Ear Cartilage Piercing Information & Aftercare

What is an Ear Cartilage Piercing?

Cartilage is essential a connective tissue, which is a lot harder than our skin, but way weaker than teeth. Typically upper ear piercing goes through cartilage, and it is quite hard to get pierced. In the last few years, these types of piercing become very popular. Not only due to their versatility, but they are also quite handy. You can sleep with them without any worries, which you can’t say about many piercings. And there are so many spots on an ear that you can use for this.

There are many different types of piercings to choose from:

  • The Snug
  • Anti-helix
  • Upper helix
  • Inner Conch
  • Outer Conch
  • Daith
  • Tragus
  • Orbital

What is the Most Common Ear Cartilage Piercing?

One of the most common, maybe even the most common piercing that goes through cartilage, is the helix piercing, which pierces at the tip of the upper part of the ear.

First piercing appointment

If you have never been pierced before, you have nothing to worry about. If you have not chosen the jewelry yet, you don’t have to stress it. The piercer will help you find the right jewelry for you and the spot you want to get pierced. If it is a good piercer, he will also explain to you which kind of jewelry is good for the spot you want. Because some piercings won’t fit your ear, and that could potentially cause pain or other problems, in the worst-case infection.

After setting everything up, the piercer will sterilize the jewelry chosen by you, and he will proceed and clean your ear. After both your ear and the jewelry is sterilized, hoe or she will make a spot on your ear, where you will get pierced. You will have to give him a heads up if the marked spot is right. If you do, the piercer will take a hollow needle, and he will pierce your ear cartilage. After the ear is pierced, the piercer should insure your jewelry immediately. The whole process from choosing to piercing takes only a few minutes to finish.

How to choose jewelry

Typically when someone gets their cartilage pierced, there is a lot of swelling involved. Not everyone gets it, but most people do. Especially at the end of the cartilage, the heavier the jewelry is, the more prone it is to swelling. The jewelry’s width and length also play a role in this “equation,” but typically, the larger the jewelry is, the heavier it is, and there is more aftercare with bigger jewelry.

One of the most common jewelry used for this type of piercing is a barbell or barbell shaped jewelry and captive bead rings. Both of these come in pretty much the same size. The most common ones are 14 gauge, 16 gauge, and 18 gauge. We highly recommend you to get for the first time something that is bigger than 5/16″ since the length is needed to accommodate for the swelling, which is almost guaranteed for first-timers. Usually, we recommend getting either a basic barbell and the captive ring because they are lightweight and effortless to clean. After the first two to four months, depending on your luck, you could go back to your piercer and take out the old jewelry and get something that fits better your ear when the swelling is completely gone.

But you can do this process sooner if you like, after the first month you can go and change for smaller jewelry if you feel that most of the swelling is gone and maybe in the next month get even lower and so on. But if not done correctly, you can extend your healing time for a few more months, so think about this twice.

When there is no more swelling going on, the healing process should over. And at that point, you have several thousands of jewelry to choose from. The most variety is with barbells. There are thousands of these, since the front of the barbell can have any shape, and each barbell can hold several cabochons, each with different colors or stones.

Unlike any place on your body, you can have more than piercing on a tiny area of your body on your ear cartilage. You can do so many things, and you can either design it in your way and express yourself. Lately, I have seen so many people with three to six piercings creating the shape of a flower.

Types of Ear Cartilage Piercings

As mentioned above, the ear cartilage tougher than your regular skin. The ear cartilage is pretty much everything that is above your ear lobe area. Each ear cartilage piercing holds a different name, and these names are based on the area of the ear cartilage where the jewelry is going to be pierced. If you want to find out more about different types of piercings, please continue reading. If you want to know more about aftercare, skip a few paragraphs until you see aftercare in a heading!

Outer Conch

On the picture there are described on the photo of ear diffrerent types of ear cartilage piercings:
The Snug
Upper helix
Inner Conch
Outer Conch

In general, conch piercing is in the middle of the small of the ear, which is no joke. It is the most robust and thickest part of the ear cartilage. We don’t recommend these at all for someone who goes for the first piercing. The outer conch piercing goes in the middle of your ear in the lower part.

