Helix Piercing

Helix Ear Piercing

Helix Ear Piercing refers to the procedure in which the cartilage of the upper ear (helix) is perforated for insertion and wearing of jewelry piece [1].

It is also known as cartilage piercing or rim piercing. It is placed on the ear cartilage’s outer edge which is located along the curled ridge [2].

Picture 1: Image of Helix Piercing
Source: primehealthchannel.com

The procedure is performed by the use of as a sterile needle [1]. The usual needle gauge which is utilized is 16 to 14. Though, this may change depending on the individual’s rim or cartilage [2]. This will be pushed to enter through the cartilage. Then, it will be maintained in place as the jewelry is placed. Pain may be experienced during the piercing according to the level threshold of an individual [1].

Picture 2: Perforation using the needle
Source: glasssmudgedviens.deviantart.com

There are also instances in which some use piercing guns. However, healthcare experts do not encourage this because this may cause damage to the soft tissue present between the cartilage and skin’s back. Aside from this, the piercing gun use may result to the pushing out of the cartilage. This leads to the formation of shapeless lump at the site where it is pierced. [3]

Picture 3: Piercing gun
Source: primehealthchannel.com

Helix Piercing Types

1. Helix Orbital Piercing

  • Refers to the type of helix piercing which is done in a side to side manner instead of front to back.
    Will involve two holes for piercing instead of only one
  • When done with captive bead ring, this jewelry will appear as if it orbits the helix, just like rings that are around the planet.

2. Anti-helix Piercing

This is placed across the original piercing. Usually, this is made on the ear’s inner edge along its curled edge that is closest to the head. [2]

Videos on Helix Piercing

Double Helix Piercing Video

Triple helix piercing

Anti Helix Piercing video

Forward Helix piercing Video

Helix Piercing Risks

1. Scarring

  • This is usually caused by the inexperienced cartilage piercing. This comes from the damage to the tissues at the area pierced. When this occurs, ridge or bump forms over the pierced area which has the possibility of bleeding at times.
  • Keloid formation may also develop at the piercing site. This is described as a scar which looks large and puffy. This results when the skin is too thin. Instead of healing, this will occur.

2. Skin Irritation

  • The pierced jewelry may also cause skin irritation due to the friction it applies on the skin. Aside from this, this may lead to the appearance of pus-filled blisters. When this happens, the blisters are recommended to be drained to prevent its aggravation that may lead to infection.

3. Boils

  • There are times that when the piercing material used is of allergenic material. When this type of piercing jewelry is pulled, snagged, or slept on, boils may develop.
  • Also, during the healing period of piercing area, boils usually happen. This may have pus or blood and may even be painful.

4. Excessive Bleeding

  • When the site is initially pierced, there is a tendency that there will be bleeding of the cartilage. Usually, the cartilage is more likely to be damaged rather than the lobe. This is because the bleeding that results from piercing does not clot well.

5. Perichondritis

  • This refers to the upper ear infection which is commonly caused by the cartilage piercing. This is diagnosed by the presence of redness which is at the piercing site.
  • In the severe cases of this condition, the hole may discharge pus. It may lead to an even more serious ear infection called chronditis which can possibly cause damage to the other structures of the ear.

Picture 4: Image of ear affected by perichondritis
Source: otoscopy.hawkelibrary.com

6. Pseudomonas

  • Another common type of infection in cartilage piercing which is caused by bacteria
  • According to the study conducted by the Ear, Nose, and Throat Department in the University Hospital of Wales published in 2001 British Medical Journal, Pseudomonas may lead to the spreading of the infection. Also, based on this research, this condition may result to fever as well as ear deformity such as in the case of cauliflower ear.
  • Pseudomonas bacteria, the common cause of chondritis, attack the piercing site. This leads to the redness, soreness, and enlargement of the site. [3, 4, 5]

Helix Piercing Infection

Infection that is brought about by helix piercing is quite common especially if there is no proper care carried throughout the entire procedure. This condition can arise from factors such as:

  • Inexperienced person who performs the piercing procedure
  • Unsterile needle used for perforation of the ear cartilage
  • Improper aftercare of the pierced site

The signs and symptoms that should be watched out for infection related to helix piercing include the following:

  • Swelling
  • Redness
  • Pain and tenderness
  • In severe cases, may lead to pus-filled bumps
  • If this will be untreated, this may result to the permanent deformity of the ear. [6]


When the piercing procedure is finished, proper aftercare should be done to ensure that the risks associated with it will be lessened or prevented as much as possible. Here are some of the guidelines which should be considered:


  • This should be done to the pierced site by utilizing only warm water for washing over of the jewelry. Another alternative can be used is spraying the site with a sterile saline. If sterile saline is unavailable, a similar solution can be made by incorporating ¼ teaspoon of non-iodized salt (rock-salt) to 8 ounces of water.

What to avoid?

  • Use of antimicrobial soaps which is formulated with trilocsan or chloroxylenol. These can cause irritation. So, it is not recommended for routine use.
  • Cleaning the perforated area with alcohol swabs, betadine, hydrogen peroxide, or tea tree oil are advised to be avoided since these can cause great discomfort.
  • Frequent touching of the helix piercing, especially with unwashed hands, should not be done as much as possible.
  • Contact of the pierced site with body fluids, makeup, beauty sprats, pools, or puddles is discouraged.
    Refrain from twisting the jewelry. This may lead to tear as well as the irritation of the fistula (healing skin which is inside the pierced hole). [1, 6]

Healing Time of Helix Piercing

Usually, the healing of helix piercing takes about 6-12 months. However, there may be cases in which there is faster recovery. Some individuals even take 2 months for their complete healing. Helix Piercing recovery time may depend on the amount of care that is performed after the perforation of the site. If the site is regularly cleaned and injuries are avoided, healing can be much quicker. Moreover, the pain associated with the helix piercing resolves within 6 to 8 weeks. Also, the swelling may need 2 to 3 weeks for it to be relieved. [6]


  1. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Helix_piercing
  2. http://tattoo.about.com/od/bodypiercingforbeginners/g/pguide_ear_helix.htm
  3. http://www.buzzle.com/articles/cartilage-piercing-bump.html
  4. http://www.primehealthchannel.com/cartilage-piercing-information-types-infection-and-healing.html
  5. http://www.livestrong.com/article/118733-health-risks-associated-cartilage-ear/
  6. http://www.primehealthchannel.com/helix-piercing-pictures-pain-infection-care-and-aftercare.html

Published on by under Skin and Hair.
Article was last reviewed on September 11th, 2016.

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