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An Ultimate Guide to the Different Types of Ear Piercings

Posted by Jessy L. on 20th Sep 2023

An Ultimate Guide to the Different Types of Ear Piercings

An Ultimate Guide to the Different Types of Ear Piercings

Getting your ears pierced is an exciting experience, regardless of what age you are or how many piercings you already have.

Human beings have been piercing their ears for thousands of years but the trend has gained popularity again since the 1950s. It's not just about ear lobe piercing anymore. 14% of Americans have a piercing outside of their earlobes.

There are now 13 types of ear piercings. These piercings have sparked several earring trends, making the possibilities for wearing earrings endless.

So how do you decide which piercings and jewelry trends are right for your ears?

To help you out, we've put together an in-depth guide to inform you of the various ear piercings and everything you need to know before you rush out to get pierced! 

The History of Ear Piercing

Ear piercing dates back at least 5,000 years.

It had a resurgence in the 16th century in Western Europe. The trend became popular with men at that time. They would often wear stone, pearl or gold earrings to demonstrate their elite status.

More recently, earrings started trending in the 1950s after the war. This time, women started embracing the earring trend as well, as they started to focus more on personal fashion.

Earrings continued to gain popularity with a big boom again in the 1970s which ultimately shaped how we wear earrings today.

Types of Ear Piercings

There are currently 13 kinds of ear piercings. 

Types of ear piercings differ in where they are located on the ear, how painful they are and how long the healing process will take.

There are often limitations on which styles of earrings can be worn in each location. There are also different risks associated with each type of piercing. Aftercare differs in some cases as well, depending on the location of the ear. 

If you plan on getting lots of piercings, you will need to consider the placement of all of them. It's not recommended that you get more than 2 to 3 piercings at a time though, so you will need to set up staggered appointments.

There is a lot to consider before getting pierced, including which types of piercings your ear can accommodate. So, before we go any further, here are the types of ear piercings.

Standard Lobe Piercings

Standard lobe piercings are the most traditional style of piercing—the one that goes directly through your ear lobe. These piercings are one of the least painful because they are not located on cartilage. You should expect some discomfort when you're getting pierced, but the pain should subside quickly. 

Because ear lobe piercings are so painless, it's not uncommon for babies and young children to get pierced. The American Academy of Pediatrics says you should wait until your child is old enough to look after piercings but it can be done anytime after three months old (because of the risk of infection). 

If you do choose to pierce your child, you should understand the signs of infection. You should also be willing to assist with aftercare. Make sure you know the appropriate earrings for your child to wear.

Ear lobe piercings are one of the most affordable piercings to get. It is also one of the fastest areas to heal. You should heal within 6 to 8 weeks.

Transverse Lobe Piercings

Transverse lobe piercings are also located on the ear lobe. But rather than going directly through the lobe from front to back, the piercing goes through the lobe horizontally from side to side. 

Again, there is no cartilage in this area and it is located near very few nerve endings, making it one of the least painful piercings to get.

However, there is a higher risk of infection with this type of piercing, so it's important to be extra mindful during the healing process. You will want to make sure you pick a piece of jewelry that is big enough to accommodate swelling. You should also take care to keep hair sprays or other products from interacting with the area.

There are several experimental styles associated with transverse lobe piercings, but your ear shape can limit your options. If you're thinking of getting a transverse lobe piercing, you may want to consult a piercing artist first to see what your options for placement are.

Barbells are most commonly worn in this piercing, revealing themselves with two balls on either side of the outside of the lobe.

Helix Piercings

Helix piercings are placed on the cartilage on the outer rim of the upper part of the ear. Because this area is generally longer, it's very common to see stacked piercings here. Often people will get a double-helix or even a triple-helix with multiple piercings in the area.

It's advised that 16 gauge or 18 gauge jewelry is worn on the helix. 20 gauge is not recommended as it can cause your piercing to close up. Cartilage hoops and flat back studs are popular earring options for this area.

Although the area is cartilage, there are fewer nerve endings here than there are in other cartilage areas. For that reason, the pain is generally not severe. However, you may experience redness or tenderness in the days following your appointment.

Because the piercing is located on the upper outside of the ear, you will also want to be mindful of loose strands of hair or towels catching your earring. 

Generally, helix piercings take roughly six months to heal. 

Forward Helix Piercings

The forward helix piercing is located on the small outer rim of the cartilage at the upper front part of the ear, right above the tragus. Much like the helix, this area can be stacked with multiple piercings. You can have as many as 3 in this location. 

It is advised that piercings of 16 gauge or 18 gauge are worn here. 

The pain in this area is moderate. Infections are also possible here. So, if you have concerns a couple of weeks after you get pierced, you may want to get the area checked by your doctor. 

