Kara: Yeah! I definitely agree with you too. Yeah, just being able to share that intimate experience with someone and I've just been craving it a lot since this whole pandemic has been happening. I honestly kind of took advantage of not doing it as much before in our shop when I was just in the front and them helping them pick out the jewelry and stuff like that. I would just get so caught up and just keeping up with everything and just kind of being sent into what's going on around me. I didn't really get a moment to actually embrace everything that was going on, if that even makes sense, but then going to work one day and then all of a sudden, overnight, not being able to go back to work at all, I was almost like I wish I could have had one more day to appreciate everything that was happening and to appreciate all the people that were coming in for piercings.
Jessica: Yeah, I agree. I missed our customers.
Jessica: I miss them so much. I think about random regulars who come in and I'm like, I wonder how they're doing. I actually got to talk to one, Gigi, who came in January. I don't think you were in, I think it was just me and Anastasia, but I got to talk to her on one of these zoom calls, and it was so much fun.
Jessica: I just miss everybody. I was like, Oh, I want to know what they're doing, I want to know who's coming. I know we're going to see a bunch of them when this pandemic is over, and I cannot wait to see what people are going to come in and want in, because I know that there's a lot of inspiration going on right now from piercers who had nothing to do but post pictures.
Kara: Right! Yeah.
Jessica: I also saw that you have taken this time to learn a little bit about different piercing techniques and different stretching techniques. What have you learned?
Kara: Yeah, I know there's a couple of stretching techniques that you can do with your ears. I actually just started stuff again recently, so now I am at 18 millimeters.
Kara: So, I'm at the point right now where I'm dead stretching my ears and that's a technique that is very recommended when you go up to bigger sizes. Usually, I would say when you get to be about two gauge and then everything up in there, it's a perfect time to start either dead stretching, or doing a tape method which I can get a little bit more into also. The dead stretching essentially is just using a heavier material like glass and when you put in like the the ones that you have in, okay, so you'd want to use like a stable flare, and then you go ahead and just pop it in like normal and then the weight of the glass or that heavier material that you're using, slowly weighs down your ear and stretches it out over time, so it's less like blunt force trauma, trying to tailor your ear at a bigger size and then you don't run the risk of either like blowing your ear out or accidentally tearing it, which is very, very common, especially in bigger sizes. Tubes can be harder sometimes to stretch and get bigger because you do have all of that like built up scar tissue. That's another thing that's really good about dead stretching too is that it just really helps prevent all of that and it helps prevent all that scar tissue building up that's needed for future stretching too. So that's my favorite and it's the safest method I would say that's used for stretching. Other than that too, if you're kind of having a hard time with your ears kind of stretching themselves out if you do have all that scar tissue then you can tape which is taking like a self0excusing tape like the bondage tape or the PTFE. Yeah, that one I'm probably [inaudible 09:26] it though 'cause letters, but like the plumbing tape, and then you can just do like a wrap or two every day or every other day and then slowly stretch up your ears rather than try to shove something that's a lot bigger through your ears like a taper.
Kara and Jessica discuss safe stretching practices at home
Jessica: That makes sense. That's actually something that maybe people who are hungry to do some sort of modification but piercing isn't safe to do at home without the---well, really not at home at all, but it's especially not safe to do without the guidance of a professional doing actual procedure but stretching is something that when done correctly, and with the correct education, people can actually do it at home.
Jessica: So if we have someone at home who's sitting there going, Okay, I want to stretch, what should I do? What advice would you give them?
Kara: My first advice would be just making sure that you can be as clean as possible with the whole procedure and know that you can't be completely sterile because you are at home. But the cleaner the better, just so you are actually cross contaminating with any bacteria just because you are--- it's not necessarily like an open wound like a fresh piercing, but essentially, it's kind of the same concept when you're doing a fresh stretch. So you want to make sure that whatever material plug that you're using is going to be clean, you can soak it. Usually when I get mine, I knew just like soak them in some 70% alcohol, and I'll let them soak for a little bit and then I'll rinse them really really well with hot water. And then after that, I'll just kind of let them air dry. I won't rub them with any paper towels or anything just in case there is any of that bacteria that's builts up on it. That's just like an extra precaution that I take, it's okay to little dab it with a towel if you want to and then another thing too is just make sure that your hands are clean before you start anything. So go ahead and wash your hands, clean your plugs, wash them again and then once you're ready to actually start stretching, you want to make sure your ears are clean too. In case you do have any built up, if you're wearing a material that you know is really prone to building up all that bacteria like a wood material or silicone or even glass too.
