Post Healing Jewelry Guide
Here is a basic guide to selecting jewelry and what to consider when picking jewelry for your healed piercing. Often the focus at the time of piercing is on what is going to work well during the healing period but only a small amount on what is the best jewelry choices after the piercing has healed. I always try to cover what I consider is the most problematic jewelry styles and materials choices during my aftercare consultation but it's there is only so much that can be covered. I will usually cover only the most basic information and move on to what I consider is more pressing information.
Over the years, I've seen a number of clients that had perfectly well healed piercing that with a jewelry change suddenly developed problems. There are a number of factors to lead to this including size, style, material and weight. Out of no fault of their own they made uneducated choices and paid for it. The reality is that the amount of choices can at times be overwhelming and without the assistance of a piercer to guide you through choosing the correct jewelry, mistakes can happen. So, here are a number of things to consider before making that jewelry choice and remember just as I always state during my aftercare instructions, "I don't care where you are buying your jewelry, I'll be happy to give you advice on what jewelry to buy regardless of where you are buying it."
Before buying jewelry consult your piercer to get the correct gauge and width that you will need. Understand that everyone's anatomy is different and the size of the jewelry during piercing and after is dictated by your anatomy.
The gauge is the thickness of the jewelry. At the time of the piercing the guage of the jewelry is choosen to decrease the risks of migration, tearing and rejection. Depending on the piercing, staying at the same guage in a majority of piercings is important to reduce the piering migrating, rejecting or becoming damaged. However in some cases a thinner gauge will not present a problem but understand that the piercing will always conform to the thickness of the jewelry and if latter you want to increase the gauge the piercing will need to be stretched.
With the width of the piercing, there should always be a little extra space. This is espcially true of locations on the body where the area expands or where there is a lot of movement. Wtih rings and other circular shaped jewelry additional width maybe needed to insure that the piercing channel is still as straight as possible. This is espeically true of nipple piercings.
For more information on Gauge and Size
Of course the best option is to consult your piercer and have them size the jewelry for you but that isn't always an option. Especially if you live in an area where there isn't a reputable piercer nearby. Sometimes you have to do it yourself and depending on the location of the piercing, you might need help. Also you really need to consider the area of the body and what changes might take place there and the jewelry type.
At the time of the piercing, your piercer should have supplied you with the size of your jewelry. I for one always write it on the aftercare sheet. Knowing the gauge and width of the jewelry will make this all a lot easier. Not only because you want to stick with the same gauge but also the width will tell you how large the jewelry is compared to the piercing width. In most cases the jewelry will be about an 1/8 or larger than the piercing. So especially with piercings done with a post style like a barbell may only need to be downsized an 1/8 of an inch. Understand though it is often better especially with oral piercings or other piercings where swelling will be a factor or like with male genital piercing where the body expands greatly, piercing with over sized jewelry is a better option. Also with piercings done with rings like for example nipple piercings, the jewelry is much wider than the piercing to keep the area of the jewelry in the piercing as flat as possible.
It is always better to have a little extra room, especially with post style jewelry like Labret Studs, Standard and Curved Barbells. Your body regardless of location will sometimes expand and contract. Also in some cases like ears, trauma to even a healed piercing can cause swelling. For that reason when dealing with post style jewelry I suggest that an addition 1/16 of an inch be added to the width of the piercing to give you some play. Also if it is a piercing that tight jewelry may put pressure on the piercing or piercing group, a little extra room is always better.
When switching from a ring to a standard or curved barbell the area will need to be measured. With many piercings like ears, nostril, lips, nipples and genital piercing, the ring will often be a great deal larger than the piercing. In some cases the size may have more to do with getting the ring to wrap around the area than the width of the piercing while others it is about keeping the piercing as flat as possible. For example, a conch piercing may have been pierced with a 5/8 ring to allow the jewelry to wrap around the outside of the ear but the piercing is only 1/4 of an inch wide and a 5/16 barbell fits perfectly.
If the area of the body expands greatly, then the measurement needs to be taken when the area is as fat as possible. A good example would be a tongue piercing where when the tongue is at rest it is 5/16 but doubles in size to 5/8 when it is expanded. The same maybe the case with some genital piercings where the piercing area expands greatly and the jewelry is extremely lose when it is at rest.
