Helix Piercings: Guide & Images

  • Written By Dan Hunter on February 15, 2019
    Last Updated: November 27, 2020

You love the look of singular, or even multiple ear piercings; especially the ones that are on the upper ear. They give a completely different look than lower ear piercings do, and they seem to be gaining steam as one of the most striking ear piercings you’ll see. If you like the sound of this, you should definitely think about getting a helix piercing.

When you want a new piercing, but you aren’t sure if you’re ready for one that’s a little more involved, like a nose, lip or belly piercing, a helix is a good choice. It can give you a little bit of extra bling without standing out too much – it’s subtler for those who have professions that tend to frown on too many piercings.

What Is A Helix Piercing?

A helix piercing is when cartilage on the outer upper ear is pierced. You can have a single helix piercing, or if you want to give off an edgier vibe, you can have a double helix piercing with two holes, or even a triple helix with three piercings.

Forward helix piercings are where the frontal cartilage area is pierced, which is different to a standard helix piercing, which is normally done at the upper rear area of the ear cartilage.

What Happens During A Helix Piercing?

Your piercer will ask you about the placement you want. You can have your helix piercing at the top of your ear or down a bit further. There’s a lot of cartilage in the upper ear so you have a lot to choose from.

When getting your ears pierced, most piercers will prefer to make a mark on your skin so you can make sure about the placement before anything permanent is done. Once the mark is made and you’ve signed off on it, it’s showtime.

Once you decide upon where you want your piercing to be, your piercer will quickly disinfect the surface of the skin she’ll be working on. Then she’ll use a thin hollow needle to make the hole. Once the needle is pulled through, the jewelry will be placed immediately.

Once the procedure is done, you’ll be given aftercare instructions to follow. These instructions will help ensure that your piercing heals as well and as quickly as possible. Therefore, while you might be tempted to blow off your aftercare and spend your time doing things that are actually fun instead, you should play it by the book and do what your piercer tells you.

Helix Piercing Pain – How Much Do They Hurt?

If you’re the type who cowers at the thought of a little bit of pain, you’re in luck. Helix piercings aren’t particularly painful because of all the cartilage in that area. There won’t be as many nerve endings as there would be on your regular skin. That’s why helix piercings don’t hurt as much as lip or belly button piercings.

Making sure you don’t freak out over anything is always a struggle for some people when they are about to get something pierced. For many people, the idea of getting a piercing is worse than the actual procedure is.

The best thing you can do is to become familiar with what’s about to happen to you. Knowing what’s in store for you can make you feel more comfortable. The fear of the unknown is sometimes worse than the actual pain.

While the piercing pain isn’t anything to stress out about, the aftermath will hurt a bit more. You can expect some pain and tenderness at the piercing site. Although, it should start to feel a lot better after the first few days and it isn’t so intense that you should skip having the piercing done if you really want it. Just man up and do it – worry about the discomfort later.

How Much Does A Helix Piercing Cost?

Helix piercings won’t put a huge dent in your bank account. As far as piercings go, they are highly affordable. They only run approximately $20 to $55 at most piercing places.

That’s usually less than you’ll pay for other piercings, including nose, belly button or eyebrow piercings.

While you’ll find a fairly wide range of piercing prices depending upon which piercer you go to, you shouldn’t automatically pick the cheapest one.

Piercers who are at the low-end of that range may not be as experienced as the ones at the higher end. While it doesn’t mean new piercers won’t do a great job for you, it’s also a good idea to pay a little more for experience, just as you would for a dentist or a medical specialist.

The experience of the piercer isn’t the only factor that can drive the cost toward the upper end of the range listed above. If your piercer works in a big city instead of a small rural town, he’ll be able to charge more too.

Instead of basing your decision as to which piercer to use from how much he charges, base your decision upon his knowledge of sanitation and how comfortable you are with him. If you feel like you’re in good hands, that’s definitely worth a little extra money.

What To Do Before Getting A Helix Piercing

You should always pick up your aftercare supplies before you go to have your piercing done. It saves you the time after the procedure when you probably just want to go home and stare at your new helix piercing in the mirror.

You should get sea salt or saline solution made for cleaning piercings, and also cotton balls/Q-tips. Make sure you buy the saline solution for cleansing wounds, not the one for using on your contact lenses though.

Those simple tools will allow you to take care of your piercing well enough that you’ll reduce your chance of getting an infection. Nevertheless, they’ll only work for you if you remember to use them! Therefore, make sure you stay on top of your aftercare – it’s for your own good.

