What to Expect When Getting Your Ears Pierced

Ask yourself these questions before making an appointment

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Getting your ears pierced is a form of self-expression that can be done by medical and non-medical professionals. Earlobe piercings are the most common but other parts of the ear (including areas with cartilage) can also be pierced.

Body piercings in the nose, belly button, and other areas are also popular. Regardless of location, a new piercing needs to be done by someone who knows how to do it safely and you need to take care of it while it heals.

This article looks at how ear piercings are done, where to get your ears pierced, how to care for a new piercing, possible complications, things to consider before getting a piercing, and why getting your ears pierced should not be a DIY project.

Close up of two earrings in a woman's ear
Achisatha Khamsuwan / Getty Images

Where to Get Your Ears Pierced

Common locations where you can get your ears pierced include: 

  • Shopping mall kiosks
  • Beauty retailers and stores like Claire’s and Alta
  • Jewelry and accessories stores
  • Piercing and tattoo studios
  • Dermatology offices

All of these locations are generally considered safe, but any piercing, no matter who does it, carries risks.

If you have health problems that would make it riskier to get your ears pierced, (e.g., keloids, metal allergies, immune-system problems), you may want to have it done by a dermatologist.

How Are Ears Pierced?

Piercing techniques vary depending on where you get it done. You might get a local anesthetic or ice to numb the spot before the needle goes into your ear. If you're worried that getting your ears pierced will hurt, ask the piercers you're considering about how they handle pain.

Ear Piercing Kits

Many jewelry stores and ear-piercing professionals use commercial ear-piercing kits with piercing "guns." Ear-piercing guns hold a stud earring on one side and the earring back on the other. The process is simple:

  1. First, the piercer puts your earlobe (or another spot to be pierced) between the two sides of the gun.
  2. Then, they pull the “trigger” button on the gun.
  3. Next, the gun “shoots" the earring directly through your skin and into the earring's back.

One-Needle Technique

To use the one-needle technique, a piercer:

  1. Inserts a hollow bore needle through the desired spot for the earring.
  2. Next, they insert the post of an earring through the hollow bore of the needle.
  3. Finally, they remove the needle, leave the stud post in place, and put the earring back on.

Two-Needle Technique

To use the two-needle technique, a piercer:

  1. Will use a smaller needle to make a hole in the desired area.
  2. Next, they slip a larger, hollow needle over it in the opposite direction.
  3. Then, the smaller needle is removed, and the earring stud post is inserted through the hollow bore of the remaining larger needle.
  4. Last, the needle is then withdrawn, leaving the stud post in place. The piercer secures it with an earring back.

Caring for Newly Pierced Ears

Make sure to follow the instructions given to you by the person who did your piercing. 

Starter earrings need to be left in for several weeks for your piercing to heal without closing up the hole. The exact time you’ll need to wait before taking them out varies depending on what part of the ear is pierced.

You'll also need to clean the piercing with a sterile saline solution and rotate the earring to keep it from getting stuck.

Complications of Pierced Ears

A new piercing can have complications, even if you take care of it. Possible complications of pierced ears include:

  • Infection
  • Allergic reactions
  • Splitting earlobe(s)

Infection in Newly Pierced Ears

Your choice of piercer plus doing proper care at home can minimize your risk of infection. Symptoms of an infected piercing include:

  • Pain
  • Swelling
  • Warmth
  • Discoloration (pink or red on light skin, darker patches on dark skin)
  • Crusting around the hole

Your piercing will cause some pain and inflammation, but it should be minimal if you go to a qualified piercer.

Seek Immediate Medical Care If:

  • The piercing looks infected and you have a fever
  • Discoloration on your ear is spreading
  • An upper ear piercing is red and swollen

Allergic Reactions in Newly Pierced Ears

This photo contains content that some people may find graphic or disturbing.

contact dermatitis on ear lobe
Contact dermatitis on ear lobe.

DermNet / CC BY-NC-ND

If you have a known metal allergy, get starter earrings that do not have that metal in them. Stainless steel and sterling silver are generally safe choices for people with metal allergies.

Some people only find out they have or develop a metal allergy after piercing their ears. 

A metal allergy is a form of contact dermatitis that can cause symptoms similar to an infection like:

  • Discoloration
  • Itchiness
  • Burning sensations
  • Flaky, dry, crusty, or blistered skin
  • With ongoing contact, a rash on parts of the body that aren't directly exposed

However, an antibiotic ointment won't clear up if your symptoms are from an allergy. If you get multiple piercings at once (such as in both ears), you're likely to develop an allergy in all the pierced places.

If you learn you have an allergy after piercing your ears, take out the earring and see a healthcare provider for diagnosis and treatment. A dermatologist can do a skin patch test to see if you have a metal allergy.

The most common metal allergies are nickel and cobalt. If you have an allergy, you'll need to use jewelry and personal-care products that do not contain the metal you’re allergic to (such as nickel-free earrings and razors).

Is a Metal Allergy Life-Threatening?

A metal allergy affects the skin and typically causes a rash (contact dermatitis). It does not cause anaphylaxis (a life-threatening complication of some allergies).

Splitting Earlobe

A piercing that's too low on the earlobe(s) may split out the tissue beneath the hole, which lead to scarring. Sometimes, this happens because the earlobes are not symmetrical, so one piercing is too low to be even with the other.

If your earlobes are very asymmetrical, tell your piercer. They may need to take extra care to make sure your earrings are level with each other.

Keloids (Large Scars)

Keloids are large scars that spill over the border of the area of trauma, often forming lumps. 

If you have a personal or family history of keloids, your risk of developing a large scar after getting your ears pierced is higher.

Consider whether that kind of scar on your ear would bother you before you get a piercing. You may want to talk to your healthcare provider about it beforehand. 

This photo contains content that some people may find graphic or disturbing.

ear piercing keloid
Ear piercing keloid.

DermNet / CC BY-NC-ND

Should You Pierce Your Ears at Home?

While it might be tempting to do your piercing at home, it’s best left to a professional. It’s not safe to pierce your ears yourself or have a friend or family member do it for you at home.

You can buy sterile needles, starter earrings, and ear-piercing kits, but without proper training and procedures to reduce risks, a DIY piercing increases your risk of complications like infection and splitting lobes.


Ears can be pierced using different techniques, including a gun or needles. It's important to keep your piercing clean and rotate the earrings regularly while they are healing. 

Possible complications of ear piercings are infection, allergic reactions to metal, a splitting earlobe, or keloid scars. Keloids are more likely if you have a personal or family history of them.

Most professional piercing locations are safe but all piercings come with risks. If you think you could have complications from a piercing, you may want to have it done by a dermatologist. Never try to pierce your own ears at home or have a family member or friend do it for you.

9 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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By Susan J. Huang, MD
Susan Huang, MD, FAAD, is a board-certified dermatologist practicing at Sutter Health. She is also an instructor at Harvard Medical School.