Flat Piercing 101
Today let’s talk about Flat piercings! This is the name given to piercing done on the upper portion of the ear, usually a flat or fairly flat area, and placed further in on the ear then a traditional helix. Flat piercings are gorgeous- they do well with studs and are a perfect place to show off large, decorative jewelry or multiple piercings scattered across the upper ear. Chains and charms look adorable here, and be it super big and fancy or small and dainty, all styles wear well. But, flat piercings to have some considerations beyond other ear cartilage placements, so let's take a closer look.
Anatomy and Placement- a Delicate Balance
Flat piercings, like many other piercings, are anatomy dependent. However good anatomy for a flat is fairly common, and its pretty rare I have to turn folks away for flat piercings. When we compare that to the few clients a week I have to turn away for an industrial, one or two clients a year for a flat is great. However, while most folks have anatomy that can support a flat piercing, how their piercing will sit and where it will be placed will vary greatly ear to ear.
Everyones ear up here is very different. Some people have very perfectly flat flats and the biggest clusters will lay well...flat. Some clients have ridges and valleys on their flat and medium to small ends will lay well but larger ends may not rest perfectly flat all the way across. Some folks only have a flat space along an angle on the ear. Some folks have super super thin flats that are easy to pierce and heal- but very easy to deal with migration. Others have thicker cartilage on their flat, and this can make healing difficult and trickier.
All of these anatomical factors make ideal placement very varied. What are your goals- big jewelry or smaller pieces? Do you plan to wear chains and dangles or just studs? Are we doing a single stand alone flat or will we be adding more? Lifestyle comes into play for placement as well- do you wear glasses, helmets, or over ear headphones for work or school? All of these factors combined with the anatomy of your ear will determine how your flat piercing is placed. A good piercer will look at your ear, discuss your goals and lifestyle, and make sure your piercing is placed perfectly for you.
These piercings can be compatible with many types of hearing aids and auditory processing tools, which make this an awesome piercing for clients who need these devices. Every device is different, so consult with your piercer first to make sure this will work for you! I’d suggest bringing your device with you for your appointment so your piercer can see the fit of the device and work around it.
A stud is going to be the best choice for a flat piercing initially, especially with a flat backing for comfort. For most folks going slightly more conservative for healing is going to make healing easier. Smaller and simpler ends are going to be easier to heal with then really large and decorative pieces. That said some of the larger pieces can totally still be used initially, but clients should understand they will be a little bit more work to heal with and a little bit more cleaning. If you have the time and confidence to do that extra work, then larger ends can totally be used!
Initial jewelry for most piercings will be a little longer to allow for swelling and healing. Once that swelling goes down, often times clients can come back in for a downsize or a smaller bar. You can read more about downsizing here. Downsizing is always important but it is extra important for flat piercings. These piercings are much more prone to migration then many other placements, and if the jewelry is left long it is very easy for them to migrate through the ear and sit at awkward angles. This effects how your jewelry sits and wears. It’s very important to be on top of downsizing for flat piercings and I suggest most clients follow up in 2-4 weeks post piercing with their piercer to see if they may be ready for a downsize.
Flats, when pierced correctly and downsized when needed, are often a fairly easy heal! Protected by the shape of your ear they don’t get caught or snagged as often as helix piercings can. If you wear glases they can be more effected by the arm of the glasses, so do be gentle taking your glasses on and off. Taking care when taking your shirt on and off or brushing your hair is also very important. Cleaning the backs of these can be tricky as they are impossible to see, but asking a friend or family member to check for you every now and again is usually enough to keep up with cleaning and doing a good job.
The main issues I see flats have are from accidentally snagging them or accidentally sleeping on them. Obviously accidents happen and we can’t control how we sleep, but getting this piercing on the side you don’t sleep on, and using travel pillows or ear pillows while sleeping can help. Flats are very prone to migration, especially if they are slept on. They are more prone to migration then many other cartilage piercings, so it’s very very important to avoid sleeping on them initially and to downsize them once they are ready. I do find starting these slightly thicker at 16 or 14g helps to avoid that migration, although 18g can still be safely used. Downsizing is truly the most important step when it comes to healing these well, and staying in touch with your piercer as this heals to ensure you downsize when ready is super helpful!
Healing usually takes around 6-9 months for flats, as most cartilage piercings do. Things like not downsizing, or setbacks during the healing process, can make these take as long as a year to fully heal. It’s important to wait for these to be fully healed, especially if your goal jewelry is super decorative and fancy. Sometimes you need to wait a bit longer than the healing process if your goal is a very large piece or chains, to give the piercing extra time to stabilize and relax before wearing these styles. If you try wearing these very large pieces too soon you may experience some discomfort, irritation, or even migration.
Flat piercings are super cool piercings that work great for most people, allow for a ton of jewelry choices, and often are fairly easy to heal! These are great first to intermediate cartilage piercings, or additions to existing ear projects. If you’ve been considering getting one, I fully support and suggest doing so. They are one of my personal favorites, and I never get tired of the versatility and choice I have with my flats.