Stretching your ears can be done safely if you know how, but as with any body modification, there are risks involved. Some ear stretching risks are reversible but they can lead to scarring and permanent damage to your earlobes. Thankfully, most of these risks can be avoided through careful stretching and doing you research before you start stretching your ears. In this post I will explain three of the most common ear stretching risks, how to avoid them and what to do if they happen to you. As with any piercing problem, consult a professional piercer if you are at all unsure or experience other problems while stretching your ears.
Ear Stretching Blow-Out
A blow-out occurs when you stretch a piercing too quickly. This puts too much pressure on the fistula (the hole formed by the piercing) and force part of the fistula out the back of the piercing. This creates a lip or flap of skin at the back of the piercing. The image on the right shows a mild blow-out, but they can be much larger. Ear stretching blow-outs look terrible and larger ones can be uncomfortable or even painful. The best way to avoid a blow-out is to listen to your body, massage with jojoba oil before stretching and allow at least two weeks healing time in between stretching. If you get a blow-out, downsize your jewellery immediately – this can prevent the ear healing in its blown-out shape. I also recommend massaging the earlobe with jojoba oil daily to soften the tissue. Do not stretch further until it is completely healed. Some people find that their blow-outs reabsorb, but in some cases they will never fully disappear.
Uneven Stretching & Thinning
Uneven stretching means that the outside of your stretching becomes thinner in one area. It is caused by stretching too quickly or by stretching with weights. As well as looking odd, extreme thinning can lead to a split earlobe. A split earlobe can only be repaired through surgery, but if you catch the thinning early enough it is reversible.
If you notice any unevenness or thinning, downsize by at least 2mm and massage daily with jojoba or Vitamin E oil. It is important to use lightweight jewellery, so that no weight is put on the thin areas. Allow the stretching to shrink and heal for at least 2 weeks before restretching gradually with lightweight jewellery. This process should thicken the tissue and help to even it out.
Stretching too quickly or without lubrication can lead to tears around the circumference of the piercing, as shown here. Tears are painful and can lead to thick scar tissue that makes it harder to stretch further. They can be avoided by stretching slowly with a lubricant such as jojoba oil. It is also important to use high quality steel tapers and stop stretching if you feel a sharp pain.
If your earlobe tears while stretching, immediately downsize to significantly smaller, lightweight jewellery. This removes pressure on the wound and prevents a subsequent blow-out. Allow it to heal completely before stretching again.
This post is part of our Ear Stretching Guide 101 series. Click on the link to see the whole series.