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How to Choose the Perfect Gauge Size for Your Piercing

Posted by BPJ on 2nd Dec 2023

How to Choose the Perfect Gauge Size for Your Piercing

Did you know body piercings can improve digestion, support brain development, and boost energy?

That's right; piercings aren't just for looks anymore!

Body piercings are a popular and affordable way to add visual interest to your face and body. In India, piercings are regarded as a mark of beauty and social standing.

Whether it's your first or your tenth, deciding what type of piercing you want is a significant factor to consider.

But do you know what your gauge size is?

Gauge (pronounced GAYj) refers to the thickness of a piece of body jewelry. It indicates how big a piercing hole must be to accommodate the jewelry. The higher the gauge of the jewelry, the thinner it is.

If you're ready to choose your new piercing, it's essential to choose the right fit for you. Taking the time to measure piercings will ensure you don't experience unnecessary pain and discomfort.

Are you about to get a piercing?

Learn everything about gauge sizes and how to find the perfect size for you.

What Does Gauge Mean?

As touched on earlier, gauge refers to the thickness of a piercing. It indicates how big a piercing hole must be to fit the jewelry.

As the gauge number increases, the thickness of the piercing decreases. For example, a 14ga is thicker than an 18ga. The most common gauge size is between 18ga and 16ga.

Although this may be different from person to person, especially when it comes to ear piercings. The size of the needle may depend on your exact ear size and shape, as well as your lifestyle.

Many types of body piercings can make their measurements confusing. That's why it's essential to ask your piercer what gauge they're piercing you with. As you continue reading, you'll begin to understand why.

The gauge of a piercing will depend on whether your piercer uses a needle or a gun. If your piercer offers you a choice, opt for a piercing needle.

Needles are cleaner, promote better healing, and are more accurate. And not to mention, they're less painful than guns.

History of Gauge Size System

The history of the gauge is long and complex and goes back to the 1800s. The gauge size system is not isolated to the body piercing industry. The sizing system originated in the British iron wire industry when there was no universal unit of measurement.

However, the sizing system remained the same. As the wires got smaller, the gauge number increased.

In 1884, the U.K. became the first to standardize a gauge system. During that time, attempts were made to try and regulate the increments between the gauge numbers.

Needle gauge is also used in the medical industry for hypodermic needles and venous catheters. The gauge size system is also commonly used in ear stretching.

Ear stretching is a popular type of body modification. Safe ear stretching requires patience and is slow and calculated. To avoid permanent damage, experts suggest increasing by one gauge size at a time.

For example, you would upgrade from a 14ga to a 12ga. It is best to always allow your current piercing to heal for at least six months before going up a size.

Always consult your piercer if you have never tried stretching your ears before. They can teach you the proper techniques to avoid infection or permanent scarring.

Standard Pierce Gauge Sizes

Below are the standard pierce gauge sizes for body jewelry used by professional piercers. Remember that the sizes on this chart may not be used for your specific piercing.

Everyone's body is different. Some piercers will use different lengths and gauges depending on your body, as well as the type of jewelry you have chosen to wear.

These are the standard piercing sizes:

  • 14ga: belly ring, tongue, eyebrow, lip, nipple, and septum piercings.
  • 16ga: cartilage, tragus, helix, rook, daith, conch, lip, and eyebrow piercings.
  • 18ga: nose and tragus piercings.
  • 20ga: earrings, nose stud, and nose hoops.
  • 22ga: earrings, nose studs, and nose hoops.

The 22ga is the smallest gauge used for all types of nose piercings. In the U.S., it is uncommon to use 22ga piercing. However, many people in India and the Middle East often request getting their nose pierced with 22ga piercing.

Choosing the right gauge size is essential. Here is a piercing gauge chart to help you choose the right size for your piercing.

