Collectively, ear piercings are more popular than any other group of body piercings. Earlobe piercings stand out as the #1 most popular type of piercing among men and women alike, with 83% of the U.S. population having pierced ears. 13% of women have at least one other ear piercing in addition to earlobe piercings, and 17% of men have another part of one or both ears pierced. Some people choose to get a combination of one or two types of ear piercings, and others combine multiple earlobe piercings and cartilage piercings in an ear project.
Since ear piercings of all varieties are so popular, people have a lot of questions about them. What parts of the ear can be pierced? What are the different types of ear piercings called? Where can you find cool earrings for your ear piercings? We answer all these questions and more in the ear piercing FAQs below. Just click a question to jump right to the answer, or read through for a complete education on ear piercings.
Ear Piercing FAQs:
Nearly any part of the ear can be pierced. Here are the main areas of the ear where you’ll usually see ear piercings:
- Earlobe – Traditionally, a single hole is placed in the earlobe (or lobule), although many people have 2, 3 or more lobe piercings in a row.
- Helix – This is the upper rim of the ear cartilage, where people may get 1 or more helix piercings side-by-side. The Helix spans from the outer-upper curve of the ear all the way to where it connects with the head (which is where a forward helix piercing would be placed).
- Auricle – The Auricular Tubercle is the rim of the ear in between the helix and the earlobe. This is where you’d wear an ear cuff or have one or more cartilage piercings.
- Antihelix – This ridge of cartilage is alongside the Auricle.
- Antitragus – This is the peak of cartilage directly above the earlobe.
- Tragus – This is the lower rim of cartilage where your ear connects to your head.
- Concha – The Concha, or simply Conch, is the scooped area of central ear cartilage (see diagram).
- Crus of Helix – This is the little ridge of cartilage directly above the Tragus where a daith piercing is placed.
- Crura of Antihelix – This is the ridge of cartilage directly above the Crus of Helix where a rook piercing would be placed.
There are quite a few different types of ear piercings. A full list of types of ear piercing follows. To see exactly where each ear piercing is placed on the ear, reference the ear piercing diagram below.
- Antitragus Piercing – An anti tragus piercing is placed across from the tragus (see ear diagram above).
- Daith Piercing – A daith piercing is placed through the cartilage immediately below the point where the helix connects to the head and the cartilage continues to curve in (directly above the tragus in the ear diagram).
- Earlobe Piercing – Any piercing of the lobule of the ear—or the soft tissue that dangles down from the bottom of the ear— is considered an ear lobe piercing. Some people have a single standard earlobe piercing while others have multiple ear lobe piercings in a row.
- Forward Helix Piercing – The placement of a forward helix piercing is directly above where a daith piercing would be, just above where the helix connects to the head.
- Helix Piercing – The entire upper rim of the ear is called the helix, but typically when someone refers to a helix piercing or cartilage piercing, they’re talking about the outer-top rim of the ear. Some people get double helix piercings and triple helix piercings, which are just multiple piercings in the same area.
- Industrial Piercing (A.K.A. Scaffold Piercing) – An industrial piercing spans the top of the ear, entering through the back of the helix and exiting towards the top-front of the helix. The area it lays over top of is called the scaffold of the ear, which is why this is sometimes known as a scaffold piercing.
- Conch Piercing – The conch is the inner scoop of ear cartilage that’s somewhat cup-shaped. A conch piercing is a piercing placed through this area of cartilage.
- Orbital Piercing – An orbital piercing is actually two piercings side-by-side through part of the ear. A ring placed through the two holes appears to be orbiting through the ear. An orbital can be placed through the upper earlobe or even through the upper ear cartilage, directly below where an industrial piercing bar would run.
- Rook Piercing – A rook piercing is placed through the upper-inner rim of ear cartilage that runs over top where a daith piercing would be placed.
- Snug Piercing – A snug is a piercing of the antihelix.
- Tragus Piercing – A tragus piercing is a piercing of the lower flap of cartilage that connects to the head.
- Transverse Lobe Piercing – A transverse lobe piercing is technically a surface piercing, because it goes through the earlobe at an angle rather than cleanly in one side and out the other. Transverse earlobe piercings are more likely to reject than standard lobe piercings, and they may cause significant damage to the earlobe if they migrate out.
