From the subtle tragus to the striking conch and the versatile helix to the discreet rook, cartilage piercings allow for creative expression through an array of jewelry styles. This guide will explore everything you need to know about cartilage piercings, including the different types, the healing processes, care tips, and how to choose the right jewelry to complement your personal style.

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What is a cartilage piercing?

Cartilage piercings are any piercing positioned on the tougher cartilage areas of the earlobe. These piercings are found in various parts of the ear, excluding the softer earlobe, which is typically where standard ear piercings are placed. Cartilage piercings come in many different varieties, including the helix, daith, tragus, forward helix, conch, and rook.


How long does it take for a cartilage piercing to heal?

Cartilage piercings take significantly longer to heal than piercings on softer parts of the body, like the earlobes. A full healing process typically takes 6 to 12 months.



There are many factors that can influence how long your individual piercing will take to heal, including:

  • Aftercare - Following a strict aftercare routine is necessary for proper healing to occur. Proper aftercare will typically involve cleaning the piercing twice a day with a saline solution and avoiding irritation.
  • The Piercing Location - Some cartilage piercings, such as helix piercings, tend to heal a bit quicker than others, like industrial piercings.
  • Your Body's Ability to Heal - Everyone heals at a different pace. If you tend to heal wounds slowly, expect your piercing to take longer to heal than average.

Do cartilage piercings hurt?

Ear cartilage piercings will likely cause some discomfort because you're puncturing through tougher tissue than an earlobe. It is usually considered more painful than a general lobe piercing. However, pain tolerance always differs from person to person.


Here's a rundown of what to expect:

  • During the piercing: You'll likely feel a pinch or prick along with some pressure. Rest assured, it's usually a quick sensation that occurs during the piercing process.
  • Afterward: The area surrounding the cartilage piercing will probably be sore for a number of days. You might also experience some redness, swelling, and slight bruising.

How much does a cartilage piercing cost?

The cost of an ear cartilage piercing differs depending on a few factors. However, you can generally expect to pay $35 - $50 for the piercing itself. 


What gauge is a cartilage piercing?

16 gauge (1.2mm) is the most widely used gauge for cartilage piercings [cartilage piercing gauge]. On the other hand, certain cartilage piercings, especially those in regions with thinner tissue, can also be done with 18 gauge (1mm).


Here's a breakdown of the different gauges you might encounter with cartilage piercings:

  • 16 gauge (1.2mm): This is the standard gauge for most cartilage piercings, including helix piercings, conch piercings, and rook piercings.
  • 18 gauge (1mm): This thinner gauge is popular for cartilage piercings with less tissue, such as forward helix or tragus piercings.

When can I change my cartilage piercing?

Normally, you should wait at least three to six months before changing your cartilage piercing jewelry. This estimated timeframe allows the cartilage piercing ample time to heal properly and lessens the risk of infection.

More Ways to Style the Cartilage

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Diana Ear Lobe Cuff Earrings

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Évangeline Ear Cuff Set

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Do cartilage piercings close?

Yes, cartilage piercings can close up, especially if they are not 100% healed. Here's a breakdown of the factors that influence closure:

  • Healing stage: New piercings are much more likely to close up than fully healed ones. If you remove your jewelry within the first few months, there is a higher likelihood that the cartilage piercing will likely begin to close.
  • Time without jewelry: The longer you leave your cartilage piercing without earrings, the more prone it is to close up. FYI, even a fully healed piercing might close up if you leave the jewelry out for an extended period.
  • Location of the piercing: Cartilage piercings in areas with thicker tissue, like industrial piercings, tend to close up more quickly than piercings in thinner areas, like helix piercings.

How to remove a cartilage piercing?

Here's a general guideline on removing ear cartilage piercings:

  1. Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
  2. Gather your supplies: Grab a clean mirror, saline solution (or a saltwater mixture), and possibly nitrile gloves for better grip.
  3. Soak the piercing: Apply a warm saline solution to the cartilage piercing for a few minutes in order to soften any crusts and loosen your earrings.
  4. Identify the jewelry closure: Depending on the type of earrings, they might have a screw-on ball, a flat back with a removable gem, or a clasp.
  5. Gently unscrew or unfasten the jewelry: If it's a screw-on ball, hold the flat back with one hand and unscrew the ball with the other hand (usually counter-clockwise). If it has a clasp, carefully open it.
  6. Slide the jewelry out: Once the closure is open, gently slide the earrings out of the cartilage piercing.
  7. Clean the piercing: Clean the cartilage piercing site again with saline solution and pat it dry with a gauze pad.