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Ear Lobe and Cartilage Jewelry

This section covers the choice of jewelry which is best for Ear Lobes and Ear Cartilage Piercings.

Jewelry Style:

When it comes to lobe and Cartilage piercings it's important to consider that the jewelry and piercing will be in contact with hair, clothes and bedding during and after the healing. So the jewelry needs to be simple, without points or edges that will get caught on things but still allows rooms for swelling, discharge and cleaning. Since the jewelry tends to hang it's important especially during the healing that there is no additional weight that might add stress to the piercing during healing. 

  • Rings and  Circular style jewelry such as Captive Bead or Beaded Rings and Circular Barbells:
    • The Advantages:
    1. There are no sharp edges and points that may get caught on clothing, bedding and etc..
    2. Since the jewelry is not tight and wider than the piercing area, allows extra room for swelling, discharge and cleaning.
    3. Especially with Captive Bead and Beaded Rings the jewelry is designed to be secure long term wear and there isn't the worry about ends coming unscrewed and losing the o-rings. So it reduces the maintenance and gives the piercee one less thing to deal during the healing.
    4. Much easier to move for cleaning.
    • The Disadvantages:
    1. Weight and the added stress to the piercing during the healing period.
    2. Depending on the placement of the piercing, it may have to be much larger than is really needed to clear the area. For example even if the lobe is only a 1/4 inch thick but the piercing location is 1/2 above the bottom of the lobe, then the jewelry may have to be 5/8 of an inch wide to clear the bottom of the lobe. Also with Upper Ear Cartilage if the piercee has a really pronounced Helix(the rim that is around the outer part of the upper ear), then the jewelry must be large enough to clear it. Larger jewelry will increase weight and can increase the jewelry's profile which can lead to additional abuse and stress.
    3. Especially with Captive Bead and Beaded Rings, they can be difficult to remove or replace. In some cases requiring special tools to remove the jewelry. 
  • Threaded Straight or Curved Jewelry such as Barbells, Curved Barbells and Labret Studs:
    • ​The Advantages:
    1. Lower profile may reduce abuse from contact with clothing, bedding and etc.. and less noticeable.
    2. More versatility with placement. Unlike a ring or circular jewelry style the piercing can be placed further away from the edge of the ear without increasing the width and profile of the jewelry.
    3. Since the jewelry is threaded it can be easily removed if needed.
    • The Disadvantages:
    1. ​Jewelry must be longer than needed to allow for swelling, discharge, and cleaning. This often means more weight, increased likelihood of abuse from contact or catching on clothing, bedding, etc... or being pulled or twisted.
    2. If the jewelry is too tight there is no extra room at all and can cause the jewelry to become impacted.
    3. The tightness of the ends needs to be check regularly to avoid the jewelry falling out and the piercing closing. This increases contact with the piercing and increases the likelihood of cross contamination. 
    4. In most cases the jewelry is heaver than a simple Captive Bead Ring which increases the stress on the piercing which could lead to migration or other problems. 
    5. Due to the shape the jewelry is prone to twist causing stress. Also because of the weight one side well be laying against one of the piercing holes which can block discharge.
  • Jewelry that should be avoided during Healing:
    • ​Plugs, eyelets and etc..
      • Due to the style they tend to block the piercing hole which blocks discharge and oxygen flow. 
      • Tend to fall out. This especially true of flared styles where the piercing have to either be pierced larger or stretched to get the jewelry in.
      • Often the material can not be sterilized before insertion which means an increased likelihood of infection.
      • Especially with organic materials there is an increased likelihood of reactions.
      • Also with organic materials, since the surface is often porous and rough there is added concerns of contaminates and foreign objects becoming trapped in pours causing infections or other problems.
    • Ear Piercing Studs and other traditional jewelry:
      • ​The jewelry is often too short to allow for the thickness of piercing area. Which doesn't allow for swelling and can cause the jewelry to be impacted into the piercing. Also if the jewelry is too tight it can block both discharge and the flow of oxygen that can increase healing time and/or increase risk to infection or other problems.
      • The backs or locks are lose and can tighten with normal wear.
      • Often the jewelry material is not body friendly. Even those that are marketed to those with sensitivity to metal are only plated.
      • In most cases can not be sterilized correctly.

​Size of the Jewelry and Weight:

With Ear Lobe and Cartilage piercings you are not as limited on size and gauge of the jewelry as you would be with other piercings.

