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Ear Piercings 101: Types of Ear Piercings and What You Should Know About Them

Posted by Jessy L. on 12th Apr 2023

Ear Piercings 101: Types of Ear Piercings and What You Should Know About Them

Ear Piercings 101: Types of Ear Piercings and What You Should Know About Them

Did you know that 83% of all people in the United States alone have at least one type of ear piercing? When most people think of ear piercings, they think of hoop or stud earrings piercing the earlobes, but there are actually many different types of earrings you can consider if you want to get your ears pierced.

Whether you already have different types of ear piercings or are only thinking about getting your first ear piercing, this earring guide is for you. Here, you'll learn everything you need to know not only about the different types of ear piercings but also how to prepare for an ear piercing and ear piercing aftercare tips.

With this information, you'll be able to consider your options when it comes to getting a new ear piercing and you'll know how to take care of your piercing so it heals properly. To start off, let's take a brief look at the history of earrings to better understand how earrings were applied, appreciated, and cared for centuries.

A Brief History of Ear Piercings

It might be hard to believe, but humans as a species have been piercing each other's ears for at least 5,000 years if not for even longer. We know this because of the mummies that archaeologists have discovered in Egypt. Upon examining the mummies of pharaohs, researchers have noted that their ears were once pierced.

In the same vein, earrings have been found in some of the tombs of these pharaohs as well. This evidence not only shows that earrings were popular during the time of the ancient Egyptians but that earrings had likely already been popular for quite some time. However, even though ear piercings might have been similarly sought-after as they are today, the views and beliefs surrounding ear piercings were quite different from what we believe today.

For example, in the ancient world, the piercing of one's ears usually had some sort of spiritual or cultural significance. In some tribal societies today, earrings have the same kind of significance. One of the most common reasons to get an ear piercing in the ancient world was when a child, either a boy or a girl, would finally reach puberty.

When a child would reach puberty, the piercing of the ears would be a kind of celebration and a milestone to mark that the child is no longer a child but an adult in that culture. In some ancient cultures, the view on earrings and on ears, in general, was very different. For example, some cultures believed that malicious spirits could possess people by entering through their ears.

By wearing earrings, one could protect against these evil spirits. However, the earrings would have to be of a specific type of metal to work well against the spirits.

A More Modern History of Earrings

The popularity of earrings slumped somewhat as history moved from ancient times and into the Middle Ages. Instead, earrings only became popular again in Western civilization in the 16th century. Interestingly, however, earrings during this time seemed to be more popular for men than women.

Noblemen who frequented the royal courts around Europe would often have their ears pierced with a hoop earring of some kind to mark their high status. Sailors, on the other hand, wore earrings for a different purpose. Earrings on sailors at the time marked how far a sailor had traveled across the sea.

Earrings on sailors also had a more morbid purpose. If a sailor died while out at sea and someone discovered their body, whoever found the body could sell the earring and give the dead sailor a proper funeral. The attitude towards earrings changed drastically in the 18th century.

By that time, ear piercings were no longer in fashion except for the lower classes, although earrings were still popular. People made their way around this paradox by using clip-on earrings rather than earrings that pierced through the ears. Also, during this time, fewer men wore earrings and earrings became almost exclusively a piece of jewelry for women.

Clip-on earrings and the distaste of pierced ears continued until the early to mid-20th century. Most earrings you might see in old pictures from the early 1900s were more than likely clip-on earrings. The aversion to pierced ears continued until as late as the 1950s.

This change likely occurred because people, especially women, were tired of not looking their best during wartime and wanted a stylish change. However, the evolution of ear piercings did not end in the 1950s.

Earrings Today

Today, it's hard to find people who don't have earrings compared to people who do have earrings. Earrings can be found both on men and women. Some parents are even choosing to have their children's or pets' ears pierced.

Luckily, this relatively recent popularity surrounding ear piercings has made the process much safer. This is because in the 1950s when ear piercings were starting to become popular again, the people of the time didn't have a piercing shop on every corner to visit. This was a byproduct of the older generation who shunned ear piercings for being only for the lower classes.

Instead, women of the 1950s often pierced their own ears or had a friend help them. As a temporary pain killer, these women would take a cube of ice and hold it to their earlobe until their ear was numb. Then, they would take a needle and pierce it through their ears.

