Constellation Piercings: Everything You Need to Know
This past summer, I added a constellation piercing to my right ear while taking my daughter to get her ears pierced. We were spending our annual week in Laguna Beach (heading that way? Check out my guide to Laguna Beach here!) and I wanted to do things right so I took her to see Brian Keith Thompson at Body Electric Tattoo in LA.
I had been all over Instagram coveting a triple-pierced lobe (check out #triplelobe for your viewing pleasure) but knew that it could be a more challenging piercing since placement and spacing are crucial, so I wanted to go to the best of the best.
Professional Piercing Is The Way To Go
First things first, if you are planning to pierce any body part, please visit a professional piercing salon. (23rd Street Body Piercing is a great one here in OKC.) Friends, just say NO to the piercing gun at the mall or anywhere for that matter! Why? Well, the quick answer is that needles are generally cleaner, more accurate, and less painful than guns. Shooting an earring via gun into the ear is actually blunt force trauma. The piercing guns hold blunt studs, and when these studs are forced through the tissues, it literally blows out the tissue in order to make room for the jewelry. (This is especially important if you are piercing cartilage as it can actually shatter.) Believe it or not, there is much less pain when piercing needles are used. The needle is hollow and extremely sharp so that it slices through the skin which results in less trauma to the surrounding tissue.
Also, did you know that ear piercing guns can’t be thoroughly sanitized? The piercing gun’s plastic would melt in an autoclave, which is what is used to sterilize instruments like needles, jewelry, and tools used during the piercing. Even if a piercing gun is wiped off with an antiseptic wipe, there’s still a risk of spreading diseases (think hepatitis and staph infections) after multiple uses, according to the Association of Professional Piercers. No thank you.
Bottom line is that professional piercers in professional studios are far more knowledgeable and prepared for piercing the body opposed to a retail employee at a store in the mall. I always choose to reduce my risk when given the option.
But enough about that! Let’s talk about constellation piercings. I’ve had mine for about seven months at this point so I feel ready to talk about the good and the bad. The best part? Well, they are super unique and garner a lot of attention. I am definitely a minimalist when it comes to jewelry. I either wear very tiny gold and diamond hoops or the larger gold hoops shown in the photo. That’s about it. The addition of the three tiny diamonds just adds such a lovely touch and they certainly make me smile every day.
The Piercing Process
I had all three holes pierced by Brian in the same visit – the pain really isn’t that bad at all, but you can expect to have some moderate swelling in the following days/weeks/months. (More on that in a bit.) Let’s be honest – you earlobe is pretty much like WTF when three needles pierce your ear so close together. Your piercing professional will probably use posts that are much longer than the depth of the earlobe to allow for the (sometimes surprisingly throbby) swelling that will occur for the following weeks. This is definitely a good thing but over time, as the lobe returns to its normal size, you can have the posts replaced with a shorter length so they won’t look awkward jutting out of your ear. I had my longer posts replaced with shorter ones after about 3 months.
The typical earring used by professionals doesn’t look like a conventional post with the butterfly back and you definitely won’t have those with piercings so close together. The posts look similar to this – the earring opens in the front. Your professional will insert the post from the back of the ear and then insert the stone/stud into the front of the post. Be sure to purchase titanium, gold or surgical stainless steel posts as they are the least likely to cause irritation or an allergic response. My posts are titanium with very small diamond studs.
The Healing Process
Well, what can I say? The healing process involves a lot of patience. There were a couple of times I visited my local piercing shop convinced I had an infection due to the redness and swelling of my lobe, but it there was no infection at all. I will admit, it was so annoying watching my daughter’s earlobes heal perfectly with no redness or swelling while mine seemed to become furious if you so much as looked at it the wrong way. With that being said, I never had an infection, just overall redness and swelling. Constellation piercings are more complex and just take more time. Don’t get discouraged!
Also, just when you think it’s healed and looking perfect, you’ll most likely snag the post on something and piss it off again. (Watch out for hairbrushes, scarves, and hats!) It just comes with the territory. Try to practice patience with Mr. Angry Ear. Deep breaths, folks. Oh, and don’t freak out if your ear feels hot or exhibits redness or swelling even months after the piercing. Most likely it is not infected, it’s just irritated. There were several days about 6 months in when my lobe looked quite red and felt very warm, but it subsided on its own over time. However, if you do suspect an infection or just want to give your worrying mind a rest, just pop into your local piercing shop and they will be happy to take a look.
Here are some things you can do to help the healing process along after getting a new piercing!
1. Clean it twice daily with a mild soap or saline solution. When washing hair, try to keep products out of the piercing and rinse the ear well. The two products I use interchangeably are this soap and this saline spray.
2. Try not to touch it. The body knows how to heal itself – besides washing, don’t fuss with it. And if you have to touch it, make sure your hands are clean. Also, consider what side you sleep on. I had the constellation piercing on my right ear because I sleep on my left side and it was super helpful.
3. Despite what you were told as a child, do not twist the earring. Just causes more irritation.
4. I love this quote I read by J. Colby Smith, “It takes a patient mentality to help piercings heal 100 percent. Your body’s job is to get rid of foreign objects, so it’s a little bit of a dance you have to do. You must be patient and nurse it to health. Sometimes the simple things are the best: Soap and water to clean, and ice for the swelling. If you take your aftercare seriously, you’ll avoid any problems.” I think this is 100% true – when my ear would swell up and I stressed about it, it took longer to calm down. The name of the game? Simplicity and patience.
5. When in doubt, visit your local professional piercing shop. Worried your piercing might be infected? Piercing professionals know exactly what to look for and are incredibly helpful.
6. Patience, patience, patience. Did I mention patience? Constellation piercings, much like cartilage piercings, take a lot longer to heal than a traditional single lobe piercing. Expect to have a few bumps in the road during the first year – don’t be discouraged!
All in all, I am so happy with my constellation piercing. It’s such a lovely and unique addition to my style. As always, if you have any questions, leave them in the comments and I’ll help out if I can!