The Comprehensive Ear Piercing Guide
1. Ear Piercing Locations
First things first, know the terminology. We put together this simple guide with the names of each of the most common ear piercing locations.
There are more options for ear piercing locations, but these are the most common.
Can't decide which piercing location you want? Check out our Ear Stacker to virtually try out different ear piercings.
2. Pain Levels
What everyone really wants to know: how bad is it going to hurt? It's important to note that pain is subjective and everyone has a different pain tolerance.
The piercings in location 1 (above) are all earlobe piercings, while the other locations are cartilage piercings. Earlobes are made up of skin and soft fatty tissue while cartilage is a hard tissue. Earlobes also have much more blood flow, so they tend to heal faster than cartilage.
Cartilage piercings tend to hurt more than earlobe piercings. This is primarily because cartilage is harder than earlobe tissue. Most earlobe piercings hurt slightly more than a pinch, roughly a 4 out of 10 on the pain scale. Cartilage piercings register closer to a 6 or 7 out of 10 on the pain scale depending on the exact location on the ear. Typically, the thicker the cartilage is the more it will hurt.
Certain locations, like the tragus and the rook, are harder to pierce quickly because of limited space. This means the piercer will have to push the needle through your ear slower than they would on an ear lobe for example. This can cause additional pain.
3. Healing Times
Like pain levels, healing times will also vary from person to person.
Earlobe piercings tend to heal faster than cartilage piercings because they have more blood flow. Earlobe piercings are usually healed within 6-8 weeks. Cartilage piercings take closer to 4-6 months to heal.
4. Best Type of Piercing Earrings
Professional piercers recommend using studs instead of hoops for piercing earrings.
There are two main reasons for this:
Firstly, there will almost always be some swelling around the piercing site. Infinity hoops do not allow as much space for the ear to swell, so they can potentially become stuck in the ear. Studs on the other hand can be adjusted so that there is more room for the ear to swell.
Secondly, hoops are more likely to snag or get caught on things like hair and clothing which can disrupt and delay the healing process.
5. Best Metal for Piercing Earrings
Pure titanium! A new piercing is an open wound. Even after some healing has begun, the skin inside the piercings is very delicate. That is why professional piercers almost always recommend a pure, non-reactive metal like titanium for a piercing earring. After you've gone through the pain of getting a new piercing, the last thing you would want is any complication from wearing an earring made with reactive metals.
6. Gun vs. Needle
Needle always! Piercing guns are essentially blunt objects being forced into your ear. They are less accurate and less hygienic (because they are very hard to clean).
Needles on the other hand are much more gentle to the surrounding ear tissue, are cleaner because they are one time use, and they allow the piercer to be much more precise with the placement.
7. Finding a Reputable Piercer
Always look for a piercer that uses a needle rather than a piercing gun. Piercing guns cause unnecessary trauma to the piercing site, are unhygienic, and are not accurate.
Some questions to ask when you are vetting a piercer: How do you clean the earring site? Are your needles single use? How do you sterilize the earrings? What is the environment like where I will be pierced? Getting pierced can be nerve-wracking so it's important that you find someone you are comfortable with.
For professional piercers in your area, check out the Association of Professional Piercers.
8. Cost for Ear Piercing
The price of an ear piercing can range widely based on your geographical location. Prices generally range from ~$25 to $100 per piercing. Some well known piercers will charge much more.
Pricing sometimes includes starter earrings, but not always. Check with your piercing location beforehand because that can cause the total price to change dramatically.
9. Should you tip your piercer?
Piercers generally receive a small percentage of the piercing fee, so it is standard practice to tip your ear piercer. Generally a tip of around 20% is appropriate; however, you should tip based on the level of service you recieved. If your piercer did a good job and made you feel comfortable you should let them know with a tip!
Common Piercing Problems
A bump near your piercing site is usually harmless. Most often, it is a healing response due to the trauma at the site. When you get a piercing, there is physical trauma and injury to the skin and that sends the body into healing mode.
If you have a bump near your piercing, the best course of action is to continue the after care that your piercer prescribed. This typically includes washing the area once a day and doing warm saline or sea salt rinses twice a day.
See a doctor if the bump is very red, very painful, or is producing puss. These can be signs of an infection.
Caring for Newly Pierced Ears
- Always wash your hands before touching your ear piercing
- Gently wash the piercing with mild antibacterial soap and warm water once a day
- Carefully remove any buildup around the piercing and jewelry
- Rinse off soap and rotate the jewelry
- Use a warm saline or sea salt water solution on the piercing twice per day for at least two weeks
- Do not use harsh chemicals like alcohol or peroxide as they will dry out the tissue and delay the healing
- Be patient! Healing takes time