Surface Tragus Piercing: Duration, Danger, Pain, Healing, Cost, Jewelry, Pros and Cons, Aftercare

Surface Tragus Piercing: Duration, Danger, Pain, Healing, Cost, Jewelry, Pros and Cons, Aftercare

The tragus is the fin-shaped part of the ear directly in front of your ear canal. A traditional tragus piercing goes completely through the cartilage, leaving one entrance hole and one exit hole on opposite sides of the tragus.   

What Is a Surface Tragus Piercing?

The surface tragus piercing only goes through the "surface" of the skin on top of or in front of the tragus, leaving two adjacent, visible piercing holes.

Vertical Tragus Piercing vs Surface Tragus

The vertical tragus piercing is not a surface piercing. Like a traditional tragus piercing, a vertical tragus piercing passes through the cartilage. The piercing passes from top to bottom, leaving two holes that are vertically stacked above and below the tragus.

Although vertical as well, the surface tragus piercing is distinct from the vertical tragus because it goes through the skin, bypassing the underlying cartilage.

Are Surface Tragus Piercings Dangerous?

All piercings come with a degree of risk, and the best way to minimize this risk is to get pierced by an experienced professional and follow all aftercare instructions.

Still, surface tragus piercings can be slightly riskier than other types of piercings, even if you go to a licensed piercer and practice diligent aftercare.

This is because there are a lot of blood vessels around the tragus, and the area experiences a lot of movement from facial muscles.

How Long Do Surface Tragus Piercings Last?

Even if a surface tragus piercing is fully healed, it's rare to maintain this type of piercing for a lifetime. This is because the piercing travels through the skin directly under its surface rather than going from one side to the other, such as an earlobe piercing.

You may hear stories of people who had to remove their surface tragus piercing after a year, while others were able to keep their piercing for 15 or more years. With that said, the average length of a successful and healed surface tragus piercing is 5-7 years.

Surface Tragus Piercing Pain

Do surface tragus piercings hurt? On a traditional pain scale of 1-10, most people who have received a surface tragus piercing rate it at a 3 or 4.

It is mildly uncomfortable, but the initial pain lasts about a second, similar to getting a shot or drawing blood.

After receiving the piercing, it's normal to feel a little pain or sensitivity for the first few days, which should subside as the area heals.

Surface Tragus Piercing Healing Time

How long does a surface tragus piercing take to heal? The average length of time to heal from a surface tragus piercing is 3-6 months, but it can take up to a year in some cases.

The only reliable way to minimize this healing time is to prioritize proper aftercare. Usually, this entails keeping the piercing clean and following a healthy lifestyle to support the body's healing response.

How Much is a Surface Tragus Piercing?

The typical cost of a surface tragus piercing is $50-100. Experienced and established piercers will be at the higher end of the price range. Your specific location can also affect the cost of body piercings in general.

Surface Tragus Piercing Jewelry Types

1. Surface Tragus Piercing Bar

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Anti eyebrow piercings are usually done with a surface bar. The post of surface bars bends at a 90-degree angle, allowing them to sit flat against the skin. Surface bars snag less often than other jewelry types and create a sleek aesthetic.

Because the piercing goes at a straight angle parallel to the surface of the skin, a flat bar is better than a curved one.

Most experts recommend something called a 90° barbell for surface piercings where the ends of the bar curve up at a 90° angle, positioning the balls above the skin. You may also see it referred to as a "staple surface bar" because it looks like an unbent staple.

2. Surface Tragus Piercing Ring

A true ring is not ideal for this piercing location because rings have virtually no straight edges.

You can still easily replicate the look of a ring with D-shaped jewelry by inserting the straight part of the "D" into your piercing, leaving the curved, ring-like part visible on the outside.

However, you should not try wearing D-shaped rings in your surface tragus piercing until after it's fully healed.

A ring is more likely to catch and snag on hair, fingers, and other foreign bodies, which can contaminate or irritate your piercing while it's healing.

Surface Tragus Piercing Jewelry Size

  • Gauge: A standard surface tragus piercing is 16 or 18 gauges. Along with finding the right gauge, you should pay attention to the length of the bar.
  • Length: A length of 6-8mm is ideal, with shorter bars for thinner skin and vice versa.
  • Diameter: For rings, a diameter of 5-8mm is common, but make sure that the straight part of the "D" is still adequate in length.

Fortunately, a reputable piercer will insert your first piece of jewelry for you, so you're very likely to walk out of your appointment with the appropriate size.

Recommended Materials for Surface Tragus Piercing Jewelry

1. Titanium: About $20-$40

Titanium has a reputation for being the best metal for piercings for many reasons. It is lightweight, hypoallergenic, durable, nickel-free, non-corrosive, and won’t tarnish.

Its non-porous nature reduces places bacteria can hide, promoting healing.

Titanium is also hypoallergenic, meaning it is less likely to cause allergic reactions. Titanium is nickel-free.

Its high density-to-strength ratio means your jewelry is very durable.

A lower density also makes Titanium lightweight, a big plus in many user's eyes. Finally, the metal comes in many colors because you can anodize it.

The only real downside to titanium jewelry is that you will pay more for all those positive traits. Shop for implant-grade titanium with designations like ASTM F-136, ASTM F-67, or ISO 5832-3.

2. Surgical Steel: About $5-$30

Although surgical steel is nonreactive, it can contain nickel. Choose a different option if you are concerned about irritation or a nickel allergy.