- Upper Lobe Piercing – Any piercing of the upper earlobe, where the skin is still soft and fleshy (i.e. the soft tissue immediately below the ear cartilage) is considered an upper lobe piercing.
The following ear piercings are actually cartilage piercings:
- Antitragus Piercing
- Daith Piercing
- Forward Helix Piercing
- Helix Piercing
- Industrial Piercing / Scaffold Piercing
- Conch Piercing
- Orbital Piercing (can be either a soft tissue or cartilage piercing)
- Rook Piercing
- Snug Piercing
- Tragus Piercing
Piercing guns are not safe for a couple reasons, the most important one being that they really aren’t sanitary. You can’t put a piercing gun in an autoclave, which is a medical machine used to sterilize piercing tools and jewelry in a tattoo and piercing shop. That’s one big reason why you won’t see piercers using piercing guns outside of a mall jewelry/piercing shop. Professional piercers won’t use instruments that can only be cleaned by wiping them with alcohol.
The other reason piercing guns aren’t ideal is because of how they work. A piercing gun basically forces a blunt-backed stud earring through the ear using great pressure. That means the skin gets torn as the stud passes through, which can delay the healing process and sometimes lead to infection.
Piercing guns should never be used to pierce ear cartilage because of the way they work. When a blunt stud gets shot through your ear cartilage, it can shatter the cartilage, leaving a jagged hole behind. The end result is much worse than with an earlobe piercing, because cartilage is so tender after being pierced even when done properly (i.e. with a piercing needle). The post-piercing discomfort alone can drive someone to remove a cartilage piercing after they’ve been pierced with a piercing gun.
For more information on the differences between ear piercing with a piercing gun vs. a piercing needle, visit our Which Is Better: Piercing Ears With a Needle or a Piercing Gun? blog post.
We highly recommend finding a tattoo and piercing shop in your area and having your ear piercings done there. If you go to a jewelry store or mall kiosk, your only option will likely be to get pierced with a piercing gun. If you go to a tattoo and piercing shop, you’ll be pierced with piercing needles and equipment that’s been properly sterilized in an autoclave.
To find a piercer to pierce your ears, talk to your friends and see where they went. You can also visit our forum and ask if any other members know of a reputable piercer in your area. Additionally, you can search for tattoo and piercing shops in your area, find one that’s convenient to you, and look at their piercer’s portfolio online or in their shop.
The ideal starter jewelry depends on the type of piercing you get. Here are a few suggestions based on popular piercing placements:
- Antitragus Piercing – A labret stud is typically the best type of starter jewelry for an antitragus piercing. We recommend using one that’s either pop-fit style or that’s internally threaded. Titanium jewelry is the best starter jewelry for this and all the other piercings listed below, although surgical steel and BioPlast are also good options.
- Daith Piercing – Typically you see captive bead rings as daith piercing starter jewelry, but our Unbreakable Orbs also make hot daith piercing starter jewelry. They're made from flexible niobium, so they're easy to take out and put in.
- Earlobe Piercing – Captive bead rings and segment rings are the ideal type of starter jewelry for a lobe piercing of any kind, since some swelling may occur, and a ring won’t put pressure on your healing piercing even when your ear swells slightly. Labret studs may also be used in new earlobe piercings.
- Forward Helix Piercing – A labret stud is the ideal starter jewelry for a forward helix piercing.
- Helix Piercing – Most often, captive rings are used as starter jewelry for single helix piercings, and sometimes spiral rings are used as the starter jewelry for double and triple helix piercings. (Note that it may be more comfortable for you to wear individual captive rings in multiple helix piercings while they're healing, then switch to a spiral in 6-9 months once they're fully healed.)
- Industrial Piercing (A.K.A. Scaffold Piercing) – Usually piercers will place an industrial barbell in each new industrial piercing they do, but it may be more comfortable to wear separate captive bead rings in your industrial piercing holes until they’re fully healed.
- Conch Piercing – Usually a labret stud is the ideal starter jewelry for a conch piercing.
- Orbital Piercing – More often than not, you’ll see a segment ring or a captive ring placed through an orbital piercing.
- Rook Piercing – You’ll often see small captive rings as rook piercing starter jewelry, but a few of our Unbreakable body jewelry pieces are ideal for these piercings. You could try one of the little hearts, an orb, or even a seamless niobium ring.
- Snug Piercing – A small captive bead ring is the ideal starter jewelry for a snug piercing.
