If you’re looking for a unique spot for your next piece of body art, a forward helix piercing may be just for you. But before you book that appointment, there are a few things you should know.
What’s the pain factor? How does it differ piercings on other parts of the ear? And how do you make sure it doesn’t get, *shudders*, infected? Here, Senior manager of piercing operations at Studs Shannon Freed and piercer at New York Adorned Libby Rounds break down everything you need to know about forward helix piercings. Read on to learn more.
What Is A Forward Helix Piercing?
First, the basics: It’s a piercing on the small outer rim of the cartilage at the top front of your ear, close to the face. “It’s actually really similar to most other cartilage piercings,” says Rounds. “We start with a stud, and eventually, you can wear a ring there once it’s fully healed, too.”
You’ll find that most piercing places will only use high-quality material so that it won’t cause skin irritation. At Studs, Freed says that all piercing jewelry is made of high-quality, implant-grade metals — titanium, 14k or 18k gold — and that they will never pierce with hoops or butterfly-back earrings, as these are not as safe for the piercing or healing process.
Rounds says at New York Adorned, they only pierce with implant-grade titanium or solid gold and use a threadless flatback style of stud with a press fit tension setting. “Everything we use is designed to give you the best healing process possible and prevent irritation or infection,” they say.
What Can You Expect?
Both Freed and Rounds also warn that a forward helix piercing may not be suited for everyone. Freed says that because no two ears are exactly the same, there may be a possibility that your ear anatomy isn’t right for a particular placement. Rounds also says it depends on your lifestyle and daily habits.
“Do you wear glasses every day or a mask with ear loops? Do you sleep on the side you want to pierce? Any high-impact activities that could damage the piercings?” asks Rounds. “Sadly, not every ear’s anatomy is compatible with a forward helix piercing, so maybe pop into a studio and talk to a piercer before you get your heart set on this piercing.”
Freed adds that a forward helix piercing may be one of the most at-risk piercings when it comes to wearing a mask. “Depending on your anatomy, the forward helix piercing may or may not interfere when you both put on and remove your mask,” she says. “It’s important to stay cognizant of your new and healed piercings regardless of piercing placement in this context.”
Once you speak with a piercer and it is decided that you’re indeed a good candidate, the first thing to expect is that there is will be some pain to getting your ears pierced (as with any ear and cartilage piercing). But that pain level varies from person to person. “Everyone has a different pain tolerance,” says Freed. “Anything in the cartilage will be a harder pinch than anything in the lobe.”
Appointments vary in time as well. At Studs, Freedman says a forward helix piercing appointment can last 20 minutes, which includes a consultation, the actual piercing (which Rounds says takes only a few minutes from start to finish), and aftercare instructions.
You can expect to pay for both the piercing and the jewelry. Piercing can range from $35-$40 for a single piercing (piercings are $40 each at New York Adorned and $35 for one and $50 for two at Studs) and jewelry can range anywhere from $30-$100+ (jewelry starts at $90 and goes up at New York Adorned and $30 and goes up to $100+ at Studs), depending on the material you want to get.
What Should You Do Before An Appointment?
Freed says the most important thing to do before an appointment is to rest. Being relaxed is key to a good experience. “Come in rested and perhaps take a few deep breaths to relax before your appointment; the calmer and less stressed you are, the smoother the piercing process,” she says. “Our piercers all are aware client stress levels vary and are trained to deliver professional, excellent piercing.”
She encourages everyone to do research before booking an appointment and to come in with an open mind. Let your piercer be the expert on this and use them as a source for pre-and post-care. “There is an overwhelming amount of information online, following one set of suggestions may be the best route instead of picking from several different aftercare regimens and schools of thought surrounding piercing,” she says. “If you do come across an aftercare routine or product while searching around, you can always ask one of our piercers about whether they have heard of it and if they would recommend applying it or not.”
Are There Any Risks?
Both Rounds and Freed say that negative side effects are minimal if you follow the aftercare guidelines that your piercer has outlined for you. The Association of Professional Piercers lists the following side effects for any piercing that are normal: discoloration, swelling, and excretion. The site also says that if you’re experiencing any tenderness, rashes, pus, or blood, it’s a sign to go see a professional.
“If you follow all of the aftercare protocols from your piercer you should be fine, but if you notice an issue it’s best to call a piercer first to see what they say,” says Rounds. “Most piercers are happy to answer any and all questions since everyone’s healing process is so different.”
Freed adds to be careful when putting on and taking off your mask, as the positioning of a forward helix piercing makes it vulnerable to accidental snags.
What Is The Aftercare Like?
Your piercer will recommend spraying your new piercing two to three times a day with a saline solution. Freed doesn’t recommend cleaning with alcohol, peroxide, tea tree, neosporin, or any other petroleum-based products, as those will dry out the hole or trap bacteria and dirt.
You’ll want to keep your daily habits in mind as well. Rounds says to avoid swimming for at least six to eight weeks and to avoid sleeping on your new piercing. Also, hands off. “Look but don’t touch,” they say. “No touching, twisting, or turning.”
Healing time all depends on how well you follow the instructions above. If you take good care of your piercing, Freed says the initial healing timeframe can range from two to four months. A full healing time frame can take between six months to a year.
How Do You Change A Forward Helix Piercing Earring?
It all depends on the type of jewelry you’re pierced with. Also, while changing your forward helix piercing is something you can totally do on your own, it can be tricky and should only be changed when fully-healed. Rounds suggests you head to your piercer if you’re unsure on what to do. “Most piercing jewelry is tension set and can be a little tricky to change on your own, which is why it's best to ask for assistance,” they said. “Ask what type of jewelry the piercer is using so you know exactly what to do once you’re fully healed.”