Ear gauging—the stretching of an earlobe—has become very trendy in western cultures the past few years, but actually originates from many years of tribal rituals. It is an edgy look, popular on both girls and guys, and can be customized as there are many sizes available. Gauging your ears is very different from getting any other piercing: it must be a slow process, and it is slightly more permanent than a regular sized piercing.
Piercing Your Ears
The first step in gauging your ears is, of course, to make a hole. As with all piercings, this action carries a risk of infection, so it should be done at a reputable, clean piercing shop. You could start at a regular earring size, an 18 gauge, or, if you are not afraid of a little more pain and want to save time, you can get your ears pierced at a lower gauge. How large the original hole is depends on what the piercer is willing to do—I got my ears pierced at a 6 gauge, and the piercer immediately gauged them to a size 4(it did not feel good, but I saved a lot of time in the long run). Piercing a larger hole will likely carry more risk of infection so you must be vigilant in caring for your piercing. Follow all the instructions your piercer gives you, and do not remove the earrings or plugs until the hole is healed.
To keep your ears healthy and to avoid a nasty blowout, it is important to only go one size up at a time. It may be a long process, but be patient—you will thank yourself later when your ears look clean and healthy. Make sure your earlobes are ready to be stretched out as well—you will know they are ready to be sized up when you can pull on your lobe and see a little space between the plug and your skin. Use a taper in the size you wish to go up to, it will make the process easier on your ear. Spend a few days before you wish to size up just tugging on and massaging your earlobe periodically. When you are ready, take a hot shower or hold a warm washcloth against your earlobes to help loosen and relax the skin. Make sure your hands, ears and jewelry are clean. Use vitamin E oil on the taper as lubricant, and then insert it gradually until it meets resistance. Push the taper through more and more every ten minutes. You may feel a little pain or stretching, but the slower you go, the less it will hurt. Make sure you keep an eye on the back of your ears to catch any blowouts.
Fixing a Blowout
If, right after going up a size, you notice a blowout(where the inside of the ear has been pushed to the outside), the best way to fix it is to go back down two sizes and wait for your ear to heal before attempting to size up again. If you notice a blowout long after you sized up it is much harder to fix, however massaging vitamin E oil such as Bio Oil into it twice daily can help.
Caring For Your Gauges
Probably the worst part about gauges is that even if they are well cared for and cleaned they will probably still smell at least a little. To hinder this problem as much as possible, every night remove your plugs and soak them in hydrogen peroxide (make sure your hands are clean before touching your plugs!). Dip a cotton ball in hydrogen peroxide and clean your earlobes as well—a little stinging when you do this is normal.
Getting Rid of Your Gauges
As gauging your ears was a slow process, so is removing them. There are a few options for getting rid of that hole in your ears. You can simply take out your plugs and if your holes weren’t too big they may close up on their own. You can also slowly downsize—inserting a smaller plug in your ear, letting it heal, and then repeating. A more extreme option is to have a surgeon or piercer ‘sew up’ your ears: of course, this is rather expensive, and can cause scarring. If you are in a pinch and cannot be seen wearing gauges (such as with a dressy event), you can invest in some flesh-colored gauges to create the illusion of no holes.
Gauging may require a bit more care and responsibility than other piercings, but it certainly is a fun way to give your look some edge. However small or large you go, make sure you take care of your ears to prevent any regrets later in life.