Complete Guide to Getting a Rook Piercing

Thinking about getting a rook piercing? 

Whether you’re adding it to a collection of curated ear piercings, or want a statement, standalone piece, a rook piercing is a great choice if you’re looking for something more unusual! 

The rook is a relatively new piercing placement as well. It was invented in the ’90s by Erik Dakota, a professional piercer based in California. 

It’s not the type of piercing that everyone has, but rook piercings are becoming more popular. 

We’re going to go through everything you need to know about rook piercings. We’ll cover pain levels, aftercare and healing, recommended jewelry, and even a secret benefit to having one!

So what exactly is a rook piercing?

A rook is cartilage ear piercing. The exact location is in the antihelix, above the tragus.

Since it’s nestled in the upper portion of the ear, it visually helps to balance out lobe piercings. 

It’s also one of only surface ear piercings – meaning that it doesn’t go through the ear from front to back, but tunnels through a thick fold of cartilage. 

This is a more tricky area to pierce. Some people aren’t able to get it done at all due to their anatomy, so getting one requires an experienced professional piercer. 

The initial jewelry placed in a rook is usually a curved barbell. This makes it easier to clean and heal since the barbell won’t move around too much or get caught on things. After the healing process, you may replace the barbell with a ring.

Are rook piercings painful?

The short answer for whether rook piercings are painful is: it depends. 

Pain in piercings is relative – what is excruciating for one person might be no more than a pinch for another! 

The anticipation of pain, as well as excitement leading to a piercing, can heighten your emotions. This will make you more conscious of the pain you experience.

If you’re prone to anxiety and worried about pain, it’s best to avoid alcohol 24 hours before getting a piercing. Avoid coffee and other products with caffeine as well the day of the piercing. 

That said, a rook piercing does have to go through skin and cartilage. The fold of cartilage a rook piercing passes through is thicker, so there will be more sensation as compared to an orbital piercing.

There will be some pain, but people generally report more of an intense pressure feeling. 

Before beginning the piercing process, your piercer will set up everything so it will go as quickly as possible. They will ask you to take a couple of deep breaths in and out and pierce when you exhale to minimize pain. They’ll use a very sharp hollow needle, and follow it up with the jewelry. You might hear a crunch sound with the needle or feel tugging as the jewelry is inserted and adjusted. After piercing, the area may become hot, tender, and sore.

How long will a rook piercing be sore?

The rook piercing will have a throbbing feeling for a few days, transitioning to a general sore feeling as it heals. As long as it’s healing, and especially in the first few weeks, your piercing will be sore. 

If the piercing gets disturbed by anything, like hitting it with a hairbrush, it will prolong the soreness and healing process. 

Although a rook piercing will have some soreness, it should not be unbearably painful. See a doctor as soon as possible if you do find the soreness to be excessive, especially if it is accompanied by a heavy discharge (yellow, green, or bloody) and/or a fever.

What does a rook piercing help with?

A hidden benefit to getting a rook piercing is that it may help with tension and stress relief. 

Proponents of acupuncture and auriculotherapy believe you can treat diseases by stimulating specific points in your ear. The location of the rook piercing may provide stress relief. 

At the very least, you’ll have a unique new piercing, so we would say it’s worth a try!

How long does it take a rook piercing to heal?

At a minimum, a rook piercing will take 6 months to heal. It may be longer depending on the person. The piercing can take up to a year to fully heal. 

This area is more tricky to heal since cartilage is made of avascular tissue, meaning it lacks a direct blood supply.

In contrast, your earlobes are made of soft, vascular tissue. Vascular tissue has blood vessels that bring in oxygen and blood, helping the piercing heal. 

The good thing about a rook piercing is that even though the tissue is slower to heal, the location of the piercing means it’s out of the way. It is unlikely to get disturbed much by movement or brushing against it. This is important since movement can cause delicate, healing tissue to break apart and irritate the wound. 

To ensure your piercing heals as quickly as possible, you want to make sure that nothing comes in contact with it. Avoid swimming and hot tubs, as this can introduce new bacteria and cause an infection. Ideally, you would wait 6 weeks before swimming. At the very least, do not swim within the first 24 hours of getting a rook piercing. Also avoid sleeping on that side and touching it, unless it’s to clean the area. 

How do you clean a rook piercing? 

The easiest way to clean your rook piercing is in the shower. The warm water will soften any discharge around the wound so you can easily wash it away. Wash your hands and then rub a mild unscented soap around the area. Make sure to thoroughly rinse with water. It’s best to do this step last in your cleansing routine so that any shampoo/conditioner products will be cleaned away from the piercing as well.

In between showers, you can use a basic saline solution (find this product in the wound care aisle of your local drugstore) to rinse the area. Use a cotton swab to remove any discharge. Rinse your piercing with the saline solution after swimming or exercising as well. 

Sea salt soaks are also great for healing your rook piercing. Take one cup of warm water and pour it into a bowl. Add 1/8 to 1/4 of a teaspoon of sea salt and stir to dissolve. Then, if it’s comfortable to do so, soak your whole ear in the solution for 5 minutes. If you find this awkward, you can also dip sterile gauze into the liquid and apply it to your ear. 

Don’t soak it for longer than 5 minutes – more isn’t always better! The idea is to clean your rook piercing as gently as possible. This means avoiding alcohol-based cleaning solutions and hydrogen peroxide. They’ll irritate the area more than they’ll help.

Of course, there’s also the LITHA method some swear by. It stands for “Leave It The Hell Alone”. Many problems are caused by fiddling with the piercing, touching it with unclean hands, and trying to do too much. Think about getting a scrape on your knee. You generally clean it, bandage it, and leave it alone to scab and heal. The same goes for piercings, as excess cleansing can dry them out. Consult your piercer if you wish to go with this method.

Should I move my rook piercing when cleaning?

You should not move your rook piercing when cleaning. It’s not recommended as moving your piercing may introduce new bacteria to the wound and irritate the healing tissue. Trust your body and let it do its thing! 

Twisting your jewelry is an outdated practice. There are a couple of theories of where this idea came from.

Some think it’s from when people would get pierced at a mall kiosk with jewelry that was too tight and did not account for normal swelling. If you visit a professional piercer, they will use the proper length of jewelry.

Others think it might come from further back, to when people would pierce ears with thread and you needed to move the thread to ensure your tissue wouldn’t grow on it.

In any case, there is no reason to move your rook piercing. The area might feel tight at times while it heals, but that is normal. 

When can you change a rook piercing? 

We asked Shane from Enigma Professional Piercing in San Diego, California when you can change your rook piercing. He advised coming back into the studio at 6 weeks to check how it is healing. If all is well, at 6 weeks you can shorten the bar you were pierced with, and choose a different top. For people that want to replace the piercing entirely with a hoop, he advises waiting 6 months.


Can you wear Airpods with a rook piercing?

Yes! The great thing about a rook piercing is that unlike a daith or tragus piercing, it doesn’t interfere with things going into your ear canal. You should be able to wear AirPods directly after getting your piercing. Be careful during the first couple of weeks that you don’t knock the piercing with your AirPods while inserting it.

Does a rook piercing close up?

Your rook piercing will eventually close up without jewelry. The time that takes depends on how fresh the piercing is. A brand new piercing can close in minutes. A healed piercing can take 6 months to fully close. Do not remove your piercing if you’re not sure it is healed. If the piercing is healed and you remove your jewelry, you may be able to open it back up with something called a taper pin. Again, we recommend having it assessed by a professional piercer.