Ear Piercing Guide & Chart
-Outer Ear Piercings-
Despite what most people may think, even your standard ear lobe piercings should be executed by a professional. Often ear lobe piercings are done by amateurs using a painful gun to force a sharpened earring post through the lobe. The earring posts used in a gun are often made of sterling silver or 14k gold, both of which are considered inappropriate for piercing because they are soft metals and may contain nickel. Forcing the post through the ear lobe promotes excessive scarring within the lobe as the tissue is traumatized and torn by the force of the gun, and then the post must push aside tissue to make the piercing hole.
When a piercing is done by a professional, a hollow needle is used to gently remove tissue to allow room for the jewelry. This promotes faster healing with minimal scarring, and is often considered less painful than a piercing gun. Additionally, professional piercers will use jewelry that is a thicker gauge than a typical earring post. This promotes faster healing because a thicker gauge will not irritate the healing piercing as much as a thinner gauge would when it is accidentally hit or pulled. Lastly, a professional piercer can provide you with a cleaning regimen that is appropriate for the piercing while an unlicensed piercer can cause further harm to the piercings by providing you with incorrect aftercare instructions.
Standard ear piercings are a 20g or 18g if they were pierced by a gun. If they were pierced by a professional, the lobe piercing will typically be a 16g or 14g. After a minimum of two months it is typically safe to change the jewelry, but the piercing may still feel sensitive. After waiting six months to a year, the earlobe is safe to stretch.
Often called “doubles” (as in double-pierced ears), the upper ear lobe piercing is placed just above the standard ear piercing. It is the same soft tissue as the lower part of the lobe, and above this piercing is where the cartilage of the outer ear begins.
Located just above the upper ear lobe piercing is the orbital. This is the where the cartilage begins on the outer ear. The orbital is a unique piercing because it uses one piece of jewelry, typically a captive bead ring, to connect two piercings. The piercings are vertical on the cartilage so that only one side of the hoop is visible and the other side of the hoop is in the back of the ear. The jewelry is usually a 16g or 14g. As with all piercings connected by one piece of jewelry, the healing process can be long and easy to disrupt. The jewelry may be changed two or three months after being pierced but may not completely heal until around a year.
The helix is the upper part of the outer cartilage and sits just beneath where the flap of cartilage folds over. This can also be described as an upper cartilage piercing. It is commonly pierced at a 16g with a labret or captive bead ring, unless it was pierced with a gun, in which case the piercing will be an 18g or 20g earring post. The jewelry may be changed two or three months after being pierced but may not completely heal until six months or more.
The flat area of the outer cartilage is known as the outer conch. This piercing is either a 16g or 14g. Because it is closer to the inside of the ear than the helix, it is less common to see a hoop used in this piercing. More common are labrets, which have a flat disc in the back and some type of ball front. Hoops used in this piercing would have to be a wide diameter, at least 1/2” or 12-13mm. The jewelry may be changed two or three months after being pierced but may not completely heal until six months or more.
The industrial consists of two piercings, one through the innermost flap of cartilage and one through the outermost area of the flap of cartilage, resulting in a diagonal barbell going across the ear. Healing is likely to be prolonged if the two piercings are connected by one long straight barbell, however. The piercings typically heal faster when pierced with separate pieces of jewelry, either captive bead rings or shorter straight barbells. The straight barbells are most commonly between the lengths of 1 1/4” (32mm) and 1 1/2” (38mm), but every person’s anatomy is different. Although some piercers use 16g jewelry in these piercings, it is much more common to be a 14g. It may be safe to change the jewelry in two to four months, but the piercings will likely remain vulnerable for around a year.
-Inner Ear Piercings-
The tragus is the cartilage that sticks out in front of the ear canal. This piercing is most commonly done with a 16g labret which is 3/8” for a new piercing or 5/16” for a healed piercing (or 1/4” for especially thin cartilage). Alternatively the piercing can be done with a hoop, usually a 16g captive bead ring that is wide to allow for swelling and downsized at a later time. A hoop for a healed tragus is typically 5/16” in diameter. The healing process for the tragus piercing can be easily disrupted by using ear buds or q-tips, and for that reason it may take up to six months or more to heal. Initial jewelry may be changed after two to three months.
Just above the tragus is the piece of cartilage that bridges from the inner to the outer ear. This “bridge” is called the daith and is usually pierced with a curved piece of jewelry to fit in the cramped space. This piercing is commonly a 16g and can fit a small captive bead ring, circular barbell, or curved barbell depending on preference. The jewelry may be changed two or three months after being pierced but may not completely heal until six months or more.
Just above the daith is the rook, the fold of cartilage that leads to the outer conch. This fold of cartilage is typically pierced with a curved piece of jewelry like a curved barbell or a captive bead ring at a 16g. The jewelry may be changed two or three months after being pierced but may not heal until around six months or more.
Following the fold of cartilage downward toward the outer ear leads to the snug. This piercing is about midway on the ear and is typically worn with a 16g captive bead ring. The jewelry may be changed two or three months after being pierced but may not heal until around six months or more.
The anti-tragus is the flap of cartilage that sticks out opposite to the tragus and is directly connected to the earlobe. This flap of cartilage is typically pierced at a 16g with a curved piece of jewelry like a curved barbell or a captive bead ring. The jewelry may be changed two or three months after being pierced but may not heal until around six months or more.
The inner conch is the concave, bowl-like area in the lower ear. The piercing is usually a 14g or thicker, although some piercers may pierce it as small as a 16g. A straight barbell or labret is best for the initial jewelry to limit jewelry movement. After healing a wide hoop can be worn that goes from the inner ear around to the back of the ear. The jewelry may be changed two or three months after being pierced but may not heal until six months to a year.
- Brett Barnard