It could be argued that earlobe stretching has been in fashion for millennia since it has been common in many civilizations for thousands of years. Some don't just leave it there, and have made stretching of lips and even the fleshy parts of nose into an art form. However, in Western civilization today, it is the next logical step after tragus and other forms of cartilage piercing have become commonplace.
In earlobe stretching, or earlobe gauging as it is technically known, the original ear piercing is allowed to fully heal while remaining open, and then increased in diameter, or gauge, in small increments, each step being permitted to heal before continuing with the next.
The 'gauge' reference begins at the highest figure, 20g, for the smallest size hole, 0.8 mm and goes all the way down to 00g, or 9 - 10 mm. So as the diameter of the piercing increases, the gauge drops, and after 00g any further increase is expressed in the diameter of the pin, the step after 00g being 11 mm. So, increasing the size of the ear piercing is referred to as 'gauging down'.
So how is earlobe stretching carried out in practice, and must it be carried out by a professional? In fact, gauging earlobes is not difficult, and you can do it yourself, or have a friend do it for you. However, there are some rules that you must obey strictly, or you could end up damaging your ears. Here are the basic procedures involved in stretching your earlobes.
It is very important to keep your earlobes and hands clean when doing this so as to avoid infection. First wash your ears and your hands with antibacterial soap - preferably the non-perfumed type. Then soften your lobes a bit by soaking them in warm water.
It will make it easier to insert the taper if you first lubricate it. Use a water-based or emulsified oil, such as jojoba oil or emu oil, and smear it over the taper. Never use a petroleum based oil such a petrolatum, or Vaseline, because that can harbor germs.
3. The Taper
The normal way to increase the diameter of your piercing is insert a taper that increases in diameter from one gauge to the next. You should begin with the thin end being no greater than your existing piercing diameter and the thicker end no more one that one step lower, e.g. from 16g to 14g. For some reason gauge seizes go down in steps of 2, so they are always even.
You have a number of possible choices in the design of the taper. An 'insertion taper' is about 3 inches long, tapering from your normal size up to the next, and as you slowly work it through your ear piercing you follow it up with your choice of ear jewelry, also lubricated, right behind it so it is practically touching the wide end of the taper when it enters you ear lobe. Thus the new size ear jewelry enters the piercing easily right behind the taper.
A 'taper spike' is shorter, and intended to stay in the earlobe, secured by elastic bands, until the expansion has healed. It is inserted in the same way as the insertion taper, but there is no need for the ear jewelry. Finally, a 'taper ring' is ear jewelry with a tapered pin that works the same as the taper spike, only it is more decorative.
Wash your hands with anti-bacterial soap immediately after completion. In each of these cases, the piercing should be left until it has fully healed before going to the next gauge down, or next size up. The procedure should not be excessively painful, and there should be no bleeding. It may not feel comfortable while you are doing it, but it should be bearable. If the pain is severe, or if bleeding occurs, stop immediately and wait until your piercing has thoroughly healed before trying again.
Earlobe stretching can be uncomfortable for a day or two, and also while sleeping, so you might want to consider doing both earlobes at the same time. Gauging earlobes looks cool when it has been completed, but it takes a long time to get to those really large piercings with the big hollow rings or flesh tunnels through your lobes. Nevertheless, it is not difficult to do if you are patient and allow everything to heal up between stages, and keep everything thoroughly clean.