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Downsizing Your Jewelry

by / Saturday, 21 March 2015 / Published in Health, Jewelry, Piercing

So you just got your lip pierced and the jewelry is sticking out of your face like a tiny antenna. Not exactly the look you were going for, so what gives? Why can’t the jewelry just be the right size from day one?


Longer/larger diameter jewelry is carefully chosen for a new piercing to accommodate the swelling that can occur in the initial stages of healing. How long the jewelry needs to be depends on several factors, including;

  • Location of the piercing. Different parts of the body swell differently, and so some areas need extra space to breath.
  • Where you live. Some climates actually encourage additional swelling in the body. If you live in a rainforest, near the ocean, or in a generally moist environment, your piercings will tend to swell more and take longer to heal. If you live in a desert, or very dry area, your piercings will tend to swell less and take less time to heal. (Neato, huh?)

For this reason, piercers will start your jewelry long, and ask you to return after a set amount of time for a “downsize”. Downsizing simply means moving to a shorter/smaller piece of jewelry.


For some locations, downsizing is critical to the health and success of the piercing. For others, there is some leeway. Here is a general guide to downsizing a few of the most common piercings. (And it is just a guide based on our experiences and the climate that we live in, which is sad and rainy.)


Nostril piercings 

  • Downsizing is optional.
  • When: 2-3 months.
  • Why: Since the extra length is hidden inside of your nostrils, the only reason to downsize is if the jewelry is bothering you. If the jewelry is coming into contact with your septum, or swinging down to the bottom of your nostril, resulting in a perpetual metal booger, downsizing will be more comfortable, and more visually appealing.


Tongue, lip, and other oral piercings

  • Downsizing is critical.
  • When: 2-3 weeks.
  • Why: Longer jewelry in your mouth can rub against your teeth and gums when you speak, eat, and smile, risking damage. In additional, you are more likely to chew or bite down on your jewelry if it is too long, which will at best irritate the piercing, and at worst chip your teeth. For these reasons, we insist that people downsize as soon as possible.


Helix, conch, and flat piercings

  • Downsizing is critical.
  • When: 2-3 months.
  • Why: Because a significant amount of pressure is exerted on your ear if you sleep on it, the angle of the piercing can change over time. (This is referred to as migration, and it’s the reason why a well placed piercing can end up all wonky and crooked by the time it’s healed.)


Tragus, daith, and rook piercings

  • Downsizing is optional (sometimes).
  • When: 2-3 months.
  • Why: Because the extra length of your tragus jewelry is sheltered in your ear, migration is less of a concern that it is for other placements. However, if you ever wear earbud headphones or earplugs, you’ll want to downsize as soon as possible so that the jewelry doesn’t have to fight for space with anything else you like to shove into your ear canal. Daith and rook jewelry tends to look best when it is large and visible, so downsizing is not necessary unless the jewelry is causing you a problem.

(With all cartilage piercings, it’s always best to refrain from sleeping on your freshly pierced ear for as long as possible. Your new piercing doesn’t appreciate being smothered while you sleep. Even if it’s not hurting you, your piercing isn’t into that kind of thing.)


Navel piercings

  • Downsizing is anatomy dependent
  • When: 2-3 months
  • Why: Depending on the shape of your navel, it may be important to downsize. If your jewelry rests very differently when you sit vs stand, or tend to stick out the top when you sit, shorter jewelry may be more comfortable for you. However, if it sits nicely all of the time, and the shape of your navel allows enough room for the jewelry to hang nicely, you may choose to stick with longer jewelry.


There are many other piercings (each with their own guidelines), and so many factors that determine if/when jewelry needs to be downsized. Your piercer can give you recommendations based on your individual needs.

But remember, if you need help with something, we are only a click away.