If the last time you got an ear piercing was at Claire’s, then we have news for you: cool ear piercings are officially having a moment.
Naturally, the types of ear piercings you chose to get matters. Back in the day, you could get one or two studs in your lobe or maybe a cartilage hoop to prove how edgy you were. But in 2022 there are different types of ear piercings for every single vibe, along with tons of earrings to match.
“Social media has made it easier to see what types of ear piercings are possible, and the unique, modern jewelry you can wear with them,” says Sam Hayler, lead piercer at London’s Astrid and Miya jewelry shop and salon. “The fact that you don’t have to start with a plain silver ball helps when getting a piercing to mark a special event or birthday.”
According to Samantha Alvarado, RN, the director of nursing and education for Rowan Piercing Studio, there was a noticeable uptick in piercings—especially nontraditional ones—during the pandemic. “Because you couldn’t see what was under the mask, piercings became the new lipstick,” she explains.
With so many options, choosing where to start can be overwhelming. We spoke to top piercing specialists about the coolest piercing trends to try in 2022. From tragus piercings to snakebites, scroll on for the earring trends that are about to be everywhere.
How painful is an ear piercings?
Probably the most asked question before putting that dreaded needle through your ear is, “how much is this going to hurt?” Well, this all depends on your pain sensitivity level, because what you and your BFF consider painful could vary significantly, so there’s no real guidebook but, if you want to minimize pain, there are certain piercing types you might want to avoid.
While you shouldn’t feel more than a pinch when the needle goes through your ear with lobe piercings, cartilage piercings are known to be quite painful, initially feeling a sharp shock before experiencing a duller throbbing pain. Take note though that most people consider piercing needles to be less painful than piercing guns, and they’re a lot safer too. Huh, the more you know. Parent Trap piercings, anyone?
Some of the best ways to get through the pain are to simply advert your eyes away from the piercer (you know, pretend it’s not happening), by chatting to a friend and holding their hand, or if you’re alone listen to music in the non-piercing ear to distract you and before you know it, bam, you’ll have a brand new piercing!
What is the most painful ear piercing?
While traditional piercings like ear lobes are the least painful, the snug and tragus are considered to hurt the most. But not all cartilage piercings are known to cause the same pain threshold, with upper cartilage piercings such as helix considered to be less painful than the anti-tragus and other inner ear piercings, which have harder tissue.
According to Authority Tattoo, the level of pain during the procedure also has a lot to do with the experience of the piercer. “If you choose a more experienced professional to handle the piercing, it’s likely to go much more smoothly. They will also have a better technique with the piercing needle to ensure that everything goes right.”
Any cartilage piercings may also hurt for up to a week after the initial piercing, as the inflammation calms down, because this area of the ear doesn’t have as much blood flow it takes longer to heal.
Something else to note with any cartilage piercing is that you are effectively creating a wound in your ear which typically takes three months to heal, so it poses a greater risk of infection which can cause pain during recovery.
How much does it cost to get your ear piecing’s?
There’s no denying multiple piercings have become a definitive trend that doesn’t seem to be going anywhere anytime soon, with four to six piercings in one ear being the most popular requests. But if you’re rocking up to the salon to get a whole new look (as expert Maria Tash will tell you ‘ear curation’) it will cost you a pretty penny. While it depends where you go, most places will charge between £15-20 for ear lobes and £20-30 for cartilage, not including the type of jeweler, which if you’re going to get your lobes pierced at Maria Tash, will set you back a bit more.
What piercings would look good on my ear?
Honestly, this is all up to you. But don’t let trends dictate what you want to get, remember these holes are permeant, but if you’re after the ultimate guide we’ve got you covered below.
The ultimate ear piercing guide
We’ve put together a guide to all of the main ear and cartilage piercings you can get including the helix, tragus and deity piercings – but if you get confused with all of the ‘inner rim’, ‘outer conch’ chat, it might be worth referring to the picture below for a handy quick view
How to find a good Piercer
Start with the basics: Regardless of which piercing ideas you‘re contemplating, you first need to do some homework and check that any professional is licensed, should your city or state requires it. Perhaps surprisingly, the rules will vary depending on your location: “There’s no standardized license for body piercing,” explains Jim Kelly, head piercer at Banter by Piercing Pagoda. “But definitely feel free to ask your piercers for their license. Some of them are hanging on a wall; others are in a binder. They’re waiting for you to ask.”
Second — and this is really an extension of step one — make sure to work with a reputable piercer who makes you feel comfortable and uses hygienic techniques. This is essential for any and all jewelry types, whether you want an antihelix or an anti-tragus piercing, a tongue barbell or a simple pair of stud earrings.
All items should be pre-sterilized and opened in front of you,” says TJ Cantwell, the owner of New York City‘s Studio 28 Tattoos and Body Piercing. According to Cantwell, surgical-grade titanium or gold are the best metals to put in your body, as these types run the lowest risk of infection.
How should I clean my piercing?
- Prior to cleaning your new piercing, thoroughly wash your hands. Other than to clean your piercing, avoid touching it as much as possible—do NOT rotate or twist.
