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How to Stretch Cartilage Piercings: Everything You Need to Know

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We’ve all seen stretched lobe piercings (frequently called gauges), but did you know it’s possible to stretch cartilage piercings the same way? Stretching cartilage requires much more patience than stretching lobes, but the results are that much more unique. Stretching your cartilage piercing can simply allow you to wear thicker jewelry, or you could stretch them really big and wear tunnels that you can see through.

Why Stretch Cartilage?

Most of the time, people stretch their cartilage piercings purely for aesthetic reasons, but there can be some health reasons as well. Any piercing that is experiencing the cheese cutter effect will need to be increased in gauge in order to stop the effect and hide the slit caused by it. If your piercing is migrating, you can also try to increase the gauge, as that can stop the piercing from moving. And for any piercings that can provide stimulation (genital and nipple piercings), gauging up could increase the amount of stimulation caused by the piercing, so that may sometimes be a cause as well.

Differences Between Stretching Tissue and Stretching Cartilage

For the most part, stretching your lobes is the same basic process and stretching any of your cartilage piercings. However, think about how long it takes to heal a cartilage piercing vs how long it takes to heal a tissue piercing. Your piercing needs time to rest and heal before moving up each gauge, so every step takes much longer for a cartilage piercing. While it’s safe to increase the gauge in a lobe piercing every 6-8 weeks, you should only increase the gauge in a cartilage piercing every 3 months.

How to Stretch Cartilage

When stretching your cartilage, you should only go up one gauge at a time (a piercing with 18G jewelry in should only go to 16G). You will need to lube up your taper and use this to push out the old jewelry and bring in the bigger jewelry. This step should not hurt. If you experience any pain or bleeding, stop and return to your old jewelry – you’ll be able to try again later. After your new jewelry is in place, wash off any extra lube and treat your piercing as if it is still healing for the next 3 months. After that time has passed, you can increase the gauge of your piercing again if you like.

Stretching Cartilage VS Punches

For extremely big gauges, punches are pretty common. They occur most often for conches, but can be done in other areas as well. Punches get their name from a three-hole-punch. Instead of piercing the flesh with a needle, punches completely remove a circular section, where O-rings can then be placed. Sometimes people will prefer to jump straight to a punch when they know they want a very large diameter hole because it is much faster than stretching the cartilage.

While they are fast, most people with punches will say that the pain of having it done is (understandably) much higher than the pain of a regular piercing. Normally, you will have your punch done a size smaller than you want and then after the punch you will be immediately stretched up to the correct size. Stretching the new punch helps stop the bleeding. It should also be noted that punches take an incredibly long time to heal. A punch takes over a year to heal. During the healing process, the punch will “ooze” with crusties. Punches are also permanent and will only decrease in size a small amount if jewelry is removed.

You can get a punch to have the aesthetic you want sooner, but you can have the same aesthetic by stretching your cartilage. Stretching the slow and safe way will allow you to avoid the pain and tedious healing process of a punch.


There are many reasons someone may be interested in stretching their cartilage, including aesthetics and health. Cartilage can be stretched as easily as lobes, although it must be done much more slowly. If you can’t stand the wait, punches are an alternative method to getting the aesthetic of a largely gauged piercing, but they come at the cost of an incredibly difficult healing process. If you have any difficulty stretching your piercings, you can visit your piercer and they will help you for likely the same cost as swapping jewelry.