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Isabel has been participating since 2020. She has worked with digital media for over five years and is an expert on a range of topics including tattoos, piercings and culture. Her work can be seen online in Backstage, Merry Jane, Vulture and more.
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Cosmo Faris is a professional piercer with over 12 years of teaching experience at the Association of Professional Piercers.
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Julia A. Siegel, MD, is a board-certified dermatologist in Boston, Massachusetts. She is a fellow of the American Academy of Dermatology and has written several peer-reviewed journal articles and book chapters.
While many people use cartilage piercings to refer to common piercing styles such as industrial or snug, the term is actually a category of piercing, not a specific one. Your ear is made up of cartilage covered by skin, and any piercing that goes through that cartilage is, well, a cartilage piercing. There are about 10 different types of cartilage piercings, each with its own unique placement and appearance.
Whether you want a classic industrial piercing or want to try something more daring like a goatee piercing, here’s what you need to know about cartilage piercings.
Helix is one of the most common types of cartilage piercings that you may think of when you think of piercing style. A spiral piercing is placed on the upper ear and can be made in the form of a pin or a ring. As for pain, Michael Johnson, a professional piercer at A Wicked Sensation, says that “usually the soreness goes away within a week of getting the piercing done.” Expect to pay around $35-$50 for a cartilage piercing, but keep in mind that the price depends on several factors: your piercer’s experience, the store’s standards, jewelry, etc.
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When piercing the upper ear, the front coil is placed in a more anterior position over the tragus or a small piece of cartilage in front of the ear canal. A straight helix piercing is more difficult than a regular helix piercing because it has to be properly aligned directly with the ear. It’s a good idea to find a very experienced piercer for this style to make sure everything turns out exactly how you want it.
Expect a helix piercing to cost anywhere from $30 to $100, and you’ll even have to pay extra for jewelry because it has to fit your ear.
Your tragus is a small flap of cartilage just in front of your ear canal. This place is a more unusual choice, but it’s a unique place if you want a little unexpected piercing.
However, a goatee is a complex piercing; the process must be compensated based on the size and shape of your earmuff as it must work specifically with your ear. Therefore, if you are interested in piercing the goatee, you need to find an experienced piercer. “The goatee piercing is one of the most difficult piercings when it comes to piercing technique,” says Tyler Burson, a professional piercer in Texas. “That makes it difficult to get the right needle angle and the right depth. There are also techniques we use to make sure we don’t puncture any other area around the buck because it’s in a compact area.”
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But according to Johnson, “the popping sound of the cartilage in front of your ear canal makes people feel sick.” As for the price, a goatee piercing will probably cost around $40-$60, although it can be more depending on the studio, the piercing, and the piercing itself.
Industrial piercings tend to be a fairly popular choice for cartilage piercings. Technically, however, industries are two piercings in one; it consists of a bar that connects the spiral piercing and the anterior spiral piercing. These piercings usually have a reputation for being edgy because they are obvious and look uncomfortable.
Since an industrial piercing is two piercings, “it can range from $40 to $120 depending on the piercing and the metal they use for the piercing,” says Berson. Many piercers include the cost of the jewelry in the price, but be sure to ask your piercer before doing so. The pain in this case is only moderate, but usually after the piercing itself is done there is a little more pain.
A Daith piercing goes through a small flap of cartilage just above the ear canal, near the middle of the ear. While these piercings look cool, they are also rumored to help with migraines (although this has yet to be medically proven). Because this piercing is aligned with acupuncture points, getting one is constant pressure on that point, and some people have found relief from migraines. Another unique aspect of the daith is that, unlike most piercings, a ring is offered during healing, rather than a stud.
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“I’ve also had mixed reactions from clients—some said it was the easiest piercing they’ve done, and others said it was the hardest,” says Berson. As for the price, you will most likely pay between $35-$60 for a daily piercing.
The shell consists of two parts that make two different types of punctures: the inner shell and the outer shell. Both are pierced through the middle concha, the thickest piece of cartilage on that part of the body. The inner concha piercing goes through the upper part of the middle concha, near the ear canal. On the contrary, the outer shell passes through the lower part. The name of the piercing comes from the middle concha, which looks like a shell.
According to Amanda Robone, master piercer at Clear Vision Tattoo, you should expect the cost of a sink piercing to start around $70 because you have to factor in the needle fee and the cost of jewelry. “Sure, it’s more expensive than a mall, but it’s a night-and-day difference in terms of jewelry quality, healing time, and customer service,” says Robon. “You definitely get what you pay for!”
A goatee piercing is placed on the outer edge of the goatee, above the earlobe, not on the part closest to your head. This is another piercing that somewhat conforms to your anatomy as it requires your goatee to be quite visible. If it isn’t, it will be more difficult to get the piercing done, and some piercers may even refuse to do the process if they don’t feel they can work with the shape of your ear.
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The pain in the glans is somewhat stronger, often because it is an unfamiliar sensation and difficult to pierce. As for price, expect a base level of around $45-$60, although some piercers may charge more, given that the anti-goat piercing requires a bit more effort.
A torus piercing is a vertical piercing that is placed on the cartilage just above the front helix. The most important thing to know about the Rook piercing is that it is commonly referred to as one of the most painful ear piercings out there, but often it’s not that bad.
Also, piercings are generally difficult, so a very experienced piercer is recommended for this type of piercing. Expect to pay a little more because of the experience required. A piercing tour will most likely cost you around $35-$50, although that also counts for items like the studio, piercing, etc.
A Snug piercing is a horizontal piercing that goes through the inner edge of the cartilage above the collarbone. The piercing gets its name from the fact that it is located in a small area that seems to hug the folds of the ears – almost as if pressing on them. However, only small pieces of jewelry such as curved barbells (most common) or a small hoop work for this piercing as they are tight and also one of the most painful.
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Orbital is another less common type of cartilage piercing (the lobe is the most popular, with the helix the second most popular), although it offers a unique look for those who want something different. This type of piercing is similar to an industrial piercing as it combines two different piercings. However, the track is pierced with a ring, not a rod. This gives the piercing the illusion of floating and rotating around the ear, hence its name.
Orbital cartilage is considered less painful. Price-wise, though, you should expect a much higher figure: $60-$80.
Always clean the area thoroughly with soap and water in case of any piercing
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