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Size Matters: Downsize

Size Matters! At least, when it comes to piercings it does. Now, in piercing size could refer to a number of different things: The thickness of a piece of jewelry, aka the gauge, the length of straight or curved jewelry, or the diameter of round jewelry. For this article, we are focusing on downsizing! This is a crucial step for a majority of healing piercings, and it’s importance can easy to overlook. Unfortunately, due to covid, many clients are left unable to downsize, and are experiencing first hand exactly why this is so important.

So, what exactly is downsizing? It’s the process of shortening jewelry from initial piercing length to a better fit. If you remember from my initial piercing article (here) we start new piercings with extra length on the jewelry to accommodate for swelling, healing, and cleaning. Once the piercing is more established, swelling is down and its producing less crust to clean, downsizing to a good fit is essential. That longer initial bar is prone to getting caught, snagged, and slept on, which can cause irritation bumps, migration, and other issues. It’s very important to make sure you downsize to avoid these issues.

How do I know I’m ready for a downsize?

You are out of the initial swelling phase, which could be from 1-2 weeks up to a few months! Your jewelry has room on it and moves back and forth fairly freely. You might notice jewelry sticking up, or getting caught sometimes on hair or clothing. You aren’t producing a ton of crust. These are a few good signs you are ready for a downsize, but the best way is to contact your piercer! You can pop in for a checkup, or send them some photos and get some feedback!

Why don’t you just pierce it with a shorter piece?

Well we go in-depth in this article, but in short a piece that is too short doesn’t leave any room for swelling and healing. A new piercing is going to have some swelling. Heard stories of folks getting pierced with piercing guns and the backing of the earring goes “inside” their ear and gets stuck? Yeah, that’s often because there’s no room for swelling, so when the body does swell it eats the earring. Not a good time, I promise. And some piercings have a lot more swelling the others, and need lots of extra length to allow for that.

What if I don’t downsize?

I’ll be honest- you might be fine! You might also end up with big bumps, irritation, or your piecing migrating and becoming crooked. All these things can cause the piercing to fail and need to be removed. Is is really worth the risk of permanently damaging or losing the piercing, and the discomfort of dealing with an angry piercing? I don’t think so at all!

When you downsize jewelry, do you cut the barbell shorter?

Nope! They make jewelry in hundreds of sizes, so we fit you for a brand new piece that’s a perfect fit! We couldn’t trim or modify jewelry like that in studio- it takes gigantic, thousand dollar machines in big warehouses to make the jewelry perfectly polished and safe to wear. We simply can’t fit that tech in a piercing studio! If we were to try to trim it in house, the piece would end up rough, with sharp edges, and probably pretty ugly haha. This also works for clients because we return your longer jewelry to you! Many studios, including mine, offer reprocessing! You can leave your old long pieces with us and we will clean and process them to be reused in a new piercing somewhere else! If you are super savvy, you can only purchase 1-2 initial piercing length pieces, and just reuse them over and over for all your new piercings! Not every studio offers reprocessing, so check with your piercer if this is something they can assist with!

How many times do I need to downsize?

Well, that all depends on a lot of factors! Some piercings only need to be downsized once, and after that, they are perfect! Some piercings need a few downsizes. This could be because they are a piercing prone to a -lot- of swelling right away that subsides slowly over time- like cheek piercings for example. As that swelling goes down slowly, the bars get shorter each time. Because they puff up in a matter of hours, and take months to fully go down, they get lots of downsizes. Some clients may be more prone to swelling, and may find they stay slight swollen much longer, meaning they can only downsize a half size at a time. Some folks live in a climate were swelling is common, and their piercings stay slightly puffy till they are fully healed, and then they get a second downsize. And things like weight loss or gain, medications, etc can also effect things! I’ve seen clients loose weight or start a new medication, and piercings that are 5 or 10 years old change shape and can go shorter! It’s as individual as you are.

When can I downsize?

That totally depends on the piercing, your body, and how you are healing! For example, tongue piercings are usually ready to downsize much faster than cartilage piercings, and nipple piercings can take ages to be ready. A good rule of thumb is to stop in and see your piercer after 1.5-2 weeks for an oral piercing, and 1 month after any other piercing. Even if you aren’t ready for a downsize at those times, they can still do a checkup, see how things are healing, and give you an accurate timeframe for when you can downsize!

Does every piercing need to be downsized?

Nope! Microdermals and surface work are the most notable that never need to be downzised, and in the case of microdermals, couldn’t be even if you wanted. Many other piercings are variable, in some cases they may, but in some others they may not- industrials, navels, and nipples often fall in this category where they can go either way, depending on your anatomy, initial piercing size, and other factors. Almost all other piercings will be downsized. Oral piercings are arguably the most important to downsize, because barbells left too long can cause tooth and gum damage over time.

Downsizing is a really important step to having healthy, happy piercings for a lifetime! If you suspect your piercing is ready to go shorter, message or pop over to your piercer and have them check!

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if my piercings are still producing crust after 2 and a half months should i wait for it to heal or downsize ?


Max McCourt
Max McCourt
Mar 07, 2023

This is really helpful ! Can downsizing cause a labret possible irritation bump to dissapear ? Im worried that downsizing will cause it to swell again

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