You Want To Put What Where?


As far as body modification goes, team ITG favors piercing. A tattoo can, as one friend put it, too often be referred to as a "permanent 'oops.'" But getting a new piercing is as easy, thrilling, and seasonal as picking up a new pair of heels. And while it's been around for ages, there's been a definite shift as of late: piercing seems to have come fully out of the proverbial closet (where it lived for awhile as an underground, rebellious punk-tinged and angst-ridden I hate my parents move) and onto magazine covers and fashion’s runways and into its own as an art form, with the best of them (the delicate, graceful, face-flattering iterations we tend to favor) rising to the top. Don’t believe us? Check out January’s issue of Vogue UK, or Givenchy’s nose rings from Spring 2012, or the elegant versions on runway regulars like Guinevere Van Seenus, Catherine McNeil, Behati, or Abbey Lee.

So, craving a little extra bling? We always refer our friends to the man with his finger on the pulse and a needle semi-regularly in our ears, J. Colby Smith, whose soothing energy is a near-narcotic and whose eye for balance and harmony when it comes to piercings is pretty much topsNew York Adorned's resident piercer offered some words of wisdom on the topic (that’d be how, what, and, most importantly, where to punch those holes) and handed over examples of his handiwork. Who'd have thought an ear had so many parts? If you're considering joining the ranks of the subtly, beautifully adorned, print out a snap and take it your next appointment, though don’t forget to keep an open mind. Everyone’s ears are different, as Smith emphasizes, and you should be open to what looks best on you, not just what you think you want.

Your ear is a snowflake: “A lot of the time people will come in having seen a piercing on somebody else and they want that exact thing, that exact piercing. It’s better if I can survey an ear and say, 'This works, this works, this’ll work.' Everyone’s ear is totally different. One thing works for you, it won’t necessarily work for her. I spend the majority of my day battling with people about that. Almost every day of my life there’s a heartbreak because someone comes in with an idea of exactly what they want and it won’t work. It’s weird, but it always seems like what's not possible is exactly what people want.”

Be open-minded: “Piercers are really just assistants to help people get what they want, so it doesn’t matter as much if they know the exact name of the location they want pierced, but the more they know, the easier it is to get them what they want. To me, piercing is not 'go to a store, look at a display case, pick out jewelry, get it put in.' To me, it’s more of a conversation, like, 'These are the things I like, I wear this type of jewelry, I don’t know what works for me, let’s figure it out.' I normally check out what other jewelry they’re wearing, see what their style is overall, and what will be a good fit for them. It’s really hard to go look at a jewelry case and understand what works and what doesn’t work on your own head. I really do believe it’s more of a conversation, that you shouldn’t go in set on something.”

Where on my ear can I pierce?: “I can technically pierce anything that I can fit jewelry into. You can pierce through your conch, your rook, your daith, around the middle here [under the helix]. All over the lobe, that’s the most standard, the most basic. Then, you can get into some crazy stuff that I don’t like to do because, without fail, it’s going to be a problem, because parts of the ear can be very thick. This stuff [indicates earlobe and helix] generally works pretty well with everyone; everything else is on the iffy side, because the cartilidge is thicker, it might take longer to heal, and it might get irritated.”

What can I get where? or, How does piercing jewelry work?: “Certain jewelry works with certain piercings. For an earlobe, you can have a stud or a ring—I think people don’t understand what goes where. There’s three separate parts to any piercing jewelry. There’s a front ball, the hollow post, and the backing, which can be another ball. Some jewelry can stay in forever, like the kind we use for most rook or daith piercings, but it’s like any piece of jewelry, you can change it if you get tired of it. I try to lean towards the classic stuff, you know, the stuff that if you look back in 10 years you’re not going to be like 'Oh god, what was I thinking?!' [Laughs] I always talk about the jewelry as shapes, but they have real names: there's a flat-backed barbell, a curved bar, a captive bead ring, a barbell, a seamless ring, a circular barbel. There are fancier versions, but they’re all based off these shapes. Anywhere you go they’ll know those names." [Ed.: Even a mall-based Piercing Pagoda?] "Yep.”

On needles versus piercing guns: “I had my ears pierced in the mid ‘90s in the mall with a gun. I had a girlfriend who worked at Claire’s, she was terrified to do it on people, so she would practice on me. She did my ears, my eyebrow. [Laughs] And they still use the gun, it’s fine—they’ve been using it for a hundred years, nobody’s ever really died from it—but the main difference with what we do [with needles] is that it’s a little more sterile, and we can be a lot more precise with it. With a gun, you can see the general area but you can’t be very precise with it. With a needle, you end up with a cleaner piercing, and altogether it’s better. With a gun, you’re forcing the earring through the skin with pressure, so there's the potential to make a real mess.”