Flat-back earrings and cartilage hoops are most commonly worn in this area. The forward helix has become more popular in recent years, particularly among young people interested in stacking and layering their earrings.

This area can take as long as 6 to 9 months to heal. 

Tragus Piercings

The tragus piercing is located on the flap of ear cartilage located on the side of the face that covers the ear canal. The tragus helps you decipher rear-facing sounds. It also protects the concha portion of the ear. 

Tragus piercings are among the biggest piercing trends of 2022. 

This piercing is done with a 16 gauge needle. 6mm and 8mm flat back earrings, hoops and horseshoe style earrings are recommended here. 

Because of the sensitivity of the tragus, you can expect to feel a sharp and short pain getting pierced. The discomfort is primarily caused by the pressure on the ear canal.

The area can also be easily irritated. For that reason, headphones are not recommended during the healing process, which can take 3 to 6 months—or as long as a year. It's also recommended that you avoid rough movements that may cause discomfort.

Anti-Tragus Piercings

The anti-tragus piercing is located on the small vertical lip of cartilage above the ear lobe, across from the tragus. Because of the unique nature of the location, not all ears can accommodate this style of piercing. If you are considering the anti-tragus, you should consult your piercing artist first and see what your options are.

Anti-tragus piercings are typically done using a 16 gauge or 18 gauge needle. It's recommended that anti-tragus hoops and anti-tragus studs are worn in the area.

It can take 3 to 6 months for the anti-tragus to heal, although it can take up to a year to heal fully. 

Getting an anti-tragus piercing can cause moderate pain but it's typically no worse than most other cartilage piercings. However, the healing process can be painful and recovery can be complicated. Wearing headphones and earbuds is not recommended for 6 months after getting this piercing.

The area is a popular choice for those looking to map out their constellation piercings on the ear. It's also believed that anti-tragus piercings can help relieve pain by interacting with pressure points and nerve endings.

Rook Piercings

Rook piercings are located on the ridge between the inner and outer ear, right about the tragus, through the anti-helix.

This piercing is done using a 16 gauge needle and it's recommended that 16 gauge or 18 gauge earrings are worn with it. Curved barbells, hoops and flat back earrings are suggested. 

The piercing has to go through two areas of cartilage. As a result, it is one of the most painful piercings to get. It's normal for a rook piercing to ache for a half hour after getting pierced.

The piercing can take 6 to 18 months to fully heal. It is a difficult piercing to change and therefore it's recommended you pick an earring you really love. Delicate and dainty earrings look best in the rook area.

It's recommended that you avoid rough movement for a little while but because the piercing is on the inner ear, you should have no issues sleeping on a rook piercing.

Conch Piercings

The name, 'conch' was inspired by the fact that this area of the ear looks like a seashell. Located in the inner part of the ear, conch earrings are one of the most unique. They are also one of the most popular piercings of 2022.

It's recommended that a 16 gauge needle is used to pierce this area. A dermal punch can be used to pierce the area if you want to have a thicker post, but the hole will be permanently visible without jewelry on. This is because a dermal punch removes the tissue, impacting the healing process and causing pain.

It can take 6 to 12 months for a conch piercing to heal. 

During that time, avoid sleeping on the impacted ear. You should also be mindful of loose hair and headphones irritating the area. Remove headphones slowly and as minimally possible. 

Flat-back earrings and hoops are best suited for a conch piercing.

Daith Piercings

Daith piercings (pronounced doth) are located in the smallest fold of cartilage, where the inner ear above the canal meets the outer ridge of the ear.

A 16 gauge needle is used to pierce this area. Because of the precision needed to pierce the area, it can take up to 10 seconds to complete. However, the pain is moderate.

Daith piercings take 6 to 12 months to heal but do require a bit more aftercare because of their location. The piercing is exposed to a lot of bacteria. It's recommended you wash your hands well before cleaning it and clean it 3 times a day for roughly 6 months.

It's recommended that 16 gauge and 18 gauge earrings are worn for a Daith piercing. Small hoops and barbells are the most common choices. 

Daith piercings are believed to help with migraines. Some people even believe the piercing can help relieve anxiety. There is overwhelming anecdotal evidence to suggest this is true, though it has not been scientifically proven.

Auricle Piercings

The auricle piercing is located in the small space on the ear between the outer helix region and the ear lobe. Piercings are typically done about halfway up the area. 

The piercing is located on cartilage so you can expect it to hurt more than an ear lobe piercing. But the cartilage is thin so the pain will not last long.

Auricle piercings should be done using a 16 gauge needle and can take 3 to 9 months to heal. During that time, it's important to keep the area clean and dry.

Captive bead rings and cartilage hoops are popular choices of jewelry for this area. Stacking earrings are popular in this location with double, triple or even quadruple auricle piercings being a common trend. 

