Skin & Body Care

I Got My Tragus Pierced and It Was the Most Painful Piercing I’ve Ever Had

Last month, I told Beyoncé's piercer to do whatever he wanted with my ears. After taking a minute to survey what he was working with, he decided my tragus was the way to go, and when Beyoncé's piercer tells you that you should get your tragus pierced, you let it happen. He has a name, by the way — it's Brian Keith Thompson, and he's the owner of Body Electric Tattoo, a shop that celebrities like Christina Aguilera and Jessica Alba, also stop by in Los Angeles.

To me, tragus piercings always stood for college rebellion. One of my friends got hers pierced a couple of weeks after starting our freshman year. Another got hers done while we were studying abroad in London. I'm, by all intents and purposes, what they call a late bloomer, so getting my tragus pierced at the ripe old age of 26 seems right in line with my personality.

Tragus piercings are generally popular, though. "[It's] one of those piercings that have never really died down," piercer Cassi Lopez of New York Adorned in New York City has told Allure. "In all of the years that I’ve been piercing, they are very consistent." Curious to know more about the ear piercing now? Keep scrolling to find out more about getting a tragus piercing and how to care for it.

What exactly is a tragus piercing?

If you've never heard of a tragus before and haven't figured out what it is yet, it's "the little flap of cartilage on the side of your face that covers your ear canal," Adrian Castillo, a piercer at Los Angeles and Brooklyn-based studio 108 tells Allure. (He had the honor of piercing my septum earlier this year.) Still unsure of what a tragus is? Picture it like this. "An ambulance is cruising by you and you want to close your ears, it’s that little flap in front of your ear that you can press into your ear canal," Thompson puts it. "It extends from your cheek and covers and protects your ear canal."

When piercing this part of the ear, Thompson pierces it from the outside to the inside. "A hundred piercers would probably pierce it 100 different ways," he adds.

How much does a tragus piercing hurt?

Quite simply, it hurts a lot. It's the most painful ear piercing I've ever gotten. That's just my opinion, though. "Tragus piercings hurt no more than any other cartilage piercings," Castillo says. This was my first-ever cartilage piercing, so I had nothing to compare it to. I figured it hurt as much as it did because it's one of the thicker parts of the ear. Thompson assures me that's not the case, though.

"That's not how pain works," he says. "Your nervous system doesn't care if the part is thicker or thinner. It's actually more pressure than pain, and it can be a little intimidating because you're piercing into the ear canal, so you can hear everything." I can attest to that. That sensation lasts all of two seconds at most, though. It may feel like the longest two seconds of your life, but I forgot about the pain minutes later.

If Thompson had to place the pain of a tragus on a pain scale of one through 10, though, he'd place it at a three or four. I'd say it's about a five, but it's all relative. Getting my tragus pierced didn't hurt so much that I didn't want to get my ears pierced ever again. Thompson went on to do a vertical stack of two studs on my right lobe. They felt like nothing compared to the tragus. He also pierced the lower part of the cartilage on my left ear, and that hurt significantly less than the tragus, too.

Are there any risks?

Of course, there are always risks involved when getting a piercing: however, getting your tragus pierced is a relatively low-risk procedure when done by a professional, says Arash Akhavan, founder of Dermatology and Laser Group in New York City. "That being said, the low blood supply to the area does make it a piercing that has a slightly higher risk for infection and poor scarring," he adds.

Some of the most common risks are hypertrophic scarring, which is when a bubble or bump forms around the jewelry, and keloids, which are raised scars. Akhavan points out that any ear piercing comes with the possibility of these happening, though. Getting a stud instead of a hoop will help you avoid these issues. Not only do they make for easier healing, but some piercers also prefer them for aesthetic purposes. "I prefer smaller studs on tragus piercings because it's a nice place to have a subtle sparkle," Castillo says.

Don't believe the urban legends about nerves possibly getting hit during a tragus piercing. "I'll say in over a decade of piercing, I have never ever had anyone have any serious issue with their tragus piercings," Castillo says. "I think a lot of that stuff was just spread by people who don't want your ears to look pretty."

How long does a tragus piercing take to heal?

Like any other cartilage piercing, the tragus takes about three to six months to heal. That's just a rough estimate, though. Because we're in the age of smartphones and many of us listen to music with earphones or headphones regularly, Castillo says special care should be taken. Akhavan even recommends avoiding using earphones for the first at least four to eight weeks, though ideally until the area is completely healed. And sorry to break this to you, too, but, "for the first two to three weeks, avoid sleeping on your side to prevent friction on the area," he says. It's hard, but airplane pillows help. To be safe, give your piercing about a year before taking out or changing out the jewelry. In that time, Thompson recommends leaving it alone. "Be careful with it. Look at it; don't touch it," he says. "It's there to be admired, not to be played with. It's not a puppy."

The only time you should get close to the tragus piercing is when cleaning it. Both piercers and Akhavan advise using an unscented soap, like Dr. Bronner's 18-In-1 Baby Unscented Pure-Castile Soap, and water. After sudsing the soap up in your hands, you should "gently massage soap onto the jewelry," Thompson explains. "Move the soap around the jewelry, not the jewelry around the soap. Keep the stud or hoop stationary and gently move the suds inside and out and rinse. That's all you need to do."

You can also incorporate a saline solution into your cleansing routine. Thompson likes the NeilMed Wound Wash Piercing Aftercare Fine Mist. "Use that two or three times a day for the first few weeks," he says. I like to think of it as another step in my skin-care routine.

How much will it cost, though?

The price of a tragus piercing depends entirely on the studio you go to as the type of jewelry they use ranges. At 108, for example, the piercing alone will cost you $40, and an additional $120 to $180 will be added on for a stud.

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