Getting a Cartilage Piercing? Learn About Cartilage Piercing Care

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Getting a Cartilage Piercing? Learn About Cartilage Piercing Care
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If you are thinking of getting a cartilage piercing or have just had your ear or nose pierced, after-cartilage piercing care is very important to make sure the new piercing heals properly. Even if you have a professional piercer who uses the best equipment, knowing how to care for your newly pierced ears or nose will make sure you avoid any problems during the healing process.

Cartilage piercing in the nose and ears are prone to serious infections. Of course, you can expect some redness, throbbing pain, and swelling around the hole just after the piercing. However, after a few weeks, any sign of infection should be gone and you just need to use the proper cartilage piercing-care regime so that it heals well without any problems.

The reason why cartilage piercings can take longer to heal than earlobe or tongue piercings is that there are no blood vessels in the cartilage. Therefore, the healing process is slower, and extra care has to be taken to regularly cleanse and disinfect the pierced hole in the cartilage. In fact, depending on the type of cartilage piercing, it could take up to a year to heal fully.

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What is Cartilage Piercing?

Cartilage is a type of tissue that is softer and more elastic than bone but harder than flesh. Cartilage makes up most of your nose and ear. In fact, the only flesh in your ear is in your earlobe.

Ear cartilage piercing

Ear cartilage piercings (such as daith piercing and tragus piercing) require special care because the new piercing can be irritated when you brush your hair, sleep, take off a hat, or use glasses.

Each part of the ear cartilage has its own name. For example, the helix is the part on the outer rim of your ear, close to the top of the ear, and helix ear piercings are one of the most popular types of piercings in the ear.

Other parts of ear cartilage that are popular for piercing are the anti-helix, conch, tragus, anti-tragus, rook, and auricle.

Nose cartilage piercing

Most people get their nose pierced through the lower nasal cartilage on one of their nostrils. However, piercing the septum – the nose cartilage that separates both nostrils is becoming more popular.

Cartilage Piercing – Will there be Pain?

The fear that cartilage piercing causes a lot of pain is probably the greatest worry you have before letting the piercer put in new jewelry. However, the piercing process shouldn’t be any more painful than getting your earlobe pierced. More and more professional piercing salons use needle piercing, which is generally less painful than gun piercing.

You should expect that you will continue to experience mild pain around the pierced area for anywhere between 2 weeks and a month. During this time, it is very important to take care with the new piece of jewelry in your piercing to avoid aggravating the wound even more.

How Long Does Cartilage Piercing Take to Heal?

The time it takes for different piercings in different parts of the body to heal depends on various factors. Cartilage piercing can take between 3 and 6 months to heal, with some piercings even taking up to one year to heal completely and become “seasoned”.

In the first 2-3 moths of the healing process, it is important not to remove or change the jewelry in the piercing and you should avoid playing with it or tugging on it.

Cartilage Piercing Care – What to Do and What to Avoid

Cartilage piercing care is very important due to several reasons. According to WebMD, there is a greater risk of cartilage piercing than other types of piercing. Piercings in the outer ear cartilage or nose cartilage are prone to bacterial infections caused by the Pseudomonas aeruginosa bacteria strain. It is also more difficult to treat infected pierced cartilage areas with antibiotics.1

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A top researcher into skin infections, Dr. William E. Keene is quoted on WebMD as saying that cartilage which becomes seriously infected can be cosmetically devastating. If the piercing infection is not treated properly, the cartilage dies and has to be removed.2

Therefore, it’s essential to properly care for cartilage piercings to prevent infection. Also, if you notice that the pierced ear or nose is becoming infected, you should visit your doctor as soon as possible.

What you should do to care for cartilage piercing

To make sure that the piercing heals well and you avoid complications, there are a few simple steps of cartilage piercing care that you need to follow to keep the area clean and germ-free.

  • Always wash and dry your hands thoroughly before touching the new piercing. This avoids spreading germs to the healing wound and prevents unnecessary infection.
  • Clean the pierced area 2 times a day with a saline solution. You shouldn’t let soap or shampoo into the affected area as this can irritate the piercing. At the end of the article, you can find a recipe for some natural home remedies to clean pierced areas.
  • After rinsing the wound, dry the area with a tissue or paper towel. This helps to lessen the chance of the wound becoming infected by a dirty hand towel.
  • Make sure that your bed linen and pillowcases are kept clean to prevent your ear or nose from becoming infected.
  • Be patient. The healing process takes time. If the wound becomes sore and painful, you can soak it in a saline solution.
  • Keep yourself healthy by eating nutritiously, getting enough rest, and enjoying regular exercise.
  • Be aware of the ear or nose piercing healing process. If you notice discharge, pus, or swelling around the wound, you should seek medical advice as soon as possible.

