Ear Tattoos (Everything You Need To Know)

From creative helix tattoos to dainty and bold behind-the-ear tattoos, ear tattoos are the latest ear embellishment trend. Inked ear designs are popular amongst celebrities like Cara Delevingne, Rihanna, Adele, Selena Gomez, and more. Irrespective of the trend, ensure to do your homework before getting your ear inked – they are permanent, after all. 

Ear tattoos are painful as the skin around the ear is extremely thin. They typically take three to four weeks to fully heal and require proper aftercare. It’s essential to frequently clean the tattoo and refrain from scab picking, scented products, sun exposure, and swimming until it heals. 

Ear tattoos have been consistently rising in popularity amongst the tattoo community. Getting your first ink may seem a little intimidating. So, we’ve compiled a list of everything you need to know before getting an ear tattoo. 

Why Do People Get Ear Tattoos? (And What Do They Mean?)

Ear tattoos are most inked onto the lobe, cartilage, or behind the ear.

While your ear may seem like a limited skin area for a tattoo, there are definite perks to adding some ink to this flattering and unusual area.

Many lean towards ear tattoos for a small, subtle art piece when they don’t want to make a statement with their body art.

Ear tattoos are discrete and allow you to choose when to show off your ink. They often go unnoticed and are easy to hide. People with long hair can simply hide their ear tattoos by letting their hair down or tying it up to flaunt the art piece.

Others use delicate ink designs instead of jewelry to glitz their ears. Many designs even mimic piercings.

In Buddhism, ears symbolize divine knowledge, wisdom, and longevity, believing that our ears are the receptors of sacred knowledge given by the gods. Many mythologies also believe that gods and spirits whisper sacred insight to people behind their ears.

An ear tattoo can be a reminder of the audible and inaudible sounds and messages that may pass our conscious minds but register in our always-listening subconscious minds. However, it can also be a touching tribute to a loved one or a creative way for someone to express their nature and the symbols close to the heart.

However, a tattoo does not always have to be symbolic. There is nothing wrong with getting an ear tattoo to showcase your artistic personality.

Does It Hurt Getting An Ear Tattoo?

Pretty much any tattoo will hurt on some level. The pain intensity ultimately depends on the location of the tattoo, each person’s pain threshold and mental health, and the tattoo artist’s experience level.

Ear tattoos can range from ink on the ear itself, the helix (the rim of the external ear), the skin behind the outer ear, near the back of the ear and neck, and right in front of the ear near the side of the face.

The skin behind a person’s ear is extremely thin and rests directly on the skull bone. As a result, the ear and the area behind tend to be sensitive, making an ear tattoo particularly painful.

Anecdotal evidence shows that the pain of an ear tattoo is a 5+ on a 10-point scale.

The body cannot absorb the shock and vibrations of the tattoo machine due to a lack of padding on and behind the ear. This can lead to an uncomfortable sensation, especially when the tattoo artist goes over your mastoid bone, as you will hear the vibration inside your ear.

Individuals experiencing mental health issues, high levels of stress, and negative emotions can have a more painful and uncomfortable tattoo experience. Try relaxation techniques like meditation, deep breathing, or listening to soothing music before your appointment. 

Avoid drinking alcohol before your appointment, as it heightens one’s pain sensitivity and increases bleeding.

On the bright side, ear tattoos are small, and the worst pain will be over once the tattoo is complete. You can also request a numbing agent to reduce some of the pain. However, this won’t stop the intensity of the vibrations.

Inexperienced or unprofessional tattoo artists can also cause an ear tattoo to be more painful. An unskilled artist may push too hard into the ear’s cartilage, causing the ink to bleed under the skin. In addition, painful infections can occur from unclean tools or allergies to specific ink coloring.

Choosing a professional and experienced tattoo artist is imperative to ensure minimal pain and risk of infection.

How Much Does An Ear Tattoo Cost?

A tattoo’s price varies depending on the size, design, detailing, color, and the artist’s reputation and skill level. So, there is no clear-cut answer to how much an ear tattoo will cost.

