Gauging Your Ear Piercings

Unless you had your ears pierced to the gauge that you wanted – a process that can often involve more pain, not to mention blood, than the typical piercing – you will have to gradually gauge your piercings. This process will take time, but it is worth the patience: if you try to shove a ten-gauge earring through a sixteen- or eighteen-gauge hole, you run a very high risk of tearing the hole. This is painful, unnecessary and ugly, because you cannot put any jewelry into that hole until it heals. Even then, you risk scarring that can close the hole or give you an infection.

Gauging your ear piercings, especially those in your lobes, is easy. You just need to invest in various sizes of jewelry and be prepared for this process to take a few months.

First, decide what gauge you would like to end up with. If you are currently at the standard size for most ear piercing guns, you are probably at either sixteen or eighteen gauge. Remember: the larger the number, the smaller the diameter of the hole. Therefore, you want lower numbers so that you can accommodate various rings. These include circulars, capture beads and other miscellaneous designs and types.

If you decide to go with fourteen gauge, for example, you will have a piercing that does not stand out much when you do not have jewelry in it. It is still a fairly small hole, which will greatly please anybody who interviews you for a job in the future. This gauge also typically marks the beginnings of a shift in design trends: you can find many cool, unique rings that will fit into this gauge without pain or discomfort.

Shop online or at your local piercing studio for the next available gauge. It should be one measurement higher than the hole that is currently in your earlobe. Because they are incremented by twos, don’t expect to find a fifteen-gauge ring anywhere. If possible, find a stainless-steel capture-bead earring without twists or other, uneven designs in its main component. You really don’t want to tear up your ears with this ring, as you will be stretching them to fit your new gauge.

While you’re out, pick up a tub of petroleum jelly. This is safe to use on your ears, easy to clean off with mild soap and water, and can be put to other uses around the house when you are finished gauging your ears. You’ll only need a little bit, so don’t buy a case of it unless you have a bunch of friends who want to throw a gauging party with you.

Take all of this junk into the bathroom so that you can see what you’re doing. You might not need the added benefit of visual input, but it doesn’t hurt to prepare for it. You should also note that this will cause mild discomfort, and that the hole should be treated as a brand-new piercing when you finish each step. This means that you will have to disinfect every day, preferably once in the morning and again in the evening, to prevent infections and further pain and discomfort.

First, sterilize your new ring. If you found the stainless-steel earring we discussed earlier, you can sterilize it in a capful of rubbing alcohol.

Next, coat it with a very thin layer of petroleum jelly. You should try to keep it off of your fingers if possible so that they do not slide around. Remember: only one end of the earring must be coated for pushing through your hole. Once this is accomplished, you can apply more so that you can finish pushing it into place.

This is the tricky part: pushing it through the hole slowly so that you can minimize any potential damage to your ear. If possible, find a friend to help watch out for you. The piercing will offer some resistance at first, especially if it is a newer hole, but you can make this happen.

Warning: if this is too uncomfortable or if your piercing begins to bleed, stop what you are doing and sterilize it with rubbing alcohol (painful but necessary). You can always try again later. It’s better than going ahead with your plan and tearing your hole.

One your new earring is in place and any capture beads or other locking mechanisms are attached, sterilize it with rubbing alcohol or the similar stuff that you received when it was first pierced. You should repeat this process at least twice a day, preferably morning and night, for at least one week. This should be treated just like your first piercing so that you are sure to avoid infections and other nasty surprises.

Note: it might swell slightly, but you should consult a doctor if it is excessive. This is also true of continued bleeding or extreme discomfort. It is better to have a professional treat it now than to wait it out and suffer permanent damage.

After a week or two, you should be able to move the earring about freely in your ear. If you’re wearing a capture-bead ring or circular, it should slide forward and backward easily. If not, you are not ready to move to the next step. Be patient with this process: it’s worth the extra waiting time.

Once you can move it freely in your ear, you know that the hole has stretched to fit the new size. You can now purchase the next-largest gauge. You will repeat the same process as above, including aftercare. Eventually you will reach the gauge that you desire, and you will be able to invest in something more decorative than the steel capture-bead rings. They probably won’t be of further use to you once you “gauge up,” but keep them around in case you decide to get another piercing.

Even when you have reached the ideal gauge, you should follow aftercare instructions as closely as possible. Check the piercing at least once a week for signs of infection or irritation and treat immediately. This is true even if your piercing is twelve years old, as infections in other parts of your body might spread to your holes. If this is the case, consult a doctor for proper treatment of the actual problem – instead of merely treating the symptoms.

Your newly-gauged piercings will give you years of enjoyment and pleasure if they were done properly. You should not have scar tissue or other such things to deal with: your reward for patience throughout the process.

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