Plugs and tunnels are some of the most recognizable, historically significant, and visually striking styles of piercing jewelry. Although their generally larger size can require a little bit of work and dedication to accommodate, the investment is sure to pay off for those interested in distinctive and eye-catching results.
What’s the Difference between Ear Plugs & Ear Tunnels?
The terms “plug” and “tunnel” are often used interchangeably, but while both styles are most often found in larger sizes for ear gauges, they are in fact different kinds of jewelry.
Ear plug jewelry generally consists of a single, solid piece of material that entirely fills the piercing cavity. Tunnel jewelry, on the other hand, is hollow in the middle, allowing you to see through the piercing cavity.
How Long Should You Keep in Tapers Before Putting in Plug Earrings?
As mentioned above, many plugs and tunnels require gradually stretching your piercing until it is large enough to install larger-gauge jewelry. Keep in mind that many piercers don’t recommend stretching a piercing at all until it is already fully healed.
For smaller gauge sizes (from 20g to 8g), it is possible to increase your piercing an entire gauge at once by installing new jewelry using a piercing taper. Once your piercing has fully healed, you can then use the next size taper if you’d like to continue stretching. Once you get to large gauge sizes (6g to 0g and beyond), however, it is not recommended to stretch an entire size at one time. Instead, you can stretch gradually with a taper over the course of days or weeks, or use the stretching tape method to increase size even more gently over time. For more complete information on tapers and ear stretching, read our full ear stretching FAQ.
Popular Ear Plugs & Tunnels Styles
Ear tunnels and plugs come in a variety of materials, styles, and shapes including saddle, halfmoon, teardrop, and heart shapes. Ultimately, the styles are as varied as any other piece of jewelry, so you can opt for the materials, colors, and designs that best reflect your own personal style. If you’re after high-end ear gauges, you might opt for plugs or tunnels made of premium metals or natural materials like wood, bone, or glass.
Many with ear gauge piercings also enjoy wearing ear hangers and weights, though these are technically not the same type of jewelry as ear plugs and tunnels.
What Are Flare Plugs?
Classic plugs are completely smooth cylinders, which can make for easier installation, but are also less secure as you go about your day. People who have standard plugs most often use one or two o-rings to secure the jewelry within the piercing. Flare plugs are designed to address this problem without o-rings by including a raised ridge along one (single flare) or both (double flared) edges of the jewelry to prevent slipping and shifting.
Ear Plugs & Gauge Jewelry by Size
In the U.S. plugs and tunnels are usually measured by gauge size or millimeter. Larger gauges are also measured in fractions of inches. When it comes to gauge size, the larger the number, the smaller the diameter of the jewelry. For example, a 14 gauge plug is approximately 1.6 mm in diameter, while a 6 gauge plug is about 4 mm.
Where Can I Buy Jewelry for Stretched Ears?
PainfulPleasures carries hundreds of different plugs and tunnels for stretched ears as well as body jewelry plugs at some of the best prices you’ll find online. If you’re looking for stretched ear jewelry in a specific gauge, browse plugs and tunnels by size or use the gauge filter to find exactly the size you need.
Browse our full selection of plugs to find hundreds of classic, single flare, and double flared styles, as well as unique ear gauges like flesh-colored plugs and other retainer options. You can also filter by material to see plugs made of glass, plastic, silicone plugs, or organic materials like bone or wood. You can even order laser-engraved with your choice of design for a fully customized look. We also carry fake plugs for those who want to test the look before they commit to stretching.
In our ear tunnel section, you’ll find one of the widest selections of tunnel jewelry around, which you can also filter by material to find glass tunnel gauges, acrylic ear tunnels, organic, silicone, and steel tunnel jewelry.