Healing Cartilage Piercings

If you already have a basic ear piercing and you want to add something else different to your look jewelry-wise, then the next step is very often to get a cartilage piercing in the upper ear. Because these piercings are still in the ear, they don’t look particularly alternative or as noticeable as something like a nose piercing or eyebrow piercing. At the same time, they are far enough away from the earlobe to allow some more inventive jewelry options and to also offer a good way to do something a bit different from the norm. The cartilage is also easy to pierce which also makes it a popular choice.

But piercing your cartilage is a little different from piercing skin and it’s important to know what you’re getting into before you start as well as how you can speed up healing.

The Process

When people get their cartilage pierced they often expect it to be painful and they often expect it to make a crunch noise. This is the first area where your expectations may not quite be in line with the reality.

Because the needle used by the best piercers will be very sharp and hollow, this allows it to punch through the ear with minimum resistance and actually without making much of a noise. Back in the day you would have heard a crunch when it was more common to use a standard piercing gun and this could be quite unpleasant!

It could also surprise you to find that this doesn’t cause much pain and this is even truer if you go with a needle.


But where things get a little more complicated and less ideal is in the healing phase. Cartilage piercings will often take longer to heal and they may swell as well.

The reason for this is blood flow. Because earlobes receive a normal supply of blood, this means they heal very quickly. As a general rule, these piercings heal after around 4-6 weeks. But when you get your cartilage pierced, you are piercing an area that doesn’t really receive much blood and this means it won’t be able to heal that quickly. This can actually take between 3-6 months to heal and in some cases it might take even longer. During this time, you can still sport your fancy new piercing but you will need to be careful not to disrupt or aggravate it and you will need to avoid swapping it for different rings.

And here’s another not-so-nice thing: sleep can be difficult. If your freshly pierced cartilage is still painful and swollen, then of course it’s not going to be all that comfortable to lie on your side. If that’s your regular sleeping pose, then you might have to get used to lying on your back for a bit!

Cleaning Your Piercing

When you get a new piercing the most important thing you can do is to try and avoid an infection. And the way you do that is to make sure that you keep it nice and clean. But you don’t want to do that using soap and water which is just going to sting and potentially aggravate the area! Instead then, you need to use a saline solution. That’s a simple mixture of water with a little salt. Use this and dab with a cotton bud or a cotton pad and you will find that it helps to prevent bacteria getting there that can slow down healing.

Even with the best of care though, there is a 22% chance of infection so you need to be very careful. Try to avoid touching your piercing directly which can transfer bacteria from your hands, don’t fiddle with it and make sure to stay clean in general.

It’s also possible that your body might reject the piercing. The best way to prevent this is to make sure that the first ring you wear is not something you’re allergic to. Try wearing an earring made from different metals for a while in your other ear in order to find out which ones are most likely to cause an injection. Titanium tends to be the best choice seeing as nickel is commonly an allergen for people. You should also make sure that your piercing is placed well, which is ultimately going to come down to the professional. This is where it’s worth paying a little bit more for the best quality piercing rather than trying to save money by getting it done in a dodgy-looking shop down a dark alley somewhere!

If you do notice that your piercing site is starting to develop a bump or that the hole is moving towards the edge of the cartilage, then you should consider having it removed.

Encouraging Healing

Other than not fiddling with your piercing and avoiding touching it other than to use your saline solution, there are a few more things you can do to encourage healing:

  • Choose piercing with a larger gauge that is less likely to be rejected
  • Don’t spray hairspray or makeup directly onto your ear
  • Don’t use alcohol to clean your jewelry
  • Consider using breathable tape to prevent it getting caught
  • Use a little bit of vitamin D cream if your piercer recommends it to encourage healing
  • Avoid smoking and try to supply your body with lots of protein and other nutrients
  • Use a warm compress to encourage blood flow (if you are starting to see signs of trouble)

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