Helix piercing is an ear piercing type done on the helix of the ear. It is a form of ear cartilage piercing, and as such, it brings all the benefits and risks of cartilage piercings. Namely, it looks very effective but it needs to be done by a reliable, knowledgeable piercer in order to prevent any potential problems.
Helix piercing may not be the most popular ear piercing type – earlobe piercing is sure the most famous ear piercing! – but it’s relatively common. The reason is because it’s very attractive and effective, so it’s not surprising that so many people choose this piercing type.
These piercings are often worn with other ear piercings, and it’s not rare to have more than one helix piercing done in pairs or multiple piercings done next to each other. Another great thing about helix piercings is that there are special jewelry types, helix shields, made specifically for this piercing type.
Placement and Procedure
Helix piercing is done on the helix of the ear. The helix is defined as the outer rim of the ear cartilage. Typically, helix piercing is done on the tip of the ear, but other placements are also possible.
Keep in mind, however, that some of these alternative placements actually make it into a different type of a piercing. For example, outer conch piercing may sometimes be mistaken with a helix piercing. This is why one should never focus too much on the names of piercings themselves. It’s always better to simply explain to your piercer where you wish to have your piercing done. You don’t need to trouble yourself with the exact terminology.
That being said, helix piercing is relatively easy to understand, since it is located on the outer rim (helix) of the ear. Any piercing done on this area counts as a helix piercing. Since the outer rim of the ear is cartilage, this is also cartilage piercing, which dictates the procedure and aftercare.
The procedure itself is not complex, but it requires a knowledgeable piercer. For this reason, make sure to choose a good piercing studio and an experienced piercer to perform the procedure. Helix piercing is usually done with a hollow piercing needle. The gauge is typically 16 gauge or 14 gauge, so this is considered a small-gauge piercing.
A good news is that helix piercings are typically not painful if your piercer knows what they’re doing. Another reason to get a knowledgeable individual! This part of the ear is not rich in nerve endings, so it should not be too painful on itself. However, many people report some pain during procedure, probably due to the pressure the piercer has to apply in order to pierce the cartilage. This is why your comfort with this type of piercing largely depends on your piercer’s technique. However, the pain should not be significant during the procedure.
On the other hand, cartilage piercings are known to be painful afterwards, so this is something to keep in mind. Expect some pain in the hours after the procedure. However, it should slowly go by the next day or at least to be less intense. If the pain persists in the same or greater intensity, it might be a sign that something is wrong. Since ear cartilage piercings can lead to complications pretty quickly it’s advisable to seek medical help if the pain and discomfort persist.
Helix piercings take a long time to heal, around 8 to 12 months. You should be able to notice improvement and more comfort before this time, but keep in mind that the piercing is fully healed only after this period. If you wish to change your initial jewelry, you need to wait at least 2-3 months before doing it.
After the procedure, you may expect some tenderness and localized swelling. You may also notice some clear or very pale discharge (lymphatic fluid). These things are normal. However, pain, tenderness and swelling should not persist. If that happens it may be a sign of infection.
Typical jewelry for helix piercings are Captive Bead Rings, but some people choose to use studs and labret jewelry types. Some people even prefer to wear short straight barbells in their helix piercings.
Many people choose to have two helix piercings connected by a single jewelry piece, creating an Industrial Piercing. Industrial Piercings use special, long straight barbells as jewelry. During the healing time, however, you may need to wear two separate jewelry pieces (such as two Captive Bead Rings) until the helix piercings are healed. Some piercers, however, choose to connect an Industrial Piercing with a single straight barbell right from the start.
A special type of helix jewelry is helix shield. This is a special, richly-ornamented jewelry piece made to sit on the surface of the ear. Helix shields are very beautiful and attractive, but they can be used only on fully-healed piercings.
Additional Info and Tips
- A common variation to helix piercing is the inner helix piercing, which is located on the inside of the helix. It is positioned on the inside of the rim of the ear.
- Antihelix piercing, on the other hand, is a special piercing type. This one is done on the antihelix of the ear. The antixelix is located under the helix and closer to the ear canal.
- “Industrial Piercing” is usually understood as two helix piercings connected by a single jewelry piece, but the term actually refers to any body part – whenever you have piercings connected by a single jewelry piece it is an Industrial Piercing. Helix Industrial is just the most popular form.
- Never agree to be pierced with a gun! Piercing guns are sometimes used for cartilage piercings by amateurs, and they put you at a significant risk. Find a reliable studio and a knowledgeable piercer – a good piercer will never use a gun!
- Since cartilage piercings are difficult (or nearly impossible to stretch) if you wish to have a larger gauge helix you will need to use dermal punches.
- As a cartilage piercing, helix piercing comes with similar risks as other cartilage piercings. Namely, if not done properly, it can lead to infections and even ear collapse in more serious cases. If can happen very quickly (a few days or even hours after getting your piercing done) so it’s important to seek medical help immediately if you experience prolonged pain and other problems. To prevent this from happening make sure to choose a reliable piercer to perform your helix piercing.
- Helix piercing aftercare is similar to other piercing aftercare instructions. Make sure to clean your piercing a few times per day using a saline solutions. Do not twist or turn the jewelry and make sure to touch your new piercing as little as possible (in fact, it should be left alone except when you clean it). During the healing time, it’s advisable to avoid harsh chemicals (perfumes, shampoos, body lotions, etc.) from getting into your piercing.
- The lymphatic fluid may build up around the hole and jewelry and form a crusty substance. However, you should not twist or turn the jewelry to remove it! Don’t worry, your piercing is not “growing into” the flesh. Simply remove the crust during cleaning and leave your ear alone. Do not pick on the crust and never attempt to remove it with your fingernails. This crust is not harmful and can wait for your next cleaning (you should clean at least twice per day so it’s easy to remove the crust).
- Helix piercing, as any cartilage piercing, is prone to migration and rejection. Many helix piercings are long-lasting but you need to take appropriate care of it and observe it regularly to prevent and notice any changes. If you catch it on time, you may be able to prevent infections and other problems and thus make your helix piercing long-lasting.