Dear Belly Bling:
I’ve noticed both 14 gauge and 16 gauge belly button rings. What’s the difference?
-Observant in Orlando
Belly button piercings are a little more complicated than traditional ear lob piercings. Instead of thinking of it like getting your ears pierced, think of it more like putting gauges in your ears. There are many different belly ring options, and they come in several different gauge sizes.
On average gauge sizes range from 12 to 24, but the measurements aren’t what you’d expect. A 12 gauge isn’t 12 millimeters or 1/12 of an inch, it’s actually 2 millimeters and 5/64 of an inch. Also, while you would think that a 24 gauge is the largest available, it’s actually the smallest. The numbers go backwards so the closer it is to zero, the bigger the hole.
When you go to get your piercing it’s important to talk with the piercing artist about what size piercing needle he/she is using. Most naval piercings are done with a 14 gauge needle, meaning the jewelry you pick out will also need to be a 14 gauge. Though 14 gauges are the most common, your piercing artist may also use a 16 gauge needle. 16 is fine, but the artist shouldn’t use a size smaller (18 gauge) than that. If he wants to pierce you with an 18 gauge needle, you should find another artist!
Since 14 is the most common size for a naval piercing there is a greater selection of belly bling for this gauge than other sizes. However, 16 gauge naval piercings are gaining in popularity, and there are a lot of 16 gauge options too.
As with any piercing, you should give the hole time to heal before switching out the jewelry. Once your piercing is completely healed, if you want, you can stretch out a 16 gauge hole to fit 14 gauge jewelry (the process is similar to stretching out your ear lobe piercing).
The opposite is also true. You can wear a 16 gauge belly button ring in a 14 gauge hole. The trick is to make sure you’ve had the piercing long enough so as not to risk the hole closing up.
So which size of a gauge should your piercing be done with, 14 or 16? The answer is either! Just be aware of what size your gauge is when you’re shopping for jewelry. It is also a good idea to look online and in stores to make sure you can find jewelry you like that will fit your gauge.