- Tragus Piercing – Labret studs make the best tragus piercing starter jewelry.
- Transverse Lobe Piercing – If you get a transverse lobe piercing, your piercer will use a straight barbell of an appropriate length to span the width of your earlobe at an angle.
What’s the best aftercare for ear piercings? Is ear lobe piercing aftercare different from aftercare for a cartilage piercing?
Ear piercing aftercare is the same no matter what type of ear piercing you have. There are some basic dos and don’ts to follow as part of lobe piercing aftercare and cartilage piercing aftercare alike:
- Clean your ear 3-6 times per day with a sea salt solution cleanser like Recovery Piercing Aftercare Spray or H2Ocean.
- Avoid getting hairspray and other hair products on your ear.
- Eat well, hydrate, and generally take care of yourself so your body will heal faster.
- Use sea salt solution-soaked cotton balls to soften and loosen "crusties" (i.e. dried lymph the body naturally excretes during the healing process).
- touch your jewelry unless your hands are freshly washed or you’re wearing gloves;
- twist, turn or slide your jewelry to loosen crusties;
- change your jewelry prematurely;
- drink alcohol or use tobacco products.; or,
- use aspirin initially, since it can thin your blood and make you bleed more.
For more ear piercing aftercare tips and information on how to figure out if your ear piercing is infected, visit our Earlobe Piercings & Cartilage Piercings article.
Where can I buy cool earrings, ear cuffs, cartilage earrings, industrial bars, plugs and tunnels for my ear piercings?
Painful Pleasures offers thousands of different types of earrings spanning every style imaginable, from traditional French hook earrings to labret studs, circular barbells to captive bead rings, bent barbells to plugs and tunnels, and tons more, like the earrings from our Unbreakable body jewelry line. The chart below lists each type of ear piercing you might like to check out along with a representative image from that earring category.
Earlobe piercings are much easier to stretch than cartilage piercings. Although it isn’t impossible to stretch cartilage, it takes so long and can be so uncomfortable that many people prefer to be pierced with a larger-gauge needle or even have their cartilage punched out with a dermal punch rather than trying to stretch their cartilage. For more on cartilage stretching, check out our blog post The Ins & Outs of Stretching Cartilage.
In regard to earlobe stretching, the key is that slow and steady wins the race. You should wait at least 1.5 times as long as it initially took your earlobes to heal in between stretches, unless you’re using the stretching tape method. To learn more, check out our Earlobe Piercings & Cartilage Piercings article.
We offer a few great ear piercing resources on our website, including these articles and blog posts:
- Earlobe Piercings & Cartilage Piercings
- Industrial Piercing FAQs
- Types of Body Piercings
- The Ins & Outs of Stretching Cartilage
- Stretching the Size of Your Ears
- Painful Pleasures Forum
- Body Mod Photo Gallery
If you're interested in shopping for earrings, visit our Body Jewelry section or go directly to one of the pages listed below:
- Earrings - In this section, you'll find our full selection of French hook earrings, stud earrings, dangle earrings, large gauge earrings, and other traditional earlobe earrings.
- Captive Bead Rings - All of our captive bead rings, segment rings and other captive rings are displayed here.
- Circular Barbells - Our horseshoe barbells are a great style of earring for guys and girls alike.
- Unbreakable Body Jewelry - This stunning jewelry line features all of the body jewelry designs we hand-make at Painful Pleasures, including Orbs for daith piercings and other unusual cartilage earring and French hook earring designs.
- Septum Rings & Hoops - This might seem like a funny choice to include with earring links, but some of our septum rings make stunning earrings, too. We have hoops studded with gems and other designs in this section that make great lobe earrings.
- Organic Body Jewelry - Shop for beautiful earrings made from all-natural material, like mother of pearl, abalone, bone, horn, and other organic materials.
- Plugs & Tunnels - All of our earlets, Synthesis plugs, organic plugs and tunnels, and other body jewelry for stretched ear piercings is in this section.
- Piercing Retainers - If you ever need discreet body jewelry for your ear piercings, you'll find a great selection of clear and flesh tone piercing retainers here.
- Limitless Custom Jewelry - If you want a pair of plugs featuring custom art, you'll love our Limitless custom plugs and other body jewelry that can be personalized with your designs.
- Glass Jewelry - This is where you'll find glass spirals, glass plugs and other gorgeous glass body jewelry.