Cartilage Piercings: Guide & Images

Cartilage Piercings: Guide & Images

When an ordinary piercing isn’t enough, some people want to up the ante on their cool factor with a cartilage piercing.

However, cartilage piercings are a bit different than piercing your skin. It’s not the same thing and it requires more healing time.

To learn about cartilage piercings and what you can expect when you have one done, keep reading our guide. By the time you’re done, you’ll know more than you ever wanted to about this type of piercing.

What Is A Cartilage Piercing?

Many piercings people have done, go straight through the skin, like navel, eyebrow and earlobe piercings. Other ones are more involved than that – they go through cartilage as well as skin.

As you probably learned in school – cartilage is a connective tissue we have in parts of our body, like our ears and our noses. It’s harder than skin and softer than bones. With a cartilage piercing, the needle goes straight through that cartilage and jewelry is put in afterwards.

Cartilage piercings are really popular, particularly with women who often have their upper ear cartilage pierced. Although, cartilage piercings have also begun to become incredibly popular with men in recent years too.

What Happens During A Cartilage Piercing?

The big day of your scheduled piercing brings a variety of emotions for people. Some are excited, while others are nervous. Some people are even flat-out terrified. Yet, there really is no reason to stress about what is going to happen. It’s going to be over before you know it. You’ll spend much more time worrying about it than you will being in the piercing chair.

As far as the actual process that’s involved, a cartilage piercing is just like any other piercing. You’ll select your piercer and go in to have the work done. Before your piercer gets started, they’ll put on gloves and sterilize the body part they’re going to be working on.

The sterilization is a good thing – if your piercer doesn’t do it, you should be hesitant about continuing. Only the sketchiest of piercers won’t clean your piercing site with a disinfectant before piercing it.

After your skin is thoroughly sterilized, your piercer will find a location for the piercing. They’ll ask you what you think, especially if you’ve made it clear that you want to have some input. Once you’ve both agreed on the placement, he will use a surgical marker or some other writing implement to mark the spot.

That will help him give you exactly what you want. If he tries to wing it, it may be off just a fraction from where you want it, and once he’s made the hole, you’re going to be stuck with what you’ve got.

Nex they use a hollow needle to do the piercing and when they’re done pulling the needle through, they’ll insert the jewelry. Depending upon the location they are piercing, they may use a clamp to hold your skin or body part in place.

That’s it. It only takes a couple of minutes to alter your appearance forever. It may take you longer to pay your piercer on the way out than the procedure takes.

Cartilage Piercing Pain – How Much Do They Hurt?

It’s hard to give a ranking on a scale of 1 to 10 as to how much pain a person will feel during a cartilage piercing. Some people handle pain like a boss, while others can’t take it at all.

Though, for many people, the actual piercing part isn’t bad at all. The real challenge is the first two weeks after having the cartilage piercing done. That tends to hurt worse than the piercing itself.

The pain level also seems to vary depending upon which cartilage site you have it done on. Cartilage piercings in the ear don’t hurt as much as the ones in the nose do.

That makes sense when you think about it. Noses are more sensitive to pain than ears are, and we seem to be more protective of our noses – maybe it’s because they are right there in the center of our face, sticking out.

Therefore, if you’re feeling nervous about getting your cartilage piercing done, remember, you’ll likely have no problems with the initial needle pain, and if you can get through the first two weeks, you’ll be just fine. You should expect some mild pain and discomfort during that period though.

If you tend to get really worked up over the prospect of pain, this might be a good stepping stone to help you get over your fears.

Daith Piercing

How Much Does A Cartilage Piercing Cost?

Cartilage piercings are going to vary in cost depending upon where you have them done and which location on your body will be getting the piercing. Generally, you can expect to pay $20 to $80 for a cartilage piercing. While this range will cover most shops, there are always ones that are outside of the range.

You should be leery of going to a place that charges less than $20. While saving money is always welcome, your piercer may charge such a cheap rate because he doesn’t have much experience. He could also have such rock-bottom prices because he isn’t using sterilized equipment.

You’ll want to avoid both of those situations by going with a piercer that falls somewhere in the price range we listed. You will also find piercers who charge more than the top end of our scale. Those piercers are generally in trendy locations in big cities or are enjoying a burst of popularity with clients and that allows them to charge so much money.

You might find a slight difference in the fees charged for an ear cartilage piercing compared to a nose cartilage piercing, but it shouldn’t be more than a few dollars.

For a life-long procedure that will alter your looks, cartilage piercings are a bargain. They cost less than a new outfit, but while that outfit will be out of fashion in a few short years, your piercing will be with you forever. That makes it a procedure that gives you a lot of bang for your buck.

If you are quoted a price by a piercer that seems a bit high to you, it’s okay to check around and do some comparison shopping. Yet, you shouldn’t try to find the lowest price out there because there is probably a reason why those costs are so cheap.