Snug Piercings

Snug piercings are horizontal piercings through the inner ridge of the ear cartilage. Though popular, these piercings are considered to be the most painful of all types of ear piercings because the cartilage is so thick. If you don't already have pierced ears, this might not be the one to start with.

Snug piercings generally take 4 to 6 months to heal, but it can take up to a year depending on the person. If the area is not crusting over or feeling tender anymore, it's likely healed. However, the snug area is extra sensitive and can become irritated again easily.

Rings and barbells are the most popular jewelry pieces worn in a snug piercing. 

Not all ears can accommodate a snug piercing either. So, if you're considering getting one, you should consult your piercer first. 

Orbital Piercings

Orbital piercings are defined as any 2 piercings side by side that are connected with one ring. These piercings are typically located in and around the helix or lobe area. 

Because of the location, these piercings are not typically too painful. However, you're often getting 2 piercings, rather than 1. The healing process differs the same way the ear lobe and helix differ. 

By its very nature, hoops are the only option for orbital piercings. However, those hoops can be statement pieces, with balls, charms or even chains. 

Industrial Piercings

An industrial piercing is 2 piercings located on opposite sides of the top of the ear, connected by a barbell or arrow. The 2 piercings are on the forward helix and helix. The piercing can also be referred to as a scaffold, bar piercing or construction piercing. 

These piercings have gained popularity on social media, particularly on Instagram where people regularly share images of their beloved piercings. 

It's important to remember that industrials are actually two separate piercings. Because industrial piercings are located in cartilage areas, they are prone to bumps and some irritation. 

These piercings are often done using a 14 gauge needle, although they can also be done with a 16 gauge needle. It can take 5 to 9 months for industrial piercings to heal. 

It's recommended that you take extra care when changing, drying off with a towel or doing your hair as the area can catch on things easily. Industrials can leave permanent scarring and on occasion, cause keloids so it's important to monitor your piercing as it heals.

Trends for Pierced Ears

Although wearing earrings has been a popular form of expression for decades, the COVID-19 pandemic sparked a revival of ear piercing trends. 

As offices made the shift to remote work, people were longing for a sense of connection and outlets for self-expression. Earrings are a great way to elevate the overall look from the neck up during virtual meetings. Buyers were able to form a connection to jewelry pieces because they often tell a story. 

The pandemic also saw an increase in people looking to shop local or support independent artisans. Earrings are a popular item among small vendors. They are also small in size and more affordable to ship.

Buying earrings became a form of self-care for many folks who were stuck at home and needed a pick-me-up. 

This sudden rise in earring purchases made way for these unique earring trends which have taken the fashion industry by storm.

Constellation Piercings

Constellation piercings are 3 or more piercings spread across the ear to form a constellation-like pattern.

The goal is to create unique patterns and stacks on your ear. Constellation piercings can appear on both the ear lobe as well as the helix. The piercings can align in a constellation pattern by happenstance or it can be deliberate. 

The trend, which is inspired by the starry sky, has blown up on social media. Men and women alike are looking to curate their ears in this way.


Gone are the days of piercing artists trying their best to make your piercings look symmetrical. Piercing salons say most of their clients are now asking for asymmetrical holes. These are randomly placed holes that don't match from the right ear to the left. 

The asymmetry trend has exploded since the pandemic as a form of self-expression. People have been booking as many as 3 to 4 piercings a session on one ear. It's not unusual for example, to see an orbital piercing on one ear and stacked lobes on the other. 

Wearing mismatched earrings has also become a trend, adopted by many A-list celebrities. It's not unusual to see a stud earring on one lobe and a dangly statement piece on the other. But experts say the earrings should not be completely random.

In order to pull off the asymmetry look well, your earrings should have some kind of a connection.

Sculptural Earrings

Sculptural earrings have become extremely popular in the last couple of years as well. These earrings use geometric and architectural shapes to show movement in earrings.

These are a great choice for ear lobe piercings especially because they can dress up even the most casual of outfits, in a unique way. 

Stacked Lobes and Layering

Stacking earrings has become very popular in recent years as well.

These trends can take place by stacking earrings on the lobe or by piercing the helix in multiple places. There has been a lot more intention put into the earrings worn on a stacked lobe. Instead of wearing the same style of studs or hoops, people are layering earrings using different sizes, textures and variations.

Generally speaking, it's best to place the largest earring first and work your way down to the smallest in size.

However, many people have chosen to work in huggies or cuffs. Long pieces like cuffs can give the appearance of a second hole in the lobe, where there is actually only one. 

Beyond placing the earrings from large to small, there are no rules attached to layering. People often pair thick and thin earrings, studs and hoops and multiple textures. 

Statement Earrings

Statement earrings like chain link earrings and stone and celestial drop earrings and large ear cuffs are having their moment now as well. 

It's also not unusual to add charms and unique balls to hoops. Front back earrings that enter the ear from behind, are trending as well. 

