Ear Gauging Pros and Cons

Ear Gauging

Ear gauging is a term that’s often used to describe stretching a piercing to so that thicker jewelry can be inserted. Have you thought about gauging your ears? Let’s talk about the pros and cons of stretching your ear piercings enough to wear thick plugs, rings and other body jewelry.

Normal Size of an Ear Piercing

Ears are usually pierced with an 18 or 20 gauge needle. The size of a needle (and the hole it leaves) increases as the numbers decrease, so the 18 is thicker than the 20. An 00 gauge is very wide, and gauges larger than that are labeled with fractions.

I want my earlobe piercings to be very large. Why can’t the piercer just punch a larger hole?

Professionals piercers will rarely punch large holes. Think about it — do you really want a huge plug of skin to be removed, a size that will make it nearly impossible to move back down later? You might want to wear large plugs in your ears now, but will you still want them when you’re 40, 50 and beyond? Maybe, but if you don’t, be prepared to hire a plastic surgeon to repair the gaps.

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Starting with normally sized piercings, and then moving up gradually, makes it easier to shrink the holes later. But remember: you may never be able to shrink the piercings to their original size, even if you gauge up slowly.

Earlobe Gauging Procedures

The method I’ll describe worked for me, but not everyone agrees that the technique is a good way to accomplish ear gauging. Talk to a piercing pro before stretching any piercing.

Use jewelry grade surgical stainless steel (SSS) rings (or plugs) for ear gauging. SSS is not porous, so cannot absorb bacteria and dirt that can cause infections; its heavier weight helps the stretching process. Do not insert decorative plastic or wooden pegs until your ears are completely healed.

I used the technique below to stretch my ear lobes enough to wear 6 gauge earrings.

  1. Place your current earrings posts next to a gauge chart to find their size.
  2. Buy rings that are one size up –  if your current gauge is 20, buy 18 gauge rings.
  3. Wash your hands, earlobes and jewelry with antibacterial soap.
  4. Begin massaging one of your ear lobes.
  5. Starting with the massaged lobe, insert the new, larger ring. It will be tight, so take it easy — don’t tear the skin. Use a little antibacterial liquid soap (Provon or Dial) to help insert the ring.
  6. Repeat all steps for the remaining ear.

Your ears will be sore as they heal. When fully healed, repeat the process to step up one more gauge. I was able to change gauge about every two weeks — your healing time may be longer. Pay attention to what your body says! Scar tissue is a real possibility with too-fast ear gauging. The scars leave what look like ugly little cracks around the hole and make it very difficult to gauge up or down.

Keep Those Piercings Clean

Clean your jewelry and earlobes at least once daily with an unscented antibacterial soap. Saturate your ear lobes with lather and use a non-shredding cotton round or soft cloth to remove residue. Turn the rings gently. Rinse and pat dry. Soak your earlobes in a solution made with a pinch of sea salt in a cup of warm water, or use a clean cotton round to saturate the area with the solution.

Try cleaning your earlobes in the shower, where the heat and humidity make it easier to twist the jewelry with less discomfort.

Using Tapers for Ear Gauging

Tapering rings or insertion tapers can be used for ear gauging. These round shafts gradually taper from a smaller to larger width. Talk to a piercing pro about tapers — many people do not believe tapers are suitable for stretching a piercing.

Remember Your Piercing Pro

Talk to a professional body piercer any time you need advice about your piercings.