Is it true that a mis-handled piercing can cause facial paralysis?: “A lot of people believe that you can get paralyzed from a bad piercing, but I’ve never heard of that really happening. I think it’s kind of a myth—but at the same time, I believe in acupuncture and acupressure and I believe that there are certain points on the body that can probably stimulate things you want, or things you don’t want. I’ve actually pierced multiple acupuncture therapists and it seems like there’s two theories on it: one will say the energy will re-route itself and it’s not a big deal, and the others will say it won’t and it’s the worst thing in the world. The first group come in specifically to get something pierced to stimulate a certain whatever."

Patience is a virtue: “The biggest thing—the most important thing—is patience. Piercings are not perfect right away, they’re not guaranteed 100% of the time. It’s a weird thing, sometimes some people, they get pierced, they never think about it, they clean it a little bit, and it’s fine. Other people, they struggle and struggle and struggle with it. Generally, with irritated piercings, if you soak them in salt water, it always helps. I don’t advise cleaning them too much, and how much you do clean it depends on the piercing. For most types, it's once a day, with Dr. Bronner’s baby soap lathered up and gently swooshed around it—that’s perfect. The ocean’s always good for healing a piercing, too. Healing everything: mind, body and spirit." [Ed.: Mental note—move to a city where that’s possible.]

Much respect: “One thing that can be difficult is people not understanding exactly what it’s like to be in my position. I think a lot of people are just not mentally prepared for what they need to go through; it takes a certain level of maturity to accomplish... Of course, you can be scared or nervous: some people bring friends, some have to come alone. It’s a very minor procedure, but to some, it’s not minor, it’s one of the worst things that they’ve ever experienced in their life. And then some people don’t realize that they’ve come to us to get this thing done, but then they’re making it difficult for us to do our job, and acting like 'WHY ARE YOU DOING THIS TO ME?' as if I coaxed them in off the street!”

Can I get a piercing if I’ve been drinking, or if I'm on blood-thinning medication?: “I can tell by people’s blood if they’re on medication, if they’re taking vitamins, if they were drinking the night before, if they eat really fatty foods. Blood, visually, you can tell a lot. If they eat really fatty foods, it's thick. It’s pretty gross. With drinking and stuff, a lot of people think they can’t drink before, can’t drink after—with that, you just want people to be in a good frame of mind. You don’t want them to be making bad choices or doing something because they’re not in their right mind. I don’t mind if people have a glass of wine or a drink before they come. It won’t make them bleed more—what I do is so quick that I actually plug it up before it has a chance to bleed out. But you know, if a glass of wine helps somebody relax a little bit before I get to them?  That makes it easier for them, and easier for me. But definitely, if you have any questions about medications you're on or how a piercing might affect you, call your doctor before you come in!"

Enough is enough, or ‘Balance and harmony above all': “I try to focus on the delicate, finer types of things. A big part of what I do is telling people ‘enough is enough,’ you know. Balance is important, the harmony of it. The way I think about it is that you can get these things pierced, you can add this thing, you can take that one out, you don’t always have to have everything full of jewelry all the time. Some people, works. But, a lot of people try to do everything at once. Me, I will usually only do 2 to 3 piercings at a time, and if they’re close together, I’ll only do two at at time, tops. I like the idea of people getting something pierced, letting it heal, coming back again, just kind of gradually building on it. I feel like everyone’s in such a rush to look a certain way and do this or do that and have the full results immediately. Ultimately, piercings do better if you just do each by itself; you have to be good to your body. In a sense, you’re damaging your body, so you have to let it repair itself and deal with it before you start doing it again... A lot of piercing is dealing with the after-care and it’s not exactly what people want right away, but when people come in with old holes and just want to update them with new jewelry of mine, just fill ‘em with gold, that’s the best scenario for me; I love that. And that’s actually a new trend that I’m seeing—people are coming in just to get their ears 'styled' by me and they let me  just do what I want to do...  it’s just so flattering.”

As for new trends?: “I will say this: Septum chains have gone out a little bit, and backdrop chains are in.”

You heard it here first, kids.

All photos provided by J. Colby Smith's on his Instagram: @jcolbysmith ,[9-10] Hedvig Palm photographed by Patrick Demarchelier for Vogue UK.

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  • cookie1311

    Such a great article! I had my daith pierced when I was 18 but had to take it out once I became a lawyer (corporate American tends to frown on piercings. sigh).