As you can imagine, piercing your ears at home is not the most sanitary of methods although some people choose to try this method even today. Back in the 1950s, when women pierced their ears this way, their risk of developing an infection was very much increased compared to the risk of infection when getting a piercing at a piercing shop today. In the 1950s and later, women sometimes went to the hospital to get their ears pierced where more sterile utensils were available.

Luckily, around the 1980s when the idea of piercing your ears became more accepted, piercing shops started to open so people didn't need to worry about piercing their own ears at home. Today, you can find a piercing shop on almost every corner and in every city around the world.

How to Prepare for an Ear Piercing

So, now you know a little bit about the background of earrings and ear piercings. However, if you've never gotten an ear piercing before, you might find the idea a little nerve-wracking. Even if you have gotten your ears pierced before but want to get a piercing in a different location on your ear, you still might be a bit wary.

This might be especially true if you've had a bad ear piercing experience before or if you've heard horror stories about infected piercings. By knowing how to prepare and care for your new piercing, your worries will fade away. Knowing this information is also important to avoid developing any infections in your new piercing.

For the sake of simplicity, let's focus on the process of piercing the earlobe since it is one of the most common locations on the ear that people have pierced. Many people tend to focus on the pain they might feel during the procedure or the needle that will pierce their ears. However, preparing for an ear piercing actually starts before you even enter a piercing shop.

As it happens, the process starts with a lot of research. After all, do you really want to walk into a shady piercing shop that you've never heard of before to get your ears pierced? Probably not.

Instead, you would likely be much more comfortable vising a piercing shop that you know all about and that you would be comfortable in. Finding the right piercing shop for you is one of the most important parts of the process to ensure that you are comfortable with your decision. But where should you start when it comes to choosing the right piercing shop for you?

How to Research and Find the Right Piercing Shop

Researching might be the hardest step, but after the research stage, the rest of your ear piercing journey will be a breeze. First, try searching for all the ear piercing shops in your area. Once you find the different listings, you should be able to find the reviews.

It's important to remember that reviews for piercing shops are gold mines of information. Reviews online can tell you everything you need to know and you won't even have to leave the comfort of your chair. If you find a piercing shop with awful reviews, you should know that going there to get your ears pierced most likely wouldn't be the best of ideas.

Piercing shops with low reviews often may not be very sanitary or may not be an environment in which you would feel comfortable. After all, you wouldn't want to have your ear pierced with a dirty needle that has already been driven through the ears of several other people. This would not only increase the risk of you developing an infection, but you could also develop diseases.

Luckily, it is difficult to find piercing shops that are unsanitary to that extent. However, to err on the side of caution, try to focus on piercing shops that have the best reviews. This will ensure that the shop is sanitary and the people that work there should be professional and know exactly what they are doing.

You shouldn't stop at the reviews, however. You should also check the websites of individual piercing shops and check their policies and safety procedures. Some websites might even show how much they charge for a piercing which can help you plan your visit based on your budget.

Once the research is over, you can make an appointment with the shop you choose.

Making an Appointment

You might not think that making an appointment for your ear piercing is a big step, but it can be, especially if you're very nervous about the procedure. Making an appointment is also a matter of convenience since, when arriving at the shop, there's no chance you'll be turned away even if the shop is very busy.

Making an appointment may also give you a feeling of relief because you will know exactly what day and what time you will have your ears pierced. This will give you enough time to prepare for the date. Making an appointment will also give you something to look forward to.

Just make sure not to forget about your appointment. By doing this, you'll need to make another appointment and your worries and fears about getting your ears pierced may come crawling back.

Before your appointment, you'll want to make sure you're hydrated and that you've had a good meal. Why is this important for getting your ears pierced? If you're very stressed about you're appointment, a healthy and filling meal will help to calm your stomach.

Nutritious food can even help your body heal faster once you get your ears pierced. On the day of your appointment, as with any appointment, you should try to arrive a few minutes early. This will eliminate any possibility that you might be late and miss your appointment.

Arriving early will also give you the chance to look around the shop and make yourself comfortable in the new environment. Piercing shops usually have many types of interesting jewelry on display which you will be able to browse to your heart's content. If your piercing artist isn't too busy, you might be able to chat so you won't be nervous when it's time to have your ears pierced.

Choosing Your Perfect Starter Studs

Unfortunately, you can't choose any type of earring when getting your ears pierced for the first time. Usually, you'll have to opt for starter studs. Luckily, however, there is usually a large variety of starter studs available in any piercing shop you visit.