One last thought on measuring, just like a carpenter. Measure twice and order once. Most retailers, piercing studios and online retail outlets will not allow you to return jewelry once the package has been opened.
Where to buy Body Piercing Jewelry?:
With the expansion of the body piercing industry over the past 20 odd years there has been an ever expanding number of non-industry retail stores that have began to stock body piercing jewelry. everywhere from gas stations and clothing stores to fine jewelry stores and department store stock some form of jewelry. Usually a majority of these stores offer jewelry at a much cheaper price and often have a much larger selection than even the most well stocked piercing studio. What makes them a poor choice is not only the jewelry is of a lower quality than a studio would stock but there is no one there with the knowledge and expertize to guide you through the jewelry selection. A number of factors like difference in your anatomy and the needs of your piercing should go into sizing the jewelry to fit your piercing. At best you might be given a selection of jewelry based on piercing type. Though the style and shape of the jewelry might be correct, the size is one size fits all and doesn't address your anatomy or the size of your piercing. Also none of the jewelry is sold sterile. Though this isn't as big of a factor as it would be if it was a fresh piercing, there is always the possibility that while changing the jewelry you damage your piercing. If the jewelry is not sterile this opens the possibility of introducing a foreign pathogen into the piercing and causing an infection.
So, ideally the best situation is to buy directly from a piercing studio in good standing. I for one stock jewelry with a focus on varity of sizes verus different styles. The idea is that I would rather have 4 or 5 size options instead of one size option of 100 differnt styles. This allows me to give a better fit but it does limit the different styles that I have available. The other advantage to buying from a studio is that the quality is usually better, will sterilze and change the jewelry for you and guarentee their jewely as I do, against defects.
However, even the best stocked studio in the world may not have what you are looking for. This opens two posiblities placing a special order at your studio of choice or ordering the jewelry online. The Axiom no longer does special orders but I'm more than willing to size a piercing for a client and guide them through ordering their jewelry online. There is a number of retail body piercing jewelry sites that specialize in only high end and high quality jewelry. I post a number of option on this page. My reasoning for choosing these sites is because they list the manufactures and mostly only stock American Made jewelry. Though there are a number of manufactures outside of the US, that manufacture decent jewelry especially in Europe, the reality is that the American manufactures are usually superior in the materials they use and the way they manufacture their jewelry. You are going to pay a little more than you would at the local mall but remember this jewelry is design and build to last a life time.
What Kind of Style?
There are a number of different styles that are designed for either a number of different piercings or for specific to just a few piercings. For more information go to my page on Jewelry Types and Styles. Below is a chart of some of the more common piercing and what I suggest for styles of jewelry:
PIERCING JEWELRY STYLE
Ear Lob - Captive Bead Rings, Labret Studs, Circular barbells, plugs and tunnels
Upper Ear Cartilage - Captive Bead Rings, Circular Barbells and Labret Studs
Snug - Captive Bead Rings, Curved Barbells and Labret Studs
Conch - Captive Bead Rings, Circular Barbells, Barbells and Labret Studs
Rook - Captive Bead Ring and Curved Barbells
Daith - Captive Bead Rings and Curved Barbells
Helix - Captive Bead Rings, Circular Barbells, Curved Barbells and Barbells
Forward/Triple Helix - Labret Studs
Tragus - Captive Bead Rings, Circular Barbells, Barbells and Labret Studs
Anti-Tragus - Captive Bead Rings, Circular Barbells and curved Barbell
Industrial - Stand Barbell
Eyebrow - Captive Bead Rings, Circular Barbells and Curved Barbell
Nostril - Captive Bead Rings, Circular Barbells, Nostril Screw, L-Bend and Labret Studs
Septum - Captive Bead Rings, Circular Barbells, Standard Barbells, Septum Retainers
Lip - Captive Bead Rings, Circular Barbells and Curved Barbells
Labret - Labret Stud and Oval Captive Bead Rings
Cheek- Labret Stud
Beauty Mark - Labret Stud
Tongue - Standard Barbell
Nipple - Captive Bead Rings(also oval and teardrop shaped), Standard Barbells, Circular Barbells, and Curved Barbells
Navel - Captive Bead Rings(also oval and teardrop shaped), J Shaped Barbells, Circular Barbells, and Curved Barbells
Vertical Clitoral Hood - Captive Bead Rings and Curved Barbells
Horizontal Clitoral Hood - Captive Bead Rings(also oval and teardrop shaped), and Circular Barbells,
Labia - Captive Bead Rings, Circular Barbells and Curved Barbells. In some case short Standard Barbells.