Kara: It can potentially cause irritation, too, if you're not making sure that your ears are clean. So you can go ahead and do that by just doing like antibacterial soap, and then warm water and just like rub them for a little bit and just like thoroughly clean them and then go ahead and rinse them off. So wash your hands again after that, too and then after that, you can go ahead and just lubricate the plug and your ears with some like---I like to use the jojoba oil or you can use like a Vitamin E or coconut oil, and then you can go ahead. I actually wouldn't advise using coconut oil for fresher stretchings that can be for healed ears, but the jojoba oil is really really good for new stretches. And then if you're doing a dead stretch method, it shouldn't hurt honestly at any point. Stretching shouldn't hurt in the smaller sizes probably you might have some tendonitis because you'll be using a taper but you'll want to make sure that you're just very slowly putting them sliding the taper through when everything's all oiled up and stuff. You don't want to force it through because then that can cause ripping and tearing but the best time I was say to stretch is going to be immediately after a hot shower just because all the elasticity in your ears and stuff on the hot water and the moisture just really helps open up all those skin cells, and it makes your ear super, super stretchy. So then almost every single time I go up into size, I slide them in after doing everything that just said, right after a hot shower, I'll prep everything first, make sure everything's clean so the second I get out, I can just put on oil and pop them in and then it's like, I was already at that size. It should never hurt.
Jessica: Yeah, I started stretching before I knew the correct and incorrect way. So I actually joined the facilitator of modification late into my modification journey and I did not know you're not supposed to sleep with tapers in and those were not regular jewelry.
Jessica: People a little bit ask too why because I think that's a common misconception, is they do---I know there's a lot of jewelry that's designed to look like a taper and so I just thought it was safe but now, I obviously know why it's not but you know, you know more.
Kara dives into misconceptions with stretching and how to avoid making the same mistake
Kara: Yeah, no, definitely it is a common misconception. I used to do all the time when I was younger so I started stretching my ears when I was like 13-14 years old and I didn't know anything so everything you aren't supposed to do, I've most likely did do my ears like I can go off the whole list but I mean, that's just because like all the knowledge that I have now is from my own personal experience, and just teaching myself and educating myself too. But a reason why you don't want to wear tapers as a form of jewelry or sleeping in them is because its longer, right? It's not meant to sit flush against your ears so because of that, when you're wearing that taper, the back part of it is actually going to weigh down your ears, and then that can cause uneven stretching in your ears too and, no one ever wants to---you want to have nice even lobes, make sure that you can get up to bigger sizes eventually that time and tapering can or at least like wearing tapers consistently like jewelry or sleeping in them can potentially make it to where your lobes aren't even and the skin around in the back is kind of a little bit thinned out versus in the front of the lobe. If you're sleeping on them, and all that pressure that you're putting on your ears can also cause irritation and could potentially give you headaches. They used to give me headaches all the time and then also it can just irritate your ears, which can potentially cause a blowout of triggering ear irritated enough. Yeah, especially if they're fresh, and you left them in and you're sleeping in them, they haven't taken about to clean them or anything like that, then yeah, that can definitely cause irritation on the ears too.
Jessica: Yeah. I have slept in tapers before and they ripped my ear.
Kara: Yeah. I got really closed to ripping my ear too is tapers. It's not fun.
Jessica: I was blown away when I learned that you can taper through. I don't know why it was such a concept to me that you can taper through and then when you put in the plug that fits that size, it makes it easier.
Kara: Yeah, when you are tapering out smaller sizes, you do want to make sure that you're using a single flare plug and then whatever plug like whatever size you're going to, you want to make sure that that fits with that taper so you're not forcing something that's slightly bigger, since you're already putting so much trauma into tapering your ears anyways, so make sure that it fits into the right size so then, once you've put the taper through, you can pull the top of the plug and slowly push it through to just pop in that plug in one motion, and then that's it then you have the plug in, you're not wearing the taper. That was my mistake too. I would just put the tapers in and leave them in until it didn't hurt which was a couple days and then I would put my plugs in and then oh no my ears blow out, I wonder why.
Jessica: Yeah [inaudible 16:58] not really any information that's easy accessible for people who don't know how to find it because I remember before I started stretching, at that point, I think I had only had my ears pierced like I didn't really know anything but I knew I wanted to try stretching my ears and I was like okay, so I have to google it first because I don't know what on earth you're supposed to do with a taper and then I got the tapers and I still didn't know because, you look at them and it's like three different sizes on it so I thought that you--- I'm hoping I'm not the only one and this is helpful for somebody, but I thought that you just gradually inserted it in and that those earrings on either side were to keep it in place at that spot.
