Ear Piercing

History

Placement

Recommended Jewelry

Healing Instructions

Aftercare

History & Placement

It appears that the oldest (and probably first) of mankinds piercing were done on the earlobes since this region of the body is fairly easy to pierce and heal. To illustrate this point, a mummified body, found to be over 5,000 years old, was recently discovered frozen in an Austrian glacier. The body had pierced ears whose holes had been stretched to 7 – 11mm in diameter.

Anthropologists believe that the ears were probably first pierced as a charm ‘ to repel evil spirits and prevent bad luck. Many early tribes believed that demons could enter the body through an orifice and that piercing the ears with metals would prevent them from taking possession of a person’s spirit.

Ear-piercing has also been used by many tribes as a rite of passage. In Borneo, child’s parents each pierce an ears as a symbol of the child’s dependence on its life givers. Other societies have used ear-piercing as a puberty rite. No where is this more apparent than in the modern day U.S. where teen girls can go to the mall and get their ears punched by a gun.

Ear-piercing has also been used to connote one’s position in society. From the ancient Egyptians to Elizabethan England, both men and women adorned their ears to reflect their wealth and status.

Placement

Nowadays, ear-piercing is done mostly for decoration, with new and creative piercing of both the lobes and the cartilage being done. What follow are some definitions and locations for piercing of the ear and cartilage:

Recommended Jewelry

Earlobe
Ear piercing studs aren’t really suitable for initial piercing because they can’t be cleaned properly which can lead to infections. Ear piercing heals quickly and comfortably when a captive bead ring is worn. Rings are easier to clean and more comfortable than ear piercing studs. Piercing studs are usually only one length which is too short to accommodate swelling or earlobes which are thicker than average. The butterfly clip backing can become clogged with discharge, dirt, and bacteria. Studs also have a tendency to become wrapped with hair, embedding hair in the piercing.

Initial jewelry:

Transverse or Lateral Earlobe
The transverse earlobe piercing is placed perpendicular to a standard earlobe piercing, from edge to edge. This piercing is only appropriate for large, unattached earlobes.

The transverse piercing can be placed to intersect an enlarged lobe piercing, making the transverse piercing two piercing which may reduce healing time.

Initial jewellery:

Vertical Earlobe
The vertical earlobe piercing is placed vertically or close to vertically through the earlobe and anti-tragus.

Initial jewellery:

Ear Cartilage
Helix (upper ear) piercing are often performed with a piercing gun. Cartilage piercing performed with piercing guns are often problematic. Often the piercing is not perpendicular to the tissue because the piercing gun will not fit around the curl of the upper ear. Body jewellery is easier to clean and more comfortable than ear piercing studs.

Cartilage piercing involve several layers of different types of tissue which heal at different rates and by different processes. Some cartilage piercing, particularly those through very dense cartilage, often swell during healing. Cartilage piercing are often performed using a needle one size larger than the that of the jewellery to be worn (e.g. 18 gauge jewellery, 16 gauge needle) to allow room for new tissue to form around the inside of the piercing.

Cartilage piercing have a greater tendency than other piercing to scar because of the nature of the tissue involved. The piercing should be as perpendicular to the tissue as possible to reduce stress on the tissue. A ring which is too small in diameter will often cause the piercing to migrate or scar. Prolonged healing, scarring and migration often result if the wearer sleeps on his/her piercing.

Cartilage piercing often resist stretching quickly. Stretching a reluctant piercing often results in scarring.

Initial Jewellery:
The specific initial jewellery for the ear cartilage piercing are:

Conch

Daith

Helix

Tragus

Anti-Tragus

Rook

Snug

Healing Information

The estimated healing times for ear and ear cartilage piercing are:

The ear-lobe and the helix are some of the fastest parts of the body to heal. It usually takes 6 – 10 weeks to heal them and problems are very rare. Cartilage piercing however, are more prone to problems. This is because cartilage doesn’t heal the same way that flesh does. The most common problem is the formation of small lumps around the piercing, called granulomas. These occur because the piercing has been knocked about or the jewellery has been taken out and re-inserted, thereby damaging the piercing.

The best course of action to heal granulomas is to apply hot compresses to the wound once or twice a day. Put a clean paper towel under hot tap water, making sure that it’s not hot enough to burn the skin, but hot enough to penetrate the wound. Leave it on until the heat dissipates. Do this twice daily. If that doesn’t work, the best course of action is to remove the jewellery for a short period of time. This allows the wound to heal. After the lump goes down (usually 4-5 days) the jewellery may be reinserted. However, if the lump starts to come back it’s best to leave it heal and have the site re-pierced at a later date.

Another problem are ‘Keloids’ which are lumps formed by excessive scar tissue. This problem is genetic and people with black or dark skin are especially prone to it. If a Keloid develops it’s best to remove the jewellery immediately as they can be very hard to treat. The best treatment is the application of cortisone creams which you must get via prescription from a physician. It has been noted that keloids tend to form more often around the exit hole, due to the action of the needle, which slices a crescent-shaped opening.

Aftercare

The leading cause of infection for any piercing is the improper handling of it or playing around with it. You should only touch your piercing with clean hands, and only when you are cleaning it.

The following instructions will help you care for and maintain your piercing.