Cartilage piercings: Ear piercings (other than ear lobes) Nostril and septum
Cartilage piercing stretching isn't quite as common as lobe stretching and should be approached differently than ear lobe stretching. The process of stretching a piercing will be different from person to person, so if someone says that they could stretch up within the 1st month of getting it done doesnt mean you can too or even should.
All piercings should be FULLY healed before stretching unless you have had a consult with your piercer regarding an issue that would need the piercing stretched before the healing time (which is very very rare).
So, you've gotten your piercing and its just reached the time where it should be healed. Where to go to from there? Well, take the amount of time that was suggested for healing (lets say minimum of 3 months) and then double to triple it. That will equal 6-9 months from the day you got it done.
Why so long to start stretching? Cartilage is very solid and hard to stretch. It compacts when stretched rather than tearing. (The tearing for stretching is on a micro level when done properly). Because it compacts the tissue it takes longer to heal after stretching and must be done carefully as major damage can be done improperly stretching cartilage.
If you have had your piercing for ten years, then unless your piercing is poorly placed or irritated, you should be good to go. Consulting placement with your piercer is always a good idea as some people do not have the anatomy for stretching a piercing due to the anatomy they started with, issues during healing that lead to migration or a poorly placed piercing in the 1st place.
How big should I go in one sitting? When stretching piercings, it is ALWAYS suggested to stretch the smallest amount possible in one sitting. 1mm size jumps are the suggested amount unless its obvious to your piercer that larger can be accommodated. 2mm is the MAX amount you should stretch anything in one sitting. Some companies make .5 sizes also. 2mm cartilage stretch will be quite painful during and after. HIGHLY suggested .5mm - 1mm stretches for cartilage.
Issues with stretching cartilage As with stretching any piercing, its suggested you only stretch if you are fine with it never closing down. This is especially true for cartilage. Depending on the size you stretch to and how you stretch, cartilage may not reduce in size once healed.
Cartilage collapse. If you do not stretch safely and very very slowly with cartilage you could compromise your ear leading to the cartilage to break or collapse.
Septum: Depending on the size you wish to get to, a issue some people have is septum droop. This is what it is called when the septum is stretched to the point where the tissue starts to take shape more the the jewellery and it looks like the septum is lower down than it used to be, This is rarely more than a aesthetics issue but with stretching anything, you dont want to go so large that anything snaps.
Alternative to stretching cartilage A quicker but more permanent way to get the same look is cartilage removal. This is something you will need to talk to your piercer about and while this may shrink if you remove the jewellery, there is a much higher chance of there being a hole in your ear for the rest of your life.
What type of jewellery should I use? This will depend on what piercing and your anatomy. A basic guide to what jewellery should be put into a fresh stretch is: - implant grade materials (steel, titanium, niobium, gold) or glass (man made stone can sometimes be used but proceed with caution.) - NO porous materials like wood, bone, horn, acrylic and natural stone - all jewellery should be smooth and rounded at the edge. NO externally threaded itemsas this can cause tearing and will trap bacteria (also the jewellery is going to be low quality. No companies make implant grade jewellery out of external. ONLY internally threaded or threadless) Externally threaded jewellery has a history of cross threaded and being very very hard to remove (especially externally threaded acrylic/plastic jewellery) - NO double flare items as you will need to stretch more than you should to get the flare in, leading to damage of the area and a possibility of not being able to get the jewellery out in an emergency.
Should I lubricate the area before stretching? Yes you should! Applying a water based lubricant to the taper and jewellery will certainly help with the stretching and jewellery insertion. It can sometimes be slippery so please be cautious of that. Please DO NOT use things like pawpaw or Vaseline as these types of products tend to grip more and can make stretching harder.
For soft tissue piercings, we only suggest bio oil, tea tree, jojoba, emu oil or anything like that on the area unless its healed. As stretching does create micro tears, getting these products in the area could cause issues.
Inserting your new larger jewellery should be relatively painless and cause no bleeding. There may be situations where a piercing will bleed from stretching but if you are stretching from home and your piercing is bleeding, it is suggested to see a piercer ASAP as there could be a chance of damage to the area.
