Ear piercings are so popular that department store Liberty London famously condensed all the It bags into another part of the shop floor to make way for the rather grand Maria Tash concession a few years back. The New York-based jeweler's designs famously temporarily popped up in Liberty during fashion week one season, and the rest, as they say, is history.
A carefully and beautifully curated ear is now the accessory du jour. And while the types and combinations of ear piercings you choose are up to you, we're here to help you make an informed decision. Keep scrolling to find out more of the hottest earring trends, from helix to tragus, and check out some of our favorite jewelry designers to inspire your next cool-girl piercing.
Meet the Expert
Janeese Brooks is Head of Piercing at Stone and Strand. She frequently runs the Piercings Y’all pop-up events and is based in New York City.
General Tips for Care
Before you go booking an appointment for a new ear accessory, be sure to research how your piercing needs to be properly cared for. Aftercare is what will keep your piercing looking #instagood rather than infected. According to Brooks, "Don’t twist, turn, rotate, or sleep on any of your piercings," as this can increase your risk of infection or irritation, and extend the healing process. She adds, "Try not to sleep on them and clean them with saline one to two times a day." Generally speaking, you'll want to steer clear of bodies of water (baths, pools, hot tubs, etc.) for six to eight weeks after getting pierced. Also avoid "soap, peroxide, neosporin, bactine, rubbing alcohol, and other harsh chemicals" from coming into contact with your new piercing.
Found in a slightly awkward position—the hoop that hugs the cartilage on the inside of your ear—the daith requires a skilled piercer. It is also rumored to help alleviate migraines.
As it's placed on cartilage, you'll feel a dull pressure when getting the daith pierced, about a five or six out of 10, with 10 being the maximum pain. In terms of healing time, the daith piercing takes around six to nine months on average. As with any new piercing, it is not encouraged to sleep on it until it's fully healed; however, compared to some outer-ear piercings, sleeping on a daith piercing within a couple of months is pretty common.
The Helix Ear Piercing
Helix piercings—piercings that are placed anywhere on the upper outer cartilage of the ear—are often the first choice when moving from the lobe. But as confirmed by Brooks, this "trending flat piercing" has become even more popular now, and piercers and clients are experimenting with multiple helix piercings on one ear.
"This is what we all really want, basic or not, these cartilage piercings are super cute and typically land on the edge or middle of the ear for most. This area allows for personalized placements and really unique styles. I try to encourage going beyond just the little hoop here," advises Brooks.
On a scale of pain, the helix clocks in at a four out of 10. "TBH, it will feel like fire for a moment, and then it’ll be fine," says Brooks. As for how long this piercing takes to heal, she adds, "Six to nine months at best. For most clients, [helix] piercings are not done being fussy until nine months to a year in."
Cartilage piercings will typically get a bubble on the front or back of the piercing, but this is typically not a sign of infection. For the bubble, try a chamomile tea soak. Make the tea as if you were going to drink it, but instead, use the warm tea bag as a compress for your piercing.
The tragus, that tiny flap partially covering the ear canal, can add detail to any curated ear, especially when it's adorned with a pretty stud or snug hoop. As the tragus is a cartilage piercing, you can expect the pain level to fall somewhere between a four or five out of 10.
According to Brooks, "These little guys are hard to heal as well—typically six to nine months—mostly because no one really wants to give up earbuds during their commute. Because the tragus is there to protect the outer part of your ear canal, piercing through it, your post is going to be blocking where your earbuds go. Each time you take them in and out, it’ll irritate this piercing. It’s not impossible to heal, but I do warn my clients that if you're a 'picker' or a 'fidgeter' like myself, it may not be for you."
The conch, located in the middle portion of your ear cartilage, gets its moniker from its resemblance to the spiral shell of the same name. It's pretty versatile and can be pierced with a stud for a subtle effect, a double stud (if you're feeling brave), or even a cuff that can hug its way around the edge of your ear. The pain threshold is similar to other cartilage piercings—four out of 10—and healing takes anywhere from three to nine months.