Prince Albert - Captive Bead Rings, Circular Barbells, and Curved Barbells
Public - Captive Bead Rings, Circular Barbells and Curved Barbells
Foreskin - Captive Bead Rings, Circular Barbells and Curved Barbells
Dydo - Curved Barbells
Frenum - Standard Barbells. Captive Bead Rings and Circular Barbells can also be worn but are not the best choice.
Lorum - Captive Bead Rings, Circular Barbells and Standard Barbells
Scrotum - Captive Bead Rings, Circular Barbells and Curved Barbells
Guiche - Captive Bead Rings, Circular Barbells and Curved Barbells
Understand that even though the packaging states that the jewelry is made of "________", they are often only referring to the post section that will be in the piercing. Shaped ends, dangles and other novelty jewelry often made of substandard materials. There are a number of options for metal and other materials and I cover this in detal on the Jewelry Metals and Material Page. However here are the basics:
- Acceptable Metals and materials -
- Implant Grade Steel (ASTM-F138-86) Often called Surgical Stainless Steel or 316L SSS but the reality is that both terms are useless. Surgical Stainless Steel is a marketing term invented by the cookware industry to describe the metals finish. 316L or 316LVM is the basic terms used describe a alloys that make up the metal and can be a number of different grades from alloys used for everything from bike spokes to high grade medical equipment. The metal should be implant grade and to insure that it is it should mention the ASTM number listed above.
- Niobium (ASTM-B392) Niobium was a standard in the industry for a number of years because it was a pure element and nickel free. However over the last 10 years it has been abandoned in favor of Titanium.
- Titanium (ASTM-F136) - When Ti is exposed to air or water it reacts with the oxygen to create a thin, inert oxide layer. This oxide layer does not contain any traces of the elements(aluminum and vanadium) contained in the alloy. This creates the most biocompatible of all body piercing jewelry. Reducing reactions to almost nul.
- Gold - Gold must be solid and at least 14kt. If you have issues with metal sensitivity Gold alloys often contain nickel and other metals that may lead to reactions. Also gold alloy is a soft material and is more prone to damage than other metals. So in areas of the body were there is increased contact and wear it is not the best choice.
- Bio Plastic, Acrylic, Dental Plastic, Teflon and Monofilament Nylon - There are a number of man made materials that can be used as retainers and in areas of the body like the mouth where the material is less destructive and softer than metals. For the same reason that they can be a good choice for long term wear, also requires replacement of the jewelry when the material erodes.
- Organic Materials - There are a number of hardwoods, stones, antler, horn and bone that can be used in healed piercings. Due to the fact that they are organic, special care will be needed to avoid damage to the jewelry and allergic reactions are always possible.
- Glass and Pyrex - Glass can be a good option for those that are sensitive to other materials. However if the area is at risk for trauma or wear, glass is often not the best choice.
- Metals and Materials to Avoid:
- Plated - It doesn't mater what the plating is, the plating will wear or chip off and your body will be exposed to whatever the material is under the plating. A common practice with low end manufactures is to sell "Titanium" jewelry that is in fact Steel with Titanium plating. Often gold is also plated in much the same way. When in doubt look at the price of Titanium and Gold jewelry elsewhere. If the jewelry is drastically cheaper, then there is something fishy going on.
- Silver - I don't know how many times clients have informed me that they can't wear anything but the real stuff like silver. The fact is that silver is an extremely poor choice for body jewelry. First off it often contains a great deal of nickel and the metal is very soft and porous creating areas that foreign objects and pathogen can collect. The softness of the metal can also allow the jewelry to become deformed and damage the piercing. However the biggest concern is that the metal tarnishes, tarnish is a fungi and it can cause a fungal infection. The biggest concern is that sliver is slightly toxic to humans and cause can Argyria or silver poisoning. Though not often life threatening it permanently discolor the skin. Piercings that are located through or in mucus membranes like oral piercing, piercing in the nose, and genital piercings are more acceptable to this and silver jewelry should never be worn in them.
