Cartilage piercings have gained popularity recently.
So, you’ll need to learn how to pierce cartilage if you want to meet your client’s needs.
It is important to keep safe practices when piercing cartilage tissues. When done improperly or incurring an infection, botched cartilage piercings can result in disfigurement.
Prepping for your piercing
Preparation is key to being successful in many endeavors, piercing is no different. There are some standard items and equipment used for cartilage piercing.
- hollow piercing needle
- jewelry one gauge size smaller than the needle
- antibacterial soap
- a stop (ex: cotton ball)
- antiseptic (ex: iodine, betadine)
You Don’t Need a Piercing Gun
Contrary to popular belief, cartilage piercings are not performed with a piercing gun, like the kind used for piercing the fatty tissues of the earlobe. In fact, they are done by forcefully inserting a sterile, hallow, surgical steel needle through the site.
Piercing guns can actually rupture the cartilage, which in turn, allows for odd scar tissues and possible disfigurement of the area after the piercing is done. Sterile, pre-packaged hollow needles should be used. These needles should be one gauge size larger than the jewelry you chose to insert.
They also can leave the person doing the piercing open to undo blood exposure. In this day and age of blood born pathogens, this is not the desired effect.
Hepatitis B, Hepatitis C and HIV can all be contracted from blood and bodily fluid contact. While there is not a single case documented to have been contracted via a piercing, it not a bad idea to be on the safe side.
Have the Barbell Ready
A common method of piercing is done by having the post of your barbell or stud be able to fit inside the needle. This allows the jewelry to easily slide into the hole as the needle is withdrawn from the piercing site. There are many different types of jewelry to insert in piercings.
The type chosen can be dependent upon the exact chosen location of the piercing itself. Obviously, piercing on the pinna of the ear (a usual stud post) is going to be different than one used on a daith (a horse-shaped barbell).
Use Surgical Steel or Gold Jewelry
The jewelry should be of a nickel-free metal to reduce the possibility of allergic reaction. Surgical steel is most common, however, gold has been used. The needle and the jewelry, as well as all equipment making contact with the skin, should be sterilized in an autoclave or be single-use, sterile packaged items.
It is imperative to cleanse the area thoroughly prior to piercing to get rid of various bacteria which may be present on the surface of the skin. A good scrub with some antibacterial soap usually does the job. An added bonus is that warm water can loosen the skin. This may ease the piercing process.
After cleansing it is not advised to use an agent like ice to numb the area. This can actually increase your chances of complications by reducing the elasticity of the skin and increasing chances for infection. Trying to use ice does not even aid in the reduction of pain since there are no blood vessels in cartilage.
Immediately before the actual piercing, the area to be pierced should be cleansed thoroughly. Use a solution like iodine or betadine to ensure all bacteria is killed. This keeps opportunities for infection at a minimum and decreases the time necessary to heal.
How to pierce cartilage: Step by Step
Many times, a dot can be drawn on the skin to indicate the target spot for piercing. This is a highly recommended practice. It ensures you being able to place a good looking piercing.
Remember, it is much easier to only pierce an area one time than it is to fix it or move it after the fact.
Many professional piercers lay out all the items needed on a towel upon a table or countertop prior to physically piercing the skin.
This keeps all items in a clean spot and ensures all is within easy reach and cuts down on scrambling if there should happen to be an issue. Once all the items are laid out, and the cleansing is done, the actual poke can be done.
Listen For the Pops
You should feel and sometimes hear, three distinct pops as the needle penetrates the skin, then the cartilage and then the skin on the other side. It is recommended you use some sort of a “stop” on the other side of the area being pierced.
For example, if you are piercing the pinna, a cotton ball or similar clean and sterile item can be placed behind the ear to more or less “catch” the needle. This helps keep the scalp, etcetera, from being pierced as well. Do not use items such as a potato, as it is not sterile and cause more harm than good.
While the hollow point needle is through the skin, the metal post of the piercing jewelry should be inserted into the hollow shaft.
The jewelry is then pushed back through the hole. This subsequently pushes the implement out of the cartilage, and sort of “threads” the jewelry through the hole. It is thought this allows for less bacteria to come and go through the open wound. Once the barbell or stud is in the hole, the back must be securely fastened. Barbells usually have screw on ends and studs have a push type clip.
Be sure to Clean Immediately
Once they are fastened, the new piercing needs to be kept clean. Things like rubbing alcohol and/or antibacterial ointment (ex: Bactine ™ )should not be used as they may cause undue scarring, lumps and bumps, and outright pain. Washing with a mild soap seems to be best.
The piercing, with its back securely fastened, should remain in the new piercing for four months to a year to ensure healing of the tissues. The piercing should be completely healed before attempting to change the jewelry.
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