What Are Cartilage Ear Piercings? Types, Risks, and Care

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Are you thinking about getting a cartilage ear piercing? These cool and edgy piercings are growing in popularity and offer a unique way to express your style and personality. Celebrities like Rihanna, Beyonce, Cardi B, and Miley Cyrus have also explored this fashion trend.

Even if you already have a lobe piercing, you need to know about cartilage ear piercings beforehand because they are different. In this guide, we’re discussing the different types, how to prepare and care for them, and the possible risks involved.

What is cartilage ear piercing?

Cartilage is the firm part of the human body that is softer than the bones. The outer ears have cartilage and skin. That said, cartilage ear piercing is the perforation of parts of the outer ear (except the lobe) to wear jewelry. 

Types of cartilage ear piercings 

The ear may be a small part of the body, but it can accommodate various types and multiple piercings. Here are the different types of ear cartilage piercings. 

Rook piercing

Rook Piercing - What Are Cartilage Ear Piercings? Types, Risks, and Care


A rook piercing involves the perforation of the ridge in the inner upper cartilage of the ear. It’s located just below the helix.

Helix piercing

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A helix piercing is a perforation in the upper outer part of your ear. 

Double helix piercing

Double Helix Piercing - What Are Cartilage Ear Piercings? Types, Risks, and Care


Just as the name implies, this piercing is simply two helix piercings next to each other. You can also get a triple helix piercing.

Forward helix piercing

Forward Helix Piercing


It’s located above the tragus, on the small outer rim at the front of your ear closest to your face.

Industrial piercing

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An industrial piercing involves getting a double piercing. Both piercings connect by a single straight piece of jewelry, usually a barbell.

Daith piercing

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A daith piercing goes through the cartilage fold above your ear canal.

💡 Fun Fact: Many people believe that daith piercings reduce anxiety caused by migraines, although this is not scientifically proven.

Orbital piercing

Orbital Piercing


An orbital piercing is similar to an industrial piercing because it connects two piercings with one piece of jewelry. The only difference is that an orbital piercing uses a hoop rather than a barbell since the piercings are next to each other.

Conch piercing

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This piercing gets its name from the resemblance to a conch shell. The perforation goes through the recessed part adjacent to the ear canal.

Tragus piercing

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A tragus piercing goes through the thick flap of cartilage that partly covers the ear canal.

Getting a cartilage piercing

Now that you know the different types of cartilage ear piercings, you may be wondering about the piercing process. Let’s address your concerns.

What happens during a cartilage ear piercing?

The process starts with finding a licensed professional piercer, then ensuring that the space is clean and they follow correct sanitary procedures like sanitizing their hands and equipment. 

When you’re ready for the piercing, you’ll choose the spot you prefer. Then the piercer will sterilize your skin thoroughly, mark the site with a marker, and pierce your ear with a sterile hollow needle. 

Then they’ll insert a piece of jewelry, preferably a stud. The whole process should take a few minutes.

💡 Take Note: If you walk into a piercing studio and notice the area is unsanitary or the piercer isn’t sterilizing the needles, jewelry, or their hands (before wearing gloves), walk away. You’ll save yourself from a horrible piercing and healing experience. 

Does cartilage ear piercing hurt?

While a cartilage ear piercing hurts more than a lobe piercing, it’s less painful than other body piercings. It ranks between 4 and 5 on a pain scale of 1-10. 

What hurts more, needle or gun piercing for the ear?

A gun piercing is more painful than a needle piercing. Unlike hollow needles, guns use blunt studs, requiring more force to go through the body tissue. We don’t recommend using a gun for your cartilage piercing because the blunt force can shatter the cartilage.

How long do ear cartilage piercings take to heal?

They typically take six months to one year to heal completely, especially with diligent aftercare. 

What are the risks of getting a cartilage ear piercing? 

The piercing process may be quick and less painful than most piercings, but cartilage piercings come with risks like infections, keloids, and shattered cartilage


A keloid is a growth resulting from excessive scar tissue from trauma to the skin or cartilage. As it grows bigger, it appears darker than your natural skin tone. They typically don’t hurt but can cause psychological distress as they are uncomfortable and considered unsightly.


Cartilage piercings heal slower because there’s limited blood flow, unlike lobe piercings. The longer they take to heal, the more risk of infections. Of course, unsanitary equipment and poor aftercare also lead to infections.  

