Stretching (body piercing)

Stretching (body piercing)

Stretching (often colloquially referred to as gauging), in the context of body piercing, is the deliberate expansion of a healed fistula (hole in the skin) for the purpose of wearing body piercing jewelry. Ear piercings are the most commonly stretched piercings, with nasal septum piercings, tongue piercings, industrial piercings and lip piercings/lip plates following close behind. All piercings can be stretched to some degree, however. Cartilage piercings are usually more difficult to stretch, and more likely to form hypertrophic scars or keloids if stretched quickly. Healing is very important in between stages of stretching.

Stretching is usually done in small increments to minimize the potential for damaging the healed fistula or creating scar tissue. In North America, most stretching methods go up by a single even-sized gauge at a time. In Europe and most of the rest of the world, jewelry is metric, but the increments between standard sizes are similar.

tretching methods

There are several common methods used to enlarge piercings, of various origins and appropriate for different circumstances.

Please note that, no matter the method used, any individual who is stretching their piercing should wait at least one month between each stretch--more at sizes above 6g, and up to 3-4 months at sizes above 00g. Blood that results from stretching is a sign to wait longer until the fistula heals completely. The healing process after a tear will also take at least one month.

Failure to follow this timeline, particularly with earlobe piercings, will result in puckered lobes (commonly referred to as "cat ass" due to its resemblance to the feline anus), thin lobes, and can cause lobes to tear apart completely. Stretching earlobes is considered to be a permanent modification, as it is possible that even only slightly stretched earlobes will never return to their original size. It is for this reason that one should stretch slowly and carefully, or face surgery to reconstruct the scarred flesh that is the result of impatience.

*Tapering — The most common professional technique for stretching piercings, tapering involves the use of a taper, a conical rod usually made specifically for this purpose. It is lubricated and pushed through the fistula until the widest part of the taper is level with the skin surrounding the piercing. Larger jewelry is then pushed through, parallel to the back of the taper. Tapers come in a variety of sizes and are usually identified by the gauge of the large end. They can vary in length, but most tapers are about 2-3 inches (approx. 5-7 centimetres). Most tapers are made of surgical steel or acrylic and some have threads extending from the wide end to allow the attachment of barbell jewelry, to make insertion easier. Improvised objects like knitting needles are sometimes used as tapers by people stretching at home; however, these items should not be used, as their gauge cannot be determined. Additionally, tapers should not be worn as jewelry, as the weight behind the earlobe will cause uneven stretching and unnecessary stress on the lobe.

*Dead stretching — Any stretching where no equipment is used and larger jewelry is forced through an existing piercing. This can lead to two types of injury if the fistula is unready: a simple tear of the skin, or a "blowout" in which the fistula is pushed out through the back of the piercing by pressure. A buildup of scar tissue may be created, which will weaken the fistula and can make it more difficult to stretch in the future. Some piercings will stretch slightly on their own and larger jewelry can be inserted without the potential for unpleasant side effects, especially piercings that see a lot of "play", such as tongue piercings, and those that have loosened to the extent that, when gently pulled on, light can be seen over the top of jewelry being worn.

*Teflon tape stretching — The existing jewelry is removed and a thin layer of non-adhesive Teflon tape, which is inert and safe for piercing use, is wrapped around the jewelry. The jewelry is then re-inserted, and as the piercing adapts to the new diameter of jewelry, the process is repeated with the next application of tape being thicker than the previous one. This is done until the fistula has stretched enough to accept new jewelry altogether. It is highly recommended to use jojoba oil, emu oil, or other moisturizing oils to facilitate this process, as the tape can dry out a fistula very quickly. This is the safest way to stretch piercings and is recommended by most professionals.

*Weights — Large, heavy jewelry or weighted objects can be used to stretch piercings. This method is not widely used in modern-day, as it tends to cause piercings to migrate and can, especially in ears, lead to a thinning of tissue that is disfiguring or requires reconstructive surgery. However, it is a method that has been traditionally utilized by various tribes, such as the Dayaks in Borneo, that practice extreme earlobe elongation.

*Scalpelling — Rather than expanding a healed fistula, this method involves extending the size of the piercing by using a scalpel to cut the edge of the fistula, expanding its diameter. It is often used in earlobe piercings. This technique is also often used to alter the placement of a large piercing.

*Scalpel and taper — After an area of flesh is removed (using the scapel method), a large taper can be inserted directly after, allowing skin to instantly be stretched to large diameters; several inches can be achieved. This method is much rarer and can be extremely painful. The use of a dermal punch, followed by tapering, is also used in this procedure.

*Silicone Plugs — These plugs are soft and malleable, allowing a relatively large plug to be inserted into the fistula. Once folded and inserted into the ear, they expand, stretching the earlobe. However, stretching with silicone is often a foolish decision. Kaos Softwear does not recommend using silicone plugs to stretch with, due to the tacky surface. [] . The stretched fistula can adhere to the silicone, and silicone is airtight, which can trap infection and cause it to spread internally.

