There’s no denying that ear styling has become a huge trend. We’re no longer just getting our lobes done at our local Claire’s Accessories, it’s all about individually placed earrings to create the ultimate curated ear. It’s basically an art form if you ask us.
Celebrities led the trend, with the likes of Zoe Kravitz, Rihanna and Scarlett Johansson all sporting a tragus piercing.
Thinking of getting your own tragus piercing? We asked the experts about what to expect before, during and everything you need to know about aftercare.
What is a tragus piercing?
Piercing specialist Stephanie Anders, who’s pierced the likes of Jennifer Aniston, Jessica Alba and Cameron Diaz, explains that, ‘The tragus is the part of the ear that attaches to the side of the face that protrudes into the centre of the ear, and partially covers the ear canal’.
With every piercing location, there’s always a terrifying rumour to go with it. The horror story that comes with the tragus is that in that particular location if pierced incorrectly you can cause nerve damage but Stephanie says that’s not the case, ‘While it is true that veins, arteries and nerves run up and branch into the side of the face, piercing one in the ear is a very wide spread myth’. No need to panic.
How painful is a tragus piercing?
This is of course the main question we all want to know before we make any kind of needle-based commitment and although it is cartilage (known for being more painful than the lobe) it’s not as scary as you may think.
Piercing Specialist at Lark & Berry, Francieli Franke, advises that ‘It may not look it to some, but the tragus piercing is actually one of the least painful locations around the ear to get pierced. It consists of thick cartilage, which is good protection, and there’s not a lot of nerve endings there. It hurts maybe a 6 out of a10, pain-wise. But it’s just a few seconds—just a quick “hot” feeling, and then it’s done!’.
What are the risks when getting a tragus piercing?
No piercing is risk free, but this particular one is so close to the face, we tend to err on the side of caution. Stephanie warns that:
“All piercings are going to be puncture wounds, we are piercing completely through the ear and introducing a foreign object. This always comes with some risks like scarring, rejection, over swelling and catching or tearing the piercing but the biggest risk of all piercings is infection. Cartilage piercings (like the tragus) are going to be much less vascular than other areas so white blood cells aren’t as prominent in these areas to help fight infection. Most infections we see are localised to the ear but infections can be very dangerous, and lead to tissue necrosis and can enter the bloodstream leading to sepsis”
Her best piece of advice? ‘I can not stress enough how important it is to do your research, find a reputable studio and follow all of your piercers suggested aftercare’.
If you’re not sure if your piercing place is reputable enough, a red flag to look out for is if the piercer tries to pierce the tragus with a gun instead of a needle. Francieli warns ‘it shouldn’t ever be done with a gun, as the strong pressure could damage the cartilage—and it’s also very loud for your eardrum since it’s right next to it’.
How do you take care of a tragus piercing?
The method we were taught when you get your first piercings in your early teens (something involving salt water and turning the earring) does not apply to the tragus. In fact, it’s the opposite of what you should be doing.
Stephanie advises ‘to never twist, turn or touch the piercing. Our hands harbour the most bacteria on the body. Fully avoid submerging the piercing in any bodies of water, specifically anything communal or in nature’. If you think about how often when you touch your face a spot magically appears, we can only imagine how bad it would be to do this with an open wound. Avoid at all costs.
A good step to take is ‘being mindful of changing your pillowcases, keeping anything like hats or scarves clean if they come into contact with your piercing. Avoid talking of the phone on your fresh piercing or wearing headphones or earbuds. No oils, ointments or lotions, and be sure to keep pets and kids away from a healing piercing’.
Head piercer at Astrid & Miyu, Sam Hayler, says the best remedy for a healing piercing is ‘using saline twice a day (not with a cotton bud), avoid sleeping on it and when it comes to hair washing always give it a clean after to make sure there is no soap residue left’. Never go to bed with wet hair either for the first couple of months as the warmth and dampness can be a breeding ground for bacteria. Not fun.
What should you do if your tragus piercing gets infected?
It’s the fear everyone has when getting a fresh piercing but the key is not to panic, especially as everyone’s bodies will heal in different ways.
Francieli suggests that if you start to worry about what’s going on ‘You can start by going back to your piercer as soon as possible if a problem arises, and they will advise on the best way of looking after it and will also treat the infection for your specific case. In any more extreme case, which is very uncommon, the piercer would then advise you to consult a GP’.
How long does a tragus piercing take to heal?
Obviously this is the answer that will vary the most, as everyone will heal differently. The experts suggest that the healing time for this particular piercing can be anything for three months, up to a year, depending on your body.
When you originally get the piercing done, the earring they use will be on the larger side, this is due to the ear swelling at first from the shock of the piercing. After a while this should calm down, which means you can put a prettier, smaller earring in. The ear styling begins…
Stephanie recommends, at the minimum, waiting 8 weeks before changing up your jewellery but in general, be careful about changing your earrings round for the first 6 months as it can slow down the healing process.
She recommends getting a stud for the initial piercing, ‘even for areas where healing with a ring is possible, I would rather go the route of a less problematic, and more predictable heal. With that being said, one of my absolute favourite things about tragus piercings, is the versatility of the jewellery that can be worn here.
Anatomy depending, of course, we are really able to use the jewellery to accentuate the shape of the tragus in a lot of different ways, whether it is a longer piece of jewellery or a triangle or cluster or multiple piercing and even a tiny hoop for a healed piercing. The tragus is something that for a lot of people we can make unique for them’.
This article first appeared on ELLE UK.