Ear Piercings: From Lobe to Tragus
by K. A. Kristmanson
The ear is a fascinating choice for piercings. There are so many different placements, each with its own individual name and process. The most popular is the Lobe, but did you know there is more than one way to pierce it? In this article, I’ll explore 8 of the 16 places to have your ears pierced.
1 & 2: The Lobe and The Transverse Lobe
Typically speaking, most women in North America have their earlobes pierced at least once. Lobe piercings have also become more common among men over the years. Stretching the lobes—a cultural practice shared all over the world—has also become increasingly popular over the last decade. Of course, there is also the option of second and third holes.
This piercing can adorn many kinds of jewelry: captive bead rings, labrets (sometimes called “studs”), or circular barbells. Typically, the jewelry is 18g, and because of that most earrings are one size fits all.
The Transverse Lobe, on the other hand, is less common.
This piercing requires a larger gauge—16g instead of 18g used for regular Lobe placement—and uses a curved or straight barbell for jewelry. The piercer will choose between curved or straight depending on the structure of the individual’s lobe. Earlobes attached to the face fair better with the curved barbells, while free hanging earlobes have the option of straight ones.
The needle is worked through the soft tissue of the lobe horizontally, along the length of the lobe rather than front-to-back. This requires a longer barbell than the traditional Lobe piercing, because it is pierced through a larger portion of the lobe.
Stretching a Transverse Lobe piercing is not impossible, but the tissue is much thinner than the traditional Lobe, and therefore the jump up between gauges needs to be very gradual.
3 & 4: The Helix and Anti-Helix
Another popular piercing that goes by many names: Helix, Pinna, Cartilage, Rim and Anti-Helix, Forward-Helix, etc. Unlike the Lobe and Transverse Lobe, the Helix is a cartilage piercing, and therefore takes time to heal (2 – 6 weeks longer, on average). The Helix piercing is on ear’s rim, along the outer edge.
Whereas, the Anti-Helix is found across from it, along the inner edge.These piercings are usually done with captive bead rings or labrets. Being in a very high-contact area, I’d recommend the captive bead ring to avoid the possibility of the piercing falling out. However, for a client who plays sports, I would suggest a labret. The labret is tucked inside the fold of the ear, and therefore is less likely to snag.
It is common for cartilage piercings to remain sensitive for years after the piercing has healed. My own cartilage piercings I’ve had for nearly a decade, and will still become irritated if I wear cheap jewelry. Keep your piercings clean and take good care of them! I’d recommend asking your piercer for advice on what kind of jewelry is better to wear, but generally you want either titanium or 316LVM surgical steel.
This is true for most cartilage piercings, and the ear is almost entirely made of cartilage. In fact, the Lobe and Transverse Lobe are two of very few ear piercings that do not go through the cartilage of the ear.
So, keep this in mind as we look at other piercing placements throughout the article.
5, 6 & 7: Tragus, Anti-Tragus, and Vertical Tragus
The Tragus has three separate placements, in different parts of the ear.
The Tragus itself is the inner nook of the ear (a small, rounded piece of cartilage that covers the hole of the ear). It can be pierced horizontally, and a labret or captive bead ring are the most common jewelry types for this piercing.
The Anti-Tragus is a piercing through the similar looking lip of cartilage directly across from the Tragus.
The Vertical Tragus is not in the ear at all. A curved barbell is used to pierce the skin in front of the Tragus, not the Tragus itself. Both are pierced with curved barbells, unlike the Tragus which is pierced with a labret or CBR.
The Auricle piercing is much like the Helix, just lower on the rim of the ear. This is a much smaller lip of cartilage, but cartilage nonetheless. Again, typically done with the CBR or labret, depending on the personal preference of the client or recommendation of the piercer.
That’s All For This Week, Folks
Curious about the other 8 placements for the ear? Keep an eye out for next week’s article! I’ll go over numbers 9 – 16, less common (and more strangely named) ear piercings.