Helix Piercing Aftercare & Cleaning Guide

The aftercare for a helix piercing is so simple, it’s hard to screw up — unless you decide you aren’t going to do it at all, that is. Otherwise, the rules are straightforward and easy to understand.

The number one rule is that you should always wash your hands well before you touch your helix piercing. You don’t want to transfer dirt or bacteria from your hands to your wound. You’ll risk causing an infection. Unless you have clean hands, remember to keep your hands off your helix piercing.

It’s best not to mess with your new piercing too much at all. If you get in the habit of reaching up and twisting your piercing around, you might start touching it before you remember you haven’t washed your hands. Instead, protect yourself by resisting the urge to fiddle around with your helix piercing.

If you handle your new piercing too much, you might even slow down how quickly it heals.

Two times a day, you’ll definitely have to touch your new piercing, but you can use cotton balls and Q-tips instead of your fingers to cut back on the germs.

If there is a crust formed around the helix piercing in the morning or at night, make sure to get a Q-tip wet with warm water. Gently work on removing the crust with the Q-tip. Once that’s gone, you should start to cleanse your piercing site.

Make a sea salt soak for your ear by using 8 ounces of hot water mixed with one-fourth teaspoon of sea salt. Stir that around and wait until it cools enough that you don’t wince at the feel of the hot liquid on your skin. Next, dunk your cotton ball in the salty liquid, gently squeeze out the excess and hold the cotton ball against your ear.

That salt water will help cleanse your piercing site, plus the warm liquid should feel soothing on your new wound. One word of caution about using Q-tips and cotton balls, though, is this – they can shed tiny fibers, especially if you rub them too vigorously on your piercing site.

If you know you’re going to be guilty of rubbing those cotton products too hard against your skin, you would be better off using a tissue soaked in sea salt solution instead.

If you don’t want to mess with making up your own sea salt mixture, there are plenty of specialized piercing aftercare products on the market which help to promote fast and effective healing for all piercing types.

The best aftercare product I’ve personally used is the After Inked Piercing Aftercare Spray. Not only is it vegan, but it’s also completely alcohol and additive-free. The solution works well on all skin types including sensitive skin, and it comes in a generously-sized mist-spraying bottle for easy application. When using it from the very start of the healing process, the spray helps to decrease healing times and aims to eliminate any lingering pain or soreness.

Whichever way you choose to go as far as using a cotton ball or a tissue, you want to use firm pressure to hold both the front and back sides of your helix piercing for about three minutes each time you clean it. That can help cut down on any bumps that might be tempted to form there.

As you get through the recovery period, there are some other things you’ll want to avoid. By watching out for these things, you won’t slow down your recovery and you’ll cut back on some discomfort.

If you’re a phone addict who prefers to stay in touch with people the old-fashioned way – by calling them – you may want to rely more on texting. Your ear will be sensitive, and holding that phone up to your helix piercing can hurt a bit.

It will be hard to resist the lure of twisting and playing with your new jewelry. Nevertheless, in addition to the infection risk from putting your grimy hands all over your piercing, you can also irritate the fistula.

While your piercing is still healing, you should also stay away from submerging your head in a public pool. It’s a good policy to stay out of them altogether during that time, even if you don’t plan to dunk your head under. Water can still be splashed on you and get in your piercing. That could be enough to lead to an infection.

Another thing you should watch out for during the recovery phase is hair products. Being overzealous with the hairspray could dry out your piercing or irritate the skin. It’s best to cover up your ear as much as you can when you’re spraying hair product near your piercing.

You can use your hand to cover up the piercing before you spray the hair product. Just remember to wash your hands really well first.

You also might want to adjust your sleeping position to help you avoid irritating your piercing. If you’ve just had your helix pierced on one side, you should try sleeping on your other side to avoid rubbing your fresh piercing on your pillow all night. The less irritation, the better when it comes to healing quickly.

Finally, you should be careful when putting on or taking off shirts, especially if they have tight neck holes. They can get caught on your new piercing and cause instant pain and irritation, depending upon how much they get tugged.

How Long Does A Helix Piercing Take To Heal?

When cartilage is involved, you’re looking at a longer recovery time than you would be for a simple skin piercing. While an earlobe piercing can be healed in a month, you’re going to have to wait much longer than that for your helix piercing to heal.

It usually takes about three to six months for a helix piercing to completely heal. On the other hand, in some cases, it can take up to a year. That’s a long time to wait, but you can try to speed things along by taking great care of your piercing. The more attention you pay to your aftercare rules, the less chance you have of something going wrong.

If you end up with an infection, your recovery time is going to take much longer. Still, that’s just one more reason you should do everything you can to keep infections at bay.

