Archive for Ear Piercings


Helix Piercings

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piercings of the helix ear cartilage

The term “helix piercing” refers to any piercing of the helix portion of the human ear.  This type of piercing has been called many other names, but the most common is simply “cartilage piercing.” The helix can be pierced in various spots along the ear’s rim, and for most is able to be pierced in multiple locations.  Traditional industrial piercings pass through a portion of helix, but are distinguished from other sets of helix piercings by their connection via a single piece of jewelry.

 different styles of cartilage piercings

Like other cartilage piercings, the helix piercing is performed with a hollow piercing needle, and requires diligent aftercare.  Cleansings with saline or gentle antimicrobial soap are often recommended, along with avoidance of hair products, pool or pond water, and makeup.  Most helix piercings will pass through the initial phases of healing quickly, by around the eight to twelve week mark, but complete healing may take several months.

 caring for piercings

A variety of jewelry styles can be worn in the helix piercing, including BCRs and other circulars, stud style pieces, and barbells which can sometimes include a dangling element.  For those who have multiple piercings of the ear, more decorative jewelry that “connects ” their piercings to each other with chains can also be worn.  Some common combinations include helix to tragus, and helix to earlobe.

chain connector ear cartilage jewelry


Tragus Piercings

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piercings of the tragus ear cartilage

The tragus is the fibrous nub of flesh that protrudes from the side of the head, shielding the opening of the ear canal.  Because this area is primarily cartilaginous, and highly visible when the hair is swept up or brushed behind the ear, it’s a perfect place to pierce. Like many of the other common ear piercings, this one is named after the actual part of the ear anatomy it corresponds to, and is called simply “tragus piercing.”

 piercing names and ear anatomy

The jewelry used for tragus piercings can vary greatly depending upon individual anatomy, the needle size used for the piercing, and personal style.  Both barbells and circulars can be worn, as well as flat-backed stud type items, and occasionally curved or spiral-shaped barbells.

 tragus piercing ear jewelry

As with most cartilage piercings, the tragus tends to heal relatively quickly, but must be kept healthy with proper aftercare.  During the initial healing phases, avoidance of heavy hair products and not sleeping on your newly pierced side are often recommended, as these and other factors can contribute to irritation or lengthen the time it takes to mend.

For more on ear piercings, be sure to check out our Ear Piercings category, and follow us on YouTube to view your favorite piercings being performed up close and personal.

Originally, I had intended on having a set of five piercings in my right ear: three cartilage, and two lobe. A few years back I got a triple forward helix piercing at a random piercing parlor on a whim… all three piercings rejected. This time around I spent much more time choosing my piercer and thinking about a piercing that I would like, which also worked with my anatomy.

James at American Skin Art let me know that the two helix/scapha piercings I was looking to get were, in fact, a good idea and that they would be in a location that wasn’t likely to reject. My experience was really great this time, much different than the first set of cartilage piercings. Those were considerably more painful and ended up not healing at all.

 my new helix piercings being performed

In contrast to the previous session, these two piercings were very quick and pretty painless. The moral of the story is: if you’re under the impression that selecting a piercing professional doesn’t matter or that you might be able to do it yourself, be warned!

After seeing my piercings start to successfully heal, I decided to go back a few weeks later to get a third (and final) lobe piercing. They are all healing up very nicely and now my ear looks just as I intended.

the finish look with multiple lobe and cartilage piercings


Ways to Wear it: Heart Closure Rings

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Chances are if you enjoy a healthy dose of online time every week, you’ve seen some pretty neat piercings and jewelry around the web.  Something like these maybe:

 versatile closure ring jewelry

They’re heart closure rings, and they’re astoundingly versatile.  These babies can be gently pried open and slipped on like an illusion ring, to give the look of a piercing where there isn’t one, but the real fun begins for those who have multiple ear piercings.  Here are just a few places that a closure ring can go:

 wearing heart closure rings

They can also be worn in lobe piercings, tragus or anti-tragus piercings, all kinds of helix piercings, and loads more.  Where they’ll fit and look the best is a matter of piercing placement and anatomy, but as long as you get the right size for your piercings, they’re amazingly fun to play around with.  Interconnect them through multiple helix piercings, dangle them from industrial barbells, or feed them through eyelets for a quirky new look.  Create a heart chain that leads from your helix to your earlobe; the sky is the limit!

Other shapes of closure ring like flowers and stars are also gaining popularity, but for Valentine’s Day, the heart is definitely the way to go.  How will you wear it?

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What’s That Called?: Ear Piercing Index

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piercings of the human ear

Lobe: This is just a standard ear lobe piercing.  For most this piercing was originally performed with a piercing gun, but in recent years trained piercers with sterile shops have been called on to perform more ear piercings than ever before.

