Ear Piercing Types and Procedures
Pierced ears are earlobes or the cartilage portion of the external ears which have had one or more holes created in the for the purpose of wearing earrings.
A variety of techniques are used to pierce the ears such as the use of piercing guns, one use diposable piercers and piercings by a professional body piercer. The latter is said to be the better method (providing an approved and qualified body piercer is used.) The piercing gum method is frowned upon by health professionals who say that the plastic gun cannot be properley sterile and there is a risk of cross infection from person to person. Hence the creation of the one use disposable piercers - these are only used for the one pair of piercings and then thrown away.
The inner conch piercing is a perforation of the centre cartilage adjacent to the ear canal. Typically inner conch piercings are of a diameter such as 10g, 8g or larger. After sufficient stretching, an open ear-let or plug can be worn in the healed piercing.
The piercing itself is made with a large gauge hollow piercing needle, and barbell jewellery is usually worn during the healing and stretching period. The name of this piercing is derived from the similarity in appearance between the outer ear and a conch shell.
The outer conch piercing is a perforation of the outer ear cartilage, in the flat part of the top outer ear. They can be done in any position within the flat pane of the cartilage. Once the piercing goes to the curled part of the ear, this is then a helix piercing.
These piercings are generally done at a gauge of 16. Piercings done using a smaller gauge tend to become irritated more easily and also are more at risk of being pulled out.
The piercing is done using a large gauge needle and a curved barbell or a large CBR (captive bead ring). A dermal punch may also be used to bypass stretching. With both stretching and a dermal punch, this piercing becomes permanent because the body cannot replace cartilage, and the skin will only cover a proportion of the hole.
The daith piercing is a perforation of the ar cartilage. The daith is primarily placed on the outer rim of the ear cartilage closest to the head. A variation of this piercing often mistaken for the daith is the inner daith, it is placed in the horizontally oriented piece of cartilage directly above the ear canal.
The piercing is often performed with a curved needle to avoid damaging the other parts of the ear, or by using a recieving tube, a hollow length of steel used to catch the needle when there is little or no room for a cork. A small-gauge piece of piercing jewellery is usually inserted as this part of the ear is difficult to stretch.
The jewellery most commonly used for this piercing is a captive bead ring, although several other types of jewellery are suitable.
The tragus piercing is a perforation of the tragus, the tragus is a small piece of thick cartilage that projects immediatly in front of the ear canal. The piercing itself is usually made with a small gauge hollow piercing needle, typical jewellery would be a smaller diameter captive bead ring or a small gauge post style piece of piercing jewellery. Typical tragus pierceings use a 16g captive bead ring, though stretching to a larger gauge has not been unheard of.
The tragus piercing is a perforation in the ear cartilage directly above the earlobe. This is said to be the most painful piercing. This piercing is performed in the same way as the tragus piercing and is also cared for in the same way.
An industrial piercing is any two pierced holes connected with a single straight piece of jewellery, however, it typically refers to a double perforation of the upper ear cartilage specifically. Two piercings are made, one fairly close to the head (anti-helix piercing), the second further down the cartilage on the opposite side of the ear (helix piercing). A straight barbell piece of body jewellery is inserted through the first piercing from behind the ear, travels down diagonally accross the front of the ear cartilage, then goes up through the second piercing with a screw-on bead behind the second hole.
The piercings themselves are made with a medium gauge hollow piercing needle. (usuall 14g or 12g), and the barbell jewellery is worn during the healing period. Sometimes a pair of captive bead rings are worn instead and are exchanged for the barbell after healing is complete. Although the use of CBR's often results in faster healing, proper alignment of the piercing is difficult when this method is used.
This is the piercing on the outer curly rim of the outer ear cartilage. The piercing should be done by a professional piercer as opposed to the use of a piercing gun as it has been said that the gun can cause the cartilage to shatter causing collapse of the ear.
This is the name given to the piercing of the anti-helix part of the ear, just opposite the helix piercing.
Stretching/Gauging of a Piercing
Stretching, sometimes referred to as gauging is the deliberate expansion of a healed fistula (hole in the skin). Ear piercings are the most commonly stretched piercings, but all piercing piercing types be stretched, however cartilage piercings are more difficult to stretch and more likely to cause hypertrophic scars or keloids if stretched quickly. Stretching is usually done in small increments to minimise the potential for damaging the healed fistula or creating scar tissue.
There are several methods of stretching a piercing, but the most common professional method of stretching piercing is tapering. This involves the use of tapers. A conical rod made specifically for this purpose is lubricated and pushed through the fistula until the widest part of the taper is level with the the skin surrounding the piercing. Larger jewellery is then pushed through parallel to the back of the taper. Tapers come in a variety of sizes and are usually identified by the gauge of the large end. They can vary in length, but most tapers are about 2-3 inches (approx 5-7 centimetres). Most tapers are made of surgical steel or acrylic and some have threads extending from the wide end to allow the attachment of barbell jewellery, to make insertion easier.
There are a few health issues related to the stretching of a piercing. Most stretching methods do not create a wound, and properley stretched piercing do not heal after stretching, however, they are usually given a rest before further stretching. If an individuals elasticity and vasularity allow, most piercings can be stretched far beyond their initial size, piercing smaller than 10-15mm will often close up to some extent if the jewellery is removed, although some take longer than others depending on the individual body part, but in the end, many will close properley. However, each persons tissue will differ, and many variables such as a persons age, length of time taken to stretch, time fully healed at a particular size, skin elasticity, and scar tissue fromation amongst others can affect the ability of the skin not only to stretch, but also to close up.
If taken beyond the bodys natural ability to stretch, or if done improperley, damage caused can require monor surgery or in some cases may not be repairable. Blow-outs from overstretching, especially ones caused by 'dead stretching' (where no equipment is used, but larger gauge jewellery is forced through the piercing) can create scar tissue which can lead to keloiding or hypertrophy scarring. Stretching too quickly can lead to a build up of scar tissue. This tissue can have an unsightly appearance. Scar tissue is more difficult to stretch than unharmed skin and can make further stretching difficult.
Jewellery for stretched Piercings
There is a large variety of jewellery available for stretched piercings. Many jewellery materials can be used in the manufacture of jewellery for stretched piercings that are not suitable for smaller gauged piercings due to the brittleness or delicacy of the material. Stone, fossilized materials, wood, bone, horn, amber, glass and bamboo are not uncommon stretched piercing jewellery materials. many of these materials breath more easily than metals or plastics and so preventing the build up of sebum in the enlarged fistula. Larger jewellery is still made of acrylic and metal however.
The typical jewellery worn in a large stretched piercing is a plug. It is solid and usually cylindrical, and may be flared out at one or both ends, (saddle-shaped) or kept in place by O-rings (specially made rubber bands). A variation on this is the flesh tunnel, which is shaped in the same way, but hollow in the middle. Claw, talon and spiral-shaped pieces are also commonplace.
If you found this guide interesting or useful, then please read my further body piercing guides - to include facial and oral piercing types, body piercing types, piercing aftercare & healing times, piercing gauge chart.