Monday, November 10, 2008

Stretching your Lobes - A Primer

Sunday morning, after my shower, I massaged my lobes with Stretch Essential Oil Blend, and then popped in a pair of 1/2" Kaos Softwear eyelets, up from the 7/16" eyelets I'd gotten into the shower with.

A word to the wise: Kaos Softwear does not recommend that you use their eyelets for stretching. When you stretch a piercing, the surrounding tissue tends to swell for the first couple of days, sealing it against the jewelry and making certain types of jewelry harder to remove. Silicone jewelry is, by definition, slightly tacky. When freshly stretched flesh is too tight against the slight tackiness, it prevents the tissue from draining, effectively sealing in plasma and bacteria that would otherwise be washed away.

The squishy foldiness of Kaos Softwear eyelets makes them seem ideal for easy stretching. However, if you are not careful or don't know what you're doing or what to watch out for, you can cause a lot of damage to your piercing by stretching with these eyelets.

What I use is the Parylene coated second edition plugs. The Parylene coating gives the eyelets a non-tacky surface. While my lobes have mostly been problem-free since I started stretching, they have not been fond of anything remotely tacky. I did stretch from 00 (double aught) gauge to 7/16" using Parylene coated second edition eyelets and had no problems. In part from the non-tacky surface, but, also, because I am compulsive about lobe care and was vigilant for any signs of problems.

I stretched my lobes last in May, so it's been about six months. It had been getting progressively easier to get the eyelets out, and my lobes were feeling very much like they were "ready" to be stretched. For those of you who don't know a lot about stretching piercings, your piercing will naturally start to stretch after time. This is especially true the larger you go. Partly this is because of the weight of the jewelry, but mostly because skin is naturally elastic. Kaos Softwear is virtually weightless. Had I used another, heavier, type of jewelry, my lobes might have been ready for an "upgrade" earlier.

That's ok. I'm in no rush.

For those of you who may be wondering, I have no idea how big I will end up going. I don't have a "goal", and I've always felt like I'd know when it was time to stop. I'd been thinking that 1/2" might be it for me. Now that I'm here, it's not quite the look I was hoping for. I'll have to find some pictures to share of what I'm talking about.

Once I'm "done", then I'll finally start buying the fancier jewelry. For now, I stick with more inexpensive pieces, since they're only temporary. Ever the tightwad, I see no point in buying more expensive jewelry when I'll only be wearing them for a few months. But, oh, wow, does amber ever look gorgeous in a stretched lobe!

Here are some things to remember if you are considering stretching a piercing:

1. Take your time! It's not a race. If you stretch too quickly, you will only end up with blown out, ugly holes that are almost impossible to repair.

2. Never stretch higher than the next gauge. Skipping gauges is the single most reliable method of getting a blown out piercing. They are not pretty, folks!

3. Take good care of yourself and your lobes all the time, not just when you want to stretch them. Drink lots of water, take vitamins, and clean and massage your piercing daily. You can use any number of lotions, potions or oils, and I can even give you some recommendations if you would like them. Massage helps increase the blood circulation to your piercing, which helps keep the skin healthy and elastic.

4. If you notice a problem - stop! Stop right away. Downsize the jewelry you're wearing and seek professional help immediately. The sooner you take care of any problems you have, the more likely you are to be able to maintain healthy, beautiful holes.

5. A good way to keep the skin from getting too thin, is to downsize, stretch, downsize, stretch (please be sure to let your piercing heal between each step). This will help thicken up the skin surrounding your piercing, so you have fat, sassy lobes. Remember that if the skin gets too thin, it can tear!

6. When it comes to piercings, "gauge" is not a verb! You are stretching your lobes, you have stretched your lobes, or you are going to stretch your lobes. You are never, ever gauging your ears, you have never gauged your ears, and you are not going to gauge your ears. If you use gauge as a verb in relation to piercing, you are outing yourself as a noob and as someone who, clearly, has no sense. At best, you should expect to get a look that says "Idiot!", but don't be surprised if you get schooled by someone who has been around awhile. If you're seeking the services of a piercer and he or she uses gauge as a verb - find someone else!

7. Your skin is the most elastic after a hot shower. If you're stretching your piercing at home, doing so right after a nice, hot shower is the very best time to do it.

8. Always, always use lubricant. But that's just good advice, in general.

9. Stretched lobes are, really, significantly less likely to tear or get ripped out than standard earrings. Ever heard of the cheese-cutter effect?

10. Enjoy them! If you're not enjoying your stretched piercings, then you're doing something wrong! OK, not really. But if you're not enjoying them, maybe it's time to reconsider why you're stretching them.

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