Transverse Lobe: The transverse, or “horizontal” lobe piercing goes through the full width of the bottom portion of the lobe and as such requires a barbell for normal wear rather than a stud.

Stretched Lobe: A lobe piercing that is considered “stretched” has had the actual piercing hole itself (known as the fistula) enlarged to accommodate plugs rather than standard earrings.

Helix: The helix is the outcropping of cartilage that circles the free edge of the ear, and can be pierced in a range of spots depending on anatomy and preference.  This type of piercing is also often referred to as simply “cartilage piercing.”

Forward Helix: The portion of the helix that folds forward where the ear meets the side of the face can be pierced on most individuals, which is called a forward helix piercing.

Industrial: An industrial is actually a set of piercings performed along the edge of the ear and connected with a single barbell.  Although this too can include a variety of positions, the most common is horizontally across the upper ear at a slight diagonal (as shown).

Vertical Industrial: This is an industrial that runs vertically across the ear rather than horizontally.  Most often this is done beginning at the helix, running down the length of the ear, and emerging through the concave plate of cartilage at the inner edge, above the lobe.

Snug: A snug is a piercing of the secondary cartilaginous outcropping; the smaller ridge that forms right next to the helix.  For most, the snug will be worn with a piece of circular body jewelry, but barbells can also be used.

Orbital: The orbital is a piercing that goes through the ear in two separate spots, connected together by a circular barbell.  Although the edge of the ear is popular, orbitals can be pierced in other, more interesting parts of the cartilage.

Tragus: Tragus piercings are made through the nub of cartilage that protrudes in front of the opening of the inner ear.  One of the more popular ear cartilage piercings, they can be worn with a circular, or a stud.

Vertical Tragus: When the tragus is pierced through vertically, most often utilizing a small curved barbell, it’s called a vertical tragus.

Anti-Tragus: The anti-tragus is the protrusion of cartilaginous tissue just across from the tragus, which can be freely pierced in most individuals.

Daith:  A piercing of the crest just above the opening of the ear canal is called a daith, but to be a true daith as originally designed, the piercee must wear a hoop or circular, so that the item appears to emerge from within the ear.

Inner Conch: This is a piercing in the concave plane of cartilage at the inside of the ear, below the uppermost ridge.

Outer Conch: An outer conch piercing perforates the flatter cartilage above the upper ridge but underneath the helix.

Rook: Last but not least, the rook is a piercing of the upper cartilage ridge, usually worn with a curved barbell.



ancient Egyptian body modifications

Today is a fun little holiday known as “King Tut Day,” that celebrates the day back in 1922 when Howard Carter and his team of archeologists and Egyptologists uncovered the entrance to King Tutankhamen’s Tomb in Egypt’s Valley of the Kings.  The excavation of the tomb itself took several years, but the mummy of “King Tut” would provide some major revelations.  Amongst other gems, it was discovered that Tut shared an interesting characteristic with the modern youth of many western countries: his ears had been not only pierced, but stretched.

Tutankhamen's Golden Death MaskKing Tut’s solid gold death mask.  Notice the large earring holes.

This one mummy having pierced ears is nothing to sneeze at, but even better were many subsequent finds.  Several Egyptian mummies have been discovered in the decades since King Tut’s big reveal, many of them older and more modified than he.  Tattoos amongst female mummies are a recurring catch, and even larger stretched lobes or piercings in other places have been seen.

As far as other evidence of modification goes, particularly amongst the ruling class, many Egyptian relics have been discovered and identified within or near grave sites.  These include stretching spools, large gauge ear jewelry, solid gold ear weights, and several small tools established as tattooing implements.  Just a few of the more famous mummies sporting ancient modifications include Nefertiti, Ramses II, Seti II, and the priestess Amunet.

After the King Tut discovery gained renewed interest amongst American youth in the early 2000s, the 18th dynasty Pharaoh became inextricably linked to stretching, as the name “King Tut Piercing” began circulating amongst the younger generations as an alternative moniker for stretched ear piercings.

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daith ear cartilage piercings

For those who are unfamiliar, the daith is a piercing of the thin outcropping of ear cartilage that stretches from the opening of the ear canal just above the tragus.  It’s essentially the spot where the end of the helix meets the concha (flat plane) of the ear.

The daith is a relatively modern piercing as piercings go, because it wasn’t even formally invented until 1992.  First performed by famous piercer Erik Dakota, the name itself was decided upon by both he and the client, a spiritually in tune woman who equated the piercing to a conduit of knowledge, due to its placement.  The intention of the daith as originally envisioned is to be worn with a ring of some type, so that it then appears that the jewelry is emerging from within the ear canal.  In this way the piercing would act as a guardian, filtering through only words of meaning and substance to be heard.  The word daith is taken from the Hebrew da’at (דעת) or daath, meaning knowledge.