Health issues

There are few health issues directly related to stretching piercings. Most stretching methods do not create a wound, and properly stretched piercings will heal after stretching, although If an individual's skin elasticity and vascularity allow, most piercings can be stretched far beyond their initial size. Piercings smaller than 8 mm will often close up if jewelry is removed Fact|date=August 2008. Some have claimed that up to 18 mm can close effectively, although some piercings take longer than others depending on the individual, body part, and age. However, each person's tissue will differ, and many variables—such as a person's age, length of time taken to stretch, time fully healed at a particular size, skin elasticity, and scar tissue formation, amongst others—can affect the ability of the skin not only to stretch, but also to close up. However, if you stretch them correctly and let them heal for at least 4-6 weeks before going bigger, your lobes should be healthy and will shrink at least a couple sizes after the jewellery is removed.

If taken beyond the body's ability to stretch, or if done improperly, damage caused can require minor surgery to repair, or may not be repairable. Blowouts from over -stretching, especially ones caused by "dead stretching", can create scar tissue, which can lead to keloiding or hypertrophic scarring. Stretching too quickly, or skipping from one smaller gauge to a gauge more than one size larger, can cause bleeding and infection and eventually lead to a buildup of scar tissue. Scar tissue is more difficult to stretch than unharmed skin, and can make further stretching difficult.

However, application of emu oil, vitamin E, Jojoba oil or other similar oils can reduce the size of blowouts and enhances the circulation of blood flow going to the skin around the stretched fistula, thickening the flesh and allowing more elasticity and a healthier piercing. Additionally, downsizing--moving from a larger size to a smaller size intentionally--can help build collagen in the earlobe, which will thicken the lobe, reduce the puckered "cat-ass" appearance of earlobes that have been stretched too quickly, and keep earlobes healthy.

Jewelry for stretched piercings

There is a large variety of jewelry available for stretched piercings. Many jewelry materials can be used in the manufacturing of jewelry for stretched piercings; materials that would ordinarily be too delicate or brittle to be inserted in smaller gauge piercings are freely used. Stone, fossilized materials, wood, bone, horn, amber, bamboo, silicone, and glass are not uncommon in stretched piercings. Many of these materials "breathe" better than metals or plastics, preventing the buildup of sebum in the enlarged ear lobe. Jewelry is still often made of acrylic or metal, however.

The typical jewelry worn in a large stretched piercing is a plug. It is solid and usually cylindrical, and may be flared out at one or both ends (saddle-shaped), or kept in place by o-rings fastened around the ends. A variation on this is the flesh tunnel, which is shaped in the same way, but hollow in the middle. Claw-, talon-, and spiral-shaped pieces are also commonplace. Ear-weights in varying degrees of size are also worn, commonly made from silver or bronze, though other metals such as copper or brass are occasionally used. However, some people's piercings are easily irritated by some metals; therefore, care should be taken when metal jewelry is worn. Ear cuffs (such as the gold ones utilized in South India provinces) or wrapped beadwork (common amongst the Maasai of East Africa) are other options, though are not usually seen in modern Western contexts.

History and culture

Stretched piercings are probably almost as old as piercing itself. Earlier versions of all modern stretching techniques are known to exist, in one degree or another. Evidence from statuary, especially in Asia, shows us that stretched earlobes were common thousands of years ago and the practices of many African and South American tribes today include stretched lip piercings, some of phenomenal size.

In contemporary times, the re-emergence of body piercing in the developed world has been accompanied in an interest in stretched piercings. Much of this activity was initially associated with the modern primitive movement, but like piercing in general, it has become a more mainstream activity, common amongst young people and members of many subcultures as an identifier and due to its aesthetic appeal to the masses.

Gauges and other measuring systems

Body jewelry is measured in gauges from 20g up to 000g; sizes larger than that are measured in fractions of inches. In Europe they are measured in millimetres.

The table below uses rounding; conversions are not precise.

ee also

*Body modification
*American wire gauge

External links

* [ Picture database of people's stretched earlobes] : Body Modification E-Zine
* [ Encyclopedia entry on stretching] : Body Modification E-Zine
* [ Encyclopedia entry on gauge, including a table comparing different measurement systems] : Body Modification E-Zine
* [ Encyclopedia entry featuring a chart showing a comparison of knitting needle sizes to common piercing gauges] : Body Modification E-Zine
* [ Interactive Gauge Chart] : TongueStud
* [ Stretching Guide] : Tribalectic
* [ Ear Lobe Stretching FAQ] : Onetribe
* [ Gauge Conversion Chart : Millimeters & Inches]

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