After the dumpster fire of 2020, you’re probably looking to shake things up in 2021 as the world reopens to all of us. An ear piercing (or several) might be just the ticket – and there are as many variations of piercing locations and jewelry styles as there are stars in the sky.

Say good riddance to 2020 and usher in the age of indulgence with our guide to trending ear piercing styles. Let’s get this party started.

How to Choose a Piercing Style

Getting multiple ear piercings provides lots of opportunities to achieve a constellation or layered look. Choosing where you want to get your ears pierced, and the types of piercing jewelry you want to wear can be overwhelming. 

Celebrity piercer Maria Tash has outlined some of the considerations that piercers take into account when helping you to design your ear:

“I first look at the person’s ears and see how “attached” they are. That means I assess how much their ears stick away from their body. The closer the ears are to the face, in general, the more the piercings should be deliberately designed forward for rings/studs to be pointing to the front, and not just perpendicular to the ear. The end result is that the wearer should see the front of their studs when looking straight in the mirror and not have to turn their head to the side to see the stud straight on… we like our studs to lie very close to the body, and that helps to see the jewelry when looking straight on. The same angling goes for rings, as we can pierce with rings for earlobes. Rings should sit almost straight on, with a slight angle. This way, the emphasis is on the front of the ring and its decorative elements, not the inside of the ring which frequently happens when rings are pierced perpendicularly to an attached lobe.” 

If you want help choosing where to pierce your ear for the best effect, a professional piercer can help. A talented piercer can help map your ears’ shape and size and discuss different options to mix and match piercings to achieve your desired style.

How Much do Ear Piercings Hurt?

All ear piercings hurt to some degree, but the piercing placement will determine how much you have to grit your teeth.

Ear lobe piercings don’t hurt as much as ear cartilage piercings since there are fewer nerve endings. Most people describe it as a quick pinch. However, using a piercing gun can make the pain worse, so if you want to minimize the pain, be sure to visit a professional piercer who will use a sterile surgical needle.

As for piercings through your cartilage, inner ear piercings tend to hurt more than the upper ear as you are piercing more rigid tissue. When piercing cartilage, you can expect to feel a sharp pain followed by a persistent dull pain that will last for a couple of hours. 

Piercers don’t use topical anesthetics since they can affect the outcome of the piercing. If you’re worried about a painful ear piercing, the best thing to do is have a friend or the piercer talk to or ask them to put on some tunes to distract you.

Ear Piercing Styles

We can divide ear piercing styles into three categories: lobe piercings, outer ear piercings, and inner ear piercings. Dividing your piercings among some or all parts of the ear with different jewelry styles can help achieve a balance that one piercing alone can’t achieve.

Lobe Piercings

Standard Lobe Piercing  

Your standard lobe piercing – low pain, fast-healing time, extremely versatile! Wear studs, hoops, drops, dangles – the world is your oyster. 

Along with the option for an orbital piercing with two adjacent holes, you can also pierce the upper lobe or other parts of the lobe. This creates a stacked, constellation or “snakebite” effect.

Transverse Lobe Piercing 

Rather than pierce the lobe front to back, the transverse lobe piercing pierces the lobe horizontally. The angle will be dependant on the shape of your lobe.

Outer Ear Piercings

Tragus Piercing 

This piece of cartilage is on the front of your ear, right above the lobe. Studs and hoops both look great here.

Anti-Tragus Piercing 

Draw a line from your tragus towards the back of your ear, and you’ll hit the anti-tragus. Very similar to the tragus in terms of style but slightly more painful to receive.

Helix Piercing 

A helix piercing is a type of cartilage piercing that rests on the top of the ear. Subtle, classy, and less painful than other cartilage piercings.

Forward Helix Piercing 

The forward helix rests near the root of the front of your ear. This is a great location to add some flashy studs to your look.

Industrial Piercing 

This striking piercing is a great way to make a statement. The upper cartilage is pierced through the helix and anti-helix to situate a bar along across the ear’s inner top. Other names for this piercing include scaffold, bar or construction piercing.

Inner Ear Piercings

Conch Piercing 

The conch refers to the inner cartilage of the ear that resembles a conch seashell. You can pierce either the inner or outer conch. Or both depending on the type of jewelry you want to wear!

Daith Piercing

This piercing hugs the innermost cartilage of your ear under the forward helix. You can wear a hoop or small bar through this piercing, and it suits pretty much any ear shape.

Rook Piercing

Step back from the forward helix, and you’ll find the inner bend of the ear or anti-helix. A piercing on the upper portion of the anti-helix is called a rook piercing. You can rock a hoop or a barbell.

Snug Piercing

One of the more painful ear piercing locations, but damn beautiful. This lower piercing of the anti-helix is suitable for a curved barbell that will turn everyone’s heads.

Ear Piercing Aftercare

While the actual piercing procedure is quick, the healing process can last for months. During the first couple of weeks, you may see clear liquid or crust form around the wound; this is normal. 

The swelling, redness and discoloration should also go away after a week or two. If these issues do persist or get worse, or the discharge turns yellow or green and starts to smell, you likely have an infection. Please consult a doctor. 

The guidelines provided here are general aftercare tips – Your piercer will give you detailed instructions on how to wash and care for your specific ear piercings so they can heal as quickly as possible:

  • The number one rule is to NOT touch your piercing without washing your hands first. Even the smallest amount of bacteria on your hands can lead to an infection. 
  • You should wash the piercing twice a day with a saline solution for the first month or two. You can either buy this at a pharmacy or make your own with one teaspoon of sea salt per 5 oz of water.
  • We know it’s tempting. However, it’s best not to touch it or play with your piercing unless you are washing it. Any unnecessary movement will only lead to a more extended healing period!
  • You can start showering right away. However, we recommend not taking baths or going into a public pool or hot tub for six months. Unfortunately, all the bacteria in the water can cause an infection.

Looking to Get Your Ears Pierced in Ottawa?

At Sage Tattoo & Art Gallery, our tattoo artists and piercing experts strive to create a piercing studio environment that anyone can walk into and feel welcome, comfortable and confident.

Book a free consultation today! We’d be happy to answer any other questions you have about getting your ears pierced or other body piercings or getting a tattoo.