To avoid confusion, the measurements are in both metric and imperial systems:

  • 00ga = 10.0mm, 0.400″
  • 0ga = 8.0mm, 0.314″
  • 2ga = 6.0mm, 0.236″
  • 4ga = 5.0mm, 0.196″
  • 6ga = 4.0mm, 0.157″
  • 8ga = 3.0mm, 0.118″
  • 10ga = 2.5mm, 0.098″
  • 12ga = 2.0mm, 0.078″
  • 14ga = 1.6mm, 0.062″
  • 16ga = 1.2mm, 0.047″
  • 18ga = 1.0mm, 0.040″
  • 20ga = 0.8mm, 0.031″

The safest way to select the correct gauge size is to contact your local professional piercer. They can offer expert advice to help you confidently shop online for your new piece of jewelry.

About Lengths

Choosing the right length is just as important as the correct gauge size. The length refers to how long the piercing is.

The standard length size is commonly measured in inches. However, most countries use the metric system as their predominant measurement method.

Standard lengths include:

  • Belly rings 10mm, 0.375″
  • Tongue piercing 16mm, 0.625″
  • Nipple piercing 12mm to 16mm, 0.500″ to 0.625″
  • Tragus/Helix/Conch/Rook/Daith 6mm to 10mm, 0.236″ to 0.393″
  • Lip piercings 8mm to 10mm, 0.314″ to 0.393″
  • Septum 6mm to 10mm, 0.236″ to 0.393″

Selecting the right length ensures plenty of space to wear your piercing comfortably. Keep in mind the length does not include the gem, balls, or piercing backings.

Why Is Knowing the Gauge Important?

The gauge of your piercing is essential for many reasons. Firstly, you must choose the proper jewelry gauge for the health of your piercing. The jewelry you choose should be the same gauge size to avoid complications, including infection and scarring.

For example, if you bought a bar that was too thick, you will struggle to fit it into your piercing hole. At the same time, if you bought a bar that was too thin, your jewelry will fit, but the gauge of your piercing may shrink over time.

Choosing the right length of your jewelry is just as crucial for many reasons. If the length of your jewelry is too long, you may have issues getting it caught on things. This can lead to tearing, which is painful and not recommended.

If the length is too short, you won't fit the jewelry in. Or, if you can, you might get it stuck inside your earlobe. Again, not recommended.

When you have the correct gauge and length, you will have a comfortable and pain-free experience.

Don't be alarmed by any of this! It sounds complex but is easy once you understand your piercing sizes.

What's the Difference Between Gauge Sizes?

Small gauges have a thinner bar with a larger number, such as 20ga. Large gauges have a thicker bar with a smaller number, such as 14ga.

Yes, this can get confusing at times. However, if you don't plan to stretch your ear, you only need to remember your piercing gauge size and choose the proper jewelry from there.

If you plan to stretch your ears, a general understanding of how gauge sizing works will help you stretch safely and slowly.

What Are Gauge Earrings?

The term "gauge earrings" is often confused with the word "gauge." It has become common to refer to "stretched earlobes" as "gauged ears."

This isn't correct because every piercing has a gauge, no matter how big or small. Gauge refers to the thickness of the piercing hole as opposed to a description of a specific piercing type.

If someone asks you about "gauge earrings", they are generally referring to plugs or tunnels. These are earrings used by people who are stretching their lobes.

It's a common misunderstanding, but it is helpful to know the difference.

How Do I Know What Gauge My Piercing Is?

Most piercers stick to a standard size for each piercing. However, your piercer may have used a different gauge for one reason or the other.

If you're unsure, visit your local piercer and ask them what size they used for your piercing.

How to Decide Which Length to Purchase

When deciding which length to purchase, it's essential to consider several factors beforehand.

Ask yourself:

  • What length are you currently wearing?
  • Do you need more or less space than you currently have?

Avoid measuring your piercing while it is still healing. Doing so will give you an incorrect measurement. It's best to wait until your piercing is fully headed before deciding to change it.

Once your piercing is completely healed, you can do your measurements. However, it's often easier to contact your piercer to determine the length of your piercing.

