Cartilage Piercings: Guide & Images

  • Written By Dan Hunter on March 19, 2020
    Last Updated: March 17, 2022

To learn about cartilage piercings and what you can expect when you have one done, take a look below. By the time you’re done, you’ll know more than you ever thought was possible 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.

With a cartilage piercing, the needle goes straight through the skin, but also all of the way through the cartilage within the area, too.

Jewelry is then pushed through the skin and cartilage once the hole has been made.

What Happens During A Cartilage Piercing?

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, they will use a surgical marker or some other writing implement to mark the spot.

That will help them give you exactly what you want. If they try to wing it, it may be off just a fraction from where you want it, and once they’ve 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.

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 piercing done. That tends to hurt worse than the piercing itself.

The pain level also seems to vary depending upon which piercing site you have it done on. Piercings through ear cartilage don’t hurt as much as ones going through the nose.

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, so there might be a psychological element at play.

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 proper, sterilized equipment.

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.

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.

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.

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, 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, and 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 you have a nose cartilage piercing, 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.

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.

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.

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.

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).​

Other 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 body 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 during the healing process, this only usually happens to a small number of people. The majority of people love their new cartilage piercing and are glad they took the plunge.

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