If you’re stretching your ears at all or are planning on it and have looked at the sizes, you may have noticed that it’s not exactly a straight increase. As the size of the plugs gets larger, the size difference between them gradually grows. For example the difference between 16 gauge and 14 gauge is about .4mm; not a big deal, (you can just pop those bad boys in, right?) . However the difference between even 2 gauge and 0 gauge is 2mm; If you’re not careful and don’t approach things at your own speed, blowouts and terrible things can happen.
In comes Taping. Now, the standard for increasing size is using long tapers, plugs that start small and increase to the end size as you push them in. This makes it easier, but if your ear isn’t ready for the new size it won’t help you a millimeter. The process of taping works to help with that, give you that slow increase but in a manageable way.
Say you’re at 0 gauge and want to go to 00 (an example I use because it’s exactly what I did) and you just can’t get your ear to except the new size. By taking your 0 gauge plug and wrapping around it a single layer of tape (I’ll get into what kind later) you can increase it’s diameter by as little as .5 mm at a time. That’s getting back to the manageable sizes that make this whole thing super easy!
By doing this process in increments, you can get your ear adjusted to the new sizes gradually. Your ear will heal up better and faster having to get used to a .5mm difference 5 times than a 2.5mm difference once!
I promised you I’d get to it; The Tape. I know of friends that have used different kinds of tape (PTFE tape, bondage tape…) and have had success with it because honestly, I don’t think it makes a gigantic difference as long as it’s safe. I personally have only used one kind of tape and it has served me amazingly: Black Vinyl Electrical Tape. For a few bucks at a hardware store I save a huge amount of pain.
The reason I loved using this kind of tape is two fold. One, the outside of the tape. Being vinyl the non-adhesive side of the tape is incredibly smooth. This makes getting it into and out of the ear incredibly easy. Secondly, it’s ability to stretch. Most tapes don’t have any real give to them, the length you cut is the length that they will go. The vinyl tape has a stretch to it which helps out immensely when it comes to placing it on the plug. By stretching the tape slightly and making it overlap itself a little bit in one point, the tape pulls itself tight across the surface of the plug helping to prevent it from coming loose at all.
The generally recommended tape is teflon tape (a medical grade tape that doesn’t have as much give), but if ever in doubt, your piercer can always be an informational resource. There are also various oils out there to help you along.
So there you have it. A few bucks and a wrapping every other day can take you from a lot of pain and discomfort to a relatively pleasant stretching experience. The last bit of advice I’ll leave you with is try not to be too zealous with the thickness you apply at a time. You may wrap the plug once and think “oh no I can totally do 2 or 3 layers at once”. To save yourself some pain, take your time; the extra week will make you much happier with the end result: a healthier and better looking stretched lobe.