My Very First Body Jewelry: The Best Jewelry for New Piercings February 28, 2020 – Posted in: Informative – Tags: , ,

When you get a new piercing, you might be excited to start trying out a new piece of jewelry every day, but you’re weeks away from your new piercing being anything but a small wound that needs to be taken care of.

Since a new piercing needs to be treated like a minor injury, you’ll be limited in your initial jewelry choices. As the piercing heals, the jewelry is an important piece to help keep the piercing open so that a flesh tunnel (technically known as a fistula) can form. However, if you choose the wrong starter jewelry, complications like embedded jewelry, piercing rejection, and metal irritation can occur.

Your piercer will be able to guide you when you choose your initial jewelry, and in some piercings, you will have a choice on the type of starter jewelry you’d prefer. Make the decision carefully; you’ll be stuck with the style for at least a couple of weeks until swelling has gone down.

Here are the considerations that go into choosing the proper starter jewelry.

Jewelry style

The type of jewelry used in a new piercing goes beyond aesthetics. You need to choose the correct jewelry type that fits the specific piercing so that it feels comfortable in your body.

Piercing rejection occurs when your body decides that your new jewelry is a foreign object that must be evicted. To help your body accept the new jewelry, you must choose jewelry types that comfortably fit in your new piercing.

Man with eyebrow piercing and curved barbell jewelry

A new eyebrow piercing will likely be fitted with a curved barbell.

For example, when you get your eyebrow pierced, the recommended starter jewelry will likely be a curved barbell (with a long barbell length to accommodate swelling). This jewelry type allows for swelling as the piercing heals, and the curvature of the bar will match your anatomy better than other jewelry types (like a straight barbell) so that it feels more natural to your body.

Gauge size

Jewelry gauge refers to the thickness of the post that goes through the actual piercing. The proper gauge of your starter jewelry will depend upon the gauge of the needle with which you were pierced.

In many piercings, you will have a bit of a choice when it comes to the gauge of the piercing. For example, cartilage piercings are often pierced at either 16 gauge (which is around 1.2mm thick), or 18 gauge (which is slightly thinner). The gauge you choose has more to do with aesthetics, since larger gauges allow for larger jewelry pieces, but health concerns limit some piercings to certain gauge sizes. It is important to find a piercer you trust and let them guide you to a gauge size that fits your aesthetic desires and promotes healing.

You can stretch areas of your body on your own—stretched lobes are by far the most popular—but you’ll still have to begin at a smaller gauge, allow your body to heal, and stretch slowly from there to reach the gauge that you want.

Man with stretched lobe piercing

If you want a larger gauge, many piercings can be slowly stretched after they’re fully healed.

Once pierced with a certain gauge, you need to make sure that your jewelry fits just right. Jewelry with a gauge that’s too small can feel like a splinter to your body, and your body will start to push it out. Jewelry with a gauge that’s too large can cause different kinds of irritation, depending on the part of the body.

Barbell length

Whatever jewelry style you’ve opted for, your piercer needs to choose jewelry that’s big enough to accommodate swelling.

Your piercer will be able to help you choose the right barbell length, but it’s something that you’ll need to keep an eye on during healing. If your barbell is too short, the ends of the jewelry will press against your new piercing, leading to issues like embedding. If your barbell is too long, you run the risk of snagging your jewelry, causing trauma to the piercing site.

If the length of your barbell is causing discomfort, have your piercer look at it. They can tell you if it’s the wrong size, and they’ll fit you with a new jewelry piece. (During the entire healing process, do not change your jewelry on your own. You can cause serious damage to the healing piercing. Visit a professional who has the expertise to change the jewelry correctly.)

Jewelry material

Although body jewelry uses many different materials, there are actually very few materials approved for healing piercings.

Many popular jewelry materials are alloys that contain metals that can irritate healing piercings, even if you’ve never had a metal allergy before. It’s important, therefore, to choose purer metals, especially those that are nickel-free. There are also some plastic and glass options for those who have issues with all types of metals.

The Association of Piercing Professionals lists seven materials appropriate for healing piercings. Their approval is based on two standards:

“The material in a healing piercing: 

– Should be able to withstand the heat and pressure of autoclave sterilization

– Should be inert and compatible with the body so it doesn’t cause irritation, allergy, or infection.”

According to those standards, initial body jewelry should be made from:

  • F138 implant-grade steel 
  • Implant-grade titanium
  • Niobium
  • 14k or 18k Yellow, rose, or white gold (be sure that you choose white gold without nickel)
  • Platinum (incredibly high quality, but quite expensive, so it’s not very popular as a starter jewelry choice)
  • Biocompatible polymers
  • Glass

Titanium is, by far, the most popular metal choice because it’s inexpensive and safe for most metal allergies.


Body jewelry with threading (the spiral part of a screw) comes in two types: internal threading and external threading.

close up photo of screws

Threading is the spiral part that allows you to close barbell jewelry.

Internal threading is when the threading is located inside the post of the jewelry, while the ball or backing slips into the post to tighten.

External threading is when the threading is located outside the post of the jewelry that slips into the ball or backing to tighten.

The distinction seems small, but it’s actually quite important.

Since it’s more difficult to create, internal threading is often a sign of higher quality jewelry. It’s important to choose internally threaded jewelry because the threaded piece will never touch the healing jewelry as the post is pushed through the new piercing. 

Even though the threading in body jewelry is quite small, even the tiniest snag on a healing piercing can cause damage. Pushing an externally threaded post through a new piercing can tear at the delicate skin, which can slow the healing process.  Avoid externally threaded jewelry at all costs, even in healed piercings. The cost savings is not worth the damage to your piercing.

It’s easy to get excited about a new piercing, but in all aspects of piercing aftercare, patience is key. Much of the success of your piercing will depend upon your starter jewelry, so take care when making your choice, listen to your piercer’s recommendations, and know which jewelry choices will work best for your piercing. 

Once you’ve chosen the right starter piece, the rest is up to you. You’ll need to make sure that you have all of the proper aftercare products you need and keep the piercing clean throughout the entire healing period.

« How to Know If You Have a Piercing Infection
Pros and Cons: Should I Get a Facial Piercing? »