    • Guest

      May I ask how painful was it? They're so stunning

      • ITGAlessandra

        I can answer this, because i also have my daith pierced (and by Colby, no less) and I can tell you it didn't hurt. Really. It was a pinch, and slightly uncomfortable, for a minute, but just that. x

        • sana

          Where can I get the earring from 'lobe' image with the chain at the back? Thanks x

    • cookie1311

      I agree with Alessandra. It just feels like a lot of pressure and then it's over!

  • Nomadic D.

    Loved this article! So fun and so informative. I've got 3 holes in each ear but the chickened out when it came time to do more because I'd be hitting cartilage which I know is supposed to hurt a bit more. I've also always wanted a tiny little nose stud, but never gotten up the nerve to do it, and now I wonder if, in my mid-30s, it's too late... I do love tasteful little piercings though, always have and I think I always will. And then there's the ones that give me the heebee jeebies, it's just a visceral reaction I can't help!

  • Kendell Turner

    I'm dying to know where to buy their jewelry! The tragus earing is to die for!

  • Jenn Blakes

    I knew I wanted to get pierced and thanks to ITG I found the best guy possible. I got pierced during a trip to NYC this past November. That's actually my earlobe in picture! The consultation was great and he really took the time to look at my ear and give me his opinion on what would work where the best - it was the most pampered I ever felt getting a piercing!

    I got three done that day - earlobe, nose and up in the cartilage. I was originally going to just do my ears, but the nose was done in a YOLO moment because I had had a glass of wine (ok, two) before seeing him. I'm not sure I would've done my nose without that bit of extra courage, so I'm glad my inhibitions were lowered and I haven't regretted it for a second. Colby is a piercing ninja - it all felt like mere moments because he was so fast and precise. Being only a minor wuss, I shed a single tear when he pierced my nose, but it was more shock than anything.

    His jewelry is so delicate and gorgeous that I feel like I can get away with less makeup, because who wants to detract attention from a real diamond in their nose? Not I!

    • Samira Scarlett

      Its common to shed a tear when piercing the nose due to the proximity to the sinus and what not

  • Natalie

    ITG, are y'all reading my mind? I was checking out Colby & different piercing options all last night. Thanks for the helpful post! It's like I inception-ed you.

  • Denisse

    This was a really useful article! I might be making a trip to New York this summer and I'm definitely going to make a trip to the place, even if its just to get new earrings!

  • Bird

    Ah, I was waiting for this! I've been interested in ever so slightly changing my look with piercings ever since you started posting about NY Adorned/Colby. Thank you for posting this guide so I can have a better understanding about his practice! Colby, I'll see you this summer!

  • ClosetCravings

    I've been really smitten with forward helix piercings lately. It looks so feminine.
    Satisfy Your Cravings For Celebrity Style and All Things Stylish and Sweet

  • S

    Great article. Hoping to get a couple of lovely ear piercings from him when I'm in NYC very soon!

  • mlle p

    Great article! It's true that you never realize how thick the skin is - I did a couple of mine myself and it felt like it took forever to get the needle through the earlobe.

  • Belle Taylor

    These are beautiful. Does anyone have any suggestions for a good piercing in London? I reallllly want one but want to make sure it's reputable.

    • k80

      Hey Belle, I'm also looking for a place in London - would love somewhere that does similar stuff to NY Adorned, but so far no dice...everywhere seems to be kinda industrial/old school - I've heard Cold Steel in Camden are good but I really want somewhere with the delicate jewellery that NY Adorned do! Does anyone know?

      • AKG6

        I'm with you, ladies--would love to find a great London piercer. Anyone know of one with a little finesse?

        • Ally

          I'm also really keen to find a London piercer that works with delicate jewellery, any tips? Maybe Colby needs to do a pop up store here....

          • k80

            Amazing idea! What do you think, Colby? You'll have a queue of British ITG readers, guaranteed! :)

          • laura

            Yes please! open a store in London, I would come and lots of my friends would too!!

          • laura

            again, any advice of piercers in London would be very much appreciated!!

          • k80

            Hey Londoners, just got my second lobe piercing at Into You in London! Rhianna is the piercer and she's fantastic...they do offer 18k gold but the jewellery everyone pierces with is super simple/industrial anyway (bar or hoop with a ball) so I went with the titianium (it's £100 more to get the gold which is still quite industrial looking) counting down the days til I can put something more delicate in!

      • elle

        Apparently Into You in London have a selection of nice 18k jewellery to choose from for piercings.

        • k80

          Thanks Elle! Will pop by and check it out!

  • Ally

    I was hesitant to make a 2 hour detour on a road trip, just to go to NY Adorned to get pierced by Colby (after finding out about him from ITG, of course), but it was a great decision. I got my daith pierced (almost completely painless!) and its healing beautifully. I also got new jewelry for a previous helix and tragus piercing and I'm in love with everything. Thank you ITG for the amazing recommendations and thank you Colby for being such a devoted and talented artist.