The most common jewelry that is used for outer conch is usually a barbell or flatback barbell. Some people will get circular barbells and captive rings, which is a horrible idea. There is pretty no way that you can comfortably sleep with that, and this is an awful choice for outer conch and even worse choice for inner conch.

Jewelry for outer conch piercing could be in a range anywhere from $10-$100, and depending on where you live, the piercing itself will cost anywhere from $10-$50. The initial piercing should be pierced anywhere from 14 gauge to 18 gauge. This will depend on your ear and what kind of look you want. Unlike the ear lobe, cartilage does not stretch. That means that you will have to use the gauge in the piercing size you want.

Inner Conch

It is slightly less painful than the outer conch, and it is located in the middle shell of the ear. Inner conch piercing is somewhat above the outer conch piercing and bit more close to the ear canal.

The preferred jewelry type is threadless or pushpins. But you can’t go wrong with a flatback barbell or barbell.

The pricing is pretty much the same as for the outer conch piercing.


This trend started back in the 80s, and since that, it carries the name helix piercing. It was widely used across the globe, and it is very popular with cartilage piercings. You will find helix piercing pierced along with a captive rig/straight barbell/circular barbell in most cases. It is best to use one of the smaller gauges anywhere between the 14 gauge and 18 gauge levels. It obviously depends on your ear and the desired jewelry that you want to get pierced. Luckily they are that pricy. You can find them anywhere in the price range of $40-$100.

Forward Helix

This type of piercing on the same side of cartilage, like any regular helix piercing, would on the upper part of the ear. Unlike any other piercing is facing forward above the tragus area. In most cases, people get pierced anywhere from two to four forward helix piercings aligned vertically to the ear’s top. These go by name double, triple, or Quatro forward helix.

Most common are straight barbells, even though there are so many to choose from, you can easily use flatback barbells and use threadless posts for healing forward helix piercings. At the end of the day, they are so many combinations that you can use. But you need to wait till your ear is fully healed to swap it for the captive ring, seamless ring, or maybe even circular barbell. When it comes to forward helix piercings, it is a bit more complicated. Since you need to find jewelry that goes well together, and you need to keep in mind that they need to go along with your ear anatomy to look good and sit well. As expected, they are bit pricier, and you can get one anywhere from $30-$80. Unfortunately, not like in any other industry. Usually, you won’t get a bulk discount. If you want four forward helix piercings, you will end up paying four times more.


The tragus piercing is usually used in the center of the ear cartilage’s small flap right in front of the ear canal, aka tragus. Most probably, no one will recommend this piercing as a first cartilage piercing since this process is a lot more advanced due to the tragus look. Some people have a small tragus, and some people have large, and it is a complicated area to work with. Alo during this process, most people, hear a pop when the needle goes through. Most folks can’t handle this.

To get this done, you will need to get an initial piercing with a 16 gauge, usually with a straight barbell/flatback or threadless posts. Why? You need to make room for swelling, which will, for sure, come within the first few months of healing. Again after a few months, when the healing is done, you can switch the jewelry to the hoop, curved barbell, or even circular barbell. Lately, many people have been swapping for a captive ring, which looks fantastic. You don¨t have to worry with this one, cheapest tragus piercing costs around $20 and the pricier ones are usually done $60. The price will be, of course, higher if you use gemstones or anything like that.


Every antitragus piercing is either in the flap or ridge of the ear cartilage. Antitragus is usually pierced with 16 gauge with a flat or even curved barbell, which will allow swelling. Again in two or three months, when it is fully healed, you can change it to a circular barbell or captive ring. Antitragus piercing is in the same price category as tragus.