Some artists will charge a flat rate for a design. However, they mostly charge by the hour, charging between $100 and $250 per hour. Tattoo artists that have been in the industry for an extended period tend to charge more as they have a built reputation, more experience, and more clientele.

Most artists also have a minimum rate of around $100 to compensate for their product and time. So, you will have to pay the minimum rate even if you choose a simplistic design that takes under an hour.

The price can also vary by location. For example, urban centers typically charge more than parlors in rural settings.

It is best to ask your tattoo artist for an estimated price prior to making an appointment.

How Long Do Ear Tattoos Take To Heal?

An ear tattoo generally takes between three to four weeks to fully heal. Tattoo healing can be split into three stages.

  • Week 1: Your new tattoo is considered an open wound. It will be covered with antibiotic ointment and plastic wrap for the first few hours. You may notice redness, slight swelling, a burning sensation, and oozing.
  • Week 2: You may experience itching and flaking on and around the tattoo area. You don’t have to be concerned – the ink will remain intact. Resist scratching and picking at scabs, and moisturize the area to keep the skin hydrated.
  • Week 3 and 4: The tattoo will begin to dry out, and the itchiness will pass. Don’t be alarmed if your tattoo appears less vibrant. The layer of dry skin that forms during the healing process will naturally exfoliate itself, unraveling the vivid tattoo.

The healing process relies on implementing effective aftercare. The open skin is vulnerable to infections and scarring. Proper aftercare can prevent complications, ensuring that the tattoo heals properly.

Only use a licensed and reputable tattoo artist to ensure minimal health risks. And take full responsibility for caring for the new tattoo at home.

Mild ear pain is expected after your appointment. However, the pain should be manageable and gradually improve in the days after getting the tattoo.

If the pain doesn’t improve, it could indicate an infection or an allergic reaction. Consult a healthcare professional immediately.

Signs Your Ear Tattoo Isn’t Healing Properly

Here are the signs that indicate your ear tattoo isn’t healing correctly.

  • Severe or worsening pain
  • Prolonged redness and swelling
  • Blisters or a rash over the tattoo
  • Open sores
  • Severe itching or hives
  • Smelly discharge from the tattoo
  • Fever or chills
  • Scarring

Tips To Reduce Healing Time

Here are our favorite tips on speeding up the healing process of your ear tattoo.

  • Keep your tattoo out of the sun and avoid applying sunscreen until your tattoo has completely healed.
  • Clean the tattoo daily with lukewarm, sterile water and fragrance-free and alcohol-free soap.
  • Avoid using scented products. Switch to unscented shampoo and conditioner, as your ear tattoo is located close to your scalp.
  • Avoid scratching and picking at scabs.

Things To Consider Before Getting An Ear Tattoo

So, you’ve gathered the courage to sit in the chair for your first (maybe fifth) tattoo.

First things first, the tattoo isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. So, it stands to reason that you should be well prepared and fully committed to the design and location of the tattoo before getting your ear inked.

You will need to consider the following factors before getting your ear inked.

Tattoo Location & Design

Carefully select the location and design of the tattoo. Ensure you choose a tattoo that you won’t likely regret.

While many people gravitate towards an ear tattoo because of the limited visibility and ability to fly it under the radar, that isn’t always the case. The size of the tattoo and your hairstyle can influence its visibility. We recommend trying a similar temporary tattoo for several days before hopping into the chair.

Ear tattoos are prone to scar easily. So, choosing a clear and simplistic design without excessive detailing is best.

Find A Highly Reputable Tattoo Parlor Or Artist

Do your homework to find the best tattoo parlor or artist near you. Sure, you may pay a little extra, but it’s definitely worth it for a permanent piece of art. 


The tattoo’s costs will vary based on location, size, geographic region, and the tattoo artist’s level of expertise.

We advise doing research to determine a rough estimate of the costs before walking away disappointed.

