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Cartilage Piercings: Everything You Need to Know

Posted by Jessy L. on 19th Jan 2023

Cartilage Piercings: Everything You Need to Know

Cartilage Piercings: Everything You Need to Know

About 14% of people have piercings somewhere aside from their earlobes. Many of them still have those piercings on their ears, however. They're just in the cartilage instead.

Are you thinking about getting some cartilage piercings?

We've created a brief guide that goes over all of the basics of cartilage piercings from types to aftercare. Read on to learn more!

Different Types of Cartilage Piercings

There is no one type of cartilage piercing. There are many different types of cartilage piercings that all have different placements and use different styles of jewelry. Not everyone can get every type of cartilage piercing.

This is a breakdown of the most common types of ear cartilage piercings. Note that some regions may have different names for some of these piercings. We'll break down where the piercings go and the right type of jewelry to start with for each in most cases.


A helix is the most common type of ear cartilage piercing, and it's what most people think of when they're considering "getting their cartilage pierced." Helix piercings go along the outer edge of the ear.

Most people are able to get helix piercings, but in some cases, people may have ear folds that are too tight to support helix piercings at all.

Helix piercings can go anywhere along the outer edge of the ear and they will still be called helix piercings. Many people fill their entire outer edge, though this takes time and may be uncomfortable for side-sleepers.

There is a new trendy helix piercing called a "hidden helix." It goes on top of the ear and the jewelry hangs down like it's hovering magically.

Helix piercings should always start with a stud (in most cases, a flat-backed labret). People with plenty of experience with piercings can get away with rings, but note that they will be harder to heal and most good piercers will not allow it for first-time clients. Piercers who recommend rings for initial jewelry are not trustworthy.

Forward Helix

Forward helixes are technically helix piercings still, but they go on the front ridge of the ear. Not everyone has space for a forward helix piercing.

Forward helix piercings are tricky and you need a careful piercer. Again, the jewelry should always be a stud. These piercings are finicky to heal, so you want to give it the best chance it has.


Flat piercings go on the flat of the ear. That's the part next to the ridge. Again, not everyone's anatomy is suitable for this type of piercing.

If you have a large flat space, you have room for at least one flat piercing. If your "flat" area is bumpy or curved, you may not have suitable anatomy for this piercing.

Again, a stud is the only acceptable starting jewelry for a flat piercing.


Rook piercings go in a small ridge near the front of your ear, close to where a forward helix would go. It's a vertical piercing, so the top will be in the little dip above the ridge and the bottom will hang down into the "bowl" of your ear.

Unlike the previous piercings, rooks should always start with curved barbells. Straight ones will put too much pressure on the piercing and rings will cause too much movement. After healing, rings are acceptable.


Industrial piercings are usually helix-to-helix piercings. They make a diagonal line from around the forward helix to the upper-middle helix. Many people do not have the anatomy to support an industrial.

For a standard industrial, you must have enough flat space between those two piercing points so that the jewelry does not touch your skin in the middle. You can not connect two separate piercings that healed solo with one industrial bar.

If you don't have suitable anatomy for an industrial, you can connect helix piercings with a chain or work with an experienced piercer to find an alternative for your anatomy.

There are many unique types of industrial piercings including 4-point industrials and vertical industrials, so a good piercer may be able to find a variation that works for you.


Conch piercings are similar to flat piercings, but they're in the rounded "bowl" part of the ear, close to where a helix would go but further in. Anywhere along the edge of that "bowl" is appropriate for a conch.

Conch piercings can heal with rings, but it's far more difficult and painful. It's best to start with a stud and switch to a ring after the healing period is over.


Contrary to popular belief, "daith" is pronounced in a way that rhymes with "moth." If you go to a piercer for a daith, keep that in mind!

Daith piercings go through the small ridge right in front of the entry to your ear canal. Not everyone can support a daith piercing.

There's a myth that says that daith piercings can cure migraines. There is no scientific evidence of this being the case, however, so please do not use piercings to "cure" medical issues.

Daith piercings should start with rings. This is one of the few piercings in which that's the case. A captive bead ring (CBR) is the best choice and you should avoid anything with a seam that could become trapped in the piercing.


Snug piercings are tricky cartilage piercings and not everyone can have them. They're notoriously difficult to heal.

The snug piercing goes through the lower ridge of the ear and uses a curved barbell. Many people find that their snug piercings experience significant pain and swelling. Many piercers will recommend a false snug instead, but if you can heal it, it's a cool little piercing!


Tragus piercings go in the little piece of cartilage that connects to your face and separates your face from your ear canal. It's a thick piece of cartilage, so this piercing can pinch a bit.

