My ears were so ready for this stretch. The plugs I had in had taken to popping out on their own and when I inserted the new plugs, my lobes didn't even notice.
When, a week later, one plug fell out in the shower and I could pop the plugs out without pinching them, I figured they were ready for another stretch.
Apparently not so much.
I put in the next size plugs, 3/4", last week. This time there was definitely a stretch and my ears got cranky. Probably not significantly more so than any other time I've stretched them, but they were definitely red, swollen and ouchie.
After two days, I started to get nervous about how swollen they were and the fact that they are Kaos Softwear plugs (see disclosure). While I have never had a problem, I have seen what happens when Kaos stretching goes wrong and I was afraid of that happening.
While I was sitting in the van in a parking lot, waiting, I popped them out. Noting: they came out with no problems and there was no sign of impending trouble.
An interesting thing happened then. But let me back up a bit.
When you have plugs (or any jewelry, for that matter) in a stretched piercing, they work to keep swelling in check. This is one of the reasons that it's not recommended that you remove jewelry from a piercing until it's healed, even if you're having problems with that piercing**.
When your lobe is swollen and cranky and you take your plugs out, well, you end up a lot like this:
I left them like this for most of the day. Ibuprofen, ice, drinking fluids all help the swelling get down a bit. You can also soak in warm sea salt water*** and massage your lobes with skin and jewelry compatible oils. I put the smaller plugs back in later that day.
My lobes are still swollen and cranky, but they're doing better.
I'm not worried about them because their reaction is within a normal realm. There are no tears, fissures or blow outs. The skin is neither too hot nor too cold. Pain is bearable and I have no fever or other sign of infection.
So it looks ugly, it doesn't feel great, but I didn't just screw my ear lobes up permanently. I just have to be patient while they settle back down. In the meantime, I'm soaking and massaging them daily, as well as taking immune support vitamin cocktails.
This is your immune system at work, people.
Once the swelling is all the way down and they've stopped lymphing, I'll wait about a week and then make the decision about when to try the stretch again. In my experience, my ears should be more ready for the stretch once they get over the "trauma" of this experience.
What's my goal?
Well, I always figured I would "know it when I see it". But I've started to feel a little antsy about being done. I've been stretching (slowly) for a few years now, usually a couple of sizes a year. I've primarily used inexpensive jewelry because, hell, it's only going to be useful for a few months, at best. Most of the time the only pair I have in my current size is the pair in my ears.
I feel like I'm ready to be done moving up and to start purchasing jewelry that I intend to keep for awhile.
I'll have more on that later. For now, though, I've set a tentative "quit" goal of next year. And I'm kind of hoping to hit 1" by then. That's only three sizes up from where I'm at right now.
I'll post more about "what's the point?", as well as some of the jewelry I've been eyeballing. Some for several years, now.
*You are not supposed to stretch your piercings with Kaos Softwear. I do not recommend it. Don't make me show you the picture of SweetPea's bloody Kaos plug.
**Another reason is because you'll seal any bacteria or infection inside once the hole closes up. I've got a story to tell you about this, but that's for another day.
***1/8 teaspoon sea salt to one cup warm water. It should taste like your tears. Do not use table salt or Epsom salt. Just don't. It is not the same thing and it can damage both your body and your jewelry. Sea salt. Only.