  • fairytalesandcoffee

    wow. looks nice. But the only piercing I will have is the one given to me as a baby in the earlobes. not that adventurous I guess. But that daith piercing does look nice.

  • kaelani

    I love this man.

  • tilly

    ahh, does anyone know where i can buy those delicate gold hoops, with indian designs? i cant see them on Colby's online shop, nor anywhere else online and theyre sooo pretty

    • Anna

      they're fom Body Vision Los Angeles.

    • Robyn

      Also try Venus by Maria Tash (you can order them online)!


    I've been searching for earrings and would love a link to where I could find these all so awesome earrings.

  • Rachel

    Wow Colby seems completely amazing! Unfortunately though, I am no where near New York, but I would love to find delicate and pretty jewelry for helix piercings. Any ideas on a good online source?

    • Amber Nefertari

      venus by maria tasha

      • Rachel

        Thank you so much!

  • Jess

    I have a nose ring, helix, and an industrial (surprised you didn't feature this so I showed a picture of mine) and I love all of them! The industrial is definitely the most painful to get and by far longest healing time and the nose ring is the easiest and fastest. Cartilidge piercings you have to be really patient with and take really good care of but I found it's definitely worth it in the end. Just be ready not to sleep on that side of your head in the beginning!

    • Chelsea

      I had an industrial a few years ago. The first time I got one, it didn't hurt at all. The second time? Like a bitch. I miss them so much! I also had a vertical industrial, that was a rush.

  • freudianslippers

    agree with everyone else here - would love to be able to get my hands on the gorgeous delicate jewelry. also really, really want to get my daith pierced.. despite being in canada i may have to trek it up to ny sometime soon!

  • Emma Burdett

    I love this feature, and I agree with you that body modification has been a lot more in vogue lately. I did a piece on my own blog about high fashion nipple piercings (Erin Wasson, Lara Stone, Freja Beha Erichsen, etc.), and in fact it inspired me to get my very own nipple piercing. Now this feature on cool ear piercings has me wanting to get my daith or forward helix pierced. I love the non-commitment of a piercing over a tattoo, it's still very satisfying without any of the possible regrets.

  • lux

    in the last post with colby he mentioned a "givenchy conch" what is that? i just have no idea. are there photos anywhere?

  • Kate South

    I think piercings can look awesome. That being said, I am pretty tame. Aside from my earlobes, I have one in what I now know is my helix (thanks, ITG!), but it's been the same hoop there for forever...

  • Susie Santry

    Great article - I have 10 piercings atm and am looking into another facial one. I love that piercings aren't so 'weird' anymore. I had two lip rings for 6 years and people always expected me to be this huge heavy metaller or something! It's such a fun fashion statement to make

  • How to be Fancy

    These piercings are gorgeous! I love how dainty and refined they look - all while adding the perfect amount of cool! I'm dying to get my forward helix pierced (I've had my nose done for years, and still love it), but wish there was someone as talented as Colby in my area!

  • Lauren Dimesky

    I had the nose, the tongue, the belly, and too many places on my ears to count! Let them disappear a while ago~ ready for some new ones to satisfy my yearning for more embellishment!!!

  • Chelsea

    James at Old Town Tattoo in Saginaw, Michigan is incredible. I've had a lot of piercings in my day, but he was by far the most professional piercer ever! If you're ever in that neck of the woods, check him out!

  • Julie

    I was thinking about piercing the helix. Does it take long for it to heal?

  • Erin Roman

    I definitely think it's important to go in to a piercing shop open-minded. I have seen many piercings on other people that I wanted, but they wouldn't work with my ear. Everybody's ear anatomy is different and the piercer will know what will work best. I have been very happy with all nine of my piercings! I got my helix pierced about a year ago and since then I've been completely hooked. I'm thinking about getting a snug piercing next, but it's one of those "crazy" piercings that are hard to do. Hopefully it works out!

  • pansy

    what's a backdrop chain?

  • Victoria Street

    Hey guys i live in the Uk and Ive just had my daith pierced, the piercer recommended a vitamin e oil to clean it but i just dont feel its cleaning it throughly so thinking about buying that Dr. Bronner’s baby soap and trying that i wonder if that would be ok, i wonder if my piercer has even ever heard of it :S xx

  • Rachel

    Does anyone know if you can get the back helix pierced with a small cuff so it doesn't fall of like a normal cuff?


    It was a nice post stating the tips about the guide to piercings. Thanks for sharing it.

  • celly

    Can a baby get more than one piercing same day