Starter studs are also more than just for appearances. Choosing the right starter studs can be very important to how successful your new piercings are. This is because of how starter studs will shape the new piercing in your ear's cartilage and help it heal.

This process can be compromised if you choose the wrong piercing for you. But how can you know which piercing might be good or bad for you? One of the main things you can do is choose the right metal for your studs.

One of the most common problems associated with new piercings is skin irritation. This skin irritation stems from choosing studs of the wrong metal, usually metal with high amounts of nickel in it which can cause irritation on the skin, especially for those who have sensitive skin or metal allergies.

You can never go wrong with hypoallergenic metals. These metals include gold, copper, silver, titanium, and steel. You should double-check the metal content in copper, silver, and gold since these metals can be often mixed with nickel and other irritating metals if they are of low quality.

Of course, choosing an attractive pair of starter studs is important as well. You'll have to wear these studs for about 6 weeks before you can move on to other earrings. Because of this, try to choose starter studs that are versatile and can have use for any occasion.

Once you have all this sorted out, it's time to know what you should expect when getting your piercings.

Understanding the Ear Piercing Process

Many people tend to focus on the pain of getting their ears pierced, but the pain isn't usually very intense. This is especially true when getting your earlobes pierced. If you get other areas of your ears pierced, you may feel more discomfort since other areas are more sensitive.

Even so, the pain of getting your ears pierced is nothing to fear. This is because as the needle pierces your ear, the pain it produces will only last a second. Many people who have gotten their ears pierced before describe the experience as being no more painful than a quick pinch.

When it's time to get your ears pierced, you might be wondering whether a needle or a needle gun is the better option. Many people and associations including the Association of Professional Piercers (APP) are against the use of piercing guns. This is because piercing guns are not disposable and cannot be properly sterilized because they are mostly made of plastic.

These guns are also spring-loaded which makes them very forceful. This force can cause damage to the cartilage of the ear. Because of this, piercing guns are usually only used on the earlobes where they won't cause as much damage to the tissue of the ear.

These downsides don't mean that you should be deterred from piercing guns altogether. Piercing guns have many upsides as well. For example, there are far more piercing locations that pierce ears with guns rather than needles.

Piercers who use piercing guns also often charge less than piercers who use a needle. If you're nervous about the piercing process, a piercing gun might be preferred since it is quicker than when using a needle.

Can Anyone Get Their Ears Pierced

Most people should have no trouble getting ear piercings, but there are a few who might be better off without them for health reasons. For example, for pregnant women and those who have autoimmune or other conditions that leave them immunocompromised, it is important to talk to a doctor before getting ear piercings.

It is important to talk to your doctor about ear piercings if you have diabetes or a bleeding disorder like hemophilia as well. This is because diabetes can make it difficult for wounds to heal, even small wounds like ear piercings. Hemophilia could also cause dangerous amounts of bleeding even from a small wound.

There is some debate as to whether young children should get their ears pierced. It is recommended that your child be old enough to handle the responsibility of ear piercing aftercare if they want their ears pierced. Although, as long as you get your child's ears pierced by a reputable piercer, this may not always be necessary since there is little risk for infection.

Getting Your Ears Pierced

Before you get your ears pierced, you will likely need to fill out a consent form. This form shouldn't take very long and should be easy to fill out. Then, you can sit down in a chair as your piercer will prepare your ears to be pierced.

Your piercer will first disinfect the area of your ear that will need piercing. This is an important step since you won't want any bacteria sitting on the surface of your skin to enter into your piercing which could potentially cause an infection. Once your piercer cleans your ear, your piercer will then mark the exact area on your ear where you want your piercing.

Depending on whether you are getting your ears pierced with a gun or a needle, the piercing process can differ a little bit. When using a piercing gun, your starter stud will be thrust through your ear with the first shot of the gun. As it happens, the piercing gun does not have a needle of its own but uses the sharp point of your starter stud to pierce your ear.

On the other hand, when having your ears pierced with a needle, the process is slightly less smooth. Your piercer will first pierce your ear with a needle and then place the starter stud into the hole immediately afterward. Some piercers use a special hollow needle for this process.

