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I've Got Your Back- Earring Backings!

Blog Suggestion from Eloise at The Piercing Urge in Australia! Follow her on instagram at @piercedheartt

Most of the time, when considering a new earring or piece of jewelry, the biggest concern is how it looks! That’s the fun part right? The pretty colors, designs, shapes, there’s so many styles and designs under the sun to wear! Often times we never stop to consider the back of an earring. Why would we? That’s the boring part! Well, the backing on a style can make all the difference in function, security, and comfort. And with modern advancements in piercing jewelry, there’s now a bevy of backing choices for every client, lifestyle, and preference! Let’s look at different backings, and when they might be useful!

Butterfly Backings

Arguably the most common backings, almost anyone who has had their ears pierced for a while has worn butterfly backing earrings. For many years these were the standard, and all you could readily find. Even new piercings were done with a butterfly back. And while these are user-friendly and easy to change out, many people are finding the cons outweigh the pros. Butterfly backs are commonly made of low quality materials, sometimes even a different material from the post. This leads to lots of clients having reaction and issues with the back of their earrings.

Low Quality Earrings turning green

They work by sliding the backing onto the post, but this often isn’t very secure. Because of this, many clients constantly press the backs tight against the ear. Over time this can cause irritation, and even stretch and enlarge your piercing! There is a small groove in the post that holds the backing in place, but these are almost always made as a one size fits all style. But we don’t have one size fits all bodies! People with thin lobes find that butterfly backs can sag forward and they constantly need to wear the backings too tight, and people with thicker lobes can find these backings too short and they pop off and loose them easily. You also often hear horror stories about the backing going “inside” the ear because they were too tight and small for that persons earlobe!

The shape of butterfly backings often allows debris, secretions from the piercing, hair products, and skin products to build up in the curved shape. Many clients have experienced remove butterfly backs only to find the backing coated in “gunk” or notice their earrings smell badly. This style is not the easiest to keep clean and collects debris and bacteria easily, which can be irritating in healed piercings and a health risk in healing ones.

Debris built up in someones butterfly back

They also aren’t very comfortable anywhere but first lobes, as the big backings can poke and scratch at the head and neck when you sleep, and hair can easily tangle in them. Beyond that, in piercings outside lobes they are extra uncomfortable. Trying to wear these in a helix, conch, or flat piercing is a recipe for discomfort and sleepless nights. But, since these were all we had for so long, and all so many people know, they stick around.

Flat Backs

The Flat Back or Labret Post is a staple in piercing studios around the world. It takes the concept of the butterfly back, and reverses it. Rather than the backing being the removable component, the front comes off. This allows for a simple, small disk to be the backing, and keeps posts a fixed length- no more squeezing backings against your ear to check for tightness. These can be made threaded or threadless, and are versatile for all areas on the body.

Labrets from Anatometal- look at that mirror finish!

Flat Backs are comfortable to sleep and lay on, and easier to keep clean with less parts to clean out. Without all the curves and crevices in butterfly back earrings, flat backs are very very easy to keep clean particularly with healing piercings. There are simply less areas for stubborn debris to collect, and the entire post is smooth with a mirror finish, to ensure nothing can build up in hidden areas.

Because the post is a set length, these come in hundreds of different measurements so you can get the perfect fit for every one of your piercings. They are slightly trickier then butterfly backs to insert and remove, but this also makes them more secure and less likely to come loose or fall out. As more clients learn about flat backs, they are becoming more and more popular.

Which Style is Better for a New Piercing?

Hands down Flat backs are the way to go for a fresh body piercing. Butterfly backs often build up the natural crust and debris that from from a piercing in their little loops, and get gunky and gross fast. Even if you’ve worn these in healed piercings, I’m sure you’ve removed a pair at some point and gone oh no! I need to clean these more often. Now imagine how much worse they get in a fresh piercing! Not to mention, their design inherently doesn’t allow room for swelling- the backing needs to be pressed tight to stay on, leaving no extra space for the natural swelling of a healing piercing. With labrets we have dozens of sizes to choose from, and we can ensure we get a fit that’s not only correct for your body but has room for swelling and healing. Comfort is also a consideration- since you won’t be removing these for a few months, the comfort of a flat back is going to be ideal for healing.

Look at all the debris built up in this open setting!

Fresh Helix from natasha- plenty of room for swelling, and no open settings to collect debris

Which Style is Better for a Healed Piercing?

That comes down to personal preference! Butterfly backs are inarguably easier to change for many clients, and they can be made in the same high quality metals and from your same favorite brands as flat backs can. BVLA and Anatometal both offer awesome butterfly back earrings. The biggest drawback to the butterfly back is the fact that the majority are produced in low quality metals. But as long as you ensure you are getting a high quality, safe metal, these are fine! If comfort is more important, or you don’t mind the learning curve, I would say treadless are more secure, and definitely the better choice for anything besides an earlobe piercing. Theres pros and cons to both, that are going to differ for each individual client.

What about alternatives to these styles?

You are in luck! I happen to be a huge fan of the La Prusett backings! These are similar to a butterfly back, but they have a locking gate that you open to slide onto the post and release to lock. They are much more secure then a butterfly back, and the gate is a smooth metal disc- similar to a flat back. This makes them more comfortable and easier to clean. They are still not quite as comfortable as a flat back, but they are an amazing alternative for someone looking for jewelry that is easier to change, but still secure or practical.

What about Screw Backs?

These are generally awful. Essentially a post with a long external thread on the back, an a backing that screws onto this thread. The thread has to pass through the piercing which can cause irritation, and often these are made with the smallest possible one size fits all wearables, so some of the screw remains exposed inside your piercing. I regularly hear clients complain about how uncomfortable, cumbersome, and impractical these are. I have seen these screws cause real damage to lobe piercings, and scratch and cut the backs of clients heads and necks. These days if you have an expensive pair of earrings you want to keep secure, there are many more modern, better backings to wear.

A common screw back- note the very small polished wearable- most earlobes are thicker then that!

What about those plastic backings?

Please- no! The little plastic backs are the cheapest backings out there, and were orginally designed just to hold earrings on displays. These are made of very very low quality plastic and often break down over time, yellowing and hardening and becoming impossible to remove. Most piercers are all too familiar with having to get these off earrings when they become stuck over time. Please stick with quality backings made with safe materials!

Next time you shop for some new bling for your ears, consider the backing just as much as you do the front! As always, look for quality materials and. Brand you trust, but make sure you are getting jewelry that’s comfortable and practical for your lifestyle as well!

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