What do I need to know about piercing/stretching my earlobes?
September 15, 2017 11:53 AM   Subscribe

While I can find all sorts of information about all sorts of piercings on the Internet, I can't find any descriptions of the particular situation I'm considering. Ultimately, I need to know: What is the smallest size tunnel plug that will accommodate regular earring posts?

I begged to have my ears pierced as a kid, and finally got them pierced when I was 13. A few years later, I got tired of putting earrings on and forgetting to take them out and being poked by them and thinking there was a bug on my neck when a dangly earring brushed against my neck. I stopped wearing earrings, and my piercings closed up.

From time to time I would like to wear non-clip-on earrings, and my husband suggested that I get my ears pierced again and stretch them slightly to wear a tunnel plug, through which I could wear earring when I chose, but there wouldn't be anything annoying and fiddly about the plug on a day-to-day basis.
posted by mmtaylor to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (9 answers total)
Best answer: I don't think you're finding information because tunnels and plugs are measured by the outside diameter, there's no standard (or usually a need) for the inside diameter. You'll have to calculate it from the outside diameter and thickness of the jewelry wall, or measure/test each piece of jewelry. You could also get silicone tunnels that have some give to them, clear/flesh colored ones would be pretty unobtrusive.

If it's just dangly bits and earring posts that bother you about having pierced ears, have you considered getting tiny hoops? Captive bead rings, seamless rings, and the like are a bit of a pain to get in but once they're in, you don't notice them at all and they can just stay in all the time. If you're only wearing fancy earrings from time to time, I think that would be less of a hassle than stretching your lobes.
posted by yeahlikethat at 12:12 PM on September 15, 2017

A friend had a setup like this (tunnels inside of which she wears non-gauged earrings) - it will depend on the material somewhat (said friend did this because she had sensitive ears and bone tunnels were fine, but most metals from "regular" earrings bothered her). I don't think you are likely to find hollow tunnels below a 10g, but there should be loads at 8g.

I can't speak to the pros and cons of doing it, but I do think most piercers would be capable of piercing your ears at 8 or 10 gauge, so technically you wouldn't need to stretch up to a tunnel plug (though most responsible piercers would probably give you rings for healing and tell you to swap to the tunnels once you were healed).
posted by Exceptional_Hubris at 12:23 PM on September 15, 2017 [1 favorite]

For point of information, my ears were pierced (professionally, at a real shop) at 10g. It's been a long time since then, but pretty sure I could have worn regular earrings then. I'm (theoretically) at 0g now, but I haven't worn plugs in a month or so, and think I could even pull off a regular post at this point.

(though most responsible piercers would probably give you rings for healing and tell you to swap to the tunnels once you were healed).

This is 100% correct.
posted by General Malaise at 12:40 PM on September 15, 2017

Best answer: A couple thoughts from someone with stretched ears (10mm/00g):

With plugs/tunnels, you will either have a double flare (meaning the plug flares at both ends to keep it inside of your lobe) or single flare (meaning a front flare only, the rest is a straight post that goes through your ear). At small gauge sizes, double flares have disproportionately large flares, so they can be difficult to get in. So single flare is recommended, but these require o-rings on the back to keep them in your lobe. You might consider this just as finicky as regular earrings!

Also, I took a look at some tunnels from reputable body jewelry brands, and there is only so small tunnels go. Here for example, you have to go up to an 8 gauge to get a hole that goes completely through the tunnel. Here is the same tunnel in a double flare so you can see the difference. An 8 gauge should absolutely fit a normal 18 gauge dangly earring through it, you just need to bend the wire a bit.

You can get silicon earskins from Kaos that go down to a 10 gauge, but they can be pretty difficult to get into your ear. I've heard about people doing tricks like wrapping it in dental floss and then using that to pull it through your lobe. But these aren't great for everyday wear for a lot of people.

In any case, stretching takes time and you need to stretch with single-flare, round-back plugs of preferably glass like these. You have to go slowly, like 1 mm every 3-4 months. Or go for a large gauge piercing right off the bat. But I felt the same about earrings before I stretched, and now I love the options I have.
posted by dinofuzz at 1:42 PM on September 15, 2017 [1 favorite]

I have 14g ear piercings that I very rarely wear jewellery in. I trim bioflex barbells down to the width of my earlobe/cartilage piercings, file the ends smooth and rounded, and let friction keep them in place.
I lose a few now and again, but they're not exactly expensive.
Not sure how they'd work with clip-ons, though.
posted by Kreiger at 3:24 PM on September 15, 2017 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks everyone for your input! I also had a long conversation with the piercer at my local shop about this, and I think the tiny hoops are the way to go, for me. Figuring out the tunnel + earring situation is more complicated than I'm interested in getting over this.
posted by mmtaylor at 3:31 PM on September 15, 2017

Seems like you've got this, but I did want to add that the idea that plugs are leave in and forget about it is a little misguided. Soap scum, dead skin, etc builds up in there and creates a horribly smelly goo that you need to clean out on the regular. So there's still quiet a bit of fiddling.

I think you're making the right decision with hoops, because that cleaning is significantly less fiddly.
posted by pixiecrinkle at 9:12 AM on September 16, 2017

Just thought of another option besides hoops, normal earrings are what, 18 or 20 gauge, but if you get your lobes pierced slightly larger at 16 or 14 gauge, then you could also wear labret studs, which have smooth flat backs.
posted by yeahlikethat at 2:00 PM on September 16, 2017 [1 favorite]

Hey! I do this. I use 8 gauge clear silicone earskins and then put dangly earrings through those. You will want to have those little rubber stoppers on the earrings, though, because they can fall out. It's not too difficult to get the earskins in and out, but I have very stretchy ears and they've been at an 8 for 10 years now.
posted by fiercecupcake at 5:05 PM on September 16, 2017

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