Looking for an ear piercing you don’t see every day? Check out the vertical surface tragus piercing. Not to be confused with a true tragus piercing (this one goes through the cartilage), a surface tragus piercing passes through the skin in front of the tragus. You might sometimes hear it called a “vertical tragus piercing” or “sideburn piercing.”
This piercing isn’t quite as popular as a true tragus piercing or many other types of ear piercing. Not everyone has the right anatomy for one. And as is the case with all surface piercings, there’s a risk of rejection and migration.
What is a surface tragus piercing?
Surface tragus piercing is placed in front of your tragus, which is a small part of the ear that attaches to the side of your face and protrudes into the ear’s center, partially covering the ear canal.
It lays flat below your ear’s skin and is considered a surface piercing, giving a double-pierced look that sits flat against the skin. That’s why surface tragus piercing is also called double tragus piercing or vertical tragus piercing.
Surface tragus piercing pros and cons
If you’re trying to decide whether or not to get a surface tragus piercing, check out this list of pros and cons:
- Since it’s quite rare, it’s a great way to cultivate a unique look.
- It proves that you’re tough enough to handle a somewhat painful piercing.
- It heals relatively quickly (3-6 months) compared to other surface piercings (usually 6-12 months).
- You have a limited selection of jewelry.
- It might be difficult to find an experienced piercer.
- It’s more painful than many other facial piercings.
- It’s prone to migration and rejection.
Surface tragus piercing VS (true) tragus piercing
Tragus piercing needs to pass through the tragus, while surface tragus piercing does not have to. Instead, surface tragus piercing is placed in front of your tragus and lays flat below your ear’s skin. It is considered a surface piercing, giving a double-pierced look that sits flat against the skin.
Compared to tragus piercing, surface tragus piercing has a much higher risk of infection and is more painful in comparison. It also has a higher rejection rate because your skin views the piercing as a threat and works to remove it from your body.
Surface tragus piercing pain
Does surface tragus piercing hurt? Everybody’s pain threshold is different. But if you ask people, many rate it as a 6 out of 10 on the pain scale.
Surface tragus piercing healing time
The vertical tragus piercing takes about 3-6 months to completely heal. However, this is a rough estimate since some individuals can take a longer or shorter time to heal.
However, if you do not experience any infections or inflammations on the pierced section, then the chances are that you are on your way to a complete recovery.
Surface tragus piercing price
How much is a surface tragus piercing? On average, a surface tragus piercing will cost you about $60-$90 for just the piercing. This might sound steep. However, it’s not a good idea to cheap out on such a piercing! A skilled piercer will be able to ensure your piercing looks good and will have minimal risk of infection.
The cost of the jewelry varies dramatically. For an inexpensive Bioflex or surgical steel piece, you might pay $10 or less. But for a solid gold piercing, you might pay $200 or more.
1. Surface tragus piercing rejection
Surface piercings are a lot different from other types of piercing. They are the most likely to be rejected as they only break through small amounts of skin. In some cases, surface piercings will migrate, as the body sees the piercing as a foreign body and attempts to push it out. This process is known as rejection.
It’s important to monitor the piercing for signs of rejection:
- You start to be able to see more of the jewelry above the skin.
- The piercing is red, irritated, and painful even after the first few days of healing.
- The piercing holes look like they’re getting larger.
If you notice this happening (or notice the jewelry moving), contact your piercer immediately. They often will advise you to remove it. In these cases, it’s important to act quickly, as rejection and migration often lead to scarring.
2. Infected surface tragus piercing
Since a piercing is an open wound, there is the potential for developing an infection. Clothing will irritate most new piercings. A surface tragus piercing will more frequently rub against clothing and towels. That can increase your risk of infection.
If you see signs of infection, you can use antiseptic solutions, such as betadine, isopropyl alcohol, or diluted hydrogen peroxide to clean the piercing twice per day.
What gauge is a vertical tragus piercing?
Depending on the anatomy of your ear, your piercer may recommend a surface bar between 18 gauge (1 mm) and 14 gauge (1.6 mm). Similarly, the length of the recommended jewelry will vary based on your anatomy as well.
Jewelry for vertical tragus piercings
Though it looks like a straight barbell at first, the jewelry used for a surface tragus piercing is different. Piercers use what’s called a surface-to-surface barbell.
It’s designed so the bar rests under the skin. Each end of the bar has a jewel or other ornament that appears to sit on top of the skin.
Recommended metals for surface tragus piercings
1. Implant-Grade Titanium
Titanium is an element that is completely hypoallergenic, so it’s probably the best material for piercings, especially if you have sensitive skin.
