I started gauging my ears 2 weeks after they were pierced. first gauged to 14g, stayed there until my ears healed completely (2 months or something?) i just hated the claires ear studs i had. lol. stretched up a size every couple or few weeks until this summer i stopped at 00 for a month or so. my mom didnt know i had gauges, and didnt want me to have them. and even though i am 18 i don't intentionally disappoint my mom. she didnt notice until i had 1/2 gauges, which i stretched to from 00 to 7/16 to 1/2 in 2 days with moderate discomfort, but no bleeding or scarring. the reason i did this was to hide it from my mom since wearing tapers around the house is a dead giveaway. my lobes have always been healthy and i have never had any blowouts or had any scar tissue show up. at 00 i had perfectly round lobes, but after stretching to 1/2 in my left ear is a more slitted shape? perhaps an ellipse or something of that sort. i stayed at 1/2 in for 3 months or so until recently i decided to go up to 5/8s simply because i love the look of them. i am right now at 9/16s i used electrical tape (couldnt find the ptfe tape in the plumbing section at walmart. i was too lazy to go to home depot or something.) and i wrapped 6 layers around my saddle gauges and put them in. my ears felt a little warm but there was no discomfort at all (like stretching should be) i guess because myy ears were just ready. the next day my left ear was irritated so i took it out, and my ear was slightly red on outside bottom area. its been a few days and its not irritated anymore, but i have just regular 9/16s gauges in now. is it the tape irritating my ears? or just stretching them with saddles?(bad idea i know lol) opinions and expert advice please should i use e-tape to stretch to 5/8s? or is that where the problem is at.