Today we are talking about tapers! Tapers are a very handy and useful tool both inside and outside the studio, but are also unfortunately one of the most misused tools in body piercing. To start- what is a taper? It’s a long, often graduated metal stick, that gently tapers (hence the name) from smaller to larger. Tapers I would say have two primary uses when it comes to piercing. As a jewelry insertion tool, and as a stretching tool.
Tapers for Jewelry Insertion
At my studio we both use and sell tapers to help with inserting jewelry. Particularly since covid and our limitations working under the mask, these are invaluable tools for clients who need to swap some jewelry themselves. Tapers are made 3 different ways, with either a threadless pin on the end which locks into threadless jewelry, a threaded piece on the end which screws into threaded jewelry, or with a concave back sometimes called a coupling back which you just press jewelry up against. With these you can insert them to the jewelry the same way the jeweler closes, making it a smooth transition to swap a piece of jewelry in and out. These are also helpful to insert jewelry in crooked lobe piercings that clients struggle to put jewelry in normally. As piercers, we use these when working on unhealed piercings as well to ensure we don’t cause trauma to the healing fistula when we need to downsize or work with jewelry.
Tapers are handy for clients who often change their jewelry in and out to have around, or clients who often switch styles in a piercing ie hoop to stud. Tapers are also great for piercings that are hard to insert without a tool- for example needing to insert threadless jewelry from inside your nostril.
Tapers are not sharp, but if you aren’t careful and don’t use a little common sense when using them, you can hurt yourself. Below are some diagrams from my studio about using tapers for jewelry insertion. I aways suggest getting a little one on one tutorial with your piercer before using a taper yourself, and my biggest tip is always wearing gloves for extra grip.
Tapers for Stretching
Wait! You say all the time not to use tapers for stretching- why do you list them as a stretching tool?!? Well, I would be lying if I didn’t say they were- they are! But, they often get misused.
When I refer to tapers as a stretching tool there are two key elements. First- the nature of a stretch. When stretching lobes it’s incredibly rare to actually need a taper for things to stretch. Time, patience, and TLC is really all you need for lobes. Lobes naturally loosen a great degree, and with single flare plugs the jewelry is very easy to gently insert given the gentle back. But when we talk about stretching different tissue types ie cartilage stretching like a septum or a conch, or even many genital piercings, those are often piercings that require the assistance of tools to stretch safely. And the jewelry worn in them is often easier to insert with the assistance of a tool like a taper.
Secondly- the nature of the tapers used. The tapers I use for stretching are much longer then you may imagine (in my set I have a series of 6 inch, 8 inch, and 12 inch custom tapers designed for assisting me in complicated stretches.) These are made of implant grade titanium with the same perfect finish my jewelry has. And sometimes they are custom made for the job I’m doing- I have a set of coupling tapers I had made exclusively for doing ring stacks, and those foot long tapers are designed with a gentle graduation specially for stretching PA piercings and other genital piercings. These are not the short little tapers you get in a ‘stretching kit’ which often have a very short graduation, which leads to forcing a stretch. They also often have uneven surface finishes, are made of low quality materials, and sometimes are even sharp on the ends. And most importantly- you don’t really need them.
When it comes to stretching healthy normal lobes, time, wearing quality material, stretching safely, and taking care of them is all you need. With ear stretching the ear will naturally loosen up over time and relax around the jewelry. Enough that the next .5mm or 1mm increment will slip right in without needing tapers, tools, and force. This timeframe can be anywhere from 2-6 months, and things like wearing jewelry you are sensitive to, not properly cleaning or caring for your ears, other healing piercings, and other factors can all effect how your stretches go. 9 times out of 10 when someone tells me they can’t stretch without tapers they are either trying to stretch too quickly, or have been wearing something they were reacting to that was preventing their ear from naturally loosening.
Tapers do have their place as a stretching tool, and there are many occasions where I use them. But, lobe stretching is not one of them. Please keep your ears healthy and safe, don’t use tapers for stretching, and if you truly suspect you need these tools for changing jewelry out, get in touch with a piercer who can order you quality, safely made tapers. Tapers are a valuable, essential tool for piercers and many clients. But, tools need to be used correctly. If you are unsure if you are using a taper properly or worry you could hurt yourself or your piercing, please reach out to a reputable piercer you trust for guidance!