After you know what length you currently have, decide whether or not you need more or less space. This is referred to as the diameter.

How to Decide Which Diameter Will Be Most Suitable

The diameter is the measurement of the inner wearable surface of the jewelry piercing. To find the best internal diameter, you should measure from the piercing hole to the edge of your lip/ear/nose.

Commonly used diameters include:

  • Helix piercings: 8mm to 10mm, 0.314″ to 0.393″
  • Conch piercings: 10mm to 12mm, 0.393″ to 0.472″
  • Septum: 8mm to 10mm, 0.314″ to 0.393″
  • Nose hoops: 7mm to 11mm, 0.275″ to 0.433″

When deciding which diameter will work for you, it's essential to consider several factors beforehand.

Ask yourself:

  • What is the diameter of your current piercing?
  • Where are you pierced?
  • How much space will you need for the piercing to go through and still fit comfortably?

You want to make sure the size isn't too small or too large. This can irritate your piercing.

With a ruler, you can even measure the amount of space from your piercing hole to the body part you are pierced on (ear, nose, etc.).

How Can I Measure the Gauge Size of a Piece of Jewelry?

Measuring the gauge size of a piece of jewelry is tough, especially when you're doing it yourself. The units of measure to determine gauge sizes are small. This makes it a challenge to identify them accurately.

However, if you're up for the challenge, here's what you need to do. First, check your jewelry's packaging for gauge size information.

Take your jewelry to a professional piercer if you don't have it. From there, your piercer may use a gauge wheel to identify where your jewelry sits on the size chart.

Gauge wheels are excellent tools for measuring your jewelry. All you need to do is place your jewelry between the cutouts.

Compare the cutouts on the wheel to your jewelry. Rotate the gauge wheel until you find a cutout that matches.

Then, slide the jewelry into the opening to see if it fits. If it fits nice and snug, you've found your size! If not, continue trying until you find a match.

Generally speaking, standard earrings will fall within the 20ga to 16ga range. However, don't hedge your bets. Only a professional jeweler can determine the accurate gauge size with certainty.

What's the Biggest Gauge Size?

The biggest gauge size is 00ga, equal to about 3/8 of an inch. After 00g, you run out of gauge sizes, so fractions of an inch are used instead.

The next size after 00g is 7/16″. Each size after that goes up by one-sixteenth of an inch.

But they're reduced fractions. This means instead of 8/16″; it's 1/2″.

Confusing? We thought so. Lucky for you, your professional piercer is well-versed in the art of fractions and can provide you with all the answers you need.

Why Are Gauge Sizes Backward?

The gauge system was first created to measure wire thickness in the late 1700s and early 1800s. The wire was made thinner by pulling it through smaller holes.

The system was then created based on the number of holes the wire was pulled through. For example, a 12ga wire had been pulled through 12 holes, so it was much thinner than a 1ga wire which was only pulled through one hole.

Think of it this way: the larger the number, the smaller the actual measurement is.

The Trouble With Gauge Sizes

The gauge system was never designed to be an absolute measure. Instead, it is a relative scale. This is especially true when converting to inches or fractions.

The problem is that the sizing isn't the same across all body jewelry. Depending on the brand or jewelry type, one pair of 10ga plugs may be slightly smaller or larger than another pair of 10ga plugs.

This isn't necessarily an issue if you aren't stretching. However, if you are, gauges can be a little tricky. To avoid confusion and stretching too fast, it's a good idea to use millimeters instead.

Most jewelry websites will show both inches and millimeters on their products. That way, you'll know exactly what size you're getting.

What Is Ear Stretching?

Ear stretching expands an earlobe piercing hole over a certain period, usually several months to a year.

Some people stretch the hole just slightly to accommodate more oversized earrings. Others stretch their ears until you can see through the hole.

