Of all the piercing trends we've seen, conch piercings take the cake for being the most lust-worthy. Perhaps it's because of the way they delicately adorn the ear in a bold yet wearable way, or it could be the fact that they're highly customizable—paired with a curated ear or worn 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. To allay our worries and get some answers on pain, cost, aftercare, and what the process actually entails, we called on Rhianna Jones, head piercer at The Circle in London, England, and board-certified dermatologist Dr. Susan Bard of Vive Dermatology.
Placement: The inner part of the ear
Pricing: $30+ (not including the jewelry)
Pain level: 6/10
Healing time: Three to nine months
Aftercare: Clean twice a day with saline solution. Avoid sleeping on the area and wearing earbuds. Do not twist the earring.
Ahead, we break down everything you need to 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."
Possible Benefits of a Conch Piercing
There have been anecdotal reports of conch piercings helping migraine sufferers, though the American Migraine Foundation is quick to note that there isn't scientific evidence to back up any such claims. Similarly, some people who are prone to anxiety have suggested conch piercings help them and while no scientific evidence links piercings to anxiety management, there is a link between acupuncture and acupressure (i.e. placing pressure on certain points on the body) and anxiety management.
Pain and Healing Time
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.
"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 two to four months to heal, according to Maria Tash in New York.
The best way to ensure any piercing heals, of course, is proper aftercare (more on that, below).
Cost of Conch Piercing
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 $35; however, the total cost could be upwards of $80 including jewelry.
"Anytime you pierce the cartilage, you run the risk of inflaming or infecting it," says Bard. "There's a greater likelihood of 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 clean 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. "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. Most experts will advise using an antimicrobial soap on the piercing area once or twice a day (and thoroughly drying the area after a cleaning). If you do notice blood, swelling that doesn't get better, or pus, it's best to see a doctor to check for infection of the area.
Sleeping on your side can cause sagging or wrinkling of the skin. We recommend trying to sleep on your back, conch piercing or not.
Side Effects of Piercing
- Infection and inflammation: All piercings come with a risk of infection, but there are several things to keep in mind with this style. 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 you avoid the piercing altogether.
- Keloid: In rare cases, piercings can result in excess scar tissue and the formation of something called a "keloid." These can be genetic, so find out if anyone in your family has dealt with one before you get pierced. As always, be religious about your aftercare regimen to minimize the chance of infection or scarring.
How to Change Out a Conch Piercing
It's important not to mess with your new piercing until it's totally healed in six to nine months. The first time you go to change the jewelry, consider returning to the professional who did your piercing in the first place. This will ensure the piercing is fully healed and ready to be swapped and prevent further damage. Plus, your piercer can give you tips to use at home based on what style of earring you're wearing.
What Type of Jewelry Is Used for Conch Piercing?
- Conch studs or bars: Studs and bars are great picks for new inner conch piercings, as they are small and comfortable, plus easy to change out when the time comes. 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."
- Hoops: Small hoops are another popular pick for conches, especially outer conches, as they come in all different variations. These aren't possible as an initial piercing, though, as they will cause excessive movement and irritation.
What Jewelry Material Is Used for Conch Piercing?
- Implant-grade stainless steel: This is one of the safest metals for a brand-new piercing, as it's hypoallergenic and specifically designed to be worn in the body safely. In general, avoid cheap materials that may cause a reaction.
- Implant-grade titanium: Another implant-grade metal. If you're very sensitive to nickel, titanium may not be the best choice, as it contains trace amounts.
- Low karat gold or platinum: Fine metals like gold and platinum are also a pretty safe choice. Remember, it's worth it to pay more for something quality–avoid cheap gold or gold plating, which can flake off and cause infection.
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