We’ve all seen those amazing ear piercings that make you say “You can pierce that?” But what are they called? What can you wear there? And how much is too much when it comes to interesting and awesome piercings of the inside or outside of the ear? Fear not friends, because we’re about to lay out the lowdown on piercings of the most commonly pierced body part in recorded human history: the ear.
We’ve all seen the standard ear lobe piercing, including multiple piercings of the lobe and even up the side of the ear, but did you know that there are a dozen other common piercings of the human ear, and all of them have names? For our purposes, we’ll break these up into inner piercings (those in the area inside the ear), and outer piercings (those around the rim or outside of the ear).
The common inner piercings are the tragus, anit-tragus, rook, snug, and conch.
The tragus piercing is so named because the actual part of the ear being pierced is called your tragus. This is the little bump of cartilage that rests right in front of the ear canal. Piercings of this area are most often bejeweled with a stud, or sometimes a captive ring.
An anti-tragus is a piercing of the bumpy cartilage that extends up from the lobe and sits across from the tragus, and is also generally worn as a captive or a small stud.
The rook is a piercing of the inner rim of the ear, specifically the piece of cartilage at the part of the inner rim close to the face called the antihelix. Because of the cartilage thickness in this area, rooks are almost exclusively seen worn with ball captive rings.
Snug piercings are done further down the antihelix closer to the outside of the ear, and can be worn with either a ring or a barbell. And a piercing of the flatter planes of cartilage in the middle of the ear is called a conch. These are normally placed near the opening of the ear canal (inner conch) or higher up and closer to the outer rim (outer conch) and utilize jewelry like straight barbells, studs, large captive rings, and when stretched, small tunnels.
Piercings like the daith, helix, orbital, tranverse lobe, and any variation of a traditional lobe piercing make up the common outer piercings.
Helix piercings are a piercing of the cartilage anywhere around the upper part of the ear’s outer rim. These are sometimes worn with a small captive bead ring or a stud, and can be pierced in multiples for use with other jewelry. A daith piercing is a piercing of the same cartilage in the area where it meets the side of the face just above the tragus. Depending on the shape of the ear, this will either be pierced right where the cartilage thins before curving inward, or vertically over the curve itself so that jewelry dangles just over the ear canal opening. Usually a captive ring is worn in this piercing, but depending on placement a stud may also work.
The orbital piercing is actually two piercings of the scapha (the area of cartilage just inside the helix, or outer rim) connected by a single piece of jewelry. This will most often be a large diameter ring, but can sometimes be worn with a spiral barbell.
Lastly, the transverse lobe piercing or “horizontal lobe piercing” is just as it sounds, a piercing through the length of the earlobe done with a barbell so that one ball tip or decoration emerges on each end.
Other variations of lobe piercings include multiple lobe piercings, sometimes done in different patterns or sizes, and stretched lobe piercings.
And other types of ear cartilage piercings that are common are industrials: two piercings connected with a single piece of barbell jewelry that can be done at any angle across the helix. There are also multiple industrial piercings which generally cross over each other, called a “cage.”
Over the centuries in various tribes and cultures, ear piercing has seen an evolution from the mundane to the masterful, and into the center of popular culture. Whether it’s an inner piercing, an outer piercing, a captive, stud, or cage design, one thing is for sure in the world of today’s bedecked ears: these are not your momma’s ear piercings anymore.