it for the long haul.  If you have even the slightest doubt that it will be something you’re still happy with in the future, just keep to the smaller gauges. You aren’t winning any awards for going bigger than that 8g you’re rocking right now.

How about you?  What do you wish you’d known before you got your body modification?

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