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


They’re caled by many names: plugs, gauges, expanders….But how do you know what size you need for YOUR SPECIFIC EAR PIERCING?  Well here 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, inbetween 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:

Gauge Sizing Chart

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.

Straight Ear Plug

Single Flare Plug  

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.

Double Flare Plug

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

Ear Tunnels

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 moveable material like silicone for easy insertion.  Like other gauges though, they can be composed of almost any material, including natural and organic media.

Straight Taper

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.

Curved Taper Buffalo Curve Taper

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.

Spiral Taper Worn in the Ear Spiral Ear Taper

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.  And there you have it!

How to Measure Plugs

For more helpful jewelry sizing hints, check out the Jewelry Sizing category of the BodyCandy Blog.


  1. Ashton Calhaun says:

    Hola!!!. Awesome post. Keep up the awesome work and We will stop by in the near future. The blog article was informative. See ya..

  2. Sabatino says:

    Can you maybe post any other sizing charts you have too? This is fantastic!

  3. Senora says:

    Hey! I love your site. Especially with all the extra help like this. 😀

  4. Lollie says:

    does it hurt ?

    • mai says:

      at first… like opening your mouth too wide… it’s like a mild burn if you slowly work your way up to 0’s from 20’s …

  5. Mickey Llelen says:

    hey there and thanks for the info. Make sure you update this again very soon..

  6. Marisol says:

    I am happy that you shared this helpful info with us. Please keep us up to date like this. Thank you for sharing.

  7. Mckayla says:

    Hey guys, I have a question. would it be healthy to tape from a 7/16 to a 5/8…
    and what could I use to help the taper go through my lobe easily!? THANKS

    • Lorna says:

      Hi there! There’s actually a 4mm jump there, but there’s two sizes in between that you can stick with for a while if going to far too fast is proving difficult (they are 1/2″ ((12mm)) and 9/16″ ((14mm)) ). Your neighborhood piercer is also a great resource for recommending natural oils that can often assist in the process, and they can even do the stretching for you sometimes if you like. Hope this helps!

  8. Kyle says:

    This is excellent !! Thank you (:

  9. Susan says:

    I use Neosporin to lube my tapers, it works well and they haven’t been infected 🙂

  10. Karen says:

    This is an awesome site!! Thanks guys

  11. caelan ellis says:

    i just went from a normal piecing up to a 6 gauge its not bad really

    • Fiona says:

      It doesn’t seem bad but it really is. Please don’t post things like this, it tells other people it is okay.

      • Dee says:

        It may not of been “bad” but it honestly is unhealthy and can rip, tear, and just create complete burnouts. Not to mention The ear lobe will probably look like a burnt out tire after this. It is a much safer idea to just have patience and wait to go to a six gauge. It also doesn’t take too long to size up normally to a 6. You are also going up less mm than anything from 5/8 and up.

  12. julie henderson says:

    Hey. Fyi to all. Don’t use shirt pins as earrings. they tear up your lobes. I just went to a size 0. Yay me. For fear of my lobes exploding. Gross but they did not. I saw some really pretty ones I could wear to church and have a look of almost being normal. Although being catholic I do respect the church and won’t go out of my way to make nice old ladys uncomfortable. Well kudos to those that have the really big ones. I also like hanging random things from my ears to freak my sisters and brothers out. The kids love it. At halloween tottally did a glow stick. Be yourself. 🙂 I might hang some knitting needles just for shock factor at the next convention. lol maybe .

  13. Mo says:

    Hello there, I am buying my boyfriend wood tunnels for Christmas, but the sizing chart is a little off. He is currently at 1″ 25mm. The size chart in the site does not offer that, the only sizes offered are 1″ 24.5mm or 1″ 26.5mm, which size would be recommended?

    • Lorna says:

      Hello. Our site is http://www.bodycandy.com and we only offer 25mm 1″ plugs, so if you’re seeing 26.5mm or 24.5mm listed as 1″, that’s not us and you’re on a different site. Here’s our full selection of 1″ plugs and tunnels: 1 inch plugs. Hope that helps. Feel free to call or email our customer service team via the contact info listed on our site if you have any other questions! 🙂

  14. ems says:

    I was hoping to slightly gauge my ears but have tunnels for when I want to wear normal 18ga earrings, especially studs with just a post. Is this possible? What gauge would I need to allow for enough room in the interior for a conventional earring?

  15. Naya says:

    Just a quick question… what is the standard length for an ear plug. What I mean is not the gauge size but the length end to end. Thanks!

    • Tara says:

      Hey Naya,
      The wearable area seems to be what you’re looking for, this varies from plug to plug! Sizes commonly found are 1/4″, 5/16″, 3/8″ and 1/2″.

  16. Em says:

    Hi, so I have size 0 tapers in and I’m trying to put in size 0 double flares but I’m having difficulties with fitting the larger ends through my ear. Any advice?

    • nicole says:

      Hey Em! I would suggest trying while you’re in the shower or right after you get out. Your ears will be more flexible and should make insertion easier for you. We offer products like Hold Fast stretching balm (http://www.bodycandy.com/cgi-bin/item/45411) that also can help getting those flared ends in. We hope that helps! 🙂

  17. Nadia says:

    Hi there, what is the minimum or standard size for a tunnel taper to get in? Thank u!

  18. Darci says:

    Hello. Years ago I was a 5/8 but took it out and my love shrank. I am right now a bit bigger than a 0. I am trying to stretch up to a 00. I have tried massaging, vitamin e ointment and currently, I am able to fit the 00 single flare in, but not all the way. My 00 taper also is only fitting in until a certain point. My 0 single flare is way too small now. I’m not sure what to do?? Should I try the taping method on my 0 single flare earring?

    • Jodie says:

      Hi Darci,

      Try to size up while in the shower/right after you get out because your lobes will be the most flexible then. The taping method could also work… but most importantly listen to your body!! If your lobes aren’t ready you gotta be patient. You might want to try solid steel no flare plugs — they’ll weigh your lobes down so going from 0 to 00 might be easier that way.

  19. Jeremyyy says:

    I’ve found a good way to stretch is using silicone double flares. I put Neosporin or Vaseline on my ears thenput them in before I go to sleep. There’s a slight crimp in them when I put them in then by the time I wake up they’re fully opened. I’m at 1/2″ now and been using this method since going from 2ga. to 0ga

  20. Jeremyyy says:

    I’ve found that method to be the least painful and traumatizing to the skin. Hope this helps someone! Stretch on!

  21. Sabrina says:

    Hey I had gone from my 14 gauge spiral to my new 12 gauge taper and there wasn’t really a size difference but then when I went up to my 10 gauge spiral there was a HUGE difference so I’m just wondering are straight tapers smaller than spirals like is a 10 gauge straight taper smaller than a 10 gauge spiral?

    • Ann says:

      Hey, Sabrina!

      Every time you size up, there’s a little more of a difference between the two gauge sizes. 14 to 12 is nothing when compared to a stretch like 2 gauge to 0 gauge for example.
      As for your question: nope – both will be 10 gauge and the same size. The only difference is in their design/look. I’ve always found that when you’re stretching your lobes, however, that straight tapers tend to be easier to use – I usually only use spiral tapers as jewelry to wear just to wear.
      If you’re having difficulty stretching up, it’s always a good idea to use something like bondage tape or teflon tape to slowly increment your expansion to ensure you don’t damage your lobes!

      Hope that helps you out – and good luck on your stretching journey 😀


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