A hollow needle allows for the piercer to pierce your ear and insert your new earring at the same time by sliding the earring through the hole in the needle. After this step, your ears should be officially pierced. Your next step is taking care of the piercings so they heal properly and so no complications get in the way of your healing process.

Understanding the Healing Process and Ear Piercing Aftercare

Unfortunately, getting an ear piercing is not as simple as getting your ears pierced and forgetting that the piercings ever happened. No matter what kind of earrings you get, you need to take on the responsibility of caring for your piercings to make sure they heal properly. If your piercings get infected or irritated, this could prolong the healing process and make it a much more frustrating affair.

More likely than not, after you get your ears pierced, your piercer will give you plenty of tips and advice for taking care of your new piercings. One of the first pieces of advice you should consider is not to fiddle with your earrings if your hands are not clean as this can introduce harmful bacteria to the piercing.

Even with clean hands, you shouldn't touch your earrings unless they need to be taken out for cleaning. For the first six weeks, you shouldn't remove your earrings anyway as this can cause the piercings to close and make it impossible for you to put your earrings back in again. You should only twist your earrings a few times here and there to make sure the piercings stay open.

However, fiddling with and twisting your earrings too much can interfere with the healing process since the movement may irritate the surrounding tissue. To avoid infection, you should aim to wash your ears with soap and warm water at least once every day. You may also use a saline spray (a mix of salt and water) on the front and back of your piercings several times per day.

The salt will prevent any bacteria from growing around your piercing. Then, be sure to pat the area dry. In six to eight weeks, your piercings should be healed.

Types of Ear Piercings You Should Know About

Now that you know all about ear piercings and ear piercing aftercare, it's time to explore the different types of ear piercings you can get. Ear piercings that go beyond the earlobe can make for great ways to express yourself, but where should you start? After all, there are around 13 different options when it comes to piercing your ears.

The many different types of earrings can be broken down into two categories: earlobe piercings and cartilage piercings. While most people think of earlobe piercings as a simple piercing in the middle of the earlobe, there are also transverse lobe piercings and orbital piercings. These piercings are usually placed around the edges of the earlobe rather than in the center.

Some of these piercings pierce the ear multiple times. While this can give your ears some extra style points, it is important to remember to clean each of these piercings thoroughly while they are still healing. While some piercings may be harder to reach and disinfect than others, no piercing should be ignored as it heals.

You have many more options when it comes to cartilage piercings since, of course, there is much more surface area to work with. Just to start off, there are tragus piercings, helix piercings, and daith piercings which we will discuss in detail later on. While different ear piercings can be very stylish, it is important to remember that depending on what part of your ear you pierce, the pain level, cost, and healing time may vary.

Because of this, if you've never gotten an ear piercing before, you most likely should stick with an earlobe piercing first. They are cheap and heal quickly and are not very painful compared to cartilage piercings.

The Industrial Piercing

If you want a piercing that will catch everyone's eye, the industrial piercing may be the right choice for you. However, it is not for the weak of heart and, as mentioned before, it may not be a great choice for beginners since it is a cartilage piercing.

Beyond that, not only is it a cartilage piercing, but it is a cartilage piercing that pierces your ear two times. This kind of piercing may also be known as a scaffold or a bar earring because of its shape. It involves piercing the cartilage towards the top of the ear.

The earring itself is usually in the shape of a barbell and it spans from one side of your ear to the other. It can be placed diagonally across your ear or horizontally; the choice is up to you. While this is a very striking and stylish earring, it is one of the more painful earrings you can get.

This is because the cartilage of your ear compared to your earlobe is denser and more sensitive, making it harder and more painful to pierce. Because the cartilage is much thicker than your earlobe, an industrial piercing will take much longer to heal than an earlobe piercing. In fact, while an earlobe piercing might take six to eight weeks to heal, an industrial piercing might take anywhere from six months to a year to heal.

This piercing is only for the most dedicated of piercers since you will need to keep up your aftercare techniques for this long period of time. Industrial piercings also tend to be a little more expensive compared to other types of piercings. However, if you can withstand the long healing time and the discomfort, once your piercing heals, you'll have quite the spectacle to show off.

The Helix Piercing

You've probably already heard of a helix piercing since it tends to be one of the most popular types of earrings right next to earlobe earrings. Like the industrial piercing, it is a cartilage piercing. However, instead of piercing the upper cartilage of your ear, a helix piercing instead pierces the edge of your ear.