Industrial is actually not one piercing, but two of them one other helix piercing and one forward helix piercing. Both of these are connected with a straight barbell. Usually, they use longer ones. Industrial piercing originated back in the early 90s. Mostly it is pierced at 14 gauge. Unfortunately, it is not possible to use existing cartilage piercing and work it into the industrial piercing in most cases. For industrial piercing to work, you need to have both piercings aligned. Until a few years ago, industrial piercings were always limited to stainless steel barbell, but lately, there is a lot of customized original barbells, which were purposely made for industrials, but they also come with a higher price point. Regular industrial piercings cost anywhere from $70-$150.


ear cartilage piercing called orbital

This piercing, like industrial, is also constructed from two different piercings. Usually, these two piercings are connected via the captive or seamless ring. Once it is done, it looks like the jewelry is making orbit around the ear. For this very reason, it is called orbital piercing. Most likely orbital is turned from the inner conch, the lix, or the rook piercing. Most orbitals are pierced with 14 gauge or 16 gauge with a captive ring. The price starts at $60 to $100.


Do you like vertical piercings? You will love rook piercing, which is pierced in the cartilage fold above the tragus. For some reason, the prices in the last few years went down, and you can get one for $20-$40. Like most of these, it is pierced at a 16 gauge, and the curved barbell is a must since it will swell a lot in this area. You can expect healing time longer than three months in some cases. After that, switch up the jewelry for a captive ring. If you don’t move a lot while sleeping, you can even think about a curved barbell.


Do you like horizontal piercings? Then you might think about getting a snug piercing. For some, this one is scary since it goes through the cartilage fold above the antitragus. Most snugs are pierced with a prolonged curved barbell at 16 gauge. Only piercing that looks good and actually feels good is a curved barbell since it is the ideal shape for this area and sits nicely against the ear. You can get snug piercing for pretty cheap. Pricing starts at $20-$40.


Do you suffer from migraines? Some believe that Daith piercing is aligned to a pressure point from acupuncture and potentially can help with migraines. Obviously, this is not medical advice. But it is well known and discussed a lot in this community. The Daith piercing is above the ear canal and goes through the cartilage’s tiniest fold in the ear. The best bet is to use 16gaguge with a captive ring or clicker ring. Some use a seamless ring, but definitely not in Europe. Again the healing time on this one can take up to 4 months. Once the area is not swelled at all, you can swap it for the jewelry you like. Daith piercings can get very pricy. Even the most common ones start at $40-$90.

Cartilage Piercing Aftercare

Read this carefully, if you are not up to do all of these activities when it comes to caring about the piercing. Don’t get pierced, and it is just not worth it to get an infection due to improper care. If you are up for the challenge, don’t worry. Once the healing is done, the day to daycare is minimal to none.

How long does it take for a cartilage piercing to heal?

It depends on the specific area, but cartilage piercings usually take a lot of time to loose swelling and heal properly. The placement is crucial when it comes to healing, but it usually takes at least three months. But as said, depending on the placement, your diet, lifestyle, and your healing, it can take even up to a year. If you want to shorten the healing time, use a smaller gauge. This is not even advice to speed up the process, and this is just a must; you need to clean the piercing each morning and every night. The easiest and most common way to clean the piercing is to soak it in saltwater, and anyone can do that! For this, get at least a gallon of distilled water and one bottle of Non-iodized seal salt. Also, if you don’t have antibacterial soap already, you need to get one. It is not for cleaning the piercing itself, but it is a good practice to have one if you need it.

If you are lazy like me, buy them online. But if you prefer to go to the store, you can find these two items pretty much in any local grocery store, if not visit a pharmacy. The gallon of water must be genuinely distilled. Also, when it comes to non-iodized sea salt, the non-iodized sea salt is supposed to be the only ingredient on that bottle(pure organic sea salt). After you get both of these items, none of which is pricy. Get 20 grams (four teaspoons) if the non-iodized sea salt into the gallon of distilled water and mix it. Use this solution each morning and evening to clean your piercing or piercings. You only need to pour a bit of this solution into a shot glass. Use glass shot, if you don’t have one use porcelain expresso coffee cup. Don’t even use plastic or paper, since it will contaminate your solution. The next step is to put it in a microwave for a bit. Your aim is to raise the temperature of the solution to body temperature. Not every microwave is the same; this will probably take a few tries to nail it. Once you have the perfect temperature that will not burn your ear, put your ear in the glass or cup for five to fifteen minutes. Once finished with cleaning/soaking your ear in the cup. Rinse your ear with warm water and apt it dry.

How can I make my cartilage piercing heal faster?

