Cartilage Piercings and Bumps

Cartilage Piercings and Bumps

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Some of the hottest piercings around these days are ear cartilage piercings....and why not? So many jewelry options, so many styles, and nearly everyone has the real estate for at least one! And yet, if you take a peek at online piercing groups, you’ll notice a large number of people complaining about “bumps”. What are these mysterious bumps and what could be causing them?

First of all, bumps are simply caused by irritation. They are not swelling, nor are they keloids. (Keloids are a type of scarring and look nothing at all like an irritation bump.) They are preventable and they are often treatable. The only time an irritation bump is not treatable is if the actual piercing was done incorrectly. If done at an incorrect angle, the jewelry will press on one side of the fistula and cause an irritation bump. This often means that, sadly, the piercing has to be removed and re-done at a later date. But what else can cause these irritating irritations?


Are you cleaning your piercing correctly? External (meaning the part not inside the mouth) piercings are best cleaned with a sterile saline solution. Your piercer may have a preferred brand for sale and will definitely tell you how frequently to clean your piercing. Oral piercings are generally cleaned with a non-alcohol-containing mouthwash. (Again, your piercer will probably have a brand to recommend.) External piercings should be dried after cleaning, using either a hair dryer or a clean paper towel. Don’t let your piercings air dry!


Are you sleeping on your piercings? This is a common problem but the position in which you sleep doesn’t have to dictate your look. The absolute easiest way to fix this issue is with a travel pillow! Yes, those horseshoe-shaped pillows that you can wear around your neck to help you snooze while flying can also help you save your piercing! Just make sure your ear is in the center hole of the pillow and you can sleep comfortably without putting any weight on your piercing. (Just make sure to clean that pillow once in a while!)

Is your jewelry correct? Most piercings done in the ear cartilage require straight jewelry for optimum healing. The only piercing that is regularly done with circular or curved jewelry is the daith. Circular jewelry moves more and can easily cause irritation to a fresh piercing. (This goes doubly in winter if you wear a hat frequently!) If you have a recent piercing such as a tragus or helix that was done with circular jewelry, you may need to have it changed out by a professional piercer in order to heal that bump.


If you look online, you can find at least a dozen ways to “treat” irritation bumps. The best way to treat them is to fix the cause. Of course, sometimes we get accidentally aggravate our piercings while doing ordinary things like showering. If you know that you inadvertently caused the piercing to get irritated, the best thing to do is to simply leave it alone. If it doesn’t get better, you’ll need to consult your piercer. But if you’re having ongoing trouble with bumps, make sure you’re not making some of the common errors listed above. And, as always, don’t be afraid to consult your professional piercer! Happy piercing!