How Bad Do Conch Piercings Hurt?

Reviewed on 2/4/2021

Conch (medically known as “concha”) piercings are painful.
Conch (medically known as “concha”) piercings are painful.

Conch (medically known as “concha”) piercings are painful. Because each person has a different tolerance level, how much it hurts depends upon person to person. Some feel more pain than others. 

Concha is the part of the ear that leads to the ear tube that opens at the eardrum (external auditory canal). It contains the cartilage directly underneath the skin, and you can then expect to feel sharp pain during the piercing procedure. You may have throbbing pain for several days following the procedure.

As compared with other sites that are devoid of cartilage (such as the ear lobule), piercings through the conch area hurt more.

The intensity of pain also depends on the piercing method. Pain induced by the dermal punch method is more than the one by the needle-piercing method.

How is conch piercing done?

Conch piercing may be done by any of the two methods:

  • Needle piercing
  • Dermal punching

Both types of piercing will be followed by cleaning the conch area with a cotton dipped in a disinfectant such as betadine iodine. This will be followed by inserting a new, fresh, sterile needle into the conch.

If you want a bigger hole for a bigger earring, dermal punching is the popular method. The method involves the use of a small dermal punching machine tool. The tool will create a hole in your conch in the same way as created by a regular hole punch or paper punch.

As the conch contains the cartilage portion, a part of the cartilage is removed during the method of dermal punching. The hole is permanent—it does not close as the one created in the ear lobe.

How should you care for your pierced ear?

Ear piercing is a relatively risk-free procedure if performed at the ear lobe and along the helix region. Being a cartilaginous area, the risk of complications of piercing through the conch is greater. Hence, it requires extra care than other areas. Here are few steps that you should follow to take care of your pierced conch:

  • Clean the pierced area twice a day either with soap and warm water, by rubbing alcohol, or with any cleanser recommended by your piercer. This should be done at least for 3 months.
  • Give saline bath to your ears once a day. Pour a bottle of store-bought saline water into a bowl. Dip the pierced area in it for 2-5 minutes a day.
  • Avoid touching your ear piercing. The germs in your hand can get transferred and cause infection.
  • Wash your hands every time before you touch or clean the area.
  • Avoid indulging yourself in swimming pools or water parks. 
  • Do not remove the jewelry at night. Keep it in place. Avoid removing your jewelry until your piercer gives a nod.

It is normal for the skin around the piercing to swell, turn red, and painful to touch for a few days. You may also notice a little bleeding. If the swelling, redness, and bleeding last longer than 2-3 days, contact your doctor

You should keep inspecting the pierced area for 3 months at least and see your doctor if you think that it could have become infected. The signs of infection include:

  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Swelling and tenderness around the pierced site
  • Red streaks over the pierced site
  • Pain that worsens over time

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Can you pierce your ear at home?

No. You should certainly not pierce your ears at home. It is a highly unsafe practice. With its high chances of severe complications, conch piercing is even riskier. Only a trained and experienced professional should be allowed to do it.

It is advisable to visit a dermatologist or any health-care professional for a conch piercing. They take utmost precautions while handling your ear. They have the necessary instruments and sterile solutions to perform the procedure under safe (aseptic) conditions.

Is conch piercing safe?

Piercing the ear through the cartilage such as through the conch seems to be the current fashion of ear piercing. However, we do not recommend this kind of piercing. Because cartilaginous areas do not have an adequate blood supply, wound healing might be delayed. Where it takes 6-8 weeks for an ear lobe piercing to heal, it can take 4 months to as long a year for the conch piercing to heal. This fashion trend that has become quite popular over the past two decades carries the risk of severe infections that could lead to permanent ear deformity. 

A study published by the American Laryngological, Rhinological, and Otological Society in the journal The Laryngoscope on post-piercing infections found cartilage piercings to carry a high risk of infection-related complications. Some complications were so severe that even antibiotics were found to be ineffective. And when antibiotics are ineffective, the area needs to be drained surgically with needles. This can increase your hospital cost apart from landing you in emotional turmoil.

To make your ear piercing a relatively safe experience, we recommend only the ear lobule and helix sites for piercing.

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References
Sosin M, Weissler JM, Pulcrano M, et al. Transcartilaginous ear piercing and infectious complications: a systematic review and critical analysis of outcomes. Laryngoscope. 2015;125(8):1827-1834.

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