Plug and Taper Sizing: What to Know for a Perfect Fit

by Body Candy
2 Comments

They’re called by many names: plugs, gauges, expanders… But how do you know what size you need for YOUR SPECIFIC EAR PIERCING?  We’re going to take the guess work out with a comprehensive listing of sizes, styles, and what goes where in terms of plugging it up.

Ear plugs come in a set of standard sizes, so we’ll start with the basic sizes and how they fit.

Gauge Size Measurement in millimeters Standard
20 .8mm nose piercings
18 1mm ear piercings, nose piercings
16 1.2mm monroe, septum, tragus
14 1.6mm ear cartilage, labret, belly, industrial
12 2mm tongue
10 2.4mm septum (rare), tongue (rare)
8 3.2mm gauged piercings
6 4mm              |
4 5mm              |
2 6mm              |
0 8mm             \/
00 10mm stretched ears
7/16″ 11mm              |
1/2″ 12mm              |
34/64″ 13mm              |
9/16″ 14mm              |
5/8″ 15mm              |
11/16″ 17mm              |
0.709″ 18mm              |
3/4″ 19mm             \/
13/16″ 20mm
7/8″ 22mm
0.945″ 24mm
1″ 25mm
1.024″ 26mm
1.102″ 28mm
1  9/64″ 29mm
1.181″ 30mm
1  17/64″ 32mm
1  3/8″ 35mm
1  1/2″ 38mm


These sizes are the average, not including extremely rare specialty sizes with small, in-between measurements or measurements larger than 1.5 inches.  The gauge measurement is the thickness of the part of the item that goes through the piercing itself, and ONLY that part.  This is the approximate diameter measurement of a rounded piece of jewelry.  Just to give you a better idea, here are some of the standard sizes and what they actually look like:

The portion of the plug, taper, or tunnel that is this exact size will vary depending on the style of the piece, so now let’s cover the different common styles and what portion of each is measured for gauge and worn in the piercing.

First there’s the straight plug.  This item is easy to measure and foolproof for purchasing by size because differentiation in the diameter size of the plug is minimal to zero.  Due to this fact however, a straight plug will need to be worn with rubber o-rings of the correct gauge on each side to hold it in place.

Then there’s the single flare plug.  One end of these “flares” out, or becomes slightly larger.  The gauge size of these items will be measured at the smaller end, and because of the flare, they generally only need one o-ring to hold them in securely.

Next we have the double flare plug.  Double flare styles are just what they sound like, a piece that is measured for gauge size at the smallest part in the middle and becomes larger on both ends.  This type of plug is best for ears that have already been stretched to the appropriate gauge size, as the larger end will have to be pushed through the earring hole in order to wear the jewelry.  once in, most double flares can be held in without the use of o-rings due to their concave shape.

Other commonplace items for stretched ears include tunnels which are like a plug, but hollow on the inside.

With this type of item, if the gauge size is large enough, the rim will hold the jewelry into the piercing and you’ll be able see through the hollow middle right out the other side of the ear.  Tunnels are usually made from stainless steel with a screw fit backing, or from movable material like silicone for easy insertion.  Like other gauges though, they can be composed of almost any material, including natural and organic media.

The last style that we’ll cover is the taper. These can be straight (with the gauge size being the measurement of the thicker end), curved (same type of sizing as straight), buffalo curve (gauged at the thickest portion in the middle), or spiral.

Spiral tapers can be difficult to size properly because of their shape, but this style will generally be measured at the widest portion of the curve, right before the smaller inside curl of the spiral.

Now that we’ve looked at the basic styles and sizes, you’re ready to make an informed decision on exactly what type of gauged jewelry is right for you.  Time to measure!  For measuring jewelry that you already wear to find out the gauge, take a piece of string or dental floss and wrap it around the item at the part you want to measure, clipping it so that the ends meet to form a perfect circle around the plug.  Next, lay the floss flat against a millimeter ruler and measure its approximate length in millimeters.  Now you have the circumference of the jewelry.  To get the gauge size (or diameter/thickness), divide the number you’ve reached by 3.14 and round.

For example: your string measures just over ten millimeters.  10 millimeters divided by 3.14 (Pi), equals 3.1847.  Round 3.1847 to 3.2.  Check the chart above and you’ll see that 3.2 millimeters is an 8 gauge.

by Body Candy

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  • A

    Alley (Body Candy Team)

    Hi Jacky!

    First of all, if you are going to be switching between sizes, make sure your 16mm ears are fully healed before you start jumping up and down.

    It’s probably not a bad thing to wear some 14mm plugs every now and then, but I wouldn’t leave them in for more than a day. Before you go to bed at night, switch back to the 16mm plugs to make sure your ears don’t shrink up.

    As always, good aftercare is very important – don’t forget to practice good hygiene. If you experience any pain, contact your piercer right away and stop switching sizes until you’re completely healed.

  • J

    Jacky E

    I have spent probably an hour trying to find an answer to my question,and no luck. So here I am. My ears are stretched to 16mm, but I have a few pairs of plugs that I mistakenly ordered in 14mm. My question is this: is it ok or damaging to my lobes if I switch between the two sizes every now and then?

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