This is another piercing that you should always start with a stud. Rings can be suitable after healing, but because the cartilage is so thick, you absolutely do not want to risk it for a fresh piercing.

How to Find a Good Piercer

So how do you find a good piercer for a cartilage piercing?

First, note that there are far more bad piercers than good ones. Finding a good piercer is like finding a needle in a haystack! There are a few things you can look for, however.

It's helpful to look for piercers who are part of the Association of Professional Piercers if you're new to piercings and don't know what else to look for. Not all members are good piercers and not all good piercers are members, but it's a good place to start. All of these piercers have to abide by certain safety and hygiene standards that not all piercers follow (as a matter of fact, most don't).

You can look at portfolios online. Most piercers have websites or social media pages dedicated to their work. Look for piercings that are well-done and use good jewelry.

Speaking of jewelry, good piercers only use high-quality jewelry in fresh piercings. They only use implant-grade titanium, niobium, implant-grade steel (not surgical steel), or gold. These are the only materials that are suitable for new piercings.

If a piercer doesn't use high-quality jewelry for initial piercings, go elsewhere.

Good piercers will never use piercing guns. They will always pierce with needles. Piercing guns are unsanitary, unsafe, and can shatter your ear cartilage.

A good piercer will be professional and make you feel at ease.

The Process

The process of getting a cartilage piercing will vary depending on which type of piercing you're getting. However, there are a few things that will happen at almost any professional piercing studio.

First, if you have an appointment, you'll check in with the person at the counter. They'll have you fill out some paperwork and show your ID. Then they'll have you look at the jewelry they have available and they'll help you choose the right one for your piercing.

The piercer will take you to a separate area and they'll mark where they think the piercing should go with a violet pen. You can move the mark or accept it. Never be afraid to ask for a different placement if you don't like where the piercer marked.

Once you've confirmed a placement, the piercer will have you lie down. They'll show you the sanitized piercing needle and jewelry that they've put through an autoclave. They'll then clean the area of the piercing and they may place gauze around it to isolate your ear from your hair and face.

They'll poke around the area to find the perfect spot and they may or may not use extra tools like clamps or tubes. They'll have you take a deep breath in, and on your breath out, they'll push the needle through your cartilage.

They'll quickly put the jewelry in place and give you a moment to adjust before handing you a mirror so you can see your new piercing!

Cartilage Piercing Pain Levels

There is no way to tell you how much a cartilage piercing will hurt. Some cartilage piercings hurt more than others and everyone has a different pain tolerance. Your cartilage piercing pain level will be different from someone else's.

It will feel like a sharp pinch, but it will be brief. During the first few weeks of healing you may experience discomfort and pain, but it shouldn't be severe. If you experience severe pain or discomfort during the healing period, you should contact your piercer.

Healing Times

Many people underestimate the healing times for piercings.

Cartilage piercing healing times vary. You can expect a perfect healing period under perfect conditions to take at least six months. Just because a piercing feels like it's done healing doesn't mean that it is.

Many people find that their piercings take a year to heal. This isn't abnormal. When you get a cartilage piercing, you should anticipate longer healing times than you would for a simpler piercing like an earlobe.

How to Care for Your New Piercings

So how can you make your healing period as painless and productive as possible? Your piercer should have given you instructions, but we've created a quick and easy list of cartilage piercing aftercare tips.

Keep Cleaning Simple

When you have a fresh piercing, you should not use anything aside from clean water or saline on it. You don't need any soap, alcohol, or other harsh products. Those can delay healing and cause irritation.

Rinse your piercings in the shower and spray them with saline if you feel the need. That's it! Keep it simple.

Don't Mess With the Jewelry

When your jewelry is in place, leave it alone. Don't rotate it or remove it for cleaning purposes. Do your best to avoid touching it at all.

Do not change the jewelry on your own during the healing process. You should go to your piercer for a downsize when your swelling goes down, but beyond that, pretend your jewelry isn't there at all.

Don't Swim

You can not go swimming with a healing piercing. We recommend not getting new piercings if you plan on taking a beach vacation any time in the next few months. The beginning of autumn is the best time to get new piercings for this reason.

Contact Your Piercer With Concerns

If something doesn't feel right or you have questions, talk to your piercer. Many people are misinformed about piercings and assume that minor irritation and bumps are actually keloids or infections.

In most cases, this isn't true. Talk to your piercer before jumping to conclusions.

Are You Ready for New Cartilage Piercings?

Cartilage piercings are super cool, and with the right jewelry, they can look great! Keep this guide in mind when you start looking for a piercer to do your new piercings.

While your piercer will supply you with your initial piercing jewelry, it's never too early to start looking for your "fun" jewelry that you can wear post-healing.

We have a large variety of jewelry styles for all types of piercings. Check out the shop today!

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