A tragus piercing is a piercing of the small area of cartilage that partially covers your ear canal.
The piercings first gained popularity in the 80s, but now celebrities like Scarlett Johansson, Jordyn Woods, Bella Thorne, and the cool barista at Starbucks who always remembers our name, order, and that we don’t want a lid are rocking the adorned tragus. And why not? This ear piercing is versatile. A small stud is dainty enough for a cottagecore convention and a hoop is edgy enough for a Tove Lo concert.
So, here’s a guide to your first tragus piercing, so at least you’ll know enough to be only moderately scared of the needle that looks like it’s aimed straight at your brain.
What Is a Tragus Piercing?
Look in the mirror. Are you doing it? Pretty sure we can see you staring at your phone — which is not technically a mirror. Sigh.
The tragus piercing is located on the pointy flap in front of your ear canal. You can probably grab your tragus between your thumb and pointer finger. It is small, thick, and because of its location, this piercing requires special cartilage-friendly jewelry.
“Internally threaded barbells are by far the best for tragus piercings,” says professional piercer Matt Southwood. “You can do a 16 gauge or even an 18 gauge with a 5/16 length.” Sorry, but our math knowledge tops out at linear algebra.
Still, Southwood says to consult with your local piercer to find the size and jewelry that works best for your body.
In addition to looking cool, tragus piercings may have some health benefits. Some piercers believe that tragus piercings, like daith piercings, can alleviate migraines. There are no major scientific studies about tragus piercings, though, so the jury’s still out on these benefits. (Where the eff is that jury, anyway? We sent them for lunch 2 hours ago!)
How Much Does a Tragus Piercing Cost?
If you’re like us, you want to have safe, pain-free piercings and wish they’d never canceled Bojack Horseman. You may also wish to have enough money left over in your checking account to purchase food at some point soon. But as with all body piercings and also some kinds of food, you get what you pay for.
A standard tragus piercing may cost $40 to $70 dollars or even more, especially if you’re starting with a unique or higher-grade piece of jewelry. Your final cost will depend on your location, the jewelry you pick, the tip you give your piercer, and any aftercare items you decide to buy.
Prepare by checking that you’re visiting a reputable piercer on this list, calling your piercer to ask for a price estimate, and stopping in for a consultation.
Is a Tragus Piercing Painful?
When we had it done, the piercing felt like a strong pinch, but everyone responds to piercing pain differently. In general, sticking a needle through a part of your body hurts.
How Can I Make It Hurt Less?
Piercers like Southwood recommend eating a healthy meal and drinking water beforehand — like a few hours before, not stuffing your face in the car in the parking lot before you go in. Immediately before the piercing, take a couple of deep breaths and the piercing will be over before you know it. And even if it’s not, you still got some good breaths in!
Most people experience more discomfort after the piercing, during healing, than during the piercing itself. Because the tragus is at the front of your ear, which should be close to your head, it may hurt to sleep on that side. For the first week or two, the piercing may feel inflamed or sore.
You can manage this by not fidgeting with your new jewelry, being careful when you put in and take out earbuds, taking basic pain relievers, and wearing your hair up to avoid any tangles.
Which Hurts More: The Helix Piercing or the Tragus?
If you’re a little nervous about needles or pain, and indecisive about which part of your ears to put holes into, you may be Googling which ear cartilage piercing hurts the least.
A common misconception is that a tragus piercing hurts more than other ear piercings because the tragus is one of the thickest parts of your external ear. In reality, a tragus piercing doesn’t hurt any more or less than a helix piercing or another ear piercing.
Because each person is different, though, make sure to have a candid convo with your piercer before you make a decision. Do try to keep the conversation relevant to the piercing, though — informing her you’ve got a crush on your roommate is probably not going to help you decide anything.
Some people want an Instagrammable curated ear, or an ear with lots of different piercings that match or complement one another. If you are some people, plan for one or two piercings at a time, giving yourself a couple of months between each piercing to heal completely and to reconsider how you are measuring your self-worth.
Is a Tragus Piercing Dangerous?
Piercings are generally not dangerous if you care for them correctly and if you follow aftercare instructions properly. If you think you may have sensitive skin or an allergy to a type of metal, ask your piercer if you should consider titanium jewelry rather than stainless steel, gold, or silver.
Southwood also made his own video about how you can avoid your skin rejecting jewelry, scar tissue, or other issues.
How Long Does a Tragus Piercing Take to Heal?
Southwood has pierced more ears than he can count — which for us would be 20, but it’s probably more for him. He says that it takes most people about two or three months to completely heal from a tragus piercing. That may sound like a long time, but remember that you just got stabbed with a sharp needle!
He also emphasizes that two or three months is the average heal time. Your healing process may be faster or slower. Either way, be patient. Follow your piercer’s advice about how to clean your tragus every day and how to deal with any swelling or drainage, and don’t try to replace your tragus jewelry too soon.
Tragus Aftercare Tips
- No touchy!
Southwood’s biggest tip is to avoid touching or playing with your new piercing. “Don’t twist it, don’t turn it, and try to sleep on your other side,” Southwood says. The less you touch the piercing, the less likely you are to make your tragus inflamed or infected.
- No harsh chemicals or soaps.
A lot of people use alcohol, soap, or hydrogen peroxide to clean their piercings. Big mistake! “Don’t ever put hydrogen peroxide, Neosporin, Bactine, or even antibacterial soaps on your piercing,” Southwood says. “It’s all way, way too harsh. You can use soap in the shower to lightly and carefully wash the outside of the piercing, but be careful to never get that soap inside the piercing.”
- Soak with saline or saltwater
Use a saline or all-natural saltwater rinse to soak your piercing. “Take a coffee cup or shot glass, fill it with your sea salt rinse, and microwave that saltwater until it’s barely body temperature,” Southwood says. Then sit at a table and rest your tragus in the cup for several minutes each day to clean your piercings.
- Be patient
We know there are so many cute earrings that you’ll want to try right away. But Southwood says to wait until your tragus is completely healed before you change your jewelry.
Can My Tragus Be Too Small to Pierce?
It’s rare for a tragus to be too small to pierce, but it is possible. If you do try to pierce a tiny tragus, especially if you use too-large jewelry, your tragus may not heal properly. But Southwood doesn’t think that you should worry about this issue if you go to a reputable piercer. “In order for your piercing to properly heal, make sure you go to a knowledgeable piercer, you know, in your area,” Southwood says. “Make sure they are putting in quality jewelry that fits your ear.”
Fortunately, he points out that piercers are pros who want you to have the piercing that works best for you. If you think your tragus is too small, just ask your piercer for their advice! If they agree, try piercing your lip — most lips can accommodate at least one piece of jewelry.
Show Me Fun Tragus Jewelry!
1. Faux Diamond Barbell, $6.99
This gold and stainless steel diamond will help you get your shine on.
2. Swarovski Disco Ball, $11.99
Does turn. Doesn’t actually light up.
3. Horseshoe Barbell, $4.99
This coated stainless steel jewelry will hug your tragus perfectly and will add a pop of color so your friend can stop yelling at you for wearing all black.
4. Hinged Hoop, $12.99
If you want the look of a hoop but are scared to try out the captive bead rings below, why not try this pretty, stainless steel ring? Because it’s hinged, it’s easier to put on yourself — but only after you’re completely healed!
5. Rainbow Captive Bead Rings, $4.00
Channel your inner Lisa Frank with these colorful captive bead rings.
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