Everything you need to know about curated ears

If you’ve spent more than five minutes on Instagram recently (we don’t judge), you’ve probably noticed a close-up of an ear stacked with multiple pieces of delicate, mismatched jewellery. This ‘more is more’ look, known as a ‘curated ear’ or ‘constellation piercing’, is sweeping the net and landing on (and above, behind and all around) lobes from Melbourne to Miami.

If you’re curious about adding some extra shine to your ears but don’t know your daith from your tragus, we’ve got all the info you need.  

 Where did this trend come from? 

Piercings, of course, have been around for thousands of years. The oldest mummy ever discovered had an earring, proving that style is (almost) eternal. But the popularity of the curated ear has been credited to people like LA’s Brian Keith Thompson of Body Electric Tattoo, who has pierced everyone from FKA Twigs to Beyoncé.

Then there’s J Colby Smith – as profiled by Vogue – the piercer of choice for Candice SwanepoelScarlett Johansson and… FKA Twigs (she has a lot of piercings).

Where on the ear can I get pierced? 

Part of the reason curated ears are so popular is because they’re perfect for showing off your style. On each ear you can pierce around 15 individual spots, but some of them – like the lobe and upper ear – can handle several pieces of jewellery. This means you can try a tonne of different combos. 

Among the most popular piercings right now are the rook (upper-inner ear), daith (inner ear) and tragus piercings (cartilage closest to the cheek). There’s also the anti-helix (inner ear wrapping around cartilage), earhead (top of ear closest to cheek) and conch (inner ear). Plus, there’s always the classic lobe, which can take on multiple piercings for a stacked effect.

There are no hard and fast rules about what works best, but for maximum impact we love an asymmetric look between ears.

 How many can I get at once?

Most pros would advise no more than three new piercings in any one session. New piercings can take months to heal, and the more you add, the more your body may struggle. So work out which ones you want to get done first and then see what you might want to add down the track. We’re on board with taking a ‘marathon, not a sprint’ approach to your bespoke piercings.

If your plan is to add multiple piercings to both ears, it’s easiest to focus on one at a time. This way, you’ll have a comfortable side for sleeping or talking on the phone while they heal up.

 Finding a studio

The time has come, so you’re going to want to find someone to do your piercings for you. If you got your ears pierced as a kid in the ’90s or naughties, there’s a good chance you got them done with a gun (or maybe a sewing needle and an apple, inspired by Lindsay Lohan in The Parent Trap).

But times have changed. These days, almost all reputable piercing studios will opt for needles. They’re more sterile, more accurate and way less painful (although still not painless). If you’re making enquiries and the studio even mentions the g-word, consider it a massive red flag. 

Professional studios will use autoclaves (the same machines used by tattooists) to sterilise all their equipment between clients. Anything that may have come in contact with blood (needles, gloves, etc.) are single-use only, and will be discarded immediately after you’re done. Basically, you want to find a space and a piercer you feel comfortable with. Trust your gut on this one.

 Is it going to hurt?

You’re probably (fairly) wondering how painful your new piercings are going to be. Unfortunately, we don’t have a definitive answer. Goop says that from least to most painful placements are lobe, rook, helix, tragus, earhead, daith and conch. But pain is subjective, and everyone’s threshold is different. Some people cruise through cartilage piercings, while others have a harder time. Expect a pinch and bit of a throbbing pain, but it won’t last for long

 What jewellery should I look for?

When you’re getting your piercing done, the jewellery will most likely be surgical-grade steel. It’s not uncommon to have allergic reactions to earrings, particularly ones that contain nickel. If you’ve got sensitive skin or have had issues in the past, ask about titanium or pure gold jewellery options – the body can more easily handle these metals.

Where you decide to pierce will dictate whether you can choose a stud or a sleeper. Some spots, like the helix and snug, tolerate sleepers better, while others will need to be pierced with a stud, which you can swap out later.

Once you’re all healed, it’s time to show off your stack. Match and clash a whole suite of jewellery – from huggies to cuffs to hoops – and add extras like charms to make the look your own. Rose gold or white gold? Silver or platinum? Sapphires or pearls? Whatever you want – it’s your style, so honour it.

Need some inspo for your lobes and beyond? Shop our earrings.