Implant-grade titanium is the purest form and will not change or corrode if it’s exposed to skin or bodily fluids. Implant-grade titanium jewelry is durable, hypoallergic, lead-free, nickel free, and non-corrosive.
Implant-grade titanium is often marketed as ASTM F-136 titanium. Compared to ASTM F-136 titanium, G23 titanium is not an implant grade of titanium.
Price Range: About $10-$20.
- Approved by the Association of Professional Piercers
- Won’t cause allergic reactions
- Is scratch-resistant and won’t fade
- Not as valuable as gold, silver, or platinum
- Doesn’t sparkle quite as much as other metals
2. 14K or 18K Gold
If you’re looking for a glittering, valuable metal for your ear piercing jewelry, either 14K or 18K gold may be your answer.
It is also one of the best metals for lip piercings that are highly recommended not only by piercing experts but also doctors. Its excellent quality of being inert makes it suitable for first piercings.
However, gold is a fairly soft metal, so it doesn’t stand up to scratches and excessive wear. Compared to 14K gold, 18K gold is more prone to being affected by everyday use as it is softer and is closer to being pure 24K gold.
Both of these metals include other metal types in order to make them stronger. In order to avoid skin reactions, look for nickel-free metals.
Price Range: About $30-$200.
- One of the most valuable materials
- Will not easily tarnish
- Offers plenty of sparkles
- Is easy to engrave or use to set stones
- May contain non-hypoallergenic metals
- 18K gold in particular is not very scratch resistant
Platinum is a precious metal, so it’s one of the pricier options on the list. It’s completely hypoallergenic, so it’s safe for even very sensitive skin. Its brilliant luster makes it a good choice for those seeking a sparkly, high-end look.
Price Range: About $40-$200.
- Hypoallergenic and non-reactive
- Has a brilliant shine
- Is a very valuable material
- Is a lot heavier than other metals
- It’s uncommon, so your jewelry choices might be limited
4. Surgical Stainless Steel
Lots of new piercings are done in stainless steel. This material is affordable and typically doesn’t cause reactions. However, it contains a small amount of nickel, so if you have a nickel allergy, it might be best to choose something else.
It is incredibly resistant to corrosion and will keep its shine for years.
If you’re considering steel, 316L or 316 LVM steel is probably your best choice. Both names stand for the same surgical steel material, but the “VM” stands for”vacuum melt,” or the way the steel is produced.
Price Range: About $10-$40.
- Very affordable
- Common enough that you’ll have plenty of jewelry choices
- Extremely durable and resistant to damage and corrosion
- May cause reactions in those with nickel allergies
- Not considered as valuable as some other materials
How to clean surface tragus piercing?
- Make a salt solution by mixing 1/2 teaspoon of salt with one cup of water. Stir the solution until it dissolves. As an alternative, you can buy ready-to-use piercing aftercare sprays.
- If you see signs of infection, you can also use antiseptic solutions, such as betadine, isopropyl alcohol, or diluted hydrogen peroxide.
- Soak a cotton ball in the solution and dab it around the piercing site. Don’t remove the jewelry!
- Take clean gauze or tissue and pat the area dry.
- Avoid exposing the pierced area to water or even contact by hand since this may introduce harmful bacteria that may cause an infection.
- Instead, change your pillowcases often and keep anything that may come into contact with the pierced area, i.e., scarves.
- Avoid earphones.
- Avoid using the pierced ear when talking on mobile phones.
- Avoid laying on it while sleeping.
- Avoid going to bed with wet hair.
- Avoid applying any ointments.
- Avoid getting in water that might be dirty.
- Clean your piercing twice per day using a saline/salt solution or a piercing aftercare spray.
How to take out a surface tragus piercing?
Most piercers recommend that you never take out a surface tragus piercing. There are a couple of reasons for that.
First, if it’s left without a piece of jewelry, the piercing can close up quickly. If this happens, you’ll get an indented scar where the piercing once was.
If you want to change up your look, you can remove and replace the ends of the barbell. Make sure you leave the barbell in place under the skin, though!
Taking out and replacing a surface tragus piercing is usually difficult, and it’s sometimes painful. This is true even for completely healed piercings.
If you really want to take out or change your piercing, visit your piercer and ask them to take out or change the jewelry for you.
When can I change my surface tragus piercing?
If you’re set on changing your surface tragus piercing, you should absolutely make sure it’s healed before changing it (or asking your piercer to do so). Surface piercings in general will take three months to heal at a minimum.
However, for some people, they take longer. At this point, if you really want to change your piercing, the best course of action is to ask your piercer.