Call it the body modification of the moment: Conch piercings are everywhere right now, and it’s not hard to see why. Celebrities like Rihanna, Zoë Kravitz, Emma Watson, Ashley Graham, and Victoria Beckham prove that while conch piercings may look intimidating, it’s sophisticated and elegant while adding a cool-as-hell element that can be modified, customized, and individualized to match anyone’s personal style. Among the most sought-after styles for adorning the placement are conch piercing hoops, eye-catching chains, and delicate little stud groupings in every conceivable finish, shape, and gemstone. Exploding in popularity with the rise of the curated ear trend, they capitalize on a bit of unexpected ear real estate for added sparkle amid your piercing constellation.
Before diving head-first into the conch piercing trend, though, it’s always a good idea to familiarize yourself with the entire process. Any time you’re dealing with a body piercing, even with an area as familiar as the ear, you should read up on the cost, pain level, aftercare commitments, and recommended jewelry type ahead of time to ensure everything goes as smooth as possible. To help make sense of conch piercings, Bustle tapped Brian Keith Thompson, owner of Los Angeles’ legendary Body Electric Studio, to share his professional insight. Just ahead is your top-down guide to conch ear piercings.
What Is A Conch Piercing?
So named for its resemblance to a conch shell, your ear’s conch is the flatter, inner part of your ear between the raised ridges and your actual ear canal. Divided into two distinct types based on relation to the horizontally-oriented fold of cartilage just above your ear canal, the lower outer conch and higher inner conch lend themselves to different jewelry types — so be sure to discuss your overall vision with your piercer to determine the best location.
In terms of popularity, Thompson says conches are among the top five most-requested piercing placements he sees at the studio and personally likes them a lot, too. “It's one of those kinds of grassroots piercings — it's never going to go away,” he explains to Bustle. “I add it into my constellations all the time.” In fact, the style is so popular, Thompson says he sometimes even pierces people who have no other piercings but their lobes and conch. Unlike certain other styles like industrial piercings, virtually everyone (and every ear) is a viable candidate for a conch placement.
What Should You Expect?
If based on its placement, you’ve been wondering how bad a conch piercing hurts, you’re certainly not alone. But despite the unconventional location, there’s nothing to fear. Thompson says a huge number of clients who come in for conch piercings think it’s going to be the most painful experience because of the area’s density. “They think it’s the thickness of the tissue that causes pain,” he explains, “when in reality, that part of your ear is just as thick as your lobes, your helix, as anything else.” Once you and your piercer decide on the perfect location for your conch piercing, the actual puncture will be super speedy. “By the time you feel the initial piercing, like the needle going through the tissue, it's over,” Thompson says. “It’s that quick.”
How Much Does A Conch Piercing Cost?
When it comes to calculating the cost of a conch piercing, it all comes down to the individual studio, the expertise level of your piercer, and, of course, the type of jewelry you select (as is the case with most piercings). Typically, expect to pay between $30-60 for the piercing itself depending on where you live, and then factor in the cost of jewelry separately. If you’re turning to an expert piercer, expect to pay a bit more. To go to Thompson, for example, who’s pierced the likes of Beyoncé, Jennifer Lawrence, and Cardi B, the cost of a conch piercing with standard gold no-diamond jewelry is around $200.
Are Conch Piercing Hoops Safe?
It’s worth noting that not all jewelry types are suited for newly-pierced conches. So if you’ve been wondering if conch piercing hoops are safe to start off with, know that Thompson recommends beginning with a stud rather than a hoop for ease of healing.
The reason? As Ashley of Venus by Maria Tash previously told Bustle, hoops — while chic and covetable for the conch — prolong the healing of your piercing because they’re more prone to getting caught on things. “Because it goes around the outside of your ear, it is more interactive when washing hair, getting dressed, undressed, etc., and this movement will slow the healing pretty significantly,” she says. So consider which is more important: How long your piercing takes to heal, or wearing a so-cool conch hoop.
What Is Aftercare Like?
Even if you opt for a tiny, delicate stud, know that conch piercings can be more difficult (and take longer) to heal than other piercings due to their relatively concealed location. Thompson explains that since the back of the piercing is so close to the back of your head — and therefore difficult to keep an eye on — it's primed for all sorts of mishaps if you’re not super careful. “Say you're pulling your hair back — you can grab it,” he tells Bustle. Other risks are grabbing the piercing when toweling off or even hugging someone and it accidentally gets hit. Translation? Steer clear of anything touching it.
Thompson says the estimated healing time is between six months to a full year, and you can keep it on the shorter side through vigilance and proper care techniques. “What I recommend to my clients is using a mild, colorless, odorless soap — something that you would use on your face and is hypoallergenic,” Thompson says, listing CeraVe as a go-to pick. He also suggests incorporating a saline solution like NeilMed’s Piercing Aftercare Fine Mist. From there, you can help accelerate your healing through healthy food options and drinking enough water, too. All in all, it’s worth it for the satisfaction of your adorable new piercing.