The great thing about helix piercings is that you can get a helix piercing near the bottom or top edge of your ear as well as in the middle. Because of this, you can get multiple helix piercings going all the way up the length of your ear if that's what you want. Helix earrings are usually hoops since hoops can perfectly encompass the edge of your ear, but you can get studs and other earrings as well.

Even though the helix piercing pierces the cartilage of your ear, it is nowhere near as painful as an industrial piercing. This is because the cartilage around the edge of your ear is very thin in comparison and the needle that is used to pierce this area is very small.

Helix earrings are also not very expensive since they tend to be on the smaller side. However, they do take a long time to heal, usually between six and ten months.

The Daith Piercing

The daith piercing takes its place in the innermost cartilage of your ear. While the sight of a daith piercing may seem daunting, it's not as bad as you might expect. In fact, since the cartilage in this area is thin and soft compared to the cartilage of the rest of the ear, you shouldn't find yourself in too much pain.

Daith piercings, like industrial piercings, are striking and edgy due to their unique orientation on the ear. Daith piercings are usually hoops since they can be best seen in the middle of the ear. However, daith piercing hoops don't have to be boring.

There are plenty of hoop earrings you can use for your daith piercing that look like flowers, stars, or other objects. Daith piercings may be a little bit more expensive than your average piercing, but the price is nothing outrageous. Daith piercings may take a long time to heal, sometimes up to ten months, depending on how dedicated you are to your piercing aftercare routine.

The Tragus Piercing

The tragus piercing is right next to the daith piercing, although it takes place on a different piece of cartilage. The tragus piercing is located on the little nub of cartilage that protrudes over your ear canal. This piece of cartilage is not the same in all people.

The area may be larger for some people than others, giving them more options when it comes to choosing jewelry for the area. However, no matter the size of the cartilage in this area, there are always plenty of jewelry options for tragus piercings, whether it be studs or hoops or something different altogether.

The downside of the tragus piercing location is that it is usually large enough for only one piercing. Another downside is that it is one of the most painful places on the ear to get pierced. This is because of how thick the cartilage in this area is and it can be hard to pierce.

An annoyance you may come across with a tragus piercing is that you may find it difficult to put earbuds in your ears. This is especially true if your piercing is still healing since this can make inserting earbuds a painful process.

The healing time for tragus piercings can vary a lot depending on the size of your cartilage in this area. The healing time may take between four and eight months.

The Rook Piercing

Above the tragus and daith piercings is the rook piercing. The rook piercing offers a very unique look since it pierces the thick fold of cartilage in the middle of your upper ear. However, it is not situated quite as high up in the ear as industrial piercings are.

Unfortunately, since this area near the middle of the ear can be very cramped, especially if you have other earrings in the area, it is difficult to have other earring varieties other than the barbell in this area. Luckily, there can be a lot of variety when it comes to barbells.

You can opt for a plain barbell made of a metal of your choice, or you could choose a barbell that has a jewel on one or both sides. This could make your rook piercing extra eye-catching, although you may need to expand your budget.

The pain factor for the rook piercing can vary from person to person. The cartilage in this area may be thicker or thinner, depending on who you are. The thinner the cartilage, the less painful the piercing will be.

Either way, the healing time for a rook piercing tends to be quite long, usually between six and ten months.

The Orbital Piercing

The orbital piercing is another type that pierces the ear two times much like the industrial piercing. Unlike the industrial piercing, the orbital piercing takes place in the earlobe rather than the cartilage of the upper ear. Although, you can choose to get the orbital piercing in the cartilage on the side of your ear if you want.

An orbital piercing is almost always a hoop earring since it is necessary to pierce the ear two times. The appearance of an orbital piercing is reminiscent of, as the name suggests, the orbit of a planet. If getting an earlobe orbital piercing, the pain will be similar to getting an ordinary earlobe piercing, although you will be pierced twice.

For the same reason, you will have two piercings to care for, but the healing time should not exceed eight weeks.

Understanding the Different Types of Ear Piercings

By the end of this article, you should know all about the origin of earrings, earring aftercare, and the different types of ear piercings. From industrial piercings to orbital piercings and beyond, there is an endless combination of ear piercings that you can explore. With the information you learned, you can make sure you make only the best decisions when it comes to getting an ear piercing.

Once you have your ears pierced, it's time to get some jewelry! Check out our earrings today.

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