Of all the piercing trends we've seen, conch piercings (yes, like the shell, but pronounced "konk") take the cake for being the most lust-worthy. Perhaps it's because of the way they delicately adorn the ear in a bold year wearable way, or it could be for the fact that they're highly customizable—pair with a curated ear or wear as is. Conch piercings are a type of cartilage piercing that's named after the large spiral shape that ears take after. Within the world of conch piercings, there are options of placement (inner versus outer) and type of jewelry (stud or hoop).
But while a conch piercing is both Insta-worthy and gorgeous, it can also be quite, dare we say it, intimidating—even for piercing enthusiasts (read: me). To allay my worries and get some answers on pain, cost, aftercare, and what the process actually entails, I called on expert piercer Rhianna Jones and board-certified dermatologist Susan Bard.
Meet the Expert
Ahead, we break down everything you need know before getting a conch piercing.
What is a Conch Piercing?
A conch piercing is located in the center part of the ear—aka the area with the most room—and because of its placement, it's one of the most customizable ear piercings you can get. When asking for this type of piercing, bear in mind that depending on the shape of your ear, you can either get an inner or outer conch piercing. The inner conch piercing is when a hole is punctured right through the middle of the ear to make way for a stud. Then there’s the outer conch piercing, which allows a ring to go around the outer edge of the ear's cartilage (hello, hoop earrings).
According to Jones, a conch piercing is suitable for many ears and suits all styles. "In my many years of piercing, I have not come across one that wasn’t suitable," she says. "Working with the anatomy of each ear, the placement can achieve a subtle look or be a statement piece, depending on the style and desires of the client." Jones uses a bar for the initial piercing, but once healed, she notes it "can be fitted with jewelry of either a bar or ring style dependent on the placement and anatomy of the client."
How Much Does a Conch Piercing Hurt?
It's tough to say exactly how much a conch piercing will hurt because we all have different pain tolerances, and Jones maintains that any piercing is painful to a degree. But because conch piercings take place on the cartilage of the ear (the part with the thicker flesh), it's bound to be more painful than the lobe. Still, Jones says that though it varies for each person "on the whole, it is pretty much the same as other ear parts and not that bad." Phew.
How Long Does It Take to Heal?
"The healing process can take anywhere from three to nine months," explains Jones. "This varies due to how well the aftercare is followed and the client’s general health." Generally speaking, cartilage piercings take longer to heal than lobe piercings, which typically take six to ten weeks to heal.
What is the Aftercare Like?
"Anytime you pierce the cartilage, you run the risk of inflaming or infecting it," says Bard. "There's a greater likelihood or prolonged wound healing, pain, and keloid formation." For this reason, it's crucial to practice proper aftercare post-piercing. Jones recommends cleaning the piercing twice a day with a sterile saline solution and avoiding manipulating or fiddling with the piercing, despite how excited you are to sport your new ice. Of course, ensuring cleanly practice during the actual piercing is key. "Make sure it is done in the most sterile fashion possible and kept clean and infection-free," advises Bard.
If you're a side-sleeper, you'll have to avoid sleeping on the side of the piercing until it's fully healed. Both experts agree that sleeping on the piercing could cause irritation and delay the healing process.
Sleeping on your side can cause sagging or wrinkling of the skin. We recommend trying to sleep on your back, conch piercing or not.
How Much Will it Cost?
Depending on where you get pierced and what type of jewelry you choose, the cost of a conch piercing can vary. For instance, a cartilage piercing at Maria Tash in New York starts at $30, however the total cost could be upwards of $80 including jewelry.
Why Shouldn’t I Get a Conch Piercing?
Bard notes that if you're an earbud wearer, you may be more prone to infection with a conch piercing (side note: you should avoid wearing earbuds as it's healing). Also, if you've had previous issues with cartilage piercings or work in a dirty environment that can predispose the ear to infection, she recommends to avoid the piercing altogether.
"My advice to anyone interested in getting a new piercing is to research your piercer before choosing where to go, and always follow the aftercare advice that they give," says Jones.
Our Conch Earring Picks
If our Insta inspo above doesn't already have you running to book a piercing appointment, check out some of these gorgeous conch earrings.