Think of your ear as an empty canvas. With the help of the right piercer, it's a work of art waiting to be created. Much like makeup and fashion, there are countless types of ear piercings, and curating and customizing the layout of your jewelry — whether it‘s on your earlobes, your cartilage, or even your inner ear canal — can evoke a desired style or sensibility.
Want to go preppy? Stick with a big diamond stud. More into the punk-rock look? A heavy-metal industrial piercing might be more your deal. Prefer to stick with something that feels entirely your own? Talk to a pro about curating a beautiful range of piercings — perhaps you want stacked lobes and a couple of tiny gold hoops, topped off with a shiny inner conch piercing. Body Vision Piercing
But unlike makeup and fashion, the possibilities aren't exactly endless. There are a finite number of places to pierce an ear, and some piercers choose to focus their talents on only a few, offering a small selection of options or lobe-only piercings. Whatever your piercing ideas may be, it's important to do your research before you book an appointment, including collecting some visual references to bring as inspiration. We talked to several of the industry’s top piercers to get a rundown of the latest ear piercing trends that they’re seeing everywhere in 2022.
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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.
Your piercer will go over the aftercare routine they recommend and what to expect during the healing process, but you'll likely need a saline spray to cleanse your piercing as it heals. Two more pro tips: Avoid sleeping on your newly pierced ears and wash your sheets and pillowcases regularly.
With those basics out of the way, let's talk inspiration and ear curation.
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.)
The ear shown above houses multiple piercings (from top to bottom: Flat, Helix, Tragus, Two-for-One/Snake Bite, Stacked Lobes), but we're here to talk about what Lisa Bubbers, co-founder of ear piercing studio Studs, terms a “snake bite" (pictured here with two studs). The hallmark of a snake bite, as differentiated from stacked lobes, is the closeness of the piercings — here, you'll notice that the two studs are closer to one another than to anything else on the ear.
The varied spacing allows for playful jewelry, as with the silver hoop and stud combo above, and adds a bit of personality to otherwise uniform lobe piercings. Though snake bite piercings are often done on the lobes, Bubbers points out that they've seen a rise in customers asking for the double piercing on the midi, forward helix, and conch.
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."
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 daith piercing passes through the ear's inner cartilage fold. Lopez says that the daith 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.
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