The industrial piercing is essentially, "a straight barbell connecting one cartilage piercing to another on the upper ear," describes Brooks. Pain is a six out of 10.
"They are difficult to heal as a result of being two cartilage piercings instead of one. Since the two are also connected they have a tendency to get irritated quickly and often stay that way," says Brooks. How long does this translate into healing time? Brooks states, "[Industrial piercings] take longer than most to heal at nine months to a year." You'll also need to be especially cognizant of aftercare: "Be so careful of your hair and glasses resting on this. Sleeping on it is always a big no-no," Brooks warns.
Whether you should consider an industrial piercing, Brooks advises, "I typically will steer clients away from this piercing for no other reason than most people don’t keep them because of how long they take to heal."
The high-lobe piercing is a fun way to spice up the lobe. They're especially good for making a feature out of a poorly-placed piercing you may have had done earlier. Thanks to the lobe being so fleshy, the level of piercing pain is at a considerably low two out of 10. While healing time is relatively quick at six to eight weeks, that doesn't mean you should be lackadaisical when it comes to aftercare. You should always be following your piercer's instructions for post-care and maintenance.
One of the more unusual inner-ear piercings, a rook piercing inserts in the inner cartilage, above the daith and between the inner conch and the forward helix.
A rook piercing is best suited for a hoop, although a bar is recommended for the initial healing period.
As a cartilage piercing, the rook doesn’t pierce as easily as say, the lobe. Because of that, you may feel a feel sharp pain and pressure at first, to be followed by a more general throbbing. And because of how thick the rook cartilage is—it is a fold of cartilage, after all,—it may hurt more than a helix or tragus piercing. Pain is around a six out of 10. Note that healing time takes anywhere from three to 10 months.
Standard Lobe Piercing
Last, but certainly not least, is the classic, standard lobe piercing. Brooks says, "We all know and love a good lobe piercing. I encourage these constantly. The easiest part of the ear to heal is the lobe. The least painful is the lobe, too—just a one or two out of 10."
Although lobe piercings take six to eight weeks to heal, Brooks says, "You can change the jewelry after three months of heal time." She continues, "Generally, people have enough space to do something unique with their piercing placements, too. Design and aesthetics are a huge part of my heart so I’ve been having a good time helping clients get a creative look that suits them and their lifestyle."
In terms of any other piercings or trends that we should be out on the look for, Brooks believes, "Most of these [cool-girl piercings] are cartilage piercings with all the same heal time and aftercare. [Industrial, helix, tragus, and the standard lobe] are trending now and will even be after quarantine because they’re #basic, but in a really good way."
The Earring Shopping List
Maria Tash has the original cool-girl earrings, just check out these diamond paisley studs.
This classic pair of 14k yellow gold hoops by Stone and Strand can work to complement any look—day or night.
This sterling silver stud looks great on its own but also pairs well with other ear adornments.
Catbird is perfect if you love seriously dainty jewelry. Iridescent opal takes these studs to the next level.
If case you can't decide between a bar or a stud, then why not have both? These hybrid dimple bar earrings are subtle, yet stunning.
How should I clean an ear piercing?
According to the American Academy of Dermatologists Association, you should regularly clean your ear piercing with soap and water to avoid infection.
When can I change my ear piercing?
In general, you should wait about six to eight weeks to change out your new piercing. Before this time, your piercing may not have healed completely and you have risk infection.
How do I treat an infected ear piercing?
If you suspect your piercing is infected, you should clean your ears with sterile saline or gentle soap and water twice a day. Then, you can apply an antibiotic ointment or rubbing alcohol to the piercing .
"Caring for Pierced Ears.” https://www.aad.org/public/everyday-care/skin-care-basics/tattoos/caring-for-pierced-ears
Infected ear piercings: causes, symptoms, treatment, prevention. Cleveland Clinic.