It's all about self-expression and these pieces can add a lot of dimension to your curated ear.

Mixing and Matching

With the rise of piercings outside of the more traditional ear lobe and helix regions, there has also been a rise in the mixing and matching trend.

There has been an increased effort to curate interesting pieces for the ear with a lot of variation. 

Mixing metals has been a popular trend in all jewelry in recent years. That trend has spilled into earrings as well, with an emphasis on mixing silver, gold and rose gold together.

People are also mixing a variety of shapes and stones to provide different textures. 

Mixing studs with hoops, cuffs and huggies has become a great way to show off your best ear piercings.

Before Getting Your Ears Pierced 

Always make sure you do your research before getting your ears pierced. It's often assumed that getting your ears pierced is an impulsive decision but in reality, there is a lot to consider before getting pierced. 

Regardless of the types of ear piercings you're looking to get, you will need to think about these things.

The Location

First and foremost, you will need to consider the location of the ear you are getting pierced. 

Read up on this type of piercing and make sure you understand any risks associated with it. Some areas are more exposed to bacteria and therefore they can be more prone to infection. Cartilage piercings, for example, are more at risk of getting bumps or keloids. 

You should also think about the earring options you will have in each area. Put some thought into the jewelry you would like to wear before getting pierced, especially if you're curating your ear piercings. Some areas, like the rook piercing, are difficult to change so you will want to make sure you pick a piece of jewelry that you won't tire of easily.

It's also important to consult a piercing artist to make sure your ear can accommodate the piercing you want, as some piercings like snug piercings and transverse lobe piercings don't work for everyone.

The Piercer

Before booking an appointment to get pierced, make sure you have researched salons and piercing studios in your area. You need to be confident in the artist who is piercing you.

Even though piercing artists need to follow health guidelines, some piercing studios are better than others. If you have any doubts about the hygiene or cleanliness of a studio, you should be booking somewhere else. 

In almost every scenario, you should be getting pierced with a clean, single-use needle. Getting a cartilage piercing with a piercing gun can permanently damage tissue, causing swelling and scarring. 

Take some time to read through the reviews of piercing artists online and make sure to have all your questions answered. 

Your Pain Tolerance

You should also research the amount of pain caused by the piercing you are considering getting. In most cases, the pain will be bearable. But if you are someone who cannot handle a lot of pain, you should know what you're getting into.

Snug piercings, for example, are considered to be the most painful piercing. So, you may want to work your way up to that one, having less painful piercings done first. You should also remember that piercings like the industrial and orbital often require 2 piercings, which will double the amount of pain.

Because painkillers are a blood thinner, you should not take any painkillers before your appointment. 

Ear piercings can take a long time to heal and the healing time is different for everyone. Depending on your level of discomfort, it may impact your ability to sleep in certain positions.

These are all important factors to think about before getting your ears pierced.


Aftercare is a crucial part of making sure your body doesn't reject a new piercing. Before booking an appointment to get pierced, you should look into how much time it might take to heal. 

The average piercing will need to be cleaned at least twice a day, using saline solution, although daith piercings for example, should be cleaned 3 times a day.

You will also need to keep the area clean and dry. Piercings like the helix and industrial need to be kept from catching on loose strands of hair, towels or clothing. Piercings like the tragus require you to give up headphones for months while you heal, which can be a challenge if you need headphones to work.

If your child is getting pierced, you should also check with their physical education program at school or extracurricular activities. Some programs require kids to remove all jewelry, which will be difficult during the healing process.

There's no question that ear piercings require work to heal properly. Before getting pierced, make sure you're committed to the aftercare process.

Recognizing Signs of Infection and Allergies

Make sure you recognize the signs of an infection or other issues that may come with a fresh piercing. 

It's not unusual for piercings like the helix to become red or swollen in the days after getting pierced. But as the weeks go on, your piercing should begin to heal. If it becomes swollen, itchy, inflamed or if the pain is getting worse, there's a chance it may be infected. 

If you think your piercing is infected, you should have a doctor look at it. Usually, if you have a bump, it's likely a blood blister. But sometimes bumps can be a keloid scar which will need to be surgically removed.

If you already know you have allergies to some metals from wearing jewelry, watches or belts, you should discuss it with your piercing artist beforehand.

We don't know why some are more allergic to nickel than others. But nickel often causes piercings to become irritated. For that reason, it's always best to use high-grade titanium when getting pierced as it is nickel-free and can live in the body for a longer period.

Determining the Best Ear Piercings for You

With 13 types of ear piercings to choose from and more ways to wear them than ever before, it can be difficult to determine which ear piercings are best for you.

Using this guide to help you understand each type of ear piercing, how to care for them and how to accessorize them can help.

Follow our blog for more tips on how to curate your ear and select your body jewelry.

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