Steel combines iron and carbon, improving its strength and ability to resist fracturing. 

However, this silver alloy can contain other elements, including nickel. Make sure to buy surgical-grade steel jewelry. These will have ratings: ASTM F-138, ISO 5832-1, ISO 10993-6, ISO 10993-10, or ISO 10993-11.

One of the pros most people cite for steel jewelry pieces is the lower price point. Steel is also a durable option. These pieces are low maintenance because the steel does not corrode, rust, or tarnish.

Weight is the top complaint for those using steel jewelry pieces. Steel can be less comfortable if worn in piercings for long periods. 

3. Solid Gold: About $40-$200

This metal will not rust or tarnish. It is also easy to decorate and shape. The added alloys in 18k, and especially 14k, make them more durable than 24k gold pieces.

One downside to gold jewelry is the price tag, which is expensive. Another concern will be that the metal is soft, making it susceptible to bends, breaks, and gouges. Gold can also be heavy, especially with more pure karat ratings.

4. Niobium: About $20-$60

Niobium is a light grey metal known for its hardness that is like titanium. The metal resists corrosion and tarnishing like others on the list, creating minimal maintenance for you.

It might be the best metal for a piercing if you want titanium-like durability with more malleability. That extra pliability makes it easier for jewelers to shape pieces. Niobium can come in various colors as it is something that you can anodize.

The only real downsides are that it weighs a bit more than titanium and you will likely pay a bit more due to the process involved in manufacturing this metal.

When Can I Change My Surface Tragus Piercing?

You can change your surface tragus piercing once it has healed completely. If there is no pain, discomfort, redness, or discharge around your piercing, it's a good indication that it has fully healed.

Another sign of a fully-healed piercing is jewelry that feels loose and moves freely. Because of its location on the side of the head, changing out your surface tragus jewelry for the first time might be difficult.

For this reason, most experts recommend visiting your piercer again if it's your first time changing out your surface piercing jewelry.

Piercing Risks

1. Surface Tragus Piercing Infection

Signs of an infection include redness, pain, heat, and pus-like discharge that don't improve with time. Mild infections can often be treated at home by paying better attention to hygiene.

If your piercing shows early signs of infection, gently place a cotton ball soaked in saltwater over the area for 1-2 minutes, pat dry, and apply some antibiotic ointment with a fresh cotton swab.

Do this three times a day, making sure to wash your hands with soap and water before you touch your piercing. If your infections get worse, you will need to visit the doctor for oral antibiotics.

2. Surface Tragus Piercing Rejection

You'll know your body is rejecting your surface piercing if the area feels irritated, the jewelry is visible through your skin, or the piercing hole has gotten larger. These are signs that your body sees your piercing jewelry as a foreign object and is actively pushing it out.

By this point, rejection will continue until the jewelry is pushed out completely, which will leave a noticeable scar.

To avoid unnecessary scarring, it's best to remove your jewelry and let the holes heal if your body rejects your surface tragus piercing.

3. Bump on Surface Tragus Piercing

A bump that appears on your piercing in the first few weeks can be part of your body's natural healing response or a symptom of infection. In either case, put in extra effort into keeping your piercing clean, and visit your doctor if the bump gets larger or starts to hurt.

On the other hand, a hard bump that appears a few months after getting the initial piercing is likely to be a keloid, or a concentration of scar tissue. Once again, this might be related to hygiene, but it can also be a result of a metal allergy.

Keloids can shrink with time, but you should have your piercer remove your jewelry if you are experiencing itchiness, a sign of an allergic reaction.

Surface Tragus Piercing Pros and Cons


The surface tragus has as much visual impact as a traditional tragus piercing but doesn't come with the pain associated with a cartilage piercing. It's also more unique compared to earlobe, nose, or eyebrow piercings.


The main drawback of surface tragus piercing is its high rejection rate and short lifespan. For the best chances of success, make sure to choose a reputable piercer, follow all aftercare instructions, and wear the right type of jewelry for this piercing.

How to Clean Surface Tragus Piercing?

You should start cleaning your piercing the same day you receive it. Be sure to take the following steps to keep it clean and reduce potential risks:

  1. Wash your hand before touching the piercing.
  2. Clean the area 2 times daily using a sterile saline solution, warm sea salt water, a piercing aftercare spray, or a wound wash.
  3. Soak a clean paper towel in whichever solution you choose and hold it against your piercing for 2-5 minutes.
  4. When you shower, allow the water to flow over your piercing for about 30 seconds. This process can also wipe away any crust that appears.
  5. Do not use moisturizers, as they can clog up pores near the piercing and cause infection.

Surface Tragus Piercing Aftercare

How to take care of a surface tragus piercing? Adhering to appropriate aftercare techniques is essential, regardless of the type of piercing. By following these tips, you increase your chances of a smoother healing process:

  • Avoid sleeping on the ear you had pierced.
  • Do not touch the piercing to avoid irritation and risk of infection.
  • Use safe metals like K gold and implant-grade titanium that you aren’t allergic to.
  • Clean the area 2 times daily using a sterile saline solution, warm sea salt water, a piercing aftercare spray, or a wound wash.
  • Do not use harsh chemicals to clean the piercing such as hydrogen peroxide.
  • Do not use a swimming pool, sauna, or hot tub while your piercing is healing.
  • Wait until your piercing heals before changing out your jewelry.
  • Watch for potential signs of infection and consult your piercer or doctor if it becomes infected. 
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