  • ​Gauge:

As a refresher gauge is the thickness of the wire that the jewelry is made out of. Body piercing jewelry generally starts at 18 gauge jewelry and goes up to 0000 gauge jewelry. The smaller the number the thicker the jewelry will be. As I'm sure you know, the thicker the jewelry is the more weight and thus the more stress on the piercing during the healing period. Also the thicker the jewelry the more tissue that needs to be produce and thus the longer the healing period. Though in most cases, a 18 gauge piercing will heal out in about the same time as a 12 gauge piercing will.

When choosing the gauge of the jewelry, the piercer needs to consider a three things:

  1. The jewelry needs to be thick enough to reduce rejection or migration and have resistance to tearing. 
  2. Light enough that it will not cause added stress during healing.
  3. The piercing area itself and weather or not it can support a larger gauge.

Usually in this part of the consultation I ask the piercee what their plans are for the future. Are they thinking about stretching the piercing and what their goals are as far as thickness of jewelry. This is especially the case with ear lobes. I plan on adding a section on stretching in the future and it will be located here when it finished but I should address it a little here.

My belief is that large gauge piercing should be something you earn over time. In part because they should be represented the same way that they have been in past cultures as a sign of wisdom and to be respected. Lobes are easy to stretch and the experience should be a rewarding one in which a person can learn a lot about the healing powers of their body. Also the piercings will have greater meaning to the wearer if it is something that taught them discipline and patience. Learning the limits of your body is part of that process and the fact is that stretching a well healed piercing slowly will produce much better results with less scarring and other problems and a much stronger piercing than piercing large and quickly stretching the piercing.

This is one of the reasons that I do not pierce larger than 6 gauge. Though I general don't suggest piercing or healing a piercing larger than 8 gauge or 10 gauge because of the weight factor. 18g to 8g produces an even balance between weight and the piercee's desired gauge size with limited impact on healing time. Also it should be considered that if the piercee changes their mind about the piercing, the scarring cause by a smaller piercing and the likelihood of the piercing closing is better at 8 gauge than it would ever be with a piercing done with a 00g dermal punch.

When talking about Gauge I should bring up pain. The location of the piercing and the skill of the piercer have much more to do with how painful the piercing will be than the gauge of the needle used. I think it goes without saying that the larger the puncture or cut the more the resistance and impact on the tissue, thus the more pain will be felt. Also more force will need to be applied and the slightly slower the piercing is going to be. It's physics but I should point out that the difference between a 18g piercing and a 14g piercing needle is 0.61 MM. So there really is not much of a difference in pain but there is a huge difference in the resistance of the jewelry to migration and tearing.

  • Width:

The jewelry needs to be large enough to allow extra room for swelling, discharge and cleaning. If the piercing is done with a barbell this usually means that the jewelry must be done with a much longer piece then is needed, thus adding additional weight and added risks. With a ring the jewelry should be at least 1/8 of an inch wider than the distance between the two piercing holes. The piercing should not be wider then a 1/4 turn of the ring. Also consideration needs to be taken to make sure the jewelry hangs free of the lobe or helix and doesn't add stress to the piercing.

Even in a healed piercing you do not want to put jewelry in that has a tighter circle than the jewelry it was pierced with. In other words if it was pierced with a 3/8 inch wide ring, you do not want to put a 1/4 inch ring in because it would be a tighter circle. The reason for this is it can cause migration, scarring and tearing of the piercings. If you want something with a lower profile, a curved barbell would be a better choice because they are usually a mild 1/4 turn. Even with a curved barbell you do want it to be a little longer than the piercing. The jewelry should never be so tight that it changes the shape of the piercing or piercing area. 

In conclusion, nothing replaces the first hand knowledge of a professional piercer when it comes to choosing the correct jewelry. Even with something as simple as a Ear Lobe there is vast differences in shape and size and often what works for 99.99% of the public is not the best choice for you. The goal of this is to give you a working understand of jewelry selection, so that you can have an educated discussion with your piercer on what will work best. Every piercer  understands that one of the motivations of you getting the piercing is fashion but jewelry that will produce the best out come should always rule out fashion. Think of the jewelry that the piercing is done with as trainer jewelry that will be replaced with what you like after the piercing is healed. 

Choosing Jewelry Series