Woman getting ear pieced by a professional using a needleShare on Pinterest

Thinking of getting your ears, or your child’s ears, pierced? Whether for trend, or tradition, or a little bit of both, you might have a few questions or concerns.

We’ve got answers to your questions here, including what to expect during and after getting your ears pierced.

Ear piercing is extremely common, with your lobes being the most pierced part of your ears.

People of all ages get their ears pierced for different reasons. For some people, the choice to pierce is about fashion and expression, but for others, ear piercing is a matter of tradition.

Ear piercing is most people’s first experience with piercing. People often get their ears pierced in adolescence, but timing may be influenced by culture. In some cultures, babies’ ears are pierced.

As far as pain goes, your earlobe is considered one of the least painful parts of your ear to pierce because it’s fleshy and doesn’t contain as many nerves.

People generally describe the pain as a quick pinch that only lasts a second.

The Association of Professional Piercers (APP) cautions against the use of piercing guns because they aren’t disposable and not all components can be easily sterilized between uses.

Spring-loaded piercing guns can also damage cartilage and tissue, which is why the National Environmental Health Association recommends they only be used on earlobes.

All that said, it generally comes down to personal preference. A lot of people prefer having their ears pierced with a gun. This method is fast and accessible, since it’s the method used at most salons and jewelry stores.

There’s also the whole intimidation/ick factor to consider. If you find the idea of having a needle pushed through your ear unnerving, gun piercing might seem less daunting. The gun still pierces your flesh, true, but there’s no actual needle involved.

You might have a harder time finding a professional who does needle ear piercing, and it might cost a little more. But needle piercing performed by an experienced professional is typically safer than gun piercing.

When you’re ready to get your ears pierced, finding a reputable piercer is a must. You can ask friends for referrals, or check out online reviews of local studios.

Here are some important tips:

  • Check out the studio in person for cleanliness.
  • Ask about their sterilization process.
  • Look at the piercer’s portfolio and references.
  • Browse their jewelry selection.

Speaking of jewelry, choosing earrings from the right material will reduce the risk of allergic reaction and infection. The APP recommends initial piercing jewelry made from one of the following:

  • implant-grade titanium
  • surgical steel
  • 14K or higher solid (not plated) gold
  • niobium
  • platinum

Titanium and niobium don’t contain any nickel, so those are your best options if you have a nickel allergy.

Studs are usually used for initial earlobe piercings. Studs, barbells, and rings are options for other parts of your ear.

Whether you choose a piercing studio or salon for getting ears pierced, here’s a basic rundown of what you can expect:

  • You’ll fill out a consent form and choose your earrings.
  • The piercer will mark the piercing site for you to approve.
  • The piercer will clean those areas with an antibacterial solution.
  • Your piercer, alone or with another piercer, will use a needle or gun to pierce your ears.
  • If they use a gun, the sharp end of the stud will pierce your skin and insert the earring in one “shot.”
  • If they use a needle, they’ll place the earring in your ear immediately after making the hole.
  • They’ll finish up by cleaning the area again and providing instructions for aftercare.

Proper aftercare is the best way to avoid infection and reduce healing time.

Your piercer will send you home with specific aftercare instructions, but it’s helpful to keep some basic guidelines in mind.

While your piercings are healing

  • Only touch them with clean hands.
  • Avoid touching them unless you’re cleaning them — no twisting needed.
  • Clean around the front and back of the piercings two to three times a day by spraying saline solution or gently dabbing them with a piece of saline-soaked gauze.
  • Gently wipe away any crust that forms between cleanings.
  • Pat the area dry with a clean paper towel.
  • Avoid submerging your ears while swimming in pools, hot tubs, or open water like lakes or oceans.
  • Change your pillowcase daily, or cover it with a clean T-shirt each night.
  • Keep your jewelry in for the full healing time. Ear piercings usually take about 6 to 8 weeks to heal.
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Ear piercing is generally considered safe, but it may not be for everyone.

It’s generally best to check with your primary care doctor before getting your ears pierced, if you:

As for getting your baby or child’s ears pierced? That’s entirely up to you.

In one 2019 research review, experts recommended waiting until children can handle aftercare on their own, but also note there’s little risk involved as long as the piercing is performed safely and followed by proper aftercare.

Learn more about baby ear piercing guidelines and safety.

For the most part, earlobe piercings don’t pose any special risks. The Center for Young Women’s Health says earlobe piercings also typically take less time to heal than piercings on other parts of your ear or body.

Still, the procedure does puncture tissue, so you may want to keep a few potential risks in mind:

  • Infection. Bacteria that gets into an open wound can cause infection with symptoms like swelling, redness or discoloration, pain, and discharge or pus.
  • Allergic reaction. Some people have an allergic reaction to nickel and other metals used for earrings.
  • Bloodborne disease. Unsterilized ear piercing equipment can transmit microorganisms that cause bloodborne diseases.
  • Keloids. An overgrowth of scar tissue that forms after an ear piercing can create a bump on your lobe called a keloid.

When it comes to ear piercing, you’re not limited to your lobe. Your ear’s chock-full of pierceable spots.

Other popular piercings include:

  • helix, or upper cartilage
  • tragus, or your cartilage covering your ear opening
  • daith, or the spot where your inner ear cartilage meets outer ear cartilage
  • conch, or the “cup” of your ear
  • rook, or your cartilage fold above your daith

Ear piercing is generally safe, when it’s done by a reputable piercer in a clean environment.

You’ll probably notice some tenderness, redness or discoloration, and crusting in the first few days. These symptoms are normal, but if they hang around or get worse, it’s a good idea to visit a healthcare professional to check for infection.

Adrienne Santos-Longhurst is a Canada-based freelance writer and author who has written extensively on all things health and lifestyle for more than a decade. When she’s not holed-up in her writing shed researching an article or off interviewing health professionals, she can be found frolicking around her beach town with husband and dogs in tow or splashing about the lake trying to master the stand-up paddle board.