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By Preston Smith/Sept. 7, 2021 1:07 pm EDT

Over the last decade, ear gauges have erupted in popularity in the Western world. They’re a unique way to express yourself, but, like any other piercing or body modification, there’s a lot you should know before getting ear gauges. You may worry if you can repair damage from having a gauge, or you may wonder which ear gauge is the most common size.

Knowing the most common size of ear gauges can help you choose which one you want to get as well as what to expect when getting one. Of course, you can change your gauge size, so what you opt for in the beginning isn’t the end-all-be-all. After all, gauges are about stretching, so you can ultimately make them whatever size you like. “The slower you go, the nicer your lobes will be in the long run,” explains King’s Body Jewelry, adding that you should wait a month between each size increase to give your ears proper time to adjust.

Now that we know how long you should go between increasing sizes, it’s time to uncover which size is actually the most common.

This is the real secret to choosing the right gauge size

Ear gauges are all about size. The popularity of different sizes may vary by region, but some sizes remain overall more common than others. According to Banter by Piercing Pagoda, traditional ear lobe gauges often land at the 20 gauge size. Gauge not only refers to the style of ear modification but also to the unit of measurement used for the diameter of a piercing. The smaller the gauge number, the larger your piercing actually is, per Banter.

When you first start your gauges, you may want to begin with a 14- or 16-gauge size, according to King’s Body Jewelry. They estimate this to be the most common and safest size range, and you can easily increase from there. Because these numbers are lower than Banter’s recommended starter size of 20 gauge, these piercings are, in fact, larger. Naturally, you can start with 20 and work your way down to larger sizes like 14 and below. That part is completely up to you!

Ultimately, though, the standard-size gauges for beginners are between 20 and 16 gauge (via Spencer’s). “Alternatively, if your goal is to stretch your earlobes, you will likely start with a 14 gauge piercing and work to gradually increase the size of your jewelry,” Spencer’s explains. “Increasing the size of a piercing should be done carefully and hygienically in order to prevent skin tearing, infection, and, of course, pain.” 

Therefore, the size you start with should be determined by your end intention. So, be sure to fully think it through before you go in for your appointment.

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