A Curated Ear

A more thoughtful approach to piercing the ear.

I laid on the table with my head tilted to the left. I took a deep breath in, then let it out as a 16-gauge needle made its way through a piece of cartilage on my ear, called the tragus. I felt a sharp, dull pain and before I knew it, I had a new piercing. The tragus piercing sits on an outer flap of cartilage covering the ear canal. It was something I never would have chosen for myself, but I immediately knew it was perfect.

However, I didn’t just go to a Claire’s or a Piercing Pagoda in the middle of the mall. I went to a  luxury piercing studio, MINT Piercing in West Des Moines, Iowa. I didn’t just want a piercing, I wanted an experience. What I was looking for was a curated ear. I sat down with professional piercer Janessa McKissack and professional jewelry specialist Bree Smith to learn more about what a curated piercing is and how this new trend has taken over the piercing world.

The Trend

The curated piercing trend popped up on the Internet about a year ago, when videos of individuals partaking in the process started to go viral. It grew in popularity and is one of the newer methods of how to approach piercing.

“Basically, a curated piercing is looking at all of your piercings and renewing them with new jewelry and making sure everything flows together. It’s a more delicate look,” Smith says.

Curated piercing isn’t just about curating the ear, but curating every single piercing that an individual already has. The delicate look is due in part to using textures, metals and personal style to dress the piercings in new jewelry so that they work together, rather than distract from one another.

The Process

When a client visits a studio that offers curated piercings, their experience will be different from every other person walking through the door. At MINT they specialize in curated piercings, so the team works together to come up with an aesthetically pleasing look for the individual’s personality, as well as the vibe that they want to go for.

The first step that McKissack recommends is to look at what the individual already has pierced. Then she recommends updating the jewelry in order to create a more permanent and aesthetically pleasing look. The point of updating these piercings is that the jewelry doesn’t have to be taken out or exchanged, but can be kept in for years to come. Once their piercings are updated with new jewelry, McKissack looks at what’s next, if anything for that individual. Just because someone is getting a curated piercing doesn’t necessarily mean that they have to put even more holes into their body to get the look that they are going for.

During my experience, the first thing that McKissack did was look at my ear to see what type of piercings I already had and what would fit my ear. Then she asked what type of look I was going for. I explained that I wanted something that was more dainty and simple, nothing that would overwhelm my ear or would be too much of a statement.

As a professional piercer, McKissack knows how to figure out what would look good on an individual as well as what fits their personal style. The two options she chose for me were a high-lobe piercing or a tragus. She picked these two because they can be dressed up or down, and in the future it would be easy to add more piercings to my ear without distracting from the current ones. I chose the tragus piercing.

The tragus is a flap of tissue and cartilage that covers the front of the ear and is connected to the cheek. To put it simply, it’s an extension of your cheek. She proposed the tragus for me because it’s more unique than something like a cartilage piercing, while at the same time, nothing too gaudy or big will fit into the space. After I had made the executive decision to pierce my tragus, Smith took me to the jewelry section. From rings to studs, there was simple and extravagant jewelry. My jewelry of choice was a 16-karat, yellow-gold tri-beaded cluster. It was simple, dainty and perfect for my overall lifestyle.

McKissack took me back to the piercing room where a bed-like piece of furniture took up the space. She used a two-step process to sanitize my ear, which included an alcohol prep and then a Chlorhexidine Gluconate wipe. Next up was a single use marker that she used to mark the exact spot that would be pierced. I was instructed to take a deep breath in and out as she pierced my ear using a needle. Overall, the experience was fairly painless and I was off to go about my day within five minutes after paying.

Cost and Healing

At a common piercing studio in the Des Moines metro, a tragus piercing can start anywhere from $40 including the jewelry. However, a curated piercing at MINT can cost a pretty penny in comparison. Overall, my one piercing cost $170, before tax. This included both the jewelry, the piercing fee and the free consultation. What sets luxury studios offering curated piercings apart is their attention to detail and their jewelry. With a curated piercing, it’s important to stick with solid gold to create a stunning look. At MINT, the minimum that one of these pieces can be snagged at is $70 and goes up from there.

The healing process is easier than expected. I was given a saline solution to use twice a day and was told to leave my piercing alone in order for it to heal best. The most important aspect of the healing process is making sure to downsize the length and width of the stud. As time goes on, the swelling of the pierced area will go down. After a month, downsizing the stud is recommended to make sure that the piercing looks good and continues to heal properly. For individuals looking for a unique and fun experience, curated piercing might be the perfect experience. Pretty much any part of the ear can be pierced, as long as the anatomy is there to suit it. From conchs, to earlobes, tragus, cartilage and more, the options for ear piercing are endless.

Photos by Hannah Olson.


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