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Ear Piercing Types and Styles

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I suppose, as an aging woman with tattoos and piercings, I may look a little odd, but don't we all?

Ear piercing map. Where can an ear be pierced? Just about anywhere!

Ear piercing map. Where can an ear be pierced? Just about anywhere!

Ear Piercing

Ear piercing is having a metal rod, needle, or taper forced through a section of the outer area of your ear producing a hole, not to be confused with "punching out" the skin. Once the hole is created, it is then adorned with decoration or jewelry made from various metals or plastics. Sometimes the piercing is stretched slowly to accommodate larger jewelry, called stretching or gauging.

Ear piercing should always be done in a professional, safe, and sterile environment by a certified piercing artist. In the United States, anyone under the age of 18 needs to have signed adult permission to have their ears pierced professionally.

Your average stud earring is a 20 gauge. The higher the number the smaller the diameter of the post is. The smaller the number the bigger it is. When stretching a piercing to a larger size, gauging the hole in intervals is used, usually with a taper rod. This allows the piercing to expand slowly to avoid tissue damage. Tapering and stretching a piercing can be quite painful.

I'm a pretty big fan of body modification and tattoos. I've had a variety of piercings, with the exception of major stretching (ears, nipples, tongue, eyebrow, lip, the list goes on). I'm not into stretching; that is just my personal preference, but it's become very popular. I suppose, as an aging woman with tattoos and piercings, I may look a little odd, but don't we all? Almost anything on the body can be pierced, modified, or even have adornments surgically implanted. Any type of body modification is a personal and intimate decision.

4-gauge ear piercing; piercing by Lane Jensen

4-gauge ear piercing; piercing by Lane Jensen

Sometimes the piercing is stretched slowly to accommodate larger jewelry, called stretching or gauging.

Sometimes the piercing is stretched slowly to accommodate larger jewelry, called stretching or gauging.

Why Do People Pierce Their Ears?

People pierce their ears and other parts of their bodies for many reasons. Some of these reasons may include:

  • Reflecting cultural and tribal heritage
  • Exerting individuality and creative expression
  • Expressing fashion and beauty
  • Recognizing an event or life change

Body and ear piercing are one of the oldest forms of body modification and adornment. In 1440 BC, servants and slaves had piercings to identify which families they belonged to. Ear piercings also served as symbols of ranking and authority within tribal communities. An Egyptian mummy (Otzi Iceman) discovered in Austria had a piercing in his ear.

Most people will pierce their bodies without any thought regarding its significance or symbolic meaning. Sometimes ear piercings are done to acknowledge an event such as communion, baptism, a major life change, or even trauma. In our modern times, body piercing is primarily a form of self-expression, creativity, and beauty.

Ear piercing can get as wild and extreme as you wish. It can also be classic, eccentric, and even elegantly simple.

What Are the Risks?

Since piercing involves puncturing the skin, there are risks involved. Scarring, keloids, and auricular chondritis (an infection of the cartilage and tissue that can be disfiguring) can result, as well as an infection. This is why having ear piercings professionally done is so important.

Choose carefully when making changes to your body. Some piercings will not close completely when stretched to extremes, others and most will typically remain as marks or tiny holes, even when jewelry is removed, which could affect your job and career choices in the future.

Take proper care of your piercing, which will be discussed with a piercer when done, and complete thorough aftercare until fully healed. It's also important to wear jewelry that is appropriate for each piercing to avoid snagging or injury.

A modern woman with ear piercings

A modern woman with ear piercings

Lobe Piercings

Piercing an ear lobe is probably the most common ear piercing today. It is easily done, generally not painful, heals quickly, and offers the most flexibility for changing jewelry.

Stretching the Piercing

It's become quite popular to stretch this part of the ear. However, you should take into consideration that when stretching this type of piercing, going beyond the limits of your tissue will result in the need for surgical repair if you ever want to reverse the damage. Surgical repair can be quite expensive, it is considered cosmetic and not covered by health insurance. This means you will pay to repair this damage if you stop "loving" this type of piercing.

Public jobs, unless service-oriented, can also be hard to obtain with stretched earlobes. Unfortunately, we still live in a world that judges our exterior. Much like narrow-minded people that judge the disabled or handicapped, so too, may you be judged.

stretched ear lobe piercing

stretched ear lobe piercing

My left ear: two lobes, tragus, rook, and helix/rim.

My left ear: two lobes, tragus, rook, and helix/rim.

Cartilage Piercings

As you can see from the ear-piercing map I've included at the top of this article, there are many locations and places to pierce an ear.

Cartilage piercings are a bit more intricate, painful, and have longer healing times.

Cartilage is a firm tissue, but flexible and softer than bone. It is a connective tissue found in many locations of the body. It is in ears and noses, joints like your elbows, ankles and knees. It is also found at the end of ribs, in the spine, and bronchial tubes. An interesting thing to note is that there are no blood vessels in cartilage, due to this fact, growth and repair time is much slower than other tissues in the body.

A typical cartilage piercing can take anywhere from 4 months to 1 year to fully heal. Elastic cartilage is what is found in the ears. It is much more flexible than other types of cartilage.

Ear Piercing Types and Styles Are Endless

Options for adorning and piercing your ears are endless. You can find jewelry of all types and styles to customize and personalize any piercing you've chosen to make it your own. Ear piercing has a rich and meaningful history.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2013 Rebecca


Amanda rolls on April 13, 2017:

Can u use normal ear studs in cartiliage

Vp on August 21, 2016:

Can i pierce my second earring 3cm from the first earring

Mairu on February 07, 2015:

Always wanted a cartilage piercing, they're so cute! But i'm also terrified of needles and pain, so i guess that won't be happening anytime soon...

LycansMumNZ on November 17, 2014:

Wish I read this before I got both ears (cartilage) done

Rebecca (author) from USA on January 10, 2014:

It can get out of control really! Thanks for the comment Teaches! :)

Dianna Mendez on January 10, 2014:

Wow,there are certainly a lot of different styles. I pierced my ears when I was just a young teen and to accessorize my outfits. I am not keen on the two hole, or belly, etc., but then others have their own idea of beauty.

Rebecca (author) from USA on December 31, 2013:

I've mellowed out on my body modification as well. Mainly because I need a job and I work in accounting. Feeding myself and having a roof over my head is more important. But I still love the beauty of it. Thanks for the comments both of you.

Kevin W from Texas on December 31, 2013:

Yeah I agree with FlourishAnyway and Ill stick to the two Lobe holes I have in each ear. This was very interesting and informative. I did not know of all the different names for piercings.

FlourishAnyway from USA on December 31, 2013:

Although I am sticking with my boring set of perceied ears with only one hole, I was intrigued by this hub! the map and your personal photos were very interesting. Thanks for writing about it. Nicely done hub.