A Beginner’s Guide to Piercing Needles: Sizes, Types, Uses and Best Practices


If you’re looking to get into piercing, one of the first things you’ll need to learn about is piercing needles. Needles come in a variety of sizes, types, and gauges for different applications. Having the right needle is crucial for smooth piercings and faster client recovery times. Before you start practicing, here’s a guide to the different kinds of piercing needles and how to choose the right needle for the job.

What is Gauge?

Needle Lengths and Thicknesses Gauge, or thickness, is one of the most important factors to consider when choosing a piercing needle. Standard gauge sizes range from 12GA all the way down to 25GA. Thicker needles, like 12GA to 16GA, are used for large piercings that need a wider opening like nose, earlobes, and nipples. Finer needles within 18-25GA are best for small piercings like ears, nostrils, eyebrows and navels. Standard needle lengths for body piercing range between 3/8 inch and 1 1/4 inches. Make sure the needle is long enough for the body part you’re piercing without being unwieldy.

Types of Piercing Needles

Piercing needles can be divided into three main types: hollow piercing needles, hypodermic needles, and dermal punches. Here’s an overview of each type to consider before purchasing needles.

Hollow Piercing Needles

Hollow needles are the standard type of needle used by professional piercers for clients. They consist of a beveled tip needle with a hollow opening. The needle fits inside a piercing clamp and allows room for insertion of jewelry once the piercing is complete.


  • Allow for jewelry insertion directly through needle
  • Sharp beveled tip creates clean piercing
  • Available in wide range of gauges and lengths
  • Can be sterilized via autoclave


  • More expensive than hypodermic needles
  • Can cause blowouts if gauge is too small

Hypodermic Needles

Hypodermic needles are most commonly used for injections and blood draws, but are sometimes used by piercers for their lower cost and wide availability. They feature a sharp cutting tip and have a hollow bore for liquid transfer. Popular hypodermic needle gauges range from 14 gauge to 25 gauge. Lengths vary from 1/2 inch to over 1 inch.


  • Low cost and widely available
  • Manufactured with calibrated sizing
  • Range of needle tip bevel designs


  • Not intended for jewelry insertion
  • Can be more traumatic than piercing needle

Dermal Punches

Dermal punches utilize a hollow, cylindrical blade ranging from 1mm to 10mm in diameter. The punch is placed firmly against the skin and rotated to penetrate the skin and create a circular piercing or pocket for jewelry. They allow for precision sizing unlike tapering needles. Typical dermal punch gauges run between 12ga and 18ga.


  • Allow perfectly sized circular piercings
  • Minimal skin trauma and bleeding
  • Available in set increments unlike needles


  • Less precision than needles
  • Difficult for surface piercings
  • Require experience to control depth

Piercing Needle Uses

The type of jewelry, placement, depth of the piercing and your experience level all factor into choosing the right needle. Here are some of the most common piercing uses for each needle type:

Earlobe Piercings

Earlobes require a sharp tip and precision, making them well-suited for basic hollow piercing needles. Typical needles choices are 16g – 18g, 5/16″ in length. Allow enough needle length to span entire lobe width.

Eyebrow & Nostril Piercings

Delicate facial piercings like eyebrows and nostrils require thinner needles in longer lengths for best visibility. Use 16g – 20g needles around 5/8” – 3/4” long. Mark the needle stopper point for depth control.

Septum Piercings

Septum piercings should utilize 14g – 16g hypodermic needles in at least 1/2 inch length, allowing access within the nasal cavity to the thinner septum tissue. Carefully mark the depth before piercing.

Dermal Anchors

Dermal anchors are best punched with 1.5mm – 3mm dermal punches on areas with enough skin laxity. Gently stretch skin taut before punching slowly with even pressure. Avoid bony prominences like spine and ankles.

Best Practices for Piercing Needles

  • Sterilize needles in an autoclave before use
  • Choose a needle gauge 1-2 sizes smaller than planned jewelry
  • Only handle needles by the hubs to prevent contamination
  • Use all precautions like gloves, gauze, and sterilized forceps
  • Discard used needles in a sharps/biohazard container

Following these guidelines and choosing the best needle for each piercing purpose will lead you on the path the successful piercing experiences. Over time and with hands-on practice, you’ll gain a feel for what works on different body types. But respecting proper piercing needle principles from the start will optimize client safety and outcomes.


Learning the ins and outs of piercing needles shouldn’t intimidate beginners. Start here with the key sizes, types and applications to build knowledge before advancing into specialized techniques. And don’t forget sterility – clean gear and smart precautions give clients and piercers safety in equal measure. Equipped with the basics on needle gauges, lengths and purposes, you’ll gain experience and piercing expertise over time.

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