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How big should a helix hoop be?

If you’re wondering what size hoop you should get for your cartilage piercing, then all you need are some simple supplies to take the measurement at home. You will also need to know which gauge you wear prior to purchasing any jewelry as that most likely isn’t something that you’ll be able to measure on your own. The actual term for a cartilage piercing on the upper ear is a helix piercing.

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What size helix ring do you get pierced with?

The most common gauge for a helix piercing is 16 gauge, although some are done at 14 gauge instead. If you did not go to a piercer to have it professionally done, and instead had your ear pierced anywhere that uses a piercing gun, then the gauge you wear may be smaller than the standard size. For example, it isn’t uncommon to find someone that wears 20 gauge or 18 gauge jewelry in their upper cartilage piercing because they had it done at the mall.

The starter jewelry typically used for helix piercings is usually a stud for easier aftercare and healing. It’s important to keep in mind that the initial piercing jewelry is always longer (or in the case of a hoop, has a larger inner diameter) than you will actually wear once it’s healed because there has to be enough room to accommodate any swelling afterwards.

What is the standard helix hoop size?

When it comes to cartilage piercings there is no one size fits all approach, which is why I never give a “standard” size when asked. I highly recommend taking the time to measure your piercing, or at least the inner diameter of a hoop that already fits well, in order to make sure that you’re buying the correct size when you pick out jewelry online.

How do I measure a helix piercing?

Don’t worry if you don’t know which inner diameter you wear in hoops! It’s an easy measurement to take at home. You will need a small strip of paper, a fine tipped marker, and a ruler. Line up the edge of paper with the outside of your ear. Now, mark where your piercing is on the paper and measure the marked portion against a ruler. Using a piece of paper like this is more accurate than just holding up a ruler to your ear in front of the mirror.

how to measure helix piercing
The way that you angle the strip of paper will influence the way that the hoop fits. If you measure in a straight horizontal line, then the measurement you get will be equivalent to the smallest inner diameter that you can comfortably wear and it will fit your piercing closely. Alternatively, if you measure in a diagonal line, then the measurement you get will give you a loosely fitting hoop.

7mm inner diameter example
In my example picture, the straight measurement (on the left) was 7mm from the piercing hole to the edge of the ear and you can see how closely a hoop with a 7mm inner diameter fits. The pictures on the right of the example shows how the same piercing measured diagonally would end up being 10mm. It also includes an example of what a hoop with a 10mm inner diameter would look like.

The earrings I make come in a variety of sizes starting at 8mm and go all the way up to 13mm. Check them out here: Niobium Earrings

What gauge is my helix piercing?

The gauge refers to how thick the metal is on your jewelry. If you don’t know which gauge your ear was pierced with, then I would highly recommend asking your piercer for help. Although you can easily find out which inner diameter you wear at home with just a ruler, you cannot measure the gauge of an existing earring with a ruler. You will need to use a caliper (or a micrometer) to take this measurement if you want to do it accurately at home. Remember, you should never attempt to forcefully put in a piece of jewelry that’s too thick if you end up purchasing the wrong gauge.

If you have a caliper, you can measure how thick an existing piece of jewelry is by using the bottom jaws intended for taking outside measurements. These are the possible thicknesses you may encounter (sizes are approximate): 20 gauge (0.81mm); 18 gauge (1.0mm); 16 gauge (1.2mm); 14 gauge (1.6mm).


Can I measure the diameter of a cartilage hoop I already have?

Absolutely, it’s even easier than directly measuring your piercing! Just place your hoop on top of a ruler and count how many millimeters are inside of the hoop. This is the inner diameter. The hoop in the example picture has an 8mm (approx. 5/16”) inner diameter.

measure inner diameter with ruler

What kind of earring do you use for a helix piercing?

There are a lot of different jewelry styles that you can wear in your helix. The initial jewelry used for the piercing is usually a labret stud, which has a flat back, or a barbell, which has a ball on the back. Once the piercing is fully healed, there are several types of hoops you can switch the jewelry to. There are seamless rings, sometimes called endless or catchless hoops, which are one piece and twist to open and close. Captive bead rings (CBR) are also very popular. They have a have a removable bead, traditionally a dimpled ball, that is held “captive” between the ends of an open hoop with tension. Another similar type of jewelry is called a segment ring. Instead of a removable bead, this type of hoop has a section of the hoop that is held in with tension and completely removable. You can also find hinged hoops available for your helix. As long as the gauge of the earring matches your piercing, the type you wear is largely down to personal preference.

Should my helix ring be tight?

No, your helix jewelry shouldn’t be tight, but it can fit you closely. There should never be any pressure on your piercing caused by your jewelry. This applies to both hoops and studs that are worn in your ear.

Can I put a regular earring in my cartilage piercing?

A regular earring, like one used for an earlobe piercing that hasn’t been stretched, is usually 20 gauge. This is thinner than the average gauge used for a helix piercing performed in a professional setting, which means it isn’t advisable to wear a regular earring in your cartilage piercing. In addition to being the incorrect gauge, a regular earring will most likely poke the side of your head uncomfortably because the post will be too long. Instead, look for jewelry specifically made for helix piercings. If you prefer stud earrings, a very popular option is called a labret stud, which is a type of jewelry that has a flat disc backing making it very comfortable to wear as an earring. Nose hoops only make good cartilage earrings if your upper ear piercing was done at 20 gauge or 18 gauge. Otherwise, a nose ring won’t be the correct gauge.

What is the best metal for sensitive pierced ears?

Two of the best metals for sensitive ears, and piercings in general, are titanium and niobium. As body jewelry, both materials are highly biocompatible, resistant to corrosion, and nickel free. They are both considered hypoallergenic, which just means they are unlikely to elicit a reaction from the majority of wearers.

I make my hoops out of high quality, commercially pure niobium. Check out some of the jewelry I make here: Unique Earrings by Metal Lotus

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