You don’t want to turn yourself into some guinea pig for a new piercer, and you also don’t want to end up wishing you could turn back time and make a better decision about whom to hire. Get it right the first time by going with a quality piercer who has earned the fee he now charges.

What To Do Before Getting A Cartilage Piercing

Before deciding to go ahead with your piercing, you should educate yourself about the risks involved with this type of piercing. It always is a good idea to make an informed decision rather than rushing into something as permanent as a piercing. You don’t want to make a decision like that based on a whim. This article will help you cover your bases on that.

Other than learning as much about your cartilage piercing as you can, you should also stay away from alcohol the night before your piercing, and whatever you do, don’t go for a drink right before your piercing, hoping that it will dull the pain and lessen your fears.

Many piercers won’t do a procedure on someone who they suspect is drunk. Plus, that liquid courage may have the opposite effect. It could make your fears seem worse than they really are.

If you are having your ear cartilage pierced and you have long hair, you should bring a hairband with you or put your hair up before you go. It will help your piercer concentrate on the task at hand if they aren’t trying to fight your unruly mane while trying to mark your piercing site.

A simple thoughtful gesture like that will be appreciated by your piercer. It won’t make the needle pass through your skin any quicker or less painlessly, but it is a nice thing to do.

In the day or two before your piercing, run to the store and grab some sea salt and cotton balls. You’ll need those in the weeks immediately following your piercing. If you don’t have time to get those things beforehand, you’ll just have to stop right after your piercing is done.

You won’t be able to wait any longer than that because you’ll need those things on the very first day of the aftercare phase.

Cartilage Piercing Aftercare & Cleaning Guide

Whether your cartilage piercing was in your ear or the nose, your aftercare instructions will be the same. You’ll clean your new piercing at least twice a day, more if it gets infected.

6 Important Ear Piercing Aftercare Steps You Must Ensure You Take:

To clean it, make a solution comprised of a one-fourth teaspoon of sea salt and one cup of hot water. After you thoroughly stir it to mix in the salt, use a Q-tip or cotton ball to saturate your new piercing. You’ll have to make several attempts with fresh cotton balls and Q-tips to make sure that salt water really works its way in.

If you wish to use a shop-bought aftercare product instead of making your own, there are many readily-available ones on the market, usually sold for a good price.

The best aftercare product I’ve personally used is the After Inked Piercing Aftercare Spray. Not only is it vegan-friendly, but it’s also completely alcohol and additive-free. The solution works well on all skin types including sensitive skin, and it comes in a generously-sized mist-spraying bottle for easy application. When using it from the very start of the healing process, the spray helps to decrease healing times and aims to eliminate any lingering pain or soreness.

The other thing you’ll have to do to promote healing is to leave your piercing alone as much as possible. It’s new and exciting, so you’ll want to play with it. I get it, but you’ll slow down the healing process if you’re constantly touching it or twisting it around.

The more irritated it gets and the more it is disturbed, the longer it will take. If you’re planning on touching your jewelry or pierced skin at all during the aftercare phase, you have to make sure your hands are completely washed first.

You don’t want to submerge it in a deep bathtub or pool for the first couple weeks after your piercing because you might introduce sketchy bacteria into it and cause problems. Although, it’s fine to let water run over your piercing site in the shower. Just try to keep any soap off of it because that will dry your skin out and likely cause irritation.

After your shower, don’t rub it dry. Gently pat it dry with a clean bath towel.

If your cartilage piercing is on your ear, you’re going to have to sleep carefully for a few nights. You should try sleeping on your back or your side that you didn’t have pierced.

You might also want to put a towel over top of your pillowcase so that any drainage or blood in the first week doesn’t stain your pillowcase.

If your cartilage piercing is on your nose, you’re going to have to proceed with caution when it comes to your daily facial care routine. You’ll have to watch out when you apply any make-up. The last thing you want to do is get some cosmetics into the piercing site. Cosmetics that have already been used can have a ton of bacteria in them. That won’t be good for your piercing.

You’re going to have to be careful with lotions, cleansers, deep-cleaning masks or anything else you would normally wear on your face. Even if it doesn’t directly touch your piercing site, it can still dry out the skin right next to it, which may make you want to rub or scratch it – and that’s a big no-no.

If it’s summertime when you have your piercing done, be prepared to hit the shade. If you end up with a sunburn on your ears or nose, you’re going to deeply regret it. It will be painful and you’ll have to limit the after-sun products you put on your skin for relief. Plus, the extra irritation to the skin may slow down your healing time.

As you are healing, do everything you can to fortify your immune system. Get some exercise, eat nutritious foods and try to get enough sleep, even if your piercing site aches a bit when you are laying down. Sleep is one of the most important things you can do to help stimulate healing. Your body repairs itself better when it is at rest than it does when you’re tired.

