Flat Cartilage Piercing Information & Aftercare

Flat cartilage piercings, sometimes known as flat piercings, perforate the open part of the upper center ear cartilage. This piercing got its name straight from its location, since it’s really the only part of the ear that’s flat and open. Historically however, the Borneo Dayak and Penan tribes first began utilizing this piercing with large tusks and bullet casings.

Things have changed to be quite a bit tamer since then. As cartilage piercings go, the flat piercing ranges somewhere in the middle of the pain scale since it does still puncture tougher & thicker tissue.

Before you jump right into the excitement of getting pierced, it’s vital to know what you’re getting into ahead of time. There are no do-overs in piercing, and the jewelry you’re pierced with and your chosen piercer are the two most important parts of your flat piercing process.

Your best bet for finding a reputable piercer is to use the ‘Find a Piercer’ tool on the Association of Professional Piercers’ official website. This way, you’ll know you’re getting a piercer who is verified and up-to-date in their field with the latest safety protocols.

Whether you pick a piercer near or far, they will be your guides as far as flat piercing jewelry. Remember that anyone with allergy concerns should seek out titanium jewelry, since it’s a non-reactive metal that won’t add any unwanted issues during healing.

While there are a variety of sizes for flat piercings, the standard piercing size is usually 14g or 16g with a 5/16 inch length. Even if the jewelry you’re pierced with isn’t your first choice, it’s important to remember that you’ll be able to change your jewelry to a new style once your piercing is finally healed. Flat piercings generally use one main jewelry type since only one side will be visible to most parties.

  • Labret studs: This jewelry type has one decorative end and one end with a flat disc for no extra rubbing behind your ear. Whether you get jewelry that’s internally threaded, externally threaded or threadless, they’ll most likely all be labret studs. Clear retainers are also available in this style to make flat piercings even more discreet after healing.

Flat Cartilage Piercing Process

Once your jewelry is chosen, your piercer will don gloves for sanitation and sterilize your jewelry so it’ll be clean and ready. Next, your piercer will clean the desired spot on your ear and mark the puncture location with a surgical marker. As you’re ready, your piercer will clamp the area to hold it in place and push the needle through your cartilage before threading your jewelry through the needle.

How long does a Flat Piercing Take to Heal?

Healing time for flat cartilage piercings normally takes somewhere between 2 to 3 months, and you’ll need to be super conscious of your habits during this time.

First, you’ll need to be gentle and make sure you don’t snag it on clothes or hair during your healing period. You’ll also need to get comfortable sleeping on your opposite side, stomach or back, since sleeping directly on your flat piercing can cause it to migrate and slant.

It’s a general rule that thicker cartilage takes longer to heal, and this is certainly true for flat piercings. Be careful not to twist or play with your piercing since doing this is like pulling off a scab, and it can potentially lengthen your healing time. If you need to touch your piercing for any reason, make sure to wash your hands ahead of time, since unclean hands can introduce new bacteria and complicate healing.

How do You Know When Your Flat Cartilage Piercing is Healed?

If you’re able to move your piercing easily without swelling, pain, debris or resistance, you can probably conclude that your piercing is healed. It's recommend waiting at least two months to make this assumption, and it’s important to listen to your body before making any decisions.

When Can I Change My Flat Piercing Jewelry?

Your piercing needs to be fully healed before you even attempt to change your jewelry. Once you’re absolutely positive that your flat cartilage piercing is healed, remove the decorative end first and pull out your old jewelry before putting your new jewelry in. If at any point you feel pain or resistance during this process, stop and contact your piercer for further assistance.

How to Clean Your Flat Cartilage Piercing

First off, you’ll want to clean your piercing twice per day consistently. Cleaning both the front and the back is crucial to ensure your new flat piercing stays clean the entire time you’re healing.

You’ll want to have two potential options handy for cleaning: saline spray and anti-microbial soap. Keep your anti-microbial soap in your shower for easy access as you’re bathing, and use the saline spray for any non-shower cleaning. You can also make your own saline solution in lieu of spray by combining four teaspoons of salt with a gallon of distilled water if that’s more convenient.

Spray on saline spray and gently dab each side of the piercing to remove any remnants or crusty bits that may have accumulated. In the shower, gently lather the anti-microbial soap on both sides of your piercing before running your piercing under the water for 20 seconds to ensure it’s completely clean. This can be done at the end of your shower to ensure there’s no accumulation of shampoo or conditioner stuck on your piercing.

What's the Difference Between a Flat Piercing & Helix Piercing?

Flat piercing: A flat piercing sits on the flat area of the cartilage, which is the upper part of the ear that lies between the helix and the anti-helix. Flat piercings can be done as a single piercing or as part of a cluster, depending on personal preference and the ear's anatomy.

Helix piercing: A helix piercing is located along the outer rim of the upper ear cartilage, which is the curved part that folds over from the top of the ear towards the middle. Helix piercings can be single or multiple, and they can be placed anywhere along the helix, from the top to the middle. Jewelry options for helix piercings include clickers, captive bead rings, and labret studs.

The main difference between these two piercings is their location on the ear. Flat piercings are more centrally located in the cartilage, while helix piercings follow the outer rim of the ear. 

Flat Piercing Aftercare – What to Avoid

As mentioned above, avoid sleeping on the side you’re pierced on during healing to prevent flat piercing migration.

For cleaning, never use bottle cleaners like antibacterial soap, hydrogen peroxide or rubbing alcohol. These products are not gentle and will only irritate your new piercing.

Use extra care when doing your hair, getting dressed and performing other motions that may snag or pull on your new flat piercing.

In any situation, always wash your hands before touching your piercing, and don’t hesitate to contact your piercer or medical professional if you have any health concerns along the way.