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The Ultimate Guide To All The Types Of Ear Piercings You'll Want In Your Lifetime

From helix, to daith to tragus, we explain what they are and how much they hurt
PHOTO: (LEFT TO RIGHT) Instagram/evorasemijoias, Instagram/withbling_london
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With so many different kinds of ear piercings out there, it's important to do your research before you get pierced so you know exactly what you want, where you want it and how much it's going to hurt.

But before you head to the salon, or as they're known now "earring bar," to get permanently pierced, we've got the low down on everything you need to know.

  • Lobe piercings: standard lob piercing, transverse lobe piercing
  • Outer ear piercings: tragus piercing, snug piercing, forward helix piercing, industrial piercing, auricle piercing
  • Inner ear piercings: anti-tragus piercing, helix piercing, rook piercing, daith piercing, outer conch piercing, orbital piercing

How painful is an ear piercing?

Probably the most asked question before putting that dreaded needle through your ear is, "how much is this going to hurt?" Well, this all depends on your pain sensitivity level, because what you and your BFF consider painful could vary significantly, so there's no real guidebook but, if you want to minimize pain, there are certain piercing types you might want to avoid.

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While you shouldn't feel more than a pinch when the needle goes through your ear with lobe piercings, cartilage piercings are known to be quite painful, initially feeling a sharp shock before turning into throbbing duller pain. Take note though that most people consider piercing needles to be less painful than piercing guns.

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Some of the best ways to get through the pain is to simply not think about it (trust us, it'll make it a lot worse).  Chat with a friend or if you're alone, listen to music to distract you and before you know it, bam, you'll have a brand new piercing!

What is the most painful ear piercing?

While traditional piercings like ear lobes are the least painful, the snug and tragus are considered to hurt the most. But not all cartilage piercings are known to cause the same pain threshold, with upper cartilage piercings such as helix considered to be less painful than the anti-tragus and other inner ear piercings, which have harder tissue.

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According to Authority Tattoo, the level of pain during the procedure also has a lot to do with the experience of the piercer. "If you choose a more experienced professional to handle the piercing, it’s likely to go much more smoothly. They will also have a better technique with the piercing needle to ensure that everything goes right."

Any cartilage piercings may also hurt for up to a week after the initial piercing, as the inflammation calms down because this area of the ear doesn't have as much blood flow it takes longer to heal.

Something else to note with any cartilage piercing is that you are effectively creating a wound in your ear which typically takes three months to heal, so it poses a greater risk of infection which can cause pain during recovery.

How much does it cost to get your ears pierced?

There's no denying multiple piercings have become a definitive trend that doesn't seem to be going anywhere anytime soon, with four to six piercings in one ear being most popular requests. But if you're going to the salon to get a whole new look (as expert Maria Tash will tell you "ear curation") it will cost you a pretty penny. While it depends where you go, most places will charge between P250 to P1,500, not including the type of jewelry.

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What piercings would look good on my ear?

Honestly, this is all up to you. But don't let trends dictate what you want to get, remember these holes are permeant, but if you're after the ultimate guide we've got you covered below.

The Ultimate Ear Piercing Guide

We've put together a guide to all of the main ear and cartilage piercings you can get including the helix, tragus, and daith piercings—but if you get confused with all of the "inner rim" and "outer conch" chat, it might be worth referring to the picture below for a handy quick view:

Mixi Ignacio
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Lobe piercings

Standard lobe piercing

You know this one, guys, AKA the classic lobe piercing we all got when we were kids. If you're wanting more piercings, getting two standard lobe studs could be a good place to start.

Pain Threshold: 3/10 

Instagram/holelottalovebodypiercing

Transverse lobe piercing

Instead of piercing through the lobe front to back like a standard lobe piercing, the transverse lobe piercing goes through the skin horizontally using a barbell. This kind of piercing doesn't involve the cartilage, so in general more pain-free than other kinds of piercings.

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Pain Threshold: 6/10

instagram/undergroundtattoos_enfield

Outer Ear Piercings

Tragus piercing

The tragus is the inner piece of cartilage that sits over the ear canal directly above your lobe. This popular piercing can look great with studs, hoops, and in combination with lots of other jewelry.

Pain Threshold: 6/10

instagram/withbling_london
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Snug piercing

The antihelix is the rim of cartilage inside your ear between the helix (outer rim of cartilage) and just above the anti-tragus and this is where you find "snug" piercings. 

Pain Threshold: 7/10

instagram/evi_mothandrose

Forward helix piercing

A forward helix piercing is made in the outer rim of your ear (the helix) at the top of the rim just above the tragus, it can often be quite painful as it is made through the cartilage in your ear. You can also get a double or a triple forward helix piercing (as below). 

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Pain Threshold: 5/10

Types of ear piercings
INSTAGRAM/AZPIERCING

Industrial piercing

Rather than a singular piercing, an industrial piercing is usually two (although sometimes more) piercings through the ear cartilage. The most popular kind of industrial piercing is through the antihelix and helix, connected using a long piece of barbell jewelry (or cute arrow).

Pain Threshold: 7/10

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instagram/kelvinc_piercer

Auricle piercing

An auricle piercing is made on the outer part of the ear, usually half-way up, between the ear lobe and the helix. As it is a cartilage piercing, expect a longer recovery time and more pain than a lobe piercing.

Pain Threshold: 7/10

Types of ear piercings
INSTAGRAM/JASMINECELESTINE
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Inner Ear Piercings

Anti-tragus piercing

The anti-tragus is the little bit of cartilage next to your lobe and opposite your tragus (see above). Depending on your pain threshold this piercing can be pretty painful both during the process and in the recovery time afterward.