If there is any sign of irritation with your piercing you should not stretch it. Wait until it has healed then wait another month minimum to make sure the issue does not return. If your piercing is still sore from your last stretch, its not healed and needs more time before you take the next stretch.
Everyone is different with how their piercing stretch and this is an basic guide, each person and situation will be different.
' Wait until your body is ready' method This method is the best method. You wait until your piercing is ready to stretch up on its own. Depending on the piercing, this may or may not apply. Modify suggests waiting on at least 2-3 months in between stretching your piercing when done in the smaller sizes. The larger you go, the longer you should wait in between stretching. Some people will find the 2-3 month time frame in between stretching is perfect, others may need to wait longer and this can also depend on the piercing. Below this section you will see suggested waiting times for particular piercings.
This can also depend on the jewellery you are inserting into the piercing when stretching. Some pieces of jewellery are easier to insert (eg round ended glass plugs) than others.
If you have been checking in and keeping your piercer updated with how you are going with stretching, they will soon be able to figure out if the above method is working for you. If you have waited 6 months instead of the 3 months and your piercing is still not stretching itself your piercer will be able to help with that.
Taper method To help with stretching and inserting jewellery, piercers may use a taper to help the process along. These items will come in many shapes and styles and your piercer will be able to assess what jewellery you are trying to stretch with and what taper is best suited for helping to insert it. Not all jewellery is suited for stretching or even your individual anatomy so its always suggested to talk to your piercer to see what will best suit your situation. If you are waiting the minimum amount of time between stretching, you shouldn't need tapers to insert your jewellery (but that also depends on what type of jewellery you are inserting into the area).
Tapers at home Tapers should not be worn as jewellery. Tapers are a tool to be used by a professional piercer to help insert jewellery into the fistula. The problem with tapers is that it gives the option of easily skipping sizes and forcing the piercing to stretch before its ready.
If you are using tapers to stretch, please do not skip sizes and do not force the taper in. If there is more than just a VERY VERY slight form of resistance, then your piercing is more than likely not ready to stretch and discussing your options and method with a piercer is suggested.
If stretching with tapers at home, Modify suggests ensuring you put your new jewellery in asap straight in after you stretch by lining the jewellery up with the taper and passing it through. This is one reason why Modify suggests having a piercer stretch if you need tapers to do so as if the jewellery connection is lost when inserting your jewellery after a new stretch, it can lead to multiple stretches leading to pain, swelling, bleeding or blowout.
If stretching with tapers, concave end or threaded (for internally threaded or threadless jewellery) metal tapers are the best thing to use with rounded end plugs (like glass), these will fit nicely with the taper and travel smoothly through the ear. Acrylic tapers are most common but are the worst thing to stretch with since they are porous and tend to 'grip' when stretching. If you are stretching with acrylic tapers the ends are usually flat and not concave. If stretching with this it can be difficult to pass the jewellery into the ear after stretching.
We do not recommend wearing tapers as jewellery at all since they are usually to heavy and catch on a lot of things. We find that clients who use tapers have a higher chance of causing blow out. (dont know what blow out is? click here)
PTFE plumbers tape / Bondage tape
Plumber's Tape/ Teflon Tape/ PTFE Tape and Bondage tape is an alternative way to stretch and it’s fairly cheap. [ No electrical tape]
Not everyone has the luck with their ears stretching by themselves and would prefer not to have to use tapers. These tapes are cheap and easy to find, non-adhesive and a fantastic way to enlarge ears.
In the smaller sizes you can usually get away without using tape or a taper since they are anywhere from 1/2 mm to 1mm in-between sizes. You can usually just wait until your ears are ready to stretch themselves. From 6mm/2g onwards most Australian companies that sell plugs start jumping in 2mm increments which means it can be a bit harder to stretch.
Wrap PTFE tape or Bondage tape around a plug / tunnel / jewellery [NOT a taper]
Wrap 2-3 layers, or however many wraps it takes to fit in comfortably.
Change tape at least once a week
Add another layer once a week. If you can not fit another layer on, return the original layer size
Repeat until next size of plug will fit
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