A standard lobe piercing no longer raises eyebrows, even if you have two or three piercings. Instead, people pierce their ears in 13 different places, including the outer ear or helix and inner ear or conch. Not all parts of the ear are as painless to pierce as the lobe, especially if the piercing penetrates cartilage. Which is more painful to pierce, the conch or the helix?
A conch piercing is more painful than a helix piercing because of its location, the amount of cartilage, the piercing process, and the extended healing period. Conch piercings are more painful than helix piercings during the piercing, immediately afterward, and while healing.
The main question people ask before getting a piercing is how much it will hurt. We all tolerate pain differently, but how painful a piercing is also depends on the skill of the piercer, the piercing process, and, most importantly, the location of the piercing. Which is the more painful piercing: conch or helix?
Piercing Comparison: Conch Vs. Helix
If you’ve been planning a conch piercing, we’ve got bad news: the conch is one of the more painful areas of the ear to pierce. The conch rates 7/10 on the pain scale, where 1 is painless, and 10 is agony.
Along with the tragus, the inner and outer conch score highest on the pain scale during the piercing, immediately afterward, and while healing.
The helix, in contrast, is far less painful, measuring only 4/10, while the forward helix is 5/10 – the standard lobe only measures 3/10.
Although they are eye-catching, conch piercings are more painful than helix and lobe piercings for various reasons:
- where the piercing is located
- the amount of cartilage
- the piercing process
- the healing period.
The Location of the Piercing
The first factor influencing the pain level of a piercing is its location and ease of access. Let’s check where conch and helix piercings go.
The Location Of A Conch Piercing
The conch is the inner or cup-shaped part of your ear and is named after a similarly shaped seashell.
It’s an attractive area for a piercing, as the conch lies between the lobe and the ear’s outer edge, forming a focal point.
There are two areas of the conch you can pierce:
- The inner conch is the dip next to the daith (the cartilage fold above your ear canal) in the ear’s center. You’ll usually wear a stud in the inner conch.
- The outer conch is lower and formed by the dip between the two ridges or rims that make up the edge of your ear (the helix and anti-helix). You can start with a stud and insert a ring that encloses the ear’s contour later.
The location of the conch is trickier to access than the helix, making the piercing process awkward. However, the site should not be challenging if you go to an experienced piercer.
The Location Of A Helix Piercing
The helix is formed by the outer cartilage ridge around the upper part of the ear, making for a stunning display of hoops to balance out piercings in the lobe.
There are various kinds of helix piercings:
- A standard helix piercing is a single ring through the helix.
- A double helix piercing consists of two piercings, one above the other, while a triple means three hoops.
- A forward helix piercing is in the ear’s outer rim just above the tragus. You’ll reach the forward helix if you run your finger around your ear towards your face. You can get a double or triple forward helix piercing.
- A helix flap piercing sits on the outside fold of the ear, rather than the inside. Choose this piercing if your ears fold over a little at the top.
The Amount Of Cartilage
Cartilage is the flexible, slightly bony tissue that makes up the ear – it’s what makes the ear stand up rather than flop over. Cartilage is tough, so puncturing it takes some effort.
Another challenge with piercing through cartilage is that it doesn’t have a good blood supply, making the healing period more protracted and uncomfortable.
Ear lobes don’t contain cartilage, so they are less painful to pierce and heal quickly.
How much cartilage is there in the conch and helix?
The Amount Of Cartilage In The Conch
Piercing the inner or outer conch means going through a plate of cartilage at the back of your ear, which makes it unpleasantly sore.
The Amount Of Cartilage In The Helix
The helix also contains cartilage, but it is not in the form of a plate, so the piercing is less painful.
The forward helix, which contains more cartilage, hurts more when piercing.
The Piercing Process
Whether you’re having a conch or helix piercing, the process is the same, and the anticipation of pain is worse than the actual piercing.
There are ways to reduce the distress you experience when having a piercing.
Choose A Qualified Piercer
An experienced, licensed piercer at a reputable studio or salon can minimize your discomfort through expert technique and safety precautions.
Your piercer will talk you through the entire process so that you know what to expect, help you identify and mark the exact location, and clean it carefully before piercing.
Distract Yourself During Piercing
It is best to be distracted while the piercing happens, so listen to music, do breathing exercises, chat to a friend, or hold a friend’s hand. It’ll be over in a flash.
Have A Needle Piercing
There are three ways of piercing the ear, each of which influences how painful the piercing will be:
- Needle: It is easier to tolerate and safer to have a needle piercing, as they are sterile and single-use. Piercers generally use a hollow, 16-point gauge needle to pierce the conch and helix, stretching it with the needle. You’ll feel a sharp pinch and some pressure, but it will be over in seconds.
- Piercing gun: A typical piercing gun is fine for lobes, but the impact of a blunt object punching through cartilage is an unpleasant shock.
- Dermal punch: Piercers use this device when you want a large-gauge piercing. A dermal punch removes a small circle of cartilage and is the most painful piercing method.
Pierce One Ear At A Time
If you can handle the discomfort, you can have more than one or even multiple piercings in a single session. However, you need to work on only one ear at a time to have a side to sleep on.
Post-piercing, you shouldn’t lie or sleep on your ear, wear headphones, or AirPods, so make sure you have one healed or piercing-free ear.
Know Your Body
Some women find that they are more sensitive to pain during their period. If you know you’re more likely to suffer, reschedule.
If you need to take painkillers for period cramps, check with your piercer if it’s okay – some painkillers can have blood-thinning qualities.
Eat a couple of hours before the piercing, so you don’t feel faint or hangry.
The Healing Period
Most of the pain associated with conch and helix piercings comes afterward; it can take anything from six to twelve months for the discomfort to subside.
- The hours and days after piercing: This period is the most difficult, as your piercing may bleed slightly, become hot and inflamed, and even throb for hours. Some people experience intense pain for a few days, so take painkillers and anti-inflammatories.
- The weeks and months after piercing: During this time, it will be uncomfortable to sleep on the ear. The piercing site may be tender for several months until it heals fully, especially if you had a dermal punch piercing.
If you follow the recommended aftercare routine, the tenderness should subside as the piercing heals. However, if the pain increases instead of decreases during healing, you may have an infection, so contact your piercing studio or a doctor immediately.
Because pain is subjective, it’s hard to say how painful a piercing will be. However, conch piercings are generally more painful than helix piercings because of where they’re located and the amount of cartilage to puncture. An expert piercer will make the process less uncomfortable, and good aftercare will minimize the chances of infection. Expect six to twelve months of healing time for either piercing, during which your ear may feel tender.