One of the most common and popular types of piercing available today is the simple ear piercing - although ear piercings are not quite so simple any longer. With a long, convoluted history which includes being used to brand slaves, earrings are almost standard for every little girl, and more and more men these days are interested in getting their ears pierced. It has, however, come to cross all cultural bounds, and nowadays, there are more varieties of ear piercings than there have ever been before - and, as such, there are more risks as well.
Before, earrings were most commonly located in the earlobe - in both earlobes, in fact. Then, people started getting multiple piercings in each earlobe. It is now possible, in fact, to have one's ear pierced all the way from the lobe to the cartilage. These days, more and more cartilage piercings are becoming popular. There is the rook piercing, the tragus piercing, and the helix piercing, which is the most 'standard' cartilage piercing, being located right at the top of the cartilage in most cases. The former two are located in little bits of cartilage located within the nautilus of the ear. There are also conch piercings, snug piercings (the corresponding shape just inside of the cartilage line), anti-tragus piercings, and daith piercings - all rather complicated cartilage piercing. Lastly, there is the industrial piercing, which usually involves a barbell (or even a safety pin, in certain cases), spanning from one side of the upper cartilage to the other side. Because none of these piercings are located in the earlobe, they are generally defined as cartilage piercings - but since they are located on or within the ear, they also still qualify as ear piercings. For the most part, cartilage piercings take much longer to heal than regular earlobe piercings. As far as earlobe piercing is concerned, the higher up the piercing is located, the longer it may take to heal. The usual estimate is six to eight weeks, just to be on the safe side.
Earlobe piercings may be first pierced with rings or stud. With cartilage piercings, piercers usually recommend using a stud at first, and generally encourage the person getting pierced to choose a gold stud. After healing periods have elapsed and the wearer can choose the piercing of his or her own choice, those choices are practically limitless. There are, of course, studs and rings, but there are also dangle earrings, which are made to 'flow' from the earlobe and can be as long as the wearer wishes. There is also a French hook style of earring, wherein the earring hangs from the lobe thanks to a hook shaped in such a way that the earring will not easily fall out of the ear. There are 'huggy' or cuff earrings, which cling to the earlobe. There are 'slave' earrings, wherein, usually, a stud is connected by a chain to an ear cuff or cartilage ring worn somewhere higher on the ear.
There are also earrings known as ear threads, which are not actually earrings at all. Rather, these are chains so thin they can slip through the piercing whole. As well, there are earrings known as ear needles, which is a thin plastic stick that goes straight into the piercing hole. Generally, these do not fall out because they are a little bit larger than the hole itself. Jewelry used in other piercing sites, such as barbells, can also be used in ear piercings. Captive bead rings, rings with a ball closure, are another popular choice, as are circular barbells - which do not close all the way, unlike bead rings and captive rings (basically a captive bead ring, minus the bead) - and flesh plugs, which are also known as grommets and eyelets, and they are generally used in large gauge piercing or to stretch an ear piercing, which has become quite a popular trend. Similar to these are earrings called flesh tunnels, but they are hollow in the middle.
These days there are also permanent earrings, which are exactly what the name suggests. Thanks to a soldering procedure, these kinds of earrings do not come out and cannot be removed without serious assistance.
There is a serious health risk with permanent piercings, however, revolving around the idea of toxic and bacterial infections, because the site cannot really be properly cleaned. Many ear piercings in general come with various health risks. Standard earlobe piercing poses the least risk, although it is always possible than infection can set in if the site is not taken care of properly, and one must never underestimate the risk that an earlobe piercing might be torn or ripped out, creating quite the problem - because who wants a bisected earlobe? There is also the possibility of allergic reaction, although there are many, many types of hypo-allergenic earrings available on the market today. Kelloids are also a serious risk factor.
By and large, cartilage piercings hold more of a health risk. The act of piercing the cartilage itself causes trauma to the piercing site, thereby making the act of healing far more difficult. As well, there is less blood flow to cartilage areas in the ear, making the risk of infection much, much higher. However, making sure that the piercer uses a sterilized, hollow needle can lessen the trauma of the act of piercing, as well as the risk of a bacterial infection.
There are, however, a variety of clip on and stimulated earrings, for both the earlobes and the cartilage. People who want to see how they look with pierced ears or cartilage, or who simply want to stimulate the experience before committing to the procedure, can certainly consider clip-ons before having their ears pierced. Clip-ons are not as 'tacky' as they used to be considered sometimes, but if a person has an aversion to the idea of clip on earrings, there are also varieties of cuffs and even magnetized earrings, which are painless, safe, and stylish alternatives - both to clip-ons and to actual ear piercings.