If you plan on stretching your ears, often times referred to as "gauging", understanding the difference between ear tapers and plugs is important. Unfortunately, not everyone who chooses to have *gauged ears takes the time to learn and understand how to do it properly and the consequences can be irreparable such as deformation, unsightly appearance of the earlobe/hole area as well as inability to stretch to desired gauge size.
By learning what the difference is in ear tapers and plugs you can be better prepared to make decisions best suited to your body modification needs.
Ear tapers are what you would actually use to stretch the hole in your ear to a desired gauge size. They come in a variety of sizes (i.e. 20g, 18g, 16g, 6g, 4g, 2g and so on) and a few slightly different shapes. The most common shape is a straight taper that starts off small and gradually increases in size as it gets to the top. You can however find some styles that offer a half circle or crescent shape as well.
Proper Use of Ear Tapers
Ear tapers, though many use them for everyday wear, are intended (and most often recommended) to be used only for the stretching process and not intended to be used as an everyday body jewelry. These recommendations are based on information that they can cause disproportionate distribution of weight and pressure which can lead to malformed ear holes and other potential issues.
To properly use these one would start with a smaller sized taper, that at the smallest point is, as close to your current piercing hole size as possible (20g or 18g are quite common) and then gets slightly larger at the top.
Be sure, when initially stretching your ears, to use ear tapers that are best suited to fresh ear stretches. These would include stainless steel (most recommended) or glass as they contain smoother surfaces and are less likely to hold in infection or infection causing dirt or bacteria.
Helpful Gauging/Ear Stretching Tip
Sizes work a bit differently with ear stretching accessories than some may expect. A 20g sized plug or taper is smaller than an 18g ear taper and plug. So basically sizing works in reverse where the larger the number the smaller the size.
These are generally used as everyday body jewelry or ear rings (of sorts) for those with stretched or gauged ears. After stretching your ear piercing, using a taper, these are what you would then insert into the holes.
Ear plugs for gauged ears come in several different styles including: double flared, single flared and no flare as well as tunnel style (hollow center), screw on and solid plugs. They also come in an assortment of materials such as stainless steel, acrylic, wood, glass, plastic and more. If you have freshly stretched ears or unhealed holes use the stainless steel or glass.
Proper Use of Ear Plugs or Tunnels
If you have freshly stretched ears or unhealed holes use the stainless steel or glass, single or no flare ear plugs - at least until the skin has completely healed. Once the skin is healed the other materials and styles, based on personal needs and preferences, can be safely used.
*Warnings and Notes: For instructions on care or personalized recommendations contact a piercing or body modification professional.
This is not a guide on how to stretch (gauge) your ears. This article simply offers helpful tips and information on the difference between plugs and tapers and when to properly use them.
The terms gauges, gauged and gauging are often used incorrectly to refer to actual ear plugs/tapers or the actual act of stretching piercings when in reality it most correctly refers to the size of hole or jewelry needed.