Pain Threshold: 7/10 

Types of ear piercings
INSTAGRAM/TRINE_MOROZOVA

Helix piercing

Any piercing in the outer cartilage rim of the upper part of the ear is referred to as a "helix piercing." Two piercings placed one under the other in this area is called a double helix piercing.

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Pain Threshold: 4/10

instagram/evorasemijoias

Rook piercing

Follow the anti-helix round from the snug to the other end of the cartilage rim and this is where you find a rook piercing. You can wear this piercing with a hoop or barbell, whatever you prefer the look of.

Pain Threshold: 7/10

instagram/romkatattooer
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Daith piercing

The daith piercing is positioned at the end of the helix on the innermost part of the cartilage near to the tragus.

Pain Threshold: 6/10

Types of ear piercings
INSTAGRAM/ENVYBODYPIERCING

Outer conch piercing

The outer conch is the dip in the ear in-between the antihelix and the helix (the two rims). The inner conch is the next "dip" after the antihelix and before the ear canal.

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Pain Threshold: 7/10

Types of ear piercings
INSTAGRAM/PIERCINGBYGORE

Orbital piercing

An orbital piercing refers to any piercing where two holes are made in the same part of the ear, generally so that a hoop piece of jewelry can pass through both. While these can be made in lots of places, commonly people have this piercing in the helix or the lobe.

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Pain Threshold: 7/10

Types of ear piercings
INSTAGRAM/MARIATASH

How to Style Multiple Piercings

Now you've done all the research on what to get here's our guide on how to style up each piercing.

Types of ear piercings
ELLIOTT WILCOX
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  1. Do your research. Go into your piercing shop the same way you would your hairdresser, armed with research and ideas for how you’d like to look. “I use Instagram and Pinterest as my sources of inspiration,” says multi-pierced influencer Monikh (@Monikh). 
  2. Rome wasn’t built in a day. You can never have too many piercings (within reason) but, “we recommend having no more than three done per session,” says Penny at Maria Tash. So if you’re aiming for six, speak to your piercer about staggering them.
  3. Go maximal (not minimal). “Large layered earrings are the next big trend,” says Monikh. ”Think gold, layered, shells and dangly, alongside tiny studs.”
  4. Get crafty. “I have tiny good-quality gold hoops from Jennifer Fisher and hang little charms or pendants from charity shops or flea markets from them. You can also get single second-hand earrings and just sterilize them well before wearing them. That way, no one will ever have the same ones as you,” says Cosmopolitan’s fashion director Amy Bannerman.
  5. If you don’t want to go the whole way, fake it till you make it with cuffs and huggers, which are essentially pretend hoops. “They stay put even when sleeping or showering and look so realistic. Instant pain-free style!” says Amy.
  6. Layer, layer, and layer again. “You can sometimes fit a tiny stud into the same hole as a hoop so it ends up looking like one earring,” Amy explains. Nifty, eh?
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Things to Know About Piercings

We asked piercing industry experts for the ins and outs so you have answers to popular questions like, should I take my earring out if? I get an infection? How do I speed up the healing process? And, can you ever have too many piercings?

What’s better, a piercing gun or needle?

“Needles are sterile, single-use, and hurt a lot less, whereas a gun is essentially a blunt object punching through your ear at high impact—it’ll always feel sorer,” says Penny Burrows at Maria Tash, who’s pierced Kate Moss and Idris Elba.

Is there anything that can help make the piercing process less painful?

“If you’re on your period, you may be more sensitive to pain,” says Penny. But, adds Clem Kirchmeier, general manager at Metal Morphosis, “Painkillers shouldn’t be used beforehand as most are blood-thinning.”

Rhianna Jones, a piercer at The Circle, suggests “eating one to two hours before.” You could also channel your inner zen, as The Circle’s piercers use yoga breathing during the procedure. Ommm.

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Why do I get metal allergies?

“Allergies to certain metals often lie within the nickel content. We don’t know how or why certain people are more sensitive than others,” says Penny. “At Maria Tash, we only pierce with completely nickel-free gold. Some other studios pierce with titanium, which also has a low nickel content. Never get pierced with silver because it oxidizes and increases the risk of infection and allergic reactions.”

Rhianna says, “We only recommend piercing with implant-grade titanium, which is used in surgical procedures,? like knee and hip replacements. Anything of a lower grade isn’t suitable to live in the body.”

Dr. Emma Wedgeworth, a renowned dermatologist, agrees that surgical-grade titanium is the safest metal to pierce with: “Certain types of stainless steel are made to contain the nickel within the metal, so it is not released into the body. Despite this, personally, I would avoid it for a fresh piercing.” She adds, “If you’ve ever reacted to jewelry, watches, or belt buckles, it’s also important to get this assessed before piercing.” 

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What should I do if my piercing gets infected?

“Don’t take it out immediately. You might trap the infection in your ear if it heals up,” says Penny. To help avoid this, Clem advises, “Use the right aftercare products, like a pre-made sterile saline solution, don’t touch it, use fresh towels and pillowcases regularly and don’t swim in public pools for a while.”

If you’re concerned about an infection, or there doesn’t seem to be any improvement within a couple of days, see your doctor.

What are keloid scars?

Keloid scars are enlarged, raised scars that can be pink, red, skin-colored, or darker than the surrounding skin. They can also continue to grow and might have to be surgically removed.

“If you have a bump, nine times out of 10, it’s probably not a keloid bump, but a blood blister,” says Penny. “In which case, treat by doing compresses every day for a few weeks. Just saturate some kitchen roll in a hot cup of chamomile tea.” If you’re still unsure, check with a doctor or piercer.

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This article originally appeared on Cosmopolitan.com/uk. Minor edits have been made by the Cosmo.ph editors.