Shattered Cartilage

If you opt for a piercing gun, the blunt force may shatter your ear cartilage, causing deformation. Minor damage can heal in a few months, but severe damage may require surgery.

💡 Take Note: Cartilage piercings are riskier than piercings in fleshy parts because there’s very little blood flowing in the cartilage, meaning it can’t heal as quickly as other parts. If you’re not diligent with aftercare, you’re bound to get infections. 

See our post with 30 trendy ear piercing ideas for you.

Tips for Safe Cartilage Piercings 

Regardless of the risks, these care tips will ensure safe cartilage ear piercings:

Find a professional piercer

Do your research before deciding on a piercer. Check online for reviews on professional piercers and ensure they have a license.

Check the studio hygiene

Walk around the studio, paying careful attention to their hygiene and sanitary practices.

Use a hollow needle

Make sure the piercer uses a hollow needle. It’s sharp enough to go through the cartilage without damaging it. Also, unlike regular needles, a hollow needle is designed to safely remove the section of skin and cartilage where the jewelry will rest.

Use the correct metal and jewelry type

Your starter jewelry should be a stud or barbell, depending on the piercing. For example, use a stud for a helix piercing and a barbell for an industrial piercing. 

Also, watch out for the metal type. It should be nickel-free, hypoallergenic, and non-toxic to prevent irritation. Excellent metal types for fresh piercings include implant-grade titanium, surgical stainless steel, 14K and 18K gold, and pure silver.

Caring for cartilage piercings

Caring for your cartilage piercing is not something to take lightly. Poor aftercare will lead to infections and possible ear damage. This section answers a few questions on care tips for your cartilage ear piercing.

How long until I can sleep on my cartilage piercing?

Wait until it feels comfortable. It might take three to six months, depending on the type of piercing and your body’s healing capacity. It’s best to get your cartilage piercing on one ear first so you can comfortably sleep on the other side, especially if you’re a side sleeper. 

However, you can use a neck pillow if you choose to get cartilage piercings on both ears simultaneously. It’s u-shaped, so you can lay your head on it with your ear in the pillow’s hole. 

When you start sleeping on your piercings, try changing your pillowcase daily to minimize the risk of infection until it heals completely.

Should I twist my cartilage piercing?

We advise against twisting your cartilage piercing. Because every time you twist, you’re scraping off the healed tissue, which delays healing.

Should I touch my cartilage piercing?

You shouldn’t touch your piercing unless you’re cleaning it, and you should first wash your hands to prevent infections.

How can I clean my cartilage piercing?

First, wash your hands with soap to get rid of bacteria. The safest way to clean your piercings is with a saline solution. Submerge your piercings in the saline solution for about seven minutes twice or thrice daily. 

Alternatively, dip a clean, soft cloth in the solution and gently apply it to both ends of the piercing. Dry the area by dabbing it gently with a disposable paper towel.

Jewelry for cartilage ear piercings

Each cartilage ear piercing has an ideal type of jewelry for it. Also, you need to know when to change your starter jewelry.

Are hoops or studs better for cartilage?

For new piercings, studs are better because it’s easier for them to heal on a straight earring. The curved nature of hoops puts pressure on the piercing.

When can I change my cartilage stud to a hoop?

When the piercing heals, and you have your piercer’s go-ahead, you can change your cartilage stud to a hoop. Healing time can be anywhere from six months to a year, depending on an individual’s healing time.

How do I know my cartilage piercing has healed?

Your cartilage piercing has healed when it does not hurt, swell, or ooze liquid.

Can I use any other needle in place of the hollow needle?

We strongly advise you not to use any other needle for your cartilage piercing. The hollow needle is designed with space inside it. So, during the piercing process, it removes a bit of skin and tissue, creating enough room for the jewelry to rest and the wound to drain and heal. 

Using needles like sewing needles may damage your ear and cause serious infections.

Ready to take the plunge?

Getting cartilage ear piercings is different from getting earlobe piercings. They’re more painful and take longer to heal. But it shouldn’t be a hassle if you find a professional piercer, and of course, follow the care tips we have provided you. 

With all the cartilage piercing options we’ve shared, you’ll have various ways to adorn your ears and express your personality. 

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