People with stretched ears often wear plugs or tunnels. A plug is inserted into the piercing to "plug the hole". You can find plugs in almost every color imaginable; some even glow in the dark.

Tunnels are similar in design; however, they're hollow in the middle. People also call them flesh tunnels or eyelets. Because tunnels are lighter, they weigh less and are more comfortable to wear.

Like plugs, tunnels come in a wide range of colors and designs.

If you choose to stretch your ears, make sure you do it slowly and carefully. After all, your skin isn't made to stretch like this. If you stretch it too quickly, you can suffer from a "blowout."

A blowout is precisely like it sounds. The skin around your piercing will become inflamed and irritated, in some cases, even lumpy. It will also be painful and itchy.

Will Earlobes Return to Their Normal Size After Stretching?

Unfortunately, there is no definitive answer. No two bodies are alike, and the same goes for ear stretching.

Factors like age, genetics, and elasticity may play a role in whether or not your earlobes return to their natural pre-stretch state.

The so-called "point of no return" is the term used to define the point at which you will not be able to go back to your original earlobe size. This size is often cited as between 0ga to 4ga.

However, everyone is different when it comes to healing. You might know someone who has stretched their ears to a larger size, and they were still able to return to their original size.

Surgery is one option for people who have stretched their earlobes too far or regret stretching them at all. Surgery is often costly and painful, so avoid getting to this point.

Does Ear Stretching Hurt?

Ear stretching can tingle or sting, but it should never hurt. If your earlobe hurts, it usually means the taper or plug you're using is too big. Opt for something smaller, and the pain should go away.

It's important to stop when you feel pain. At this point, you run the risk of a blowout. From there, you could develop an infection that may cause pus, burning, swelling, and tenderness.

If you think you might be developing a blowout, you can take a few steps to prevent permanent ear damage:

  • Massage your ear
  • Apply oil
  • Downsize your gauge
  • Rinse with a saline solution
  • Start with the correct gauge

For most people, either a 16ga or 14ga is a good starting point for ear stretching. This is especially true if you have only worn regular earrings.

This guide is an example timeline from regular piercing to 00ga:

  • 16ga to 14ga – 1–2 months
  • 14ga to 12ga – 1–2 months
  • 12ga to 10ga – 2–3 months
  • 10ga to 8ga – 2–3 months
  • 8ga to 6ga – 3–4 months
  • 6ga to 4ga – 3–4 months
  • 4ga to 2ga – 3–4 months
  • 2ga to 0ga – 4–5 months
  • 0ga to 00ga – 4–6 months

This process is slow, taking around two years to complete. You can go faster or slower depending on how your earlobes take it.

Keep in mind your earlobes will appreciate it if you go nice and slow.

Are Earplugs Heavy?

Plugs vary in weight depending on the type of jewelry you're wearing. For example, stone plugs are slightly heavier than wood plugs.

Steel plugs are ideal if your ears are still in the healing process. That's because they're durable, non-porous, and easy to keep clean. The same goes for glass plugs.

Wood plugs are an excellent choice for fully healed ears. They're also lightweight, non-porous, and aesthetically pleasing. Keep in mind wood plugs may darken over time, mainly if you use oil on your ears.

If you're worried about plugs being too heavy, you might like to try tunnels that are lightweight hollowed-out versions of plugs.

The Perfect Gauge Size for New Piercing

Knowing your piercing size is like knowing what size shoe to wear.

Do you wear shoes that are too small? No, because they're uncomfortable. The same goes for body piercings.

Jewelry that is too thin can cause your piercing to shrink and lead to cutting and tearing. Jewelry that is too thick can cause tearing, bleeding, and pain.

Once you have determined your perfect gauge size, it's time for the fun part – choosing your piercing!

Body Pierce Jewelry has a wide range of high-quality jewelry for an affordable price. Our jewelry comes in all shapes and sizes to suit different tastes. We offer worldwide shipping, a 90-day warranty, and happiness guaranteed.

It doesn't get much better than that!

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