Ear gauging is a tribal body mod that means you pierce a hole, stretch it over time then adorn it with body jewelry. We shall talk you through it.
What is ear gauging?
Stretching – also known as gauging – is the art of stretching a healed hole in your skin over a period of time in order to place body jewelry in the hole. You can gauge different areas of your body, but we’re just going to focus on ear gauging, because otherwise gauge sizes and procedures can differ if you’re looking at gauging other locations.
Gauging is visually tribal – you can get all sorts of different gauges from plugs to tapers with which to adorn your nicely and safely stretched pierced hole, and can find out more about them below.
If you like the idea of gauging your ears, here’s an idea of what to expect and how to go about it – though obviously we recommend you scout around on piercing and body mod forums, talk to someone who’s done it and talk to a professional piercer as well. Good luck!
To Gauge or not to Gauge? That is the question.
Ear gauging is similar getting a tattoo or any other body modification – it needs some thought because it might be with you forever. Things can go wrong and sometimes you can even stretch your gauged beyond repair (this is called the point of no return or a blowout). Blowouts happen when you stretch too fast and it prevents the gauged ear from either healing – or it just creates lots of scar tissue. Keep these questions in mind when thinking about gauging.
Do you have enough time to take care of your ear gauges?
Do you have enough money to pay for the ornamentation of your gauges?
Are you prone to infections in the area you are going to gauge or pierce with a gauged needle?
Will your job allow you to have gauges? Will your parents?
Are you comfortable with a potential ripped ear?
You need to also think about the following if you plan on keeping your gauged ears for a while.
Money is needed. The amount is almost always above 12 dollars.
Gauging isn’t meant to be a fad, if you’re approaching it from that angle try fake ones.
Always be safe! Do not under any circumstances jump gauge sizes in an attempt to speed up the gauging process. This will almost always result in a blowout or a buildup of ear scar tissue.
Ear gauging: Starting out
Talk to a professional piercer. Go to a tattoo shop and zone in on someone with gauges. Ask them for a moment of their time and get as much information on stretching as possible. Although this article is here to inform you it is by no means the whole kit and caboodle – there are always more opinions. If your ears aren’t already pierced you can go ahead and get them pierced normally or you can go and get them pierced with a gauged needle. These needles are usually size 16s or 12s. Once the initial gauged piercing is healed up and ready to go, you can gauge it at the pierced size or go one up.
If you don’t want to go to a professional piercer you can always look online for home piercing sets. They generally come with the piercing gun and gauges all the way up to about an 8g. This article isn’t condoning home piercing sets – just giving you all an idea of the roads you can travel. Self piercing is less safe and if something goes wrong you might not have the knowledge to treat the issue until it’s too late. I’ve self-pierced and I’ve received an infection at least twice because of it. Self-piercing is only recommended if you are experienced, i.e. a professional piercer. Then again, if you’re a professional piercer, you already know all of this!
Types of Gauges
Crescents – shaped like moons, crescent gauges usually come with plastic rings called o-rings. These are to hold the gauge in place. They are used to stretch along with tapers.
Plugs – these are just like little sticks.
Tapers – these gauges are shaped like cones. One end is really small and it’s usually two to three sizes smaller than the other end, which is the size of the gauge you need.
Double flared plugs – each end has a lip on it that is an increase in size by at least .005mm, sometimes more.
Flesh tunnels – these are hollow plugs, pretty much.
These are your more basic gauges. There are far more gauge types out there.
Ear gauging for the first time
If your ears are already pierced you can go ahead and start your stretching at about a 16g if you’re extremely confident. If you are not then you can start at a 20g or an 18g.
The best kind of gauges to start your stretch would be the crescents, because at the tips of both ends the gauge is very small and they slowly increase until you reach the middle where the actual size is.
A tip for ear gauging? Lubrication will save you a lot of trouble. The cheapest kind of lubrication is olive oil.
Slip your gauge in and push it as far as you can until you meet a slightly painful resistance. You need to stop here for a safe stretch. It’s OK to take it slow and steady and not force your ear to do something until it’s ready to do it. Just like Rome, ear gauging might not get done in a day. IF you can’t get it to the middle right away, hold off on putting the o-rings on or they might fall off – and they’re a bytch to find again. You can wait a couple of hours and try to push your ear gauge in a little further.
Remember, stretching your ears shouldn’t hurt. It should at the most be slightly uncomfortable. The pain at the most should be a very warm feeling in your ear (that is, if your hand passes over it, it should – at worst – feel very warm and red).
If you are bleeding or the pain is unbearable, leave the gauge where it is – maybe even move it back to a slightly safer position – and continue the next day.
Remember to rotate the gauge every now and then so it doesn’t stick.
Cleaning your gauges
You naturally don’t want to have your gauges get all icky and gross and smell of earcheese do you. The reason your ear gauges smell bad is because they’re sitting in your ear. Your skin sheds almost every hour on the hour and all of those dead skin cells are left sitting on the gauge. Thus the stinky smell.
To prevent this, a strict cleaning regiment is needed. Now, so far you’ve recently gauged your ears. You should only take them out after a week. And only to clean them! Take the gauges and rub them in antibacterial soap that’s acceptable to use on sensitive skin. Do not use strong soaps – this might irritate your ears. Not only do you need to clean the gauge itself, but also your ear. To do this you need to soak your ear in a hot water and soap solution, either with a q-tip pressed against it or in the shower. While your ear gauge is out, rub some vitamin e enriched lotion in and around your gauge. Then replace it comfortably in your ear. This should reoccur at LEAST three times a day while you are stretching. Afterwards you can do it at least twice a day.
Ear gauging tips
Do not change gauges right after a fresh stretch – especially if the next ear gauge size you plan to use is something heavy.
Do not jump a gauge size. Personal story time! I jumped two sizes from a 12 to an 8g, and what was the result? One ear tore and bled, then both got infected. They started to swell and it was so disgusting, with pus and blood constantly came out of my ears. Now, I already had a bunch of scar tissue, and I do not recommend this to anyone – this just happened to me. To relieve pressure in both ears I ripped out all of the scar tissue, by turning my ear inside out. The hole was big enough to fit tweezers into and… tah dah. To avoid even thinking about doing this sort of thing, don’t be as impatient as I was. Don’t jump ear gauge sizes!
There are many different ways to wear your gauge besides the types I listed. Check the links below and scout the net to find out more.
Unless you plan on having your gauges forever, I don’t suggest stretching past a double zero because sometimes people can’t go back from it.
If you want to gauge up and you have been having some pains from the earlier gauges you can try taping. Taping is when you take Teflon tape or some other alternative and wrap it round your gauge and slip it back in. Repeat this every day until you can comfortably slip in the new size.
Gauges are a way to express yourself! Don’t forget to clean them – and saftey is key to keeping your gauges healthy and sexy looking.
Some gauge plugs, available on Etsy, are known as sockets because they allow you to incorporate your old earrings into the plug. Clever.
Spiral tapers are very heavy and tribal. Their clever spiral shape means a small and slender version of these tapers would be excellent for gauging beginners because they’re so tapered at one end and therefore so easy to insert / twirl / maintain.
Main photo: The lovely Captin Ron