Cartilage Piercing Guide
Cartilage piercings, of all shapes and all sizes are also becoming increasingly popular, there are about ten different types to tickle your fancy, however, most depend on how anatomically suited you are to them! So, in this guide, I aim to dispel healing myths, placement problems and jewellery issues, as well as how to make the most of any piercing through cartilage.
What exactly is ‘cartilage’?
This is taken from Wikipedia:
Cartilage is composed of specialized cells called chondroblasts that produce a large amount of extracellular matrix composed of Type II collagen (except fibrocartilage which also contains type I collagen) fibers, abundant ground substance rich in proteoglycan, and elastin fibers. Chondroblasts that get caught in the matrix are called chondrocytes. They lie in spaces, called lacunae, up to eight chondrocytes per lacunae. Cartilage is classified in three types,elastic cartilage, hyaline cartilage and fibrocartilage, which differ in the relative amounts of these three main components.
Basically, it’s not as tough and rigid as bone, but isn’t as flexible as muscle. This makes it perfect to be able to support a piercing!
So, what different types of cartilage piercing are there?
Well, people often ask for a plain ‘cartilage piercing’, when they say this, they actually mean a helix piercing. This and the tragus are the most common within western culture.
So, what else have we got?
- Forward Helix
- Outer conch
- Inner conch
- Anti tragus
All of these are pierced through different thicknesses of cartilage, and therefore all hurt more or less depending on the thickness. Obviously, pain is all down to perception of the piercee, but my rook definitely hurt the most!
An example of almost all the different type of cartilage piercing you can get!
What can I expect when I get my cartilage piercing?
Well, as I’ve said, pain is all subjective. Once again, make sure you get pierced with titanium! Also, as said before, BCR’s and CRB’s aren’t good for initial piercings. They drag in the crust formation into the healing piercing and aggravate the healing fistula. Obviously, some piercings have to be pierced with a curved barbell, like a daith, rook, anti tragus, forward helix and snug. The others are best suited to the initial jewellery being straight, and if you want to wear a curved piece later, switch after the initial healing period.
Once again, NEEDLES, NOT GUNS! A gun stud will barely have enough energy to be forced through cartilage, just don’t bother!
What gauge can I expect my piercing to be?
This all depends on the piercer, but, generally, these are the industry standards in my experience:
- Helix - 14g (1.6mm) or 16g (1.2mm)
- Forward Helix 14g (1.6mm) or 16g (1.2mm)
- Outer conch 14g (1.6mm)
- Inner conch 14g (1.6mm)
- Tragus 16g (1.2mm)
- Anti tragus 14g (1.6mm) or 16g (1.2mm)
- Daith 14g (1.6mm) or 16g (1.2mm)
- Rook 16g (1.2mm)
- Snug 14g (1.6mm) or 16g (1.2mm)
- Industrial/Scaffold 14g (1.6mm) or 16g (1.2mm)
Obviously, if you want a specific gauge, then ask the piercer, but often, they know best when it comes to the anatomy of the ear!
Okay, so, I’ve got my cartilage pierced? How do I look after them?
1) Like all piercings, and wounds, you need the proper care before you can begin to enjoy the fruits of your piercing.
2) How to make a saline solution: Stick on a kettle! Get some SEA SALT, Maldon sea salt is brilliant. Why sea salt I hear you ask? It doesn’t have any impurities, it’s just pure NaCl, which means that it’s a lot nicer on your piercing, and helps aid healing. Add 1/4th of a teaspoon of sea salt to a mug of boiling water. Any more than 1/4th, and you end up with a very dry piercing. (I’ll go into the specifics in a different post). Wait until the salt solution has cooled (it needs to be hot though) and dunk your lobes in the mug. This draws out any nasty things in there, and gives a nice deep clean all the way in that piercing. Then, using warm water, rinse the sea salt off of the ear. Do this twice a day for the first two months.
DO NOT: Twist the earring. This breaks the healing tissue, and will cause your piercing to take a lot longer to heal!
DO NOT: Use Hydrogen peroxide! It’s far too harsh for healed piercings, let alone fresh! (Once again, I’ll go into the specifics on a different post).
DO NOT: Use harsh, anti bacterial soap, believe it or not, your lobes actually need bacteria to help them heal, and stripping that away means removing any chance of a nice quick heal!
How long until I can change the jewellery?
Patience is key here! Wait three months before changing to high-quality (preferably titanium) jewellery, and after the first change, clean the piercing once a day for a week, just to be on the safe side.
How long until it’s healed?
With cartilage piercings , you’re looking at an initial healing time of 3 months. After 3 months you can change the jewellery, as the fistula is more stable. Full healing time is up to eighteen months. As cartilage has a poor blood supply compare to other tissues, it takes longer to heal.
This is my LEFT ear. We have, a 7/16th stretch, 1.6mm lobe, 1.2mm lobe, 1.2mm helix, 1.6mm forward helix.
This is my RIGHT ear. Here we have: 7/16th stretch, 1.6mm lobe, 1.2mm lobe, 1.6mm outer conch, 2.4mm inner conch and a 1.2mm rook. Sadly, due to rejection, I’ve had to retire it.
You have to retire a cartilage piercing? Why?
Sometimes, you’ll find that a piercing placed close to the edge of cartilage, like a rook or a tragus, migrate and settle into a position that the body’s more comfortable with, but, sometimes, the body is comfortable with it at all, so it ‘pushes out’ the piercing. You need to remove the piercing before it totally rejects, as this can leave you wide open for infections!
Rejection?! That sounds scary! What can I do to stop it?
Sometimes, a piercing just isn’t meant to be, but to reduce your rejection risks, you need to clean with sea salt soaks, be pierced in the correct position, and have the right jewellery for the piercing.
Help! I’ve got a bump on my piercing! What is it?
People often get bumps on healing piercings, and cartilage piercings are especially prone. They are medically known as hypertrophic scars. This can be for any number of reasons, such as a too strong salt solution, incorrect placement or incorrect jewellery. So, how do you get rid of the bump? There are a number of options.
- Do a Sea Salt Soak, as described above, except this time, add a chamomile tea bag, you can buy this in the tea section of a large supermarket. Make sure that it’s only chamomile, you don’t want anything else in there. NOTE: If you have a ragweed allergy, do a test first, the chamomile might aggravate the bump! Swirl the teabag in the mug, and remove it. Soak, and then rinse your ear as described above. Chamomile is a natural anti-inflammatory and has many soothing properties. It helps to calm the area, and reduce the bump. Do this three times a day.
- HEALED PIERCINGS: Dilute tea-tree oil and dab over the bump, it has very many natural anti-septic properties, but it can be rather harsh unless it’s diluted. It’ll help to calm the bump and help it go. Do SSS’s at this time as well.
- Massage the bump with Vitamin E or Jojoba oil, this breaks down the tissue and helps the bump to go.
If you have any questions at all, just ASK! That’s what I’m here for, just pop to the ask box and ask away!
(c) Emily May Armstrong 2011.
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