A good night’s sleep may also help you feel less cranky about any pain you’re in, so other people around you will benefit from you getting a full night of sleep too.

How Long Does A Cartilage Piercing Take To Heal?

You’re going to have a bit of a wait on your hands when it comes to the time it takes for a cartilage piercing to heal. Cartilage healing is more involved than a simple skin piercing is.

As with the pain level, there is no magic number of days that you reach until you’re fully healed. It depends on your general health, how well you take care of your piercing and how your body responds to the piercing.

Still, you can expect a recovery time of somewhere from 4 months to a year overall with a cartilage piercing.

It may feel like you’re waiting forever to change your jewelry, but you’ll need to leave your piercing in until your piercer says it’s safe to switch it out. If you try to take it out before then, the hole can close up.

If you get a larger piercing that uses a bigger gauge of jewelry, such as above 14 gauge, it will take longer to heal.

Cartilage Piercing Infections

One of the most common problems that stem from cartilage piercings, or any piercing, is infection; and if you’re worried about pain, you’ll want to know that cartilage infections tend to hurt a bit more than skin infections do.

You’ll want to do everything you possibly can to avoid a cartilage infection. Not only will they be draining discharge – but they’ll also be draining your time, money and overall health. That’s why you need to follow your aftercare instructions precisely, even if you think they are a waste of time and you don’t need to do them.

The infection can spread throughout your body in worst-case situations and it may require several rounds of antibiotics to clear it up. When the infection moves from the skin to the underlying cartilage, a sticky situation turns even worse. Cartilage infections are harder to treat than ordinary ones are and you’ll have to call the doctor immediately.

Even worse is that you might end up with a lifelong ear deformity from cartilage piercings that get infected in your ear. It’s called cauliflower ear, and even with rapid treatment for an infection, it can still happen.

In case you’re wondering by now how you can keep any infections from invading your cartilage, here is a list for you to review.

You might pick up an infection if your piercer doesn’t have all the equipment fully sterilized, and if you notice a piercer attempting to touch you without having washed his hands or without wearing gloves, speak up. If you have to remind them of the basic protocol they should be following, you’d be better off getting pierced by someone else.

You’ll also want to double-check that your piercer doesn’t plan to use a piercing gun for the procedure.

They should use a hollow needle because piercing guns are well known for being too harsh on the body. They also often contain remnants of tissue from the other people who have had piercings with them. That means they are a bad choice – you should avoid them no matter what.

Ignoring one of the biggest rules of basic care also results in a lot of cartilage infections. Keep your hands off your piercing or at least wash your hands really well to improve the odds of staying infection-free.

Determining whether you have an infection should be pretty easy for you to do. It will feel worse than it did before the infection. It may feel itchy, have strange stuff draining out of it, and it will likely be pretty red. It may also possibly be swollen or hot to the touch.

Cartilage piercing bumps can also be a sign of infection, although they can also be a sign of harmless excess scar tissue (unless there is accompanied pus, swelling, redness, and fever along with the bump).

If you see anything like that, you’ll know that you might have an infection cooking and you should go to see your doctor.

Cartilage Piercing Risks

Ending up with cauliflower ear is one of the biggest risks you face, as far as permanent consequences go. You can end up with a lot of bleeding too with cartilage piercings.

Before you consider getting a cartilage piercing, you should check with your family first to see if they know of any family history of getting keloids with skin trauma. Keloids are big, unsightly scars and they tend to run in the family – although anyone can form a keloid after a piercing.

Cartilage Piercing Jewelry

You’ll have to carefully choose which kind of jewelry you want for your cartilage piercing because it will have to be in for a long time. You may not be able to change it for up to a year.

As you’ll have to wear that one piece of jewelry for such an extended time, you should make sure it’s not a cheap piece that won’t hold up to daily use. You should also steer clear of metals that are known to cause allergic reactions, like nickel.

Instead, you should use metal jewelry because it’s better tolerated. Metals like gold and titanium usually don’t cause allergic reactions. That’s important because when your piercing site is in constant irritation from an allergic reaction, it takes longer for that area to heal. That gives you a greater window of time to get an infection.

Plus, when you have an allergic reaction on your piercing site, it can be intensely itchy. That can make you want to scratch it to relieve that feeling. The more you touch your piercing, the more you risk contaminating it with bacteria and causing an infection. Therefore, it’s best to use high-quality jewelry from the start.

There are many different types of jewelry you can use to decorate and highlight your cartilage piercings. Cuffs, for instance, look great on cartilage piercings. You can also use hoops, captive beads, studs and barbells.


While cartilage piercings can have some issues with healing, that only happens to a small sum of people. The majority of people love their new cartilage piercing and are glad they took the plunge.