- Bronze - Bronze has a long history with piercing but like most materials used by ancient cultures, it had more to do with what was available than it did with it being the best option. It is an alloy of Copper and Tin, often is extremely heavy and tarnishes which increases the chances of a fungal infection.
- Copper - Copper is often too soft and will damage easily. Also it will tarnish which can cause a fungal infection and/or permanently discoloring of the skin.
- Brass - There are a number of issues including that tarnish and almost everyone on the planet will have a reaction to Zinc.
- Pewter - Contains lead. Do I really need to say more?
- Tin - Also contains elements of lead.
- Cadmium - Is toxic!!
- Chromium - Is toxic and can be absorbed into the body.
- Pot Metal - Not only is this a sign that it could be the lowest quality jewelry that you can find but it does tarnish and contain lead.
- Chrome Plated Plastic - Really common in low grade novelty jewelry and could be actual chrome plating but is often silver pant. I could write a couple of thousand words just on the subject of why this isn't a good option. Zinc, lead, etc...
Bling, Bling, Shaped and Novelty Jewelry:
Mostly this jewelry is targeted toward navel piercings but as other piercings especially many ear piercings have become popular, it has began to target them also. As I mentioned above often the jewelry's post is often made of a material that should be acceptable like Implant Grade Steel or Titanium and the packaging will state that it is made of that material. However, since it is difficult and time consuming to create charms, dangles, shapes or other gem settings in that material. So, sub standard materials like silver, pot metal, tin, pewter, etc... are what the non-post section of the jewelry is in fact made of. Though this material may not be in direct contact with the piercing, it will be in contact with the tissue surround the piercing and could lead to a metal reaction or other problem. Better manufactures have jewelry that is not made of these sub-standard materials and that is why they cost a great deal more.
I think I've said well over a million times in the past 20 odd years, simple is always better. The more complex the jewelry the high the profile and the more sharp edges there are to get caught on clothes, bedding and other items your piercing will come in contact with. Also you need to consider the discomfort of having these sharp edges in contact with the piercing area. Especially with navel piercing where often the gem setting or charm is a great deal larger than your navel. This will not only be uncomfortable but also add pressure to the piercing that could lead to rejection, migration or scarring. Avoid anything that is hanging off the jewelry, I don't care how careful you are, it is like having a fishing line complete with a hock hanging off your piercing ready to hock or snag anything that comes within reach.
When it comes to picking jewelry always first consider the location of the piercing, what it comes in contact with and how much extra shape there is for the jewelry? When in doubt always go for the most simple option.
With the popularity of Labret style piercings and nostrils piercings, there has been an increased demand for smaller and smaller barbell or labret ends and nostril screw ends. An end that is too small can cause the end to be pulled into the piercing if there is swelling or pressure on the piercing. This can cause the body in some cases to start producing tissue around and over the end. When choosing ends make sure that is roughly a third or larger than the thickness or guage of the jewelry. The back or inside of the end should be ball shaped or disc shaped and not curved or cone shaped to increase resistance to the end being pulled into the piercing. Larger is always better especially during the healing period.
Here's a basic guide to what size ends to get:
- 18g is 0,82 mm and the end should be at least 1.5 mm,
- 16g is 1.33 mm and the end should be at least 2 mm.
- 14g is 2.66 mm and the end should be at least 3 mm.
In conclusion, whenever in doubt, ask your piercer. Nothing can replace sitting down with a well experienced piercer who is willing to take the time to explain what they feel will work best. They can give you first hand knowledge about the advantages and disadvantage of different shapes and styles and what size will work best for you. Often they will ask you questions that maybe you haven't even considered like, metal sensitivity, what types of activities you are involved with, and whether you will need to remove the jewelry often? Plus they can look at the piercing and the area that's surrounding the piercing, get out the calipers measure the piercing and give you a prefect fit. From there they can either sell you the jewelry, special order you it for you or point you in the right direction to buy jewelry.
As always if you have any questions on Jewelry or other piercing related topics, feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org