7 Sep 2012

I received a question and photo from a woman who has an ear cartilage piercing that is experiencing problems. Below is a somewhat condnesed version of our correspondence:

ear cartilage bump

I've read your book many times, but I wanted to seek guidance from the author herself! I got my helix pierced at a tattoo and piercing parlor about 3 weeks ago.  The piercer put a rather large ring in my piercing with a bead.  

He then told me to clean the piercing with alcohol and Dial soap (I knew better after reading your book, so I just nodded and smiled).

Instead, I did nightly sea salt soaks, but the piercing seemed fine after about a week- in fact, it felt and appeared to be fully healed.

 However, about 4 days ago, it started to feel warm and red.  2 days ago, the skin around it (basically the top half of my ear) is very warm to the touch, purplish red, and sore (the piercing throbs).  However, there is no strange discharge or swelling from it- all of the discharge is clear to light yellow and it's very minimal and there is no swelling.  What's going on with my piercing? The bump looks a little more irritated than usual because I just got out of sparring practice and had a good amount of contact with my ear.  

Unfortunately, I was unable to go and get the jewelry changed as I left for school a few days after.  The piercing is not painful, tender, or warm (although I can't lay on it, that's not surprising as I usually can't lay on my ears in general).


I's like a halfsie of a conch and a helix. The piercer and I played around with different locations, but the anatomy of my ear is so bizarre that the halfway point actually seemed to look best.  No, the jewelry's not snug- it moves around actually quite freely (if my head's upside down, the jewelry shifts, etc).  

How long do you think it will take before I can tell if this piercing with heal with the ring in? No, I'm not feeling sick or unwell… it just seems bizarre to me that I'm "suddenly" having trouble with this piercing after it seemed to be doing so well! I understand that a little relapse is pretty common, but the tenderness and heat just seem a little too much for that.My piercing is no longer inflamed or irritated as it was, but I'm concerned about a bump on the back of it.  Sometimes the back of the piercing secretes from the bump, but it's only clear or very light yellow.  The bump has definitely gotten bigger over the past month or so.  

Thanks so much,

My reply:

I'm a little surprised you'd go to a piercer suggesting that type of antiquated care after reading my book, since that demonstrates he's not among the up to date. He wasn't a member of the Association of Professional Piercers, was he?

Yours looks redder, but you still might have the problem shown and discussed here:http://piercingbible.com/troubleshooting#Localized_Piercing_Pimple and there are some suggestions on things to try on that page.

Do you know if your jewelry is high quality, annealed, mirror finish, implant grade material? If not, the jewelry may need to be changed out to get your piercing to heal successfully.

This page provides information on body jewelry suited to initial healing:


And, if you can't minimize the trauma to the area, it may not matter what you do--it might stay irritated, or have excess scar tissue formation, or other problems.

I hope this is helpful.

She wrote:

Thanks for taking a look.  I didn't realize that he practiced those care techniques until after I had been pierced.  I'd checked out the studio before, and it was clean and friendly.  A number of my friends had gotten tattooed and pierced there, so I went on their word.  They all said that he was great and really professional.  So, while he isn't a member of the APP, I took my friend's words.  I see what a mistake that was now.  It's pretty embarrassing.

I replied:

Is that the placement you requested? Was it intended to be a conch piercing? Or a helix piercing? It is kind of in between the two. If you're happy with the placement, then we can try to figure out the best way to get you to heal. Does the jewelry feel snug at all? With it sitting almost horizontally, I wonder if it isn't a little tight?

Unfortunately, you may find that a ring in that placement is prohibitive to healing (same reason I don't use rings in conch piercings). It is so much easier to cause trauma with a ring there, as compared to a barbell that fits well. I would suggest you consider getting it switched out to a bar if you continue to have trouble with the ring in place.

Your whole ear looks quite red, though I'm not sure if that is an accurate representation, from just the one photo. The piercing doesn't look particularly swollen (at least not from the front). So I'm not really sure what's going on. I'd be a little concerned about an infection that is not localized--perhaps cellulitis? Are you having any other symptoms such as generally feeling sick, feverish, body aches or anything? IF so, you should see a doctor right away.



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