In recent years the daith has seen a growth in popularity, with newer, more interesting jewelry coming into prominence.  Still maintaining the original design, but with a fun and modern twist, items in the shape of hearts and stars are leading the pack along with gem hoops.

fun daith piercing closure rings

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Are you looking for a new and exciting piercing? Conch piercings are beautiful and very unique. The conch is located in the deep, bowl shaped, central shell of the ear. Watch as BodyCandy friend and modification veteran Dana gets her conch pierced by James at American Skin Art in Buffalo, New York. The money shot (needle insertion) is at about 0:33 seconds into the video.

The first step is examining the conch for blood vessels, cleaning, and then marking the correct spot with a surgical marker. After proper placement is ensured, the piercer takes a sterile 14 gauge hollow piercing needle and uses the freehand method to pierce the area from front to back. Forceps can also be used for this piercing if necessary. He then carefully inserts the new jewelry, which in this case is a 14 gauge ball captive ring. The captive ring is wide enough to clear the edge of the ear without binding it. A barbell can be used for initial jewelry if you prefer, or if your piercer deems it necessary (due to your anatomy). Dana did not feel much pain with this piercing, only pressure. She even commented right after the piercing that it was “rather pleasant”. Some people who have their conch done have reported that there is a pop and slight stinging sensation involved with this particular piercing as well.

Healing time is commonly 6-9 months when proper aftercare is practiced. Daily cleaning and salt water soaks should be done as advised by your piercer.  With a conch piercing there may be trial and error to find out which jewelry style is right and comfortable for you. Take extra care when going to bed, as sleeping on a new piercing can cause discomfort and longer healing time. Do you have your conch pierced? Share your stories in the comments below!

industrial jewelry sizing and styles

For anyone who doesn’t know, an industrial piercing is a set of two holes pierced across from eachother along the helix (the outer cartilage rim) of the ear and connected with a single, long barbell.  The barbell is called an industrial barbell, construction bar, or industrial project bar.  Although any set of two piercings or more through the cartilage planes of the ear has come to be called an industrial, for our purposes, we’ll stick to the aforementioned traditional style.

Because the angle of an industrial piercing and the size of an individual’s ears vary so greatly, industrial barbells come in a wide variety of lengths to ensure an optimum fit.  They generally start at approximately 28 millimeters (just over an inch), and can be found as long as two full inches (about 50mm).  Here’s what some of the basic sizes look like:

 standard lengths for industrial project bars

Most industrials will be found in the standard 14 gauge and come with five or six millimeter balls.  The gauge is the thickness (as measured in diameter), and for correct sizing you’ll need to know gauge size and length.

Some of the more popular non-traditional styles of industrial bar include those that spiral, wave, and have dangling elements.  Though these items may appear to be difficult to measure, length is always measured directly across from the base of one ball to the other, and never along the curves or spirals, so the same set of sizing measurements still applies.

 Awesome Rainbow Industrials

As always the best way to get a good fit is to have your piercer measure for you and tell you exactly what you’ll need.  An industrial project bar that’s too long may cause irritation to the piercings themselves due to excessive movement, and one that’s too short just won’t fit altogether.  For more about body jewelry sizing and styles, check out our jewelry sizing category here, and happy shopping.

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Piercing Profile: The Awesome Industrial

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industrial ear piercings

What it is:  An industrial piercing is actually a set of two piercings at different points along the helix that are connected by a single long barbell, aptly known as an industrial bar.

Variations and Innovations:  Although it was originally performed in a specific spot (from one side of the upper helix to the other on a slight diagonal), any set of connected piercings worn with an industrial barbell is now known as an industrial.  There are vertical versions, styles that connect more than two piercings, and sets of multiple industrials called “cages” or “lattices.”

 cage, vertical, and bent industrials

Jewelry:  With piercings and individual anatomy so varied, there are many styles of industrial jewelry including barbells that wave, ripple, or bend at various angles.  For the purpose of the more unique variations, many piercing enthusiasts will have a trusted modification artist custom bend and fit a barbell or set of barbells for them.  Some may also choose to pair standard industrials with other singular helix piercings, coordinating their jewelry accordingly.

Evolution:  Though industrial piercings for the most part began slowly in the 1990s, they took off like a shot after the year 2000, growing in popularity so much that they are now a well known and somewhat common type of piercing.  With most modification artists having mastered the standard industrial, many newer innovations have come from those with experience and clientele who are willing to experiment.