Kara: I mean, sure you could do that. It would be the less damaging, you're just shoving the whole thing through but it's not advised because it can get snagged and pulled and it will take you weeks to try to slide in one taper because I did the same thing too, especially when I went to double zeros which was a huge mistake. I should have never tapered my ears with a double zero because that's a two millimeter jump and you usually want to stretch between a millimeter or less when you are stretching and so doing it like two millimeters and trying to shove the whole thing through. I can still remember the pain six years later, it was excruciating. I was up all night going back and forth between each year with cold rags and I was getting up every hour to bring some off and make it cold again and it was like the worst experience I've ever had in my entire life and if I would have dead stretch my ears to a double zero then I probably would have had a less traumatizing experience honestly but yeah, there are some jewelry that is kind of goes smaller and goes bigger and they're like a little spiral guys. Those are okay to use for jewelry. I wouldn't recommend using them, wearing them for long periods of time just because they can potentially have the same effect does like the taper but if you want to wear them for like decorative purposes, that's totally okay. I just want to make sure that you're not wearing them for too long or sleeping with them.
Jessica: Yeah, that's really good to know. I think that'll be some really good information for anyone who is having a hard time finding answers on the internet because the internet gives a lot of information, but not all of it is clear.
Kara: Yeah, I agree with you. I mean, I've put in like hours, days, weeks and months and years into my research, and I still can't cover everything that there is to know about ear stretching, there's just a lot and, people figure out stuff every day and it is constantly changing too, so in especially years ago, too. There wasn't as much information as there is now. So I guess it's kind of another reason why I know decent amount of ear stretching is just through my own experiences and kind of doing trial and error for years, which now that there is a little bit more information. People don't have to do that and they don't have to put their ears through all of that, just figure out what worked and what didn't and why something didn't work and why their ears are hurting and why they're irritated and why they blew out and things like that, too. So, but you definitely do have today, you have to be very specific with the kind of research that you're putting into, want to like, make sure that you're using a lot of keywords and phrases for what exactly you're looking for or else you're probably gonna have a hard time trying to find a solid answer, because it's just everything sort of spread all over the place on the internet and a lot of people contradict other people too. They can get very, very confusing, especially if you don't know too much about it and kind of just looking into it. You don't really know where to start.
Jessica: Yeah. I agree. I think also, you're stretching jewelry depends on your own personal anatomy. I think that was one thing that I remember feeling impatient about is because I wanted large lobes and I am not even at my dream size now but everywhere I looked, it was like, Oh, it's gonna take you two years or three years to get there and I remember feeling like, Oh my gosh, that's so far from now and then I would talk to friends who have been stretching for years, and they're not even at the zero yet. And really, I think the one piece of advice I would give someone and I think you'll concur is that first off, the time goes a lot faster than you think it's going to.
Jessica: Yeah, I look back and I've been stretching for three years now and it does not feel like I've been stretching for three years. It feels like maybe I've been stretching for like six months just because there's so much that goes into it, you do feel like you're actively at your dream size all the time. And also your ears elasticity is related your anatomy, which means that as long as you're following those safe methods, and you're [inaudible 21:59] when that hurts, you might find that you stretch faster than your friend or you might find that it takes longer for you than your friend.
Kara: Yeah, that looks very, very true. Something I always like to tell people too, is just to try to not give yourself a goal size if you can, because that will make you a lot less likely to get impatient and then try to push your ears to stretch more, and then potentially causing any tearing or ripping, because usually, you want to wait somewhere between three to six weeks before or during each stretch. Just because it can give your ears enough time to be able to heal and recover from stretching out and then you're keeping all that elasticity so you're not causing any scar tissue to build up versus if you stretched one day and then you're like, well I'm at a 12 gauge now. I know that my goal is to be a double zero and then you're just like, it's fine. I can fit two more stretches in this week, that's my goal, so stretch two more times, and then you end up hurting yourself potentially and then go on right back to square one. That's always a saddest thing to see. My friend, she had lobes that were larger than mine, but then she pushed them and then just recently had to take them out because they both blow out and now she's backed out to probably 10 gauge and she's been working on it for years now. It just took that one time so it was really, really sad to see but she learned from it. So now she's taking more safer precautions, but just making sure that you're being as patient with yourself and with your body as you can and just listening to it. That's the best piece of advice that I'll give anyone who's looking to stretch their ears regardless of how large you are at all already. It's just making sure that you're listening to yourself and if you're trying to put in like you're trying to stretch up to a size like for example, for dead stretching, if you find that it's not going in or you have to try to force it, just stop. Put the size that you were in, back in, give it another week and then try again because a week can go by so quick, especially if you're trying to just do other things to preoccupy yourself so you're not constantly thinking about it. That really does make the bigger difference of a healthy large lobes which is everyone's goal to have healthy lobes versus lobes that are very, very thinned out and very, very fragile from overstretching drastically in too fast too. You might be at your goal size but your lobes aren't healthy as they could have been if you would have just waited a little bit longer, you know?
