Piercing Stretching

Stretching Rationale | Sizes and Measurements | Types of Jewellery | Stretching Process | Stretching Techniques | Maintenance | Problems

In this guide we discuss the modern version of stretching body piercings. We talk in depth about the many different ways stretched piercings are achieved and cover the many different aspects involved in stretching. We aim to explain, in depth, what you need to know to have, healthy and well healed large-gauge piercings.

TL;DR – Too Much Information? For a shorter version try reading our quick reference guide here!

Stretching Rationale

Although the stretching of piercings a tradition which is thousands of years old, with roots in many cultures, it has only just regained popularity in the west within the last 15 years, becoming quite popular within the last 5 years.

The rise in the popularity of stretched piercings has come about for a wide variety of reasons and intentions as stretching (along with other types of body art) is a very personal art form. We can only really discuss broadly why people find stretched piercings interesting but here are 5 of the most popular reasons why some people enjoy stretching their piercings.

  1. A wish to emulate tribal life. Many people are embracing simpler ways of living and reconnecting with the earth and their bodies. For many people the ‘tribal’ way of living is seen as much ‘greener’ and more healthier than the busy, modern, world. For these people stretched piercings are a homage to tribal traditions and way of connecting with, and respecting, their natural bodies.
  2. A way to display body ownership. Some people feel disconnected from their bodies so stretching a piercing can be a small way for them to have control over what happens to their bodies. This can help many people to connect to their body and feel empowered. Some people are also interested in the physical boundaries of their flesh and enjoy experimenting how far they can adapt their bodies, giving them a sense of mastery.
  3. Fashion and Enjoyment. As stretched piercings have become popular in western culture many people are following ‘fashion’ and stretching their piercings because they fit with a particular image they would like to portray. Many people are also stretching their piercings simply because they enjoy doing so or like a particular look or design of jewellery. This can allow an escape from the ever present body idealism in western culture by facilitating body ownership.
  4. To shock or stand out. Many people like to have a physical identity that shows other people that they do not follow the mainstream and that they enjoy being their own person. They may also want to shock other people and impress upon them that it’s ok not to conform. They may start debate and choose to be a physical embodiment of ‘individuality.’
  5. For comfort. Sometimes piercings are more comfortable to have in larger sizes. This can make jewellery insertion easier, give a better anchor for healing or provide jewellery in better materials or shapes. Some people find their anatomy prefers larger sizes of jewellery as it sits better or rests more evenly. This is particularly true in genital piercings where the tissue is often quite thin and sensitive.
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Sizes and Measurements

The size of a piercing hole (known as a fistula) is often measured by a sizing type known as a gauge. Gauge is short for ‘American Wire Gauge’ but it only goes up to around 12mm (0000G) so the rest of the sizes are recorded in fractions of an inch. A more consistent alternative to the gauge measurement is the use of millimetres which tends to be most popular in Europe. Try our piercing size conversion table for more information.

The terms ‘Gauging’ or ‘my gauges’ are (therefore) actually technically incorrect and are rarely used by professionals. It would be the same as saying ‘millimetreing’ or ‘my millimetres!’

The best way to find out what size your piercing is at is to ask your body piercer but, if this isn’t possible, try our guide to body jewellery sizes which gives the average size for initial piercings and advises easy methods of measuring your own jewellery at home. To compare different sizes, types of measurement or to see what size you need to go to next try our piercing jewellery size chart.

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Types of Jewellery.

There are many unique pieces of jewellery for stretched piercings. Knowing how to wear them, and what pros and cons they have, can be vital to successful stretching.

      • You should always buy jewellery in a high quality material if you plan on wearing it for a long time (i.e. longer than a day) these materials include: Titanium, Nobium, PTFE, Glass, Wood, Bone, Horn and Gemstones. Surgical steel is only suited to people who do not have a metal allergy or sensitive skin.
      • For stretching you should also wear a jewellery type that is non-porous (smooth) so it is not advised to use Wood, Bone, Horn or Gemstones. For more about different types of jewellery material try our guide here.

Large Gauge Jewellery Styles.

Jewellery for large gauge piercings comes in a variety of styles and shapes and are worn in slightly different ways. Not every style is suited for a newly stretched piercing to heal around. Below lists the different types of large gauge jewellery, how to wear them and whether they suitable to stretch with. Simply click on each of the headings below to expand the details for each jewellery type.

Taper pins, Stretchers, Tusks, Crescents and Expanders
Double Flared Plugs and Tunnels
Single Flare Plugs and Tunnels, Top hats, Eyelets and Septum Bullets
Flesh Tube Plugs and Tunnels
Threaded Plugs and Tunnels
Large gauge regular jewellery (barbells, rings, labrets)
Ear, Ring, Dayak, Coil, Keystone, Knuckle, Helix and Spool Weights
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The Stretching Process

The stretching process is a gradual and reasonably gentle technique that works with the body’s natural tissue composition, rather than against it. Your skin tissue naturally contains a protein known as elastin which is responsible for allowing flex in the skin and the ability to stretch without it loosing it’s shape.

Stretching your piercing creates ‘gaps’ in between the elastin and collagen (tissue) fibres. These gaps are weak spots because they do not contain any elastin to help them keep their shape or move with general body movements. So the tissue strengthens the new shape by placing new fibres into a pattern which fills in the gaps. This process can take quite a while to finish and is why you should only go up by one size every 4 to 8 weeks.

The new tissue fibre pattern isn’t random. It is based on where the stress points on the tissue are from the jewellery. The pattern of fibres is what creates the tensile strength of the tissue – or how much pressure and stretch it can take without breaking.

There are several important things that can influence this process, however, making stretching slightly more complicated for certain people (click on the headings to expand information):

Scar Tissue
Piercing Age
Correct Size Increases
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Stretching Techniques

There are many different ways to successfully gain a large gauge piercing. Some are simple enough to do at home and some are professional piercing techniques aimed at getting a large piercing more instantly. Here we discuss the different ways to stretch a piercing and the steps taken to achieve one. Click on the headings below to expand a full step by step walk-through of each piercing stretching technique.

Taper Pin Technique.
Tape Wrap Technique.
Dermal Punch Technique.
Enlarged Initial Piercings.
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Stretched Piercing Maintenance

Large gauge piercings require much more maintenance than normal sized piercings due to their size and their increased tendency to collect bodily fluids. To keep the fistula healthy and suitably elastic there are several things you should do frequently. Click on each heading below to expand more information.

Sleeping Without Jewellery
Reversing Jewellery Insertion
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Problems With Stretching.

Stretched piercings are prone to an array of problems that are often not found on regular piercings. If you are having difficulty stretching, have seen blood or think you may have a blow out then try reading our guide to stretched piercing problems, visit your piercer or contact your doctor for medical advice.