The correct term is stretching. Gauge is the actual size of the jewelry when measured. Enlarging a piercing to accommodate jewelry of a larger gauge is called stretching. The jewelry used in stretched ears is commonly named plugs. Many people don't really know how to start the process of stretching their ears. If you are one of these people don’t feel bad, simply drop by for a consultation and let me see where your ears are. It's a good idea to wear jewelry consistently for a few days before your first stretch to start the process. Generally, among professionals the point of no return, or when you’re no longer part of society is considered to be somewhere around the Double Zero Gauge. However, the permanence of a stretch depends on quite a few factors including how the stretch was done. (Scalpel, Dermal Punch, or Taper) How long it was kept, how healthy the tissue involved was during and after stretching, and the person's body. Everyone's body is different. Only you know if you always want your ear stretched and about where your stopping point will be. Be warned though, once you start stretching, it's really difficult to stop!
There are quite a few different ways to stretch. You could have your ears Scalped, Dermal Punched, or Tapered. Most commonly, stretching is done with a Taper. However, there is a new trend out there and all the kids are doing it, stretching your ears with the use of stretchers. Using Stretchers is a slower method of stretching, allowing each ear to stretch on its own pace. You'll inevitably find that one of your ears is more apt to stretching than the other, so this method allows you to wear the same jewelry, but gives each ear time to individually stretch to your desired gauge. However, some people don't like the aesthetic look stretchers and prefer to wear plugs. The old school way is my favorite and that is stretching your ears using a Taper and inserting plugs. But keep in mind that body piercing jewelry thicknesses are measured using the American Wire Gauge (AWG) system. This system was designed in the late 1850s and is used to measure the diameter of electrical wires, and originally had nothing to do with body piercing. Because this sizing standard was not intended to use in body piercing, the amount each gauge grows from the previous gauge is different and in many instances, way too big. No matter which method you decide to go with, be patient! Don't force your body to stretch before its ready.