Jessica: Yeah, definitely. I can speak from personal experience too that what you put in your ear matters. I got those really cute glow in the dark spider earrings for like this and I got my allergy react to them. And now, I know better, and I know, I knew that quality does matter, but it's sometimes you can know it, but you won't think it'll happen to you. And you know, because I was like, well, I'll be safe and I'll make sure that I've read all the reviews and I'll make sure that they're clean and all that and I still had an allergic reaction because if you don't purchase your products from a credible source, then you're not going to necessarily know what's going into your body. And even if your piercings have been stretched for years, and you've had your ears pierced for two decades, they can still get infected and they can still get irritated. They can still blow up like balloons.
Kara: Yeah, and same thing happened to me too. And then you could even have an allergy to a material that you didn't even know and then you go ahead and you try to wear it and then you're wondering Oh, no, what was going on is because you probably used material that your body didn't like and it had a reaction to it. Which is another thing that happened to my friend too. I can use her as an example because I've asked her and so she gave me every detail. She's just like that is totally fine. If someone can learn from this, please tell them because I am morally messed up and I'm sad about it. So this is exactly what happens when you're not patient with yourself. She actually took us a little club what I'm wearing right now, and she just loaded it up and tried to pop it in, which I used to do when I was younger and I'm very, very thankful that my ears didn't get as bad as it could have been because that's probably the most damaging things you can do if you're trying to push yourself to stretch. Also with tapering that larger sizes too is because all of that is instant damage to your ear lobes and usually, I would only wear these if I'm sleeping. Silicone is really good to wear on healed ears, depending on how your body wants to react to it, they can be okay they can be totally fine. I've never had any weird reaction with silicone versus with acrylics I can't really wear just because for some reason my ears don't like them but then the person next to me can totally wear acrylic all the time and be completely fine. Just you want to make sure that your ears are healed before you wear in materials like that, just to make sure because acrylic is like people don't really know exactly what it is. It's a whole bunch of different mystery materials. And so you don't really know what you're working with when you order something, especially from somewhere that you don't know a lot about the shop and then you just purchase them which I have done in the past. Definitely, I've bought in random plugs online from random places that I didn't know because they only look cute and then I luckily didn't have reactions to them, but at time they have been doing it for years, I eventually developed a reaction to acrylic, which can definitely happen too, so just want to make sure that you're staying safe. The best materials that you can wear while your ears are still healing is probably glass, honestly. Wood is really, really good to wear when your ears are healed, but wood plugs are just kind of it's a whole other ballpark with wood plugs because they're very tedious to take care of too, which is something that I had no idea. I even stretching my ears for years and years years, I finally researched, I got curious, how do you even clean wood plugs, because if you're wearing wood plugs, if you're wearing them in the shower, they can expand and then they can crack because wood expands and cracks with water and then they can get damaged and that can hurt your ears and so when you're using wood plugs, you just want to make sure that you're taking an organic essential oil and just wiping them down really good with a clean paper towel and then after that, you want to make sure that you're wiping down any excess like oil residue, so it doesn't sip into the woods and expand it, versus the glass, is not that tedious, and it's also a really good material to stretch with too, because it is a non-porous material so it's not going to have any of those, if you look at like a [inaudible 29:24] material like in a microscope is it has all those tiny itty-bitty holes for breathing. It's not a breathing material, so you don't have to worry about it either. Stop [inaudible 29:32] using to your open wounds. If you do potentially like teary ears a little bit which is totally expected too if you're stretching your ears, it can happen. I get little itty-bitty micro tears and that's okay, as long as you're just being very careful with how you're treating your ears and keeping up with having to be cleaned while they're healing.