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Available Gauge Sizes:

20 gauge 18 gauge
16 gauge 14 gauge
12 gauge 10 gauge
8 gauge 6 gauge
4 gauge 2 gauge
0 gauge 00 gauge
000 gauge 1/2 inch
9/16 inch 5/8 inch
3/4 inch 7/8 inch
1 inch 1 1/4 inch

 

Stretching a Piercing

Stretching Body Piercings

      It is a common scenario; someone wanders into their local body piercing shop and gets a piercing. Before too long they have become quite bored with the captive bead ring or other piece of jewelry they had installed when the piercing was done and they begin searching for something new and exciting to put in their piercing. Invariably, they find a piece of jewelry which is exactly what they want and they simply have to have it - the only problem is the totally awesome piece of jewelry which they are dead set on getting is 6 gauge and their piercing is 14 gauge! No problem. Body piercings can easily be stretched, often referred to as "gauging up", to any size desired.

      So what is involved in stretching a piercing? What must one have in order to accomplish this bold endeavor? Aside from the prerequisite possession of nerves of steel and the courage to embark on this journey which promises to anything but pleasant during the process, it is usually accomplished with what is referred to a a taper. A taper, used for stretching body piercings to a larger gauge, is basically just a metal or acrylic shaft which is of the desired gauge at one end and tapers down to a smaller point on the other. The taper is lubricated and then inserted, slowly and with a reasonable amount of care, into the existing piercing to stretch the flesh and/or cartilidge up to the desired size. This process should be done in stages if the end result is more than a size or two larger than the beginning point and should always be done by a professional whenever possible. Montana Body Art, Inc. does not recommend that people attempt to either perform their own body piercings or attempt to stretch existing piercings up to a larger gauge without the assistance of a trained professional.

      If you absolutely insist on attempting the stretch yourself, there are some things that you should know before beginning to increase the gauge of your body piercing. The first rule, of course, is to listen to what your body tells you; a properly executed stretch will be uncomfortable for sure, but if it becomes intensely painful it should be an immediate sign that you are proceeding too quickly. Trust me, your body knows best and you should heed it's warnings to prevent irreparable damage. Secondly, a piercing should usually be completely healed before attempting to stretch it to a larger gauge. Also, it is normally recommend to only attempt an increase of one size at a time although, if starting with a small gauge such as 20 or 18 it is probably safe to go several sizes in a single sitting. You need to use a bit of common sense here and realize that as the gauge of the original piercing increases, the amount of stretching required to reach the next gauge goes up dramatically. It is far less of a burden on the body to stretch a 18 gauge piercing to a 14 gauge (an increase of 2 sizes) than it is to stretch a 00 gauge up 1 size to a 0 gauge.

       With that thought in mind, it is best to wait 2 or 3 times the length of the initial healing process before beginning to stretch a piercing to a larger gauge. If the piercing took 6 months to heal, it would be wise to wait for 12 to 18 months before increasing the gauge. When you are wanting to go up multiple gauge sizes, it is also a very good idea to wait a month or so between each successive size stretch. With larger sizes, particularly above 4 gauge, it is recommended to extend this waiting period out even further - the exact time will vary with the individual and the location of the piercing. Again, it is recommended to seek professional help for the stretching process. Proceeding too fast could easily result in torn tissue or shattered cartilidge and the unwanted buildup of excess scar tissue which will be detrimental to future stretchings and possibly result in disasterous results to the piercing in general.

       The use of a lubricant is also recommended when stretching a piercing. Reducing the friction when inserting the taper will not only make the procedure less painful, but will greatly reduce the associated pain and tissue damage in the process. This brings us to the question of what to use for a lubricant. There is really no single answer to this question, but some general guidelines will help you choose a suitable lubricant. A good place to begin would be by pointing out what you should not use. The two biggest mistakes are to use either a water based or a petroleum based lubricant. Water based lubricants will generally be ineffective for stretching a piercing as they tend to absord or liquify too quickly. The only exceptions to this rule would be a piercing in the mouth or a very small gauge which will be stretched quickly enough to offset the short lubrication life of water based lubricants. Petroleum based lubricants, such as vaseline, are probably the worst thing you could use. These are difficult or impossible to get out of the piercing after the stretch and will almost surely result in irritation not to mention the fact that they tend to harbor bacteria.

       Some more appropriate choices for lubricant when attempting to stretch the gauge of you piercing include any of several specific liquid soaps. The best choice, and the one which Montana Body Art, Inc. recommends, is a surgical scrub known as Technicare. This is the preferred hand cleansing soap of most physicians and surgeons and can be easilly obtained from practically any medical or home heath care supply house. If you find that Technicare is not available, the next best choice would be either Satin or Provon liquid soaps. These contain the same active ingredients as Technicare but may be more readilly available from a pharmacy or department store. If all else fails, Sensitive Skin Formula Dial soap is always a good standby. These liquid soaps, particularly the anti-bacterial varieties recommended, not only provide extremely effective lubrication, but they have the added benefit of killing bacteria and being designed to be beneficial rather than detrimental to sensitive tissue.


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