Yes, some people have recovered after getting ear cartilage piercing within several weeks. But these are general expectations for this rule. Personally, I don’t know anyone who has to heal that fast. Unfortunately, if you are not gifted in this sense, there is not much that you can do. Other than improving your diet and your sleep and cleaning the piercings regularly.

When can I change my cartilage piercing?

Does your ear still swell or hurt? Has it been at least three months? If you have answered yes to both of these. You are most probably ready to change the piercing in your cartilage. If you’ve liked the person who pierced it you, go back to that person and just simply ask if you are ready. They are usually honest if you treat them nicely. If you don’t want to do that or you are not that sure, wait a few more weeks.

Infected Cartilage Piercing

Unfortunately, piercings that are pierced through cartilage are prone to infection. Not only that, but they are also likely to swelling, migration, and even rejection, just like any other type of piercing. It is very crucial to keep piercing stable as much as possible. Try to avoid touching it or moving it in any way. Also, make sure that you are not hurting it while sleeping. In some cases, unfortunately, sleeping on the opposite side is not enough. If you need to touch your piercing for whatever reason, go to the bathroom and wash your hands carefully for at least two or three minutes with antibacterial soap.

You should most definitely avoid pools, ponds, lakes, Jacuzzi, and even sea during the healing time. If you like a sauna, it would be for the best to take at least a 3-month break from it. These activities could introduce many different types of bacteria, which could easily lead to an infection of the ear. Other than that, make sure that your piercing is clean all the time. If you want to step up your game, ask at your piercer what methods he is using and what he would recommend to you with piercing you have.

Also, if the piercer is trying to do this with anything else than a hollow needle, run away. Cartilage piercing should not be performed by anything else than a hollow needle. Some try to use piercing guns, which is a horrible idea. Because during the piercing process, it can easily shatter your ear cartilage. This is serious since the National Center for Biotechnology Information done study. According to their results, cartilage piercings have the most significant infection rate among body piercings and nasal piercing. Piercing has to be done by a professional, and afterward, you need to take care of it to heal as soon as possible.


How long does a cartilage piercing hurt?

This is very case by case dependent. But you should expect pain for at least the first two or three weeks. In some cases, it can take longer. And that does not even mean that you have to get an infection. Some people were reporting severe pains even after six months. This is why you should never get this type a piercing from a friend or amateur.

Are cartilage piercings safe?

It is not at all, especially upper ear cartilage piercing, because they are more prone to get an infection than earlobe piercings. And unfortunately, antibiotics usually don’t help with this.

Can you become paralyzed from a cartilage piercing?

You might seem shocked, but it is quite a common question. And of course, I am not a medical expert, so ask your doctor about that. Why is this a common question? Well, since the early 2000s, there has been a rumor going on that 15-year-old kid became paralyzed. But it is the only story, nothing else, probably to scare kids away from this.
Unfortunately, it is not risk-free. You can still get an infection, which can become a severe issue.

What ear do you get a cartilage piercing?

Do you mean which side? If that is the case, you should first consult this with a piercer, since both of your ears are not 100% identical. Maybe you will be able to do it on both sides, but it is not always the case. First, consult with your piercer, and then if you have options, ask your friends about which side will look better on you. Also, consider on which side you are sleeping on. Since for at least a few months after getting it pierced, you can’t sleep on that side. And truth to be told, you should not sleep on that side at all just to remain safe.

Is ear cartilage piercing painful?

As described earlier, it depends on the part of the cartilage where it is pierced. But in comparison to other places to pierce, they are very painful, especially helix, forward helix, and tragus. These are painful as hell.

Should I twist my cartilage piercing?

No, this is a terrible idea. You should not twist your cartilage piercing even when cleaning. Doing such a thing can impair the healing process. If you can, don’t even touch the piercing and forget about twisting it!

When can you change your ear cartilage piercing?

You should change it once the healing process is over if the pain is gone along with the swelling. It usually takes at least 2 to 3 months at the earliest. If you are not sure, ask your piercer.

As we have mentioned earlier, this is not medical advice. If you have any further questions or concerns about your piercing, please contact a professional piercer or medical doctor.