A shiny new hole

As I sit here recovering from an impromptu Friday night of curry and cocktails, I thought I’d share a few words on the newest addition to my jewellery collection.

Yes, ladies and gents. I am freshly pierced.

Piercings these days are hardly uncommon. You can barely walk 100 yards down the street without passing someone with silvery adornments dangling from their ears.

Whilst I’ve never had an aversion to being tattooed, for a long time I found that the urge to have anything other than your basic ear and nose piercing had eluded me. Somehow the thought of being inked was easier than having any more holes punched through me.

Recently though, with the trend for ear piercings in full swing, I’d found myself looking longingly at people’s ears and wishing they were mine (in a non-Ted Bundy way).

I first ventured into the world of cartilage piercings last summer, when I decided to take the plunge with a helix piercing.

For anyone not au fait with the various styles of ear piercing, the helix is the cartilage portion of your ear that runs along the outside edge and starts just above the earlobe.

piercing map

A few things you should know before you decide to get a cartilage piercing:

  • These types of piercings can take anywhere from three to 12 months to heal, depending on how much you arse about with it
  • Cartilage is sensitive as shit, meaning the ongoing maintenance once you’ve had it done can be a proper ball ache
  • It will hurt a bit more than your standard piercing, but not unbearably so. It’s basically like being pinched hard by someone with sharp fingernails – or at least that’s been my experience

Once I’d made up my mind to go for it – within about 48 hours of having the idea, because I’m impulsive AF – I made an appointment with a local piercing studio. Me being me, I’d done the requisite research beforehand, ploughing through the positive reviews on the studio’s Facebook page, which gave me the reassurance I needed to take the plunge.

Arriving at the studio with Charlotte in tow, I was nervous. I’ve never been especially great with needles despite my tattoo experience, so the nausea was real, but the ladies who owned the place were pleasant enough and the back room where I was about to be stapled was clean and well maintained.

“Are you just getting one or two today?”

“Erm…I hadn’t really thought about that.”

“Well, if you were planning on getting another at some stage it might be worth having them done at the same time as they take a while to heal.”

I thought for a few seconds…

“Let’s go for it.”

See? Impulsive AF.

She marked me up and a few minutes later, I had two brand new holes in my left ear on the lower portion of my helix. I was delighted and weirdly proud, in a sad sort of way, that I’d braved the needle and had two shiny silver balls waving back at me from the mirror.

What now for the aftercare, I asked.

“Clean it once each day with TCP and rotate it regularly.”

Seemed straight forward enough.

Two days later, having sought out some TCP which I can only describe as cat piss in a bottle, my ear looked sore. A strange turn of events, given that I’d followed the aftercare advice to a t.

I’m sure you’re already anticipating the end of this story.

A few minutes on Google and I’d discovered that TCP was the absolute LAST THING you should put on a fresh piercing. A freshly punched hole needs care, for sure. But any strong chemical or alcohol-based solution only serves to act as an irritant. Essentially, I’d prevented my body from healing itself and to cap it all off I’d developed two keloids; hardened lumps that can form around the site of a fresh cartilage piercing if you’re fannying about with it too much or not cleaning it properly.


The final straw came when, getting ready for a night out with my sister, the ball came off one of my studs and there was no way in shit I was getting any new jewellery through the hole without causing damage.

I cut my losses and took out both studs. As both holes promptly closed up, I made a vow never to bother with a cartilage piercing again.

Flash forward to now, 12 months later, where I sit freshly pierced with an ear that’s healing beautifully. It seems I couldn’t keep the promise I’d made to myself…

helix piercing

Given the shitty advice I’d received during my last experience, I ventured down to a different studio recommended to me by my hairdresser, Katie, whose piercings had left me with ear envy.

Once again, Charlotte agreed to join me.

After signing the consent forms, I was invited through to the main studio which was pristine. An excellent sign. My piercer, Gaz, made me comfortable before marking the site where my new jewellery would live (just the one hole this time around), and I shared my past experience of being pierced…

“Yes. I’m well aware of their aftercare ‘advice’,” he said, knowingly.

A quick poke with a sharp needle and I was all done and ready to attempt healing once more. Except this time, there was no ill-advised recommendation of TCP or instructions to fiddle with it daily. A simple over the counter aftercare solution with lavender, tea tree and sunflower oil would be my saviour and I happily strolled out of the studio ready to show off my shiny new hole.

One-week later and my ear looks perfect. One drop of solution twice a day on the piercing site has left it looking clean and healthy and has actually given me a craving for more; something which I thought I’d reserved for tattoos.

Thankfully those pesky keloids (cartilage bumps) from my earlier piercings have long gone, having slathered my ear daily with tea tree oil for three months last year.

What if I want one of these piercings, you ask?

Well, I have three pieces of advice for you:

  • Know what you want, be sure you want it and read up on what’s required of you after it’s done. Knowledge is your friend, my friend
  • Accept that these kinds of things take effort. If you’re not someone who can be arsed with personal care, a piercing isn’t for you
  • Fiddling with it never gets you anywhere; a rule that’s transferable to other areas of your life

Now, I must go. My aftercare solution is calling me.


Author: Alyssa

PR professional. Comedy enthusiast and cat lady.

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