Ear Tattoos Fade Faster

Ear tattoos are prone to fade much faster than other areas of the body. The skin on and around the ears is thin and doesn’t have as many pores to “grip” the ink properly.

Ear tats also fade faster than others due to excessive sunlight exposure.

Because of this, ear tattoos require more frequent touch-ups, especially if the tattoo is colorful.

Potential Infections & Scarring

Getting a tattoo comes with the risk of infections and scarring, even when using a professional artist.

Another concern is the dye used. Many tattooing dyes contain harmful metals and toxins that can cause allergic reactions or skin irritations. Unfortunately, removing the tattoo is the only remedy for curing allergic reactions. This may lead to permanent deformities or scarring.

What To Wear After Getting An Ear Tattoo?

New tattoos are vulnerable to infections and scarring during the healing process. And what you wear can impact the healing process.

Covering a new tattoo with loose clothing is recommended to protect it from sun exposure. However, this may be a little tricky with an ear tattoo.

You can wear a soft beanie or hair pulled over your ears to protect your tattoo while outside. If you have long hair, wear your hear down for the first few weeks when you’re out in the sun.

Do NOT apply sunscreen until the tattoo fully heals.

Can You Work Out After Getting An Ear Tattoo?

You shouldn’t hit the gym or go for a sweaty run after getting a tattoo. Your skin needs time to heal before you can resume physical exercises.

Tattoos are essentially open wounds. The tattooing process breaks the skin, puncturing it with hundreds of tiny wounds. Open wounds are one of the greatest risks of germs and harmful bacteria entering your body.

A gym and its equipment are high-risk areas for contracting harmful pathogens. So, it’s best to steer clear of the gym for a couple of days.

Germs aside, most of us break a sweat during a workout, which can interrupt the healing process. The same applies to friction. Rubbing clothing or equipment against a new tattoo may chafe and irritate the skin or rub off the scabs.

While equipment and clothing rarely rub against the ear, most of us are quick to grab a towel to wipe our faces when sweating. The face towel can interrupt the tattoo’s healing process.

Then, avoid outdoor workouts. The tattooed skin is extremely sensitive, and sunlight can fade or bleach your new tattoo. Ensure you stay out of the sun for three to four weeks.

You will also need to avoid swimming for at least two weeks. Soaking a new tattoo can potentially break down the ink. In addition, most pools are chemically treated, which may result in irritation and infections. And swimming in natural bodies of water will expose the open wound to harmful bacteria.

How Long To Wait Before Working Out After Getting A Tattoo?

Once your tattoo is finished, you should wait a minimum of 48 hours before vigorous physical activity or heavy sweating.

Friendly reminder: stay out of the sun and water until the tattoo is fully healed.

What Types Of Workouts Can I Do After A New Tattoo?

You can consider less strenuous exercises while allowing your new tattoo sufficient time to heal.

Try taking a relaxed walk or doing low-intensity yoga at home. You’re in the clear if you don’t sweat excessively and stay out of the sun and water.

Can You Swim After Getting An Ear Tattoo?

Let’s be honest, the temptation to show off your fresh ink at a pool party or fun beach day is huge. However, taking a dip in the pool or any water source, for that matter, is a big no-no.

Your new ear tattoo needs protection from the sun, chemicals, bacteria, and pollution, especially when it comes to swimming.

A new tattoo is essentially a fresh wound that needs sufficient time to heal. Exposing the wound to chlorinated pools, saltwater, and other natural water sources can interfere with the healing process and even ruin your tattoo.

Here are the potential side effects of swimming before your tattoo is fully healed:

  • Risk of infection: Like with any open wound, immersing a new tattoo in water exposes your skin to harmful bacteria, posing a risk of infection.
  • Skin irritation: New tattoos are already raw and sensitive. Exposing it to chlorinated water or other chemicals may cause contact dermatitis. The end result is a red, inflamed, and itchy rash. Severe skin irritations can cause blisters, open sores, and crusting. This can all affect the final look of your new, pricey art piece.
  • Damaged tattoo: Soaking your newly tattooed skin can cause fading and discoloration. Chlorinated water and salt water are tough on new tattoos. They can leach the ink from your new ear tattoo, making it appear less vibrant.
  • Prolonged healing: Swimming can dry out the freshly tattooed skin, causing excessive itching, flaking, and scabbing. This will prolong the healing process and can even cause fading and patchiness.

