What to Know About Conch Piercing

Medically Reviewed by Poonam Sachdev on November 23, 2022
4 min read

The conch is the inner, cup-like part of your ear. The scientific name for the conch is the concha, and it's composed of the upper conch area (cymba) and the lower part (cavum). This part of your ear is made of cartilage, which is harder than the soft tissue of your earlobe.

A conch piercing is an upper ear cartilage piercing that is done in either the upper or lower concha part of your ear. Conch piercings are more likely to become infected than earlobe piercings, so they need special care and extra healing time. 

Conch piercing pain is usually more severe than earlobe piercing because it's made of cartilage, which is a type of thick, hard tissue that's more difficult to puncture than soft tissue such as your earlobe. Cartilage tissue doesn't have as much blood flow as soft tissue, so it heals more slowly. 

Conch piercing healing time can range from six to nine months. It's important to prevent bacteria from getting into your piercing site before you're fully healed. A conch piercing will require careful attention until it's fully healed.

Because your conch piercing is an open wound, you'll experience some pain and tenderness at the site. Since some of the symptoms you experience after a piercing are similar to some of the symptoms of infection, you should know which symptoms are a normal part of the healing process. 

Normal symptoms of healing after a conch piercing can include:

  • Some bleeding
  • Slight swelling around the area of the piercing
  • Some discoloration of the skin
  • Itching
  • Whitish-yellow discharge that forms a crust but is not pus

It's normal for the piercing to seem healed before it actually is. This is because tissue heals from the outside in. Continue with your cleaning routine for the entire healing period, even if the area looks healed. Also, plan to keep jewelry in your piercing, since even piercings that have been established for years can close up if they're left empty. 

To help speed the healing of your conch piercing, do the following: 

  • Avoid irritating the area of the piercing with clothing or excessive movement, touching, or cleaning.
  • Avoid having your conch piercing come in contact with other people's bodily fluids. 
  • Avoid recreational drug use, excessive caffeine, nicotine, or alcohol.
  • Avoid stress.
  • Avoid using personal care products around the piercing, such as body lotion, makeup, or hairspray.
  • Don't sleep directly on the piercing. 
  • Don't add any type of charm to your jewelry until the piercing is fully healed.
  • Wash and change your bedding regularly.
  • Take a shower instead of a bath. 
  • Clean headphones, phones, glasses, hats, helmets, and anything else that comes into contact with your conch piercing.
  • Be careful when you're styling your hair to avoid irritating your piercing.

You can help prevent an infection if you keep your conch piercing clean. Wash your hands thoroughly before you touch your piercing, and clean it as follows:

  1. Make a cleaning solution using 1/4 teaspoon of sea salt or 1 tablespoon of table salt dissolved in one cup of warm water. You can also use mild liquid antibacterial soap diluted half and half with water.
    1. Don't use hydrogen peroxide or alcohol when you clean the piercing because they kill new, healthy cells and make you heal more slowly.
    2. Don't use ointment on your piercing because it interferes with healthy airflow.
  2. Dip a cotton swab in the cleaning solution. 
  3. Use it to soak the area of your piercing.
  4. When the area is wet, turn the jewelry in your piercing.
  5. Repeat twice a day.

An infection can develop in your piercing if bacteria invade the wound before it's healed. This can be caused by: 

  • Nonsterile piercing tools or an unhygienic environment
  • Removing jewelry from the piercing too early 
  • Touching the piercing with dirty hands
  • Forgetting to clean your piercing every day
  • Swimming in a natural body of water, a hot tub, or a pool 

Symptoms of an infection in a conch piercing can include: 

  • A discharge from the pierced area
  • Fever
  • Skin around the piercing that is warm, red, or swollen
  • Soreness or pain around the piercing

Infections of the pierced area are not uncommon, but they usually respond well to treatment. If you suspect you have an infection, contact your healthcare provider for advice.

Other complications occur less often than infections. Some can be serious, including: 

Bloodstream infections. Use a piercer with a good reputation. Unclean conditions and instruments that aren't properly sterilized put you in danger of blood infections. You could develop hepatitis B or C or tetanus from contaminated piercing tools. You should also have all of your vaccines before you have a conch piercing. 

Keloids. A keloid is a type of scar that forms after an injury, such as a piercing. Keloids extend beyond the original area of the wound. A keloid may not form until three to 12 months after your conch piercing. People who are prone to developing keloids should avoid piercings. A keloid may be treated with different options depending on how big it is and how much it bothers you. Some keloid treatments include: 

  • Corticosteroids
  • Surgery
  • Cryotherapy
  • Laser treatment
  • Radiation therapy

Allergic reactions. A nickel allergy is the most common cause of an allergic reaction to a piercing. Many types of jewelry contain nickel, including some gold jewelry. Only good-quality jewelry that doesn't contain nickel should be used for piercings.