Helix Piercing Infections

Most people who get a helix piercing will be just fine. Their piercing will heal well without any complications. However, once in a while, something goes wrong and an infection sets in.

Infections are sometimes limited only to the skin right around the piercing site. Although, sometimes it can start to spread past that area and it can cause system-wide problems. When that happens, an infection becomes more than just a nuisance – it could potentially cause big problems so you need to take any signs of infection seriously.

By figuring out what’s normal after a piercing and what isn’t is sometimes easier said than done. It can be hard to know if redness means an infection is present or if it is just one of the normal side effects of a helix piercing.

Here are some signs to help you determine what’s going on with your piercing, as well as what you should do about them:


A helix piercing is going to cause some redness, so don’t freak out if you look at your piercing and see your upper ear looks completely red. Piercing is a trauma for the skin, and in this case, the cartilage. Redness is a normal response to trauma.

Nevertheless, since redness is also a sign of infection, how can you know when redness is normal and when it means something more sinister? The key can be looking at the timing and consistency of the redness.

Redness in the first several days after a helix piercing is nothing to sweat about. That’s not abnormal at all – most people will have some redness on their skin at that point. Though, if you notice your skin is starting to lose that redness before it suddenly returns, that could spell trouble.

Any sudden changes in the appearance of your skin that wasn’t caused by something else could mean an infection is brewing. If you notice a lot of redness compared to the day before, try to remember if you snagged your piercing on clothing when you were getting dressed. Maybe you just pulled on it – you can watch it for a day and see if it returns to normal.


Monitoring the swelling of your piercing can be a handy way to determine if something concerning is happening.

Some swelling in the first days after your helix piercing is to be expected. If things continue to escalate though, you may want to have a doctor take a look at your ear, especially if the swelling is accompanied by hot feeling skin.

Pus Production

You can expect some discharge from your wound in the first few days, maybe even up to a week or so. However, when that pus continues to seep from your piercing, you might want to keep an eye on things to make sure there is no infection present.

If you notice the pus production has really ramped up or that the pus has changed in color or smells foul, make an appointment with your doctor so he can determine the best course of action.


If you end up with a fever and you think you have some of the other infection signs, you need to go to your doctor as soon as you can. If he believes your fever may be the result of an infection, he might end up prescribing you a course of antibiotics to take.

If your doctor says that antibiotics are needed, just remember to take every pill he gives you. Don’t stop taking them just because your infection looks like it’s getting better or you think it may be gone. If you stop taking them prematurely, you run the risk of having the infection come roaring back and you may need an additional antibiotic to stop it this time.

While no one wants to deal with the mess, worry and possible expense of having an infection, the sooner you deal with it, the better the outcome will be. It’s much easier to treat a simple localized infection than it is a system-wide infection, so remember to stay on top of things before they get too out of control.

Helix Piercing Risks

When you have your helix pierced, you can avoid one of the main risks – contamination from improper equipment – by asking a few simple questions before your piercing is done.

Ask your piercer which method he uses for his helix piercing – a piercing gun or a hollow needle. If he says a piercing gun, don’t book an appointment there. A piercing gun causes more irritation and trauma to the skin and cartilage, while a hollow needle is much gentler on the skin and surrounding cartilage.

Besides the extra trauma a piercing gun causes, it’s also a much less sterile choice. Piercing guns are notoriously hard to clean. Little bits of tissue and bodily fluids can get trapped in the crevices of the device. That makes it hard to fully sterilize the piercing gun, even if the piercer is careful to do so.

Helix Piercing Jewelry

You can use hoops for a helix piercing, as well as studs, bars or anything else you might dream up. You can use beads on your jewelry if you want. You can have as much or as little bling as you want.

When you pick out your jewelry, you’d better make sure you really like it. It’s going to have to stay in for weeks or months as your helix piercing heals. You want to avoid swapping out the jewelry until it’s healed up pretty well.

Make sure you’re not allergic to the metal you pick out. If you’ve never had a piercing anywhere before and you aren’t sure how likely it is that you would have an allergic reaction, stick to safer metals.

Some are better than others for people who suffer from allergic reactions. Titanium is usually well-tolerated and so is gold, although that option will be pricier.


Helix piercings may take a long time to heal, but they are one of the least painful piercings you can have done. Plus, these piercings are now so mainstream that if you have a picky employer, you should still be able to pull off this look at work without any fallout from your dress code.

If you don’t mind the longer healing phase and sleeping on your back or opposite side isn’t a problem for you, you may want to go for it. Your helix piercing will be a look that you should love to play around with for a long time to come.