A conch piercing is a piercing in the inner part of the ear cartilage. Conch piercings can take 4–12 months to heal. During this time, it is essential to keep them clean, for instance, with saline solution.
A conch piercing may be painful for some people, both during the piercing and while healing. Correct aftercare is essential to ensure that the piercing heals correctly and does not lead to infection and other complications.
In this article, we describe what a conch piercing is and what the procedure entails. We also outline some potential benefits, risks, and complications of this procedure. Finally, we offer some tips on aftercare and answer some frequently asked questions about conch piercings.
The conch refers to the inner cup of the ear, which gets this name because of its resemblance to a conch shell.
The conch consists of an inner and outer area:
- The inner conch: This part is parallel to the “daith,” which is the fold of cartilage above the ear canal.
- The outer conch: This part is closer to the antihelix, which is the first of the two ridges that form the outer contour of the ear.
A person can pierce the inner conch, outer conch, or both.
A professional piercer will typically perform a piercing using a hollow piercing needle. The piercer will clean the conch, mark the precise location for the piercing, then insert the needle and jewelry.
If a person wishes to wear larger jewelry, the piercer can perform a dermal punch, in which they use a small device to remove a circle of cartilage.
The steps for a conch piercing involve:
- cleaning the conch area to prevent infection
- marking the site of the piercing, partly to allow the client to approve the placement
- piercing the area with the needle or dermal punch
- inserting the jewelry, which the client will have chosen before the piercing
- applying gentle pressure to the piercing to alleviate bleeding
- cleaning the area
Some people report an improvement in migraine severity and frequency following a conch piercing. However, there is insufficient scientific evidence to support such claims.
Most of the research to date has focused instead on the effects of a daith piercing.
For instance, a 2017 case study refers to an anonymous online survey of 380 people with migraine who underwent a daith piercing. Of the participants, 47.2% reported a reduction in migraine frequency following the piercing.
The authors note that the placebo effect could influence these findings and state that further research is necessary to investigate the possible link between daith piercing and migraine frequency.
It is possible that conch piercings have a similar effect, but researchers need to carry out studies to confirm this.
Again, most research on the link between anxiety and piercings has looked at the daith piercing.
Some people believe that a piercing in the daith can help alleviate anxiety. Acupuncturists claim that this is due to stimulation of the daith, which they say helps maintain homeostasis, meaning relatively stable internal conditions.
There is no peer-reviewed research investigating whether this piercing or a conch piercing can alleviate anxiety, only anecdotal reports of improvement.
Different piercers may give slightly different instructions on how best to clean the piercing. Some may recommend applying a saline solution to the piercing as often as necessary, using clean gauze. Others may recommend a gentle soap that a person can carefully lather around the piercing before rinsing. However, it is always best to avoid using alcohol or harsh cleansers, as these can damage the area.
Before touching or cleaning the piercing, a person should wash their hands thoroughly to reduce the risk of infection. After rinsing the piercing, they should gently pat the area dry using a clean, disposable paper towel.
A person should continue to clean the piercing regularly for up to a year, even if it looks and feels as though it has healed much sooner.
A conch piercing may cause some initial pain and discomfort. Some typical symptoms include:
- tightening of the tissue
- secretion of fluid, which can form a slight crust around the piercing
During healing, a person should avoid the following:
- overcleaning, which can irritate the piercing and delay healing
- cleaning the piercing with the following products:
- harsh soaps
- hydrogen peroxide
- submerging the piercing in potentially unhygienic water, such as that from hot tubs, pools, and lakes
- applying cosmetic products, such as fragrances and lotions
- wearing heavy or hanging jewelry until the piercing is fully healed
As with other types of piercing, a conch piercing can close if a person removes the jewelry before the piercing has fully healed.
All piercings carry a risk of infection. About 35% of ear piercings develop infections or other complications. Cartilage piercings may pose an increased risk of infection compared with lobe piercings.
Possible signs of infection include:
- skin discoloration
- green or yellow pus in the piercing
- red streaks near the piercing
- nausea and vomiting
- persistent or worsening symptoms
If a person suspects that their piercing is infected, they should seek medical attention. They should not remove the piercing themselves.
A piercing may also cause other complications, such as:
- Cartilage piercing bumps: These areas of inflammation or irritation may develop immediately after a cartilage piercing.
- Keloids: These areas of raised scar tissue are not uncommon after a piercing.
- Contact dermatitis: People may develop this itchy skin rash after coming into contact with a substance to which they have an allergy or sensitivity.
- Abscess: This is the term for a painful collection of pus that typically develops in response to a bacterial infection.
Below are some answers to commonly asked questions about conch piercings.
How much do conch piercings cost?
The cost of a conch piercing will vary among piercers, but anecdotal evidence suggests that it is typically somewhere between $30 and $90. The type of jewelry a person chooses can also affect the cost.
A person should receive a conch piercing from a professional piercer. The Association of Professional Piercers allows a person to search for a professional piercer who is local to them.
Is a conch piercing painful?
Many people consider a conch piercing to be painful, although the extent of the pain will differ from one person to another. With a skilled professional piercer, the initial pain of the piercing should be temporary. However, a person may experience some pain during healing, especially at bedtime.
How does the pain compare with other ear piercings?
A conch piercing is typically more painful than piercings in the earlobe. This is because a conch piercing pierces the harder, thicker cartilage of the ear.
What piercing is good for anxiety?
There is insufficient scientific evidence to determine whether piercing the ears can improve anxiety. However, some anecdotal reports suggest that piercing the daith may help alleviate anxiety symptoms.
A piercing professional will help a person choose appropriate jewelry for their conch piercing. Options may include:
- Studs: Studs for conch piercings usually have flat backs instead of rounded ones, which prevents the stud from poking into the side of the head.
- Bars: A bar with small balls on each end allows for some swelling. It is also easy to keep clean.
- Hoops: A piercer usually will not recommend a hoop for a conch piercing until after the healing process is complete. This is because hoops can move around. They are also more prone to getting caught on clothing, bedding, or a hairbrush, which can disrupt the healing process.
When selecting jewelry for newly pierced ears, a person can choose from the following options:
- Titanium: This lightweight metal is a particularly good option for people with nickel sensitivity.
- Niobium: This is similar to titanium and is available in many colors.
- Gold: White, yellow, or rose gold that is free of nickel and cadmium and is 14 karat or higher is appropriate for piercings. It is not likely to scratch.
- Platinum: This heavy precious metal is excellent for piercings, although it is often the most expensive option.
- Glass: The following types of glass are generally safe for piercings:
- lead-free soda-lime glass
- lead-free borosilicate
- fused quartz glass
As with other types of cartilage piercing, a conch piercing can take 4–12 months to heal fully.
A conch piercing may cause pain during the piercing procedure, as well as during the healing stage.
All piercings require aftercare and pose a risk of infection. Anyone who experiences any symptoms of infection should seek medical attention as soon as possible to reduce the risk of complications.
A conch piercing is a cartilage piercing in the inner part of the ear. The procedure may cause some pain, and this may continue during the initial stages of healing.
Some people report that certain ear piercings can help with specific conditions, such as migraine and anxiety. However, there is insufficient scientific evidence to support these claims, and researchers note that the reports may be attributable to the placebo effect.
There are certain risks associated with conch piercings, such as infection, contact dermatitis, and scarring. A conch piercing requires regular cleaning and aftercare during the healing phase to reduce the risk of infection. Anyone who experiences signs of infection should contact a doctor for further advice.