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Everything you need to know about helix piercings – plus plenty of inspo pics

helix piercing 2023
Helix piercing guide: Everything you need to knowAstrid and Miyu, Seol and Gold

Want to add to – or start – your growing ear stack? Look no further than a helix piercing. But before you go under the needle, it's worth brushing up on all you need to know about this specific ear adornment. From what it is, to how much it hurts, how long it takes to heal, and so on.

Feeling a little clueless? Don't worry, you're not alone. The days of a singular ear piercings are well and truly gone (though there's totally nothing wrong with just having your lobes pierced, or having no piercings at all – you do you!) and there are now *so* many different kinds of ear piercings out there. With complicated names like 'helix', 'tragus' and 'daith' that sound more like Harry Potter characters than parts of your ear anatomy tbh, it's easy to get overwhelmed.

That's where we come in. Our needle-shy editor, Sophie, faced her fears and added two shiny new helix piercings to her left ear, and she's sharing every little detail of the process so you can feel prepared walking into your piercing appointment. So, if it's a helix piercing that you want (great choice, IMO), read on to find out exactly wtf it is. Plus, all the variations you can have done and the logistics behind getting your first helix piercing.

What is a helix piercing?

A helix piercing is any piercing made to the upper cartilage of the ear. While a standard helix piercing is located in the outer upper cartilage, you can also get forward, backward, double or even triple helix piercings. More on those below...

What is a forward helix piercing?

Okay, so what makes a forward helix piercing different from a backward one? Well, it's actually quite simple: follow the curve of your cartilage around the ear until you reach the side of your face (i.e. right above the tragus) and this piercing area is called a forward helix. AKA the forward-facing part of your ear. You can also have double or triple forward helix piercings.

What is a double helix piercing, or triple?

While the classic helix style involves piercing the upper outer cartilage once, if you have two or three piercings stacked in a row above each other, these are called double and triple helix piercings. The 'double' or 'triple' moniker simply references the number of helix piercings you have on the same ear. Makes sense, right?

Does getting a helix piercing hurt?

Sophie had both the helix and forward helix ear piercing done at boutique piercers Sacred Gold in London. Here’s what she had to say about the experience:

"I’d had a helix piercing done before, back when I was 18. I fainted outside the parlour and eventually had to discard the cheap metal ring I’d put in (initially ignoring my sensitive-skinned ways and the painful reaction)."

Luckily, that didn't happen this time around! "In adulthood, I wanted to approach it differently and, for anyone with a similar tragic story, I highly recommend visiting a high-end boutique piercer like Sacred Gold for a much more luxurious experience and supportive guidance and advice on piercing aftercare."

"The whole process was very quick, and the anticipation of pain was probably more intense than the actual piercing, but there’s definitely a bit of a pinch and shock when the needle does go through, which resulted in some hand squeezing of the unlucky friend who joined me."

"As I wanted to have both the helix and forward helix piercings done at once, the piercer started with the forward helix which was the least painful of the two, maybe down to the fact that the cartilage is thinner there. They then worked outwards to the helix which was just as quick, but I felt that pinching feeling a little more. They talk you through each step whilst they do it, making sure you are comfortable."

"Because of my track record, they also set the chair so it was horizontal, sitting me back up slowly afterwards and even offering sweets for a sugar boost, which really helped. I can safely say there were no fainting episodes this time around."

Things you need to know

Here are some of the useful tips Sophie learnt from her piercing experience:

  • Lobe piercings aside, if you want to get multiple ear piercings at once to build that perfect earring stack, you’ll need to take it one ear at a time. To ensure your new piercing(s) properly heal, it's recommended that you avoid sleeping on that ear for the healing period. That means stick to one ear for your piercing appointment and wait for any recent piercings on your opposite side to have healed before going under the needle again.

  • Make sure to confirm the earring placement before the piercing. The piercer will draw a dot on your ear to suggest where they think the piercing should sit based on the anatomy of your ear. Check you're happy with the placement and don't be afraid to ask if you want the location adjusting slightly. You won't be able to change your mind once the piercing has been done!

  • You have to wait before putting in a ring. You can dive straight into a stylish stud, but they won’t pierce your ear with a ring, as they twist and move in the hole more easily, meaning they’re not the best jewellery to have during the healing process. You can swap in a ring once the piercing is fully healed. Your piercer will be able to advise further.

  • You may need to downsize your piercing. The original bar used is often longer or thicker to accommodate healing, which can then be changed at a follow-up appointment with the piercer should you want.

  • Avoid getting your new piercing(s) wet as this is not ideal for healing. After a shower, pat your piercing dry with a towel or give your ear a quick blow dry with a hairdryer on the lowest setting. Keeping it dry is super important for proper healing!

Best helix earrings

How long does a helix piercing take to heal?

This is where lobe and cartilage piercings really differ. While you might get over a lobe piercing in around a month, a helix piercing can take anywhere between three to six months to heal. Unfortunately, like the pain factor, it's hard to give an exact healing time as everyone is different.

Expect the piercing area to feel sore, turn red and even swell or bleed (initially). There are some things you can do though, to help give your piercing the best chance of a speedy recovery – read on...

How do you take care of a helix piercing?

Like all piercings, keeping the area around the helix earring clean is the most important way to avoid infection. Use a saline solution and gauze to clean gently around the area. Try to avoid cotton buds as the fibres can transfer onto the piercing. While you'll probably feel tempted to start fiddling with your new addition, try to avoid twisting the earring and instead try gently push and pulling the earring forward and back to clean the skin. Similarly, don't change the jewellery until you are certain that the piercing has healed, as this could prevent a proper healing process and even lead to infection.

What happens if your piercing doesn't heal?

Your skin can react in different ways to the piercing at first, with swelling, redness and piercing bumps all common side effects. Don't worry, these can be treated at home or speak to a piercing professional for additional advice. However, if it feels like your piercing is moving, taking too long to heal or is showing signs of infection, go to a piercing professional straight away to find out what the problem is.

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