L.A.'s 10 Coolest Ear-Piercing Combinations — & The Man Behind Them All

Photo: Courtesy of Brian Keith Thompson.
What do Beyoncé, Scarlett Johansson, and Rihanna have in common? When they want to take their ear game to the next level, they turn to Los Angeles piercer Brian Keith Thompson. Known for creating some of the most badass ear-piercing combinations in the city, he's garnered fans among celebs and locals alike, thanks to his thoughtful arrangements and perennially hip Melrose Avenue shop, Body Electric.

Needless to say, Thompson is the dude in the L.A. piercing world. But, don't think he's highfalutin just because his client list includes everyone from Jessica Alba to Melanie Griffith; he's earned his street cred. In fact, his résumé reads like a Hollywood movie: grew up in L.A., went from the military to a 9-to-5 to a stint in L.A. County Jail, got out, and spent every dollar he had to buy Body Electric, a shop with a storied Hollywood past. Now, he's in-demand and flown all over the world to pierce celebs, royalty — you name it.

But, it's perhaps Thompson's gentle touch that keeps them coming back. "I always tell my clients who ask about pain that it's like dinner; the better the chef, the better the meal," he told us one afternoon in his shop, pre-piercing. "The more experienced a piercer is, the less it's going to hurt, because his or her movements are more fluid." We can't prove to you that his technique is low-pain (although it is) unless you swing by for an appointment, but we can offer up the spoils of our time with him — which include a handful of piercing combinations to inspire your own ear party.

Ahead, a guide to piercings, care, and 10 of our favorite combos, broken down by Thompson.

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Ear Piercing 101

But first, a few facts you need to know before going under the needle, courtesy of Thompson.

Placement Matters
The spots on the right are the most relevant piercing locations to consider for your own ear party. Pay close attention to the tragus, rook, and both helixes, which will take your standard piercing combo to the next level in the following slides.

NEVER Let Anyone Pierce You With A Gun
"That's so dumb," Thompson says. "What is a needle's job? To pierce the skin. The gun is not piercing anything; the gun is using a piece of jewelry fashioned to a point and using blunt-force trauma to make the hole. Why would you do that?"

Simple Care Is All You Need
"Ask 100 piercers how to take care of a piercing, and you'll get 100 different answers," Thompson says. "For me, it's soap and water and don't touch it! Soap is negatively and positively charged, so it's able to mix oil and water together. I use Dr. Bronner's because it's all-natural."

Consult The Internet Before Picking A Piercer
"Do your research: Yelp them, Google them, look at their work, go on their Instagram, see what they're doing, ask them questions," Thompson says. Bonus? It will hurt less. "You go to a novice piercer, and it's going to hurt a bit more, because they're new. It takes time to become fluid with your movements."

Cartilage Hurts More & Heals Slower
"Cartilage is dense, and it heals differently than the spongy lobe," Thompson says. "Your body builds what's called a fistula. So, the needle goes through your ear, and the body builds a complete tunnel around it. It heals all the way around. So, the cartilage just takes a bit more time." How much? "It will take three to five months for cartilage to heal, if you leave it alone," he says. "But, clients walk out the door, and they touch it, they hit it, they play with it, they mess with it." Translation: Don't touch, and it will heal better and faster.

The lobe comes with the same rules, but it does heal faster. "The lobe's a little more chill," he says.
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Photo: Courtesy of Brian Keith Thompson.
"This is cool, and really popular; it's called a nail, which is a diamond with a hoop. If you look at Beyoncé's Instagram account, you'll see a picture of her ear [that I did with a nail]. You get both worlds: the stud and the ring. And then I flanked it with two simple rings. So, where does the eye go? It goes to the center, but you're seeing it all. If I did diamonds on all of them, it would have changed the whole dynamic. This way, your eye goes straight there...Not all piercers would do that, because they don't get decoration. I could have sold her more, but I think this looks better. It's not about the money; it's about making that person look like a fucking badass."
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Photo: Courtesy of Brian Keith Thompson.
"I did these top three piercings. I love a double helix with yellow-gold rings, especially if you have blonde hair; it just looks great. This entire ear is a perfect combination — it's clean, classic, and timeless. You can wear this for years, and it's never going to go out of style. It's an everyday look."
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Photo: Courtesy of Brian Keith Thompson.
"Three is just an awesome number. It's like the shape of a pyramid. It just visually works."
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"What makes a cool combination really just depends on the person. I like to see the person and how they're dressed, and I can take it from there. I try to help clients pick the color to best suit them. But, I'm not going to do too many at once, in most cases. Last night, I had a girl who wanted five, and I said, 'Why don't we start with two and see how you feel? In a couple weeks, let's do a couple more.'"
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Photo: Courtesy of Brian Keith Thompson.
"I love this. The forward helix is a cool piercing if you adorn it the right way — if you're not afraid to put something badass in it."
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"The forward helix again. This is a case of a girl wanting three holes in her forward helix, but I only did two. You have to have room for the piercings; If I'd crammed another one in, it would look too heavy. It looks perfect like this."
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"The industrial piercing is becoming popular again, and a piercer should have different-size industrials for different ears, because everybody's different. Our back stock is massive. It's expensive for me to carry all these sizes, because I'm sitting on all of them; you don't sell all this gold in one day. But, getting the right sizing is worth it."
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Photo: Courtesy of Brian Keith Thompson.
"Sometimes you want less, because the more you put on, the more you take away from certain parts."

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"The tragus is all about placement. Sometimes I like to do a double tragus, but you have to have enough room. It gets a little more irritated, so you have to know how to care for it."
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"This is a great conch because she has nothing else in her ear. It's perfect how she's wearing it; sometimes, less is more, and you need to pump the brakes. Look at her — she looks rad with just one piercing. Everybody's complimenting her."
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