- Spray the front and back of your piercing with sterile saline solution, 2 to 3 times a day. For certain piercings, it may be easier to apply using a clean non-woven gauze saturated with saline solution. If your piercer suggests using soap, gently lather around the piercing and rinse as needed. Avoid using harsh soaps, or soaps with dyes or fragrances.
- Rinse the pierced sites (front and back) and surrounding area with water as needed to remove cleaning solution residue. Moving or rotating jewelry is not necessary during cleaning or rinsing.
- Dry the area by gently patting with clean, disposable paper products. Cloth towels can harbor bacteria and snag on jewelry causing injury!
- Do not use cotton swabs/pads, as the fibers can get caught under your jewelry and irritate your piercing. We recommend using non-woven gauze or spraying saline directly onto the front and back of your piercing!
- Exercise during healing is fine; listen to your body. We recommend avoiding contact sports that may potentially cause your piercing to get bumped around.
- Make sure your bedding is washed and changed regularly. Wear clean, comfortable, breathable clothing that protects your piercing while you are sleeping.
- Try your best to avoid sleeping directly on your fresh piercing(s). (Pro Tip: Use a travel pillow and place your ear in the middle hole of the pillow when laying down on your side.)
- Stay dry(is). Avoid submerging your new piercing in water such as pools, baths, and oceans! Showering is fine, just remember to keep your piercing clean, and rinse thoroughly of any residual soap.
- After the initial healing time frame, it is important for the health of your piercing that you pop back into a Studs studio to have one of our piercers check your healing status and down-size the length of your post if it’s ready. Book your complimentary checkup appointment.
Lobe piercings can mean so much more than the wonky studs you got at Claire’s as a kid. You can experiment with the placement of this classic to create an unconventional look. And as a perk, Lopez explains that this piercing tends to heal easily, since there’s the most blood flow in the lobe. So why stop at just one? Multiple lobe piercings are an accessible way to level-up your earring game, and since there’s no cartilage in the lower lobe, the piercing process itself isn’t especially painful. (It’s important to note, however, that pain levels are highly subjective.)
Forward helix piercing
A forward helix is on the upper, inner part of your ear cartilage, facing forward. “The forward-helix is literally a forward-facing piercing,” says Kelly. “If you’re looking at someone straight-on, you’ll see it.” Like most cartilage piercings, it’ll take between three and six months to heal, he says.
According to Lopez, the lengthier aftercare timeline is worth it: “A forward helix is one of my favorite piercings,” Lopez says. “They are so beautiful, especially when someone has a nice amount of space and there’s a really decorative piece there.”
Flat helix piercing
Unlike a forward helix, a flat helix isn’t meant to be seen from the front. Instead, this piercing, housed on the “flat” inner part of the upper ear, will be visible from the side. “Ear cartilage piercings, in general, are more painful than a lobe piercing,” says Kelly. “But when it comes to cartilage piercings, helixes are pretty mild.”
The piercing in the inner ear is the conch, Lopez’s all-time favorite ear piercing. “They’re just really beautiful. We don’t start those with rings, because the area that it’s in has a high chance of getting super irritated,” she says. “So start them with studs and then swap them to a ring, usually after six months or so.”
Also pictured: Three helix piercings. Lopez notes that the higher the part of the ear getting pierced, the longer the healing time is, as there is less blood flow the farther up the ear you go.
“The tragus is one of those piercings that has never really died down,” Lopez says. “In all of the years that I’ve been piercing, they are very consistent.” It sits in that cute little tab of cartilage that’s closest to your face, sticking out from the ear. According to Kelly, a tragus piercing lands towards the higher end of the three- to six-month healing range for cartilage piercings.
A faith piercing passes through the ear’s inner cartilage fold. Lopez says that the faith is “super popular” right now, and he especially loves ones that include decorative rings, as seen above.
Its name may be familiar thanks to a few viral stories over the years extolling the supposed headache-fighting power in getting this part of your ear pierced, but it‘s worth noting that while it is certainly a cute piercing, the actual science is by no means concrete. In short: If you want to make this your next new piercing, go for it, but don’t expect it to spontaneously free your mind from migraines.
“A rook piercing is the little flap of cartilage at the top of your ear but below your helix,” Lopez says. But Lopez also adds that not every single person’s ear can handle this type of piercing. That’s why it’s important to go into your piercing studio with an open mind. And it’s yet another reason to go with a licensed pro: experienced piercers will recognize when that’s the case.
According to Kelly, industrial piercings — or what clients sometimes refer to as “the bar” — are one of the most popular requests at Banter right now. Though the bar connects a helix piercing to a forward helix piercing, the industrial is pierced slightly differently from its individual components, so be sure to fill your piercer in on your ideal result.
Unlike other piercings, where you typically need to begin with a stud, you’ll leave your appointment with a bar in place. “This one hurts a little more, because it’s a slightly bigger gauge,” Kelly says. Maybe that’s one reason industrial piercings have earned their punk-rock reputation.
The anti-tragus is the little bit of cartilage next to your lobe and opposite your tragus (see above). Depending on your pain threshold this piercing can be pretty painful both during the process and in the recovery time afterwards.