Back in September of 2012, I paid perfectly good money to have some stranger stab a needle through the thickest part of my ear. A charming Canadian reader named Megan is considering a conch piercing of her own, so I promised her some details… … a month or three ago. *coughs nervously*
Here you go!
- Know what you want. What kind of jewelry do you plan to wear in the healed piercing? Know in advance what size conch piercings usually are, what size you’d prefer, and whether or not the sparklies of your dreams come in that gauge and perhaps diameter. Can you afford custom jewelry, or will you be limited to what’s currently on the market? Do you know where to buy or order that jewelry?My ideal piece of jewelry was a plain, surgical steel hoop. I was dead certain that my piercing would either be too deep or too shallow for standard ring sizes, and spent at least seven hours combing the internet for fancy custom body jewelry. Luckily, my piercing WAS standard-ish (more about that later), so a hoop was available locally and set me back about eight bucks. If you’re looking for something more elaborate, Anatometal is a popular choice for custom options. If you’re richer than Croesus, BVLA and Maria Tash sell gorgeous fine jewelry. Even if you’re on a tight budget, know that not every metal is safe for an unhealed piercing. Do your research!
- There are two pronunciations of the word ‘conch’; konk and kontsch. Odds are good that your piercer will prefer whichever one you don’t say and perhaps sound a trifle dismissive when they ‘correct’ you. Flip a coin.
- Pay attention to gauge. My piercer talked really fast and didn’t ask about placement. Sure, I planned to interrogate the guy and clearly communicate my many preferences, but I was nervous and the piercer was rushing a little. Despite that obvious red flag, the placement turned out perfectly. You might not be so lucky. Speak up and ask questions.Here’s where gauge became a problem. Once my conch healed and I was ready to shop for a segment ring, my original piercer recommended I visit Other Local Place. Other Local Place didn’t have quite the size I needed and rather than telling me so, complained that my piercer had used a non-standard labret to pierce my conch and cheerfully shoved a bigger gauge hoop through my ear. Only when I had my old piercing labret in hand could I see it was a visibly smaller gauge than the new ring in my head. Geez, no wonder it hurt so much to swap out a simple earring. Luckily (luck again!), I’m happy with the chunkier segment ring. If I’d spent months fantasizing about a dainty, delicate ring, I’d have been ticked off.
- Yes, getting pierced will hurt, but not fatally. Watch YouTube videos of others’ conch piercing experiences to get a ballpark idea what to expect. Personally, I don’t remember the pain of the actual needle penetrating…. only the moment when the piercer reached for something on a faraway table while holding my ear with one hand. Ouch. But next to, say, getting measured for an IUD, the whole conch experience was a breeze.
- Fresh piercings will bleed for a little bit. Please don’t wear your best shirt. If you don’t want to clutch a paper towel to your head, use an ace bandage to strap it on, Van Gogh-style. Notice that I’m assuming you’re hanging out at home, not heading out on the the town with an ace bandage wrapped around your head. But that’s your call.
- You’ll be cleaning your piercing x times a day, with whatever your piercer recommends. Keep your cleaning-stuff in a small spray bottle or a clean bulb syringe for fast, focused wound-soaking. Cleaning in the shower will be easier than trying to soak your ear in a mug of saltwater.
- You’ll want a special circular or semi-circular pillow while the wound heals. Those U-shaped neck pillows for traveling are good, but if you don’t have one you can easily twist an old shirt or pair of sweatpants into a circle for the duration of your healing. My helix (upper, outer ear cartilage) piercing took nearly nine months to heal and interrupted my sleep, both because I didn’t think to use a special pillow. I just curled one hand into a C-shape and slept with it under my head. Fine in a pinch, but not a long-term solution.
- Open wounds smell bad. Your piercing is a wound. The subtle stink will pass, but you might encourage your loved ones to whisper into or nibble the other ear for awhile.
I’m extremely happy with my conch piercing. If it magically vanished, I’d skitter to a reputable piercer and have it replaced immediately, but this time, I’d stand firm and ask questions. Luck doesn’t always strike twice.
That said, a conch hoop can be uncomfortable; I frequently sleep on my left side or prop myself up with my left arm. My rigid steel conch hoop can push against my also-fairly-rigid ear. Doesn’t feel terrible, but it can get sore if I do this a lot in one day. Furthermore, it can be uncomfortable to put the left side of my head on Ian’s shoulder.
Switching to a stud-like earring instead of a ring may lessen these problems; don’t know yet. But I thought it only fair to mention the potential for discomfort.
Here’s how my left ear looks now:
Better without the blood, eh?
Questions, comments, war stories about your own piercings? Please share with the class in the comments below!