Swimming Waiting Period After Getting An Ear Tattoo?

You need to wait for your ear tattoo to fully heat before swimming. This can take at least three to four weeks.

If, after three weeks, the skin doesn’t appear fully healed – signs of redness, scabbing, and crusting – then wait a bit longer. Remember, patience is your greatest ally.

What If I Have To Swim?

Take the following action to protect your new ink if you’re in a situation (competition, therapy, or rehab) where you have to expose your new eat tattoo to water.

If swimming is unavoidable, apply a waterproof dressing like Saniderm or Tegaderm. Apply the bandage right before swimming, ensuring the tattoo is completely covered. Then, remove the dressing as soon as you’re done. Keeping your healing tattoo covered will interfere with the healing process.

Take further precautions by gently washing the tattoo with sterile water and mild soap to prevent infections.

Avoid using any petroleum jelly products like Vaseline for extra protection. It can trap moisture and bacteria, leading to horrible infections and scarring.

Ear Tattoo Aftercare

Proper aftercare is arguably the most critical part of getting an ear tattoo. It is imperative for quick healing and a lower risk of complications.

Follow these essential aftercare tips to ensure your ear tattoo heals beautifully.

  1. After getting inked, your tattoo artist will cover the tattoo with a thin layer of antibiotic ointment and plastic wrap. The covering protects the tattoo from harmful bacteria and chafing. Wear the dressing for as long as the tattoo artist recommends – typically a few hours.
  2. After the recommended waiting period, you can remove the plastic wrap. First, wash your hands and then gently wash the tattoo with warm (preferably sterile) water and soap. Ensure the soap is fragrance-free and alcohol-free.
  3. Do not re-apply the plastic wrap after removing the initial dressing. The tattoo needs to breathe, and wrapping it can cause scabbing and slow healing.
  4. Avoid rubbing the tattoo with a towel. Instead, gently dry it with a paper towel or let it air dry.
  5. Apply a fragrance-and-alcohol-free ointment to the tattoo. Keep the covering off to allow your skin to breathe.
  6. Wash the tattoo twice per day, and routinely apply a fragrance-free and alcohol-free ointment.
  7. Steer clear from scented hair products. We recommend switching to unscented shampoo and conditioner as your ear tattoo is located close to your scalp.
  8. Avoid picking at scabs, as they can delay the healing process and cause scarring. Allow the scabs to come off naturally.
  9. Keep your ear tattoo out of the sun, and avoid applying sunscreen until your tattoo has completely healed.
  10. Avoid rigorous exercise and sweating for at least 48 hours.
  11. Avoid swimming for three to four weeks or until the tattoo heals fully.
  12. Avoid wearing earrings and other adornments that can scratch your eat tattoo until it heals. This is especially important if you sleep on your side.
  13. If your tattoo shows any sign of infection, allergic reaction, or similar issues, don’t play games – contact your tattoo artist and doctor immediately.

Awesome Ear Tattoo Designs (Instagram)

With all the essential “need-to-knows” answered, let’s jump into some inspiring art designs and styles for your next ear tattoo.

Floral Designs

Floral designs are timeless pieces perfect for ear tattoos. Our favorite artworks include:

Dots & Lines

Incorporating dots and lines into tattoo designs and simplistic and provide endless options. Here are some of our favorites:

Ear Doodles

Doodles are playful and vibrant designs, making a fun statement. Take a look at these cute designs:


Symbols have a unique meaning for each person. Here are some popular symbols perfect for a new ear tattoo:


Ear tattoos are appealing art pieces. However, ensure you do your homework before getting a tattoo and remember that aftercare is essential.


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