Forward helix piercings are a unique type of ear piercing, thanks to their slightly complicated nature and ability to be customized. While a normal forward helix wraps around the cartilage on your upper ear, what’s given the uncommon piercings lasting power is that they can be done in multiples. Double forward helix piercings—or even triple—allow you to get multiple piercings at once for a truly unique and interesting ear piercing. Plus, considering the options to customize your jewelry are endless, a forward helix piercing has the potential to be a truly personal and individual choice.
And while uncommon, the piercings are fairly low-maintenance after the initial healing period—so much so you may forget you have them! If you’re interested in learning more about forward helix piercings, read on to find out everything you need to know before diving under the needle.
Forward Helix Piercing
Placement: Outer, upper cartilage directly above the tragus.
Pricing: $30-$100, with the possibility of jewelry costing extra.
Pain level: “I would rate this piercing a 5 or 6 on a pain scale,” according to St. Peter.
Healing time: 3-9 months
Aftercare: Wash the piercing site two to three times a day with unscented, gentle soap or sterile saline solution until fully healed.
What is a Forward Helix Piercing?
A forward helix piercing is placed on the outer (usually upper) cartilage closest to your face by being pierced through the forward-facing surface directly above the tragus.
This piercing is done in a very typical fashion, so there’s nothing too exciting about it. Once you and your piercer decide on the jewelry to use and the location, they’ll clean the area to ensure it’s sterile. Then, they’ll place a small mark on the agreed-upon placement, though you’ll typically get a last-look at the marking to ensure it’s in the correct spot. Once the placement is set, your piercer will place a steel receiving tube behind the marked cartilage and push a needle through to the other side. This is then followed with jewelry to finalize and seal the piercing.
Pain and Healing Time
Because a forward helix is pierced through cartilage, you can expect a fair amount of pain—or, at least, definitely more than a normal lobe piercing. Of course, how experienced your piercer is, whether a needle or machine is used, and how high your pain tolerance is will all also affect just how painful the procedure feels.
“As with any piercing, you will typically feel a slight pinch and pressure—then it’s all over with,” says AJ St. Peter. a body piercer at Ghost Rose Tattoo in Ellsworth, ME. “I would rate this piercing a 5 or 6 on a pain scale, just because cartilage tends to hurt a little more than other piercings.”
You can expect your forward helix piercing to be fully healed within three to nine months, though it’s always recommended to err on the side of caution when practicing aftercare. If you don’t practice the appropriate aftercare, though, expect your piercing to take even longer—and maybe even become infected.
Cost of a Foward Helix Piercing
Because a helix piercing is a bit more complicated in terms of placement, you can expect to pay up to $90 or $100 for a well-done piercing. However, you can also find experienced, reputable piercers charging close to $30, so there’s a large range in terms of what you can expect to pay.
You also shouldn’t be surprised if your piercing cost doesn’t include the jewelry; oftentimes, that’s a whole separate charge. While some piercers may include the cost of the jewelry in with the overall piercing cost, be aware that any upgrades or changes to what’s included will cost extra.
All aftercare for your new forward helix piercing should be preceded by washing your hands to ensure you’re being as sterile as possible, as not doing so could transfer bacteria to the open wound. Once your hands are clean, you can turn to the piercing itself; try cleaning the site two to three times a day with either gentle, unscented soap or a sterile saline solution. If you’re worried about applying the soap/solution directly to the piercing site, St. Peter suggests applying it to a cotton swab or cotton ball first and then using that to clean the piercing. Then, gently dry the piercing with a paper towel rather than a fabric one.
Lauren Dozier, DO, a dermatologist and medical director at Brickell Cosmetic Center in Miami, FL, advises that you stay away from antibiotic ointments, as they can suffocate the piercing and cause additional problems.
“It’s simple; think of it like healing a cut,” says St. Peter. “Just keep it clean!”
Side Effects of Piercing
“First, I always recommend seeing a physician, such as a dermatologist, for evaluation and treatment right away if you develop any concerning symptoms!” says Dozier.
Infection: If you find that your piercing is overly tender, bright red, hot to the touch, or swollen, you should contact a medical professional immediately. While some of these may be normal immediately after the piercing, sustained symptoms are most likely a sign of an infection.
Yellow-Green Discharge: Your piercing will most likely leak some off-white liquid over the first few days after getting pierced, but if you see it happening after that, it’s most likely cause for concern. Discharge that you should pay attention to will be yellow-green in color and won’t dry over into a crust like the good kind of natural discharge.
Keloid: A keloid is a thick, typically round scar that may form during the aftercare process. It’s hard to care for these scars once they form. Keloids aren’t usually harmful, but they are annoying and unsightly.
How to Change Out a Forward Helix Piercing
A forward helix piercing can easily be changed out, but it’s imperative that you wait until it’s fully healed before attempting to put in new jewelry. Because your forward helix piercing is basically an open wound, trying to change the jewelry before it is fully healed will greatly irritate the site and may lead to an infection. Plus, the back of the studs used in helix piercings can be quite stiff and hard to remove at first, which will tug at the piercing site as you try to do so, further irritating the forward helix. Remember: the longer you leave a piercing alone to heal, the more certain you can be that it’s safe to swap out the jewelry. If you’re not sure about the healing status of your piercing or you’re worried you may harm it, it’s recommended that you go to your piercer for a change-out.
“If your piercing is fully healed and you feel comfortable changing it yourself then you may,” says St. Peter. “If you arent fully confident in yourself, then most piercers will change your jewelry out for you for a small fee.”
What Type of Jewelry Is Used for a Forward Helix Piercing?
- Stud: A small stud is the most typical jewelry used in new forward helix piercings. These are small pieces of metal that go through the pierced hole with a backing of some sort to hold it in place—think the stud earrings you wear in a pierced lobe.
- Ring: Once your forward helix piercing is healed, it’s common to switch out your stud for a new piece of jewelry, and usually it’s a ring. These are small, round metal pieces of jewelry that connect at one point, giving the appearance that it wraps around the helix rather than going through it.
What Jewelry Material Is Used for a Forward Helix Piercing?
- Titanium: Titanium is likely going to be the safest option for any type of body jewelry, as it doesn’t contain nickel. Nickel has the potential to greatly irritate your skin if you’re not allergic (and worse if you are!), so this is a good choice for sensitive skin.
- Gold: Gold is another good choice for body jewelry if you’re someone who prefers it over silver. It’s also necessary to be sure that gold jewelry is at least 14 karats. Gold higher than 18k could be harboring bacteria due to its soft texture.
Association of Professional Piercers. Body piercing troubleshooting for you and your healthcare professional.
American Academy of Dermatology Association. Keloids: diagnosis and treatment.
Cleveland Clinic. Are your earrings or body piercings causing a nickel allergy?. Updated July 27, 2018.
Association of Professional Piercers. Jewelry for initial piercings. Updated May 3, 2020.