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Your Complete Guide To Helix Piercing

Get the 411 before you journey down that hole.
January 21, 2022

If the new year has you desiring permanent changes by way of
forearm tattoos and new piercings, you’re not alone. At the very start of the year we saw some of our favorite A-listers sporting new ink, septum jewelry and helix piercings. And if the latter is exactly what you have in mind for a change then you’re in the right place. Keep reading as we break down all the need-to-know info (and trust us — you’ll need to know) on helix piercings before you jump into the holey tradition.

What Is a Helix Piercing?

A helix piercing, also referred to as a cartilage piercing, is an ear piercing that’s done on the upper outer cartilage of the ear. There are different types of helix piercings and they vary based on the number of holes created as well as placement on the cartilage. While it may seem to many that this piercing just became popular in the early aughts, people have been getting helix piercings long before that decade.

“There has always been interest in piercing this part of the ear not only nationally but also internationally where there may be some cultural significance,” says Dr. Michelle Henry, board-certified dermatologist and L’Oréal Paris consultant. “I think in the post Y2K era, which is also the era of social media and the internet, such piercings have been popularized because people have been able to see them and become more exposed to them. With more social media exposure, the helix piercing has been normalized.”

Types of Helix Piercings

Depending on where you get your piercing and how many holes you opt for will determine the type of helix piercing you have. Here are some of the common helix piercings you can choose.

1. Double Helix Piercing

Yup, this one sounds exactly like what it is — instead of a single piercing in the upper cartilage of your ear, a double helix piercing involves two! It’s one of the ways to sport your helix piercing studs or helix hoops.

2. Triple Helix Piercing

While we’re on the subject of multiples, get acquainted with the triple helix piercing. For a uniquely stunning look you can opt for this helix piercing that features three studs in a row. Consider your pain threshold (more on that later), if you decide that this is the helix piercing for you. 

3. Forward Helix Piercing

You know that long piece of your upper ear that’s closest to your temple (the frontal part of the ear that follows the helix)? That’s the zone for the forward helix piercing. On its own it’s a statement look but you can up the ante even more with a double or triple piercing in this area too.

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Best Jewelry for a Helix Piercing

Several different types of jewelry are used to do helix piercings, but you want to ensure that you use a high quality metal that’s least likely to cause an allergic reaction and can be easily disinfected. Many piercers will recommend 14 karat gold, and advise that opting for a barbell is better than a hoop in order to reduce risk of infection.

The American Family Physician Journal (AFP) states that surgical stainless steel jewelry rarely causes allergic skin reaction, however, it’s not all nickel-free. If you have a nickel sensitivity you may want to consider this, and choose lightweight niobium or titanium options, which AFP cites as metals that rarely produce an allergic response. Make sure the earring back is also made of the proper material to help you avoid reaction.

How Much Does a Helix Piercing Cost?

Like with any other beauty or body treatment the answer to this question is the same — it depends. The market on helix piercings can vary based on the shop you go to, the region in which you get it, and the piercing jewelry you opt for.  Keep in mind that you get what you pay for so if someone is promising to give you a helix piercing for a price so far below market that it seems too good to be true, it may be. Do your due diligence and research the prices in your area, read several reviews and ask for recommendations from people you trust.

Are Helix Piercings Painful?

Pain is pretty relative, but we won’t kid you — helix piercings can hurt. If you take your pointer finger and thumb and gently squeeze the upper cartilage of your ear right now you’ll notice that it feels a lot thicker and tougher than your earlobe. That could make a helix piercing more painful than a standard lobe piercing — and Henry agrees.

“This area can be more painful than the lower lobe because of the density of cartilage which requires higher pressure to penetrate the area,” she says. “The stiffness and lack of pliability of the cartilage can make the entire treatment more uncomfortable.”

Editor’s tip: You may want to have a cocktail to take the edge off if you’re nervous about the pain that comes with piercing — skip it! Alcohol can actually increase the risk of pain or swelling.

How Long Does a Helix Piercing Take to Heal?

“This piercing can take longer to heal than most piercings so there may be a slightly higher rate of inflammation or infection,” Henry explains. “Everyone's healing rate is different. However, I often quote a wide range from 3 to 12 months as discomfort and tenderness can last for quite some time.”

While you wait for your helix piercing to heal, avoid touching it with dirty hands, remember to clean it every day and don’t attempt to remove or change your earring — these behaviors can lead to infection as per the Cleveland Clinic.

Do Helix Piercings Have Side Effects?

Like any piercing, if you don’t follow the proper aftercare routine, your helix piercing can get infected. According to the Cleveland Clinic, symptoms of an infected ear piercing can range from tenderness in the pierced area to redness and swelling around the piercing, discharge coming out of the piercing and even fever.

Henry recommends adhering strictly to the wound care instructions that your piercer provides to properly clean your newly pierced ears and avoid infection.  And, “if you think your helix piercing is infected you should see a dermatologist or physician to have it appropriately assessed.”

Next: How to Put on Makeup After Piercing Your Nose

Written by: Shalwah Evans, Photo Credit: iStock

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