How to Prevent Cartilage Piercing Infections

To care for your new piercing and make sure that it heals properly without any complications, there are a few things to avoid. Doctors from the Mayo Clinic recommend avoiding the following to allow the wound to heal successfully:3

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  • Don’t play with your piercings or touch them unnecessarily. This could irritate the wound and hinder the healing process. You may also cause the wound to become infected.
  • Avoid swimming in pools, rivers, and the sea until the piercing has healed completely.
  • Avoid using harsh soaps and chemicals to clean the wound.
  • Don’t take the jewelry out too early. Your piercer will let you know how long to keep the jewelry in. Even if the wound becomes infected, leave the jewelry in until a doctor has examined the infected skin.

You may also notice that a crust forms around the hole where the jewelry sits. This is completely normal and part of the healing process. So, you should leave the crust in place.

What if the Cartilage Piercing Becomes Infected?

The right cartilage piercing care should help to prevent any infection from developing. However, swelling, slight pain, irritation, and some discharge is all part of the healing process. Over time, these symptoms should disappear.

Some of the warning signs of an infected cartilage piercing are redness that develops around the pierced cartilage, the tissue is painful to touch, and the discharge has a bad odor. The pierced area may also be warm to touch.

If you notice any of these infected cartilage symptoms, you should seek medical advice immediately.

Caring for Cartilage Piercing

The proper ear and nose cartilage piercing aftercare involves regularly rinsing the affected area with a solution to disinfect bacteria and speed up the healing process. This should be part of your cartilage piercing care for at least a few months until the wound heals completely.

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There are a few simple home remedies to help speed up the healing process of a cartilage piercing and to treat mild bacterial skin infections. These remedies can also help to prevent cartilage piercing bumps from forming around the new piercing.

Sea salt rinse

Most piercers recommend cleaning the piercing twice a day with a cleansing saline solution. The National Health Service in the United Kingdom recommends dissolving 1/4 teaspoon of sea salt in a shot glass of warm water. Apply the sea salt rinse to the cartilage piercing using a clean cloth or cotton ball to help kill off infection-causing germs and soften any discharge from the wound. Dry the wound with a clean piece of tissue paper.4

Using a saline water rinse is also one of the best ways to treat an infected belly button piercing.

Tea tree oil

Tea tree oil can help to kill off most types of bacteria that cause skin infections. In fact, studies have shown that it is effective against the Pseudomonas aeruginosa bacteria strain that causes the majority of cartilage infections after piercing.5 The tea tree oil remedy is also useful for treating an infected nose piercing.

Mix 1 tbsp. coconut oil with 2-3 drops of tea tree oil to make an antibacterial skin ointment. Apply the tea tree oil remedy to the affected area on your ear or nose. This will help to moisturize the area and reduce redness and swelling caused by the infection. Repeat 2 times a day until signs of the mild infection have gone.

Aloe vera

The antibacterial and soothing properties of aloe vera gel can help to keep your skin soft and free from infection. Aloe vera has also been shown to have antimicrobial properties that can help prevent bacterial infections in wounds.6

Make sure that you use pure aloe vera gel that doesn’t contain many additives. Apply a little aloe vera gel around the infected cartilage with a clean cotton swab to keep the wound free of germs that cause infections.

Apple cider vinegar

Raw apple cider vinegar is also an effective antibacterial agent against the P. aeruginosa strain.7 You can dilute equal parts of raw unprocessed apple cider vinegar with water and use it as an antibacterial soak to disinfect the wound and help any mild skin infection heal quicker.

Read my other related articles:
1. How to Get Rid of Nose Piercing Bump
2. Warning Signs of Infected Belly Button Piercing and Best Treatment Options
3. The Best Home Remedies For Getting Rid of Ear Infection
4. Warning Signs of an Infected Tattoo and How to Treat It

Article Sources

  1. WebMD. Cartilage Piercing Riskier Than Earlobes
  2. WebMD. Cosmetically devastating
  3. Mayo Clinic. Take good care of your piercing
  4. NHS. Caring for a new piercing
  5. Clin Microbiol Rev. 2006 Jan; 19(1): 50–62
  6. Australas Med J. 2012; 5(6): 305–309
  7. European Journal of General Medicine, Vol. 5, No. 2, 2008, pp. 104-106
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2 Responses to Getting a Cartilage Piercing? Learn About Cartilage Piercing Care

  1. Eleanor says:

    Hello,

    How long after a helix piercing can I wear a fencing helmet?

    • Jenny Hills says:

      Hi Eleanor, there are several forums discussing this issue and there is no clear answer as everyone is different and for some people it takes quite a while until it heals (3-6 months and even more for some people). For that first months, sleeping directly on it, or wearing a helmet tightly over it will aggravate the healing and will make it feel sore.

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