So it seems that everyone has gone and got their Tragus pierced and not only have you missed the boat but you didn't even know there was a Tragus boat in the first place. First guesses, a Tragus, it sounds like something you would cough up but actually it's a fun and subtle way to expand your earring collection.
A Tragus piercing is situated in the thick, firm flap of cartilage of the inner ear that covers your ear channel. It is usually placed in the centre of the space for comfort, safety and aesthetics, using either a micro-barbell or ring for jewellery
So now you're informed on the basics, let's find out the answers to the rest of your questions.
Give Me The Facts
The Tragus piercing has grown in popularity over the past couple of years thanks to the increase of celebrities such as Rhiannon, Pink, Scarlett Johansson and Zoe Kravitz. They have helped the image of this piercing placement to go from extreme and a bit scary to daring and a lot of fun.
So, let’s take a closer look at the ear....
Forgive the close up shots, seriously ears are like knees, I don’t think I've even seen an attractive one. But hey, that's why we're trying to bring the bling and pretty them up. Sorry I digress....
The Tragus is the small flap of cartilage in the inner ear that slightly covers the ear channel. Its main purpose is to direct sound towards the eardrum. Together with the help of the Anti-Tragus this is done in a way that helps the brain determine whether the sound is behind or in front of us. Very useful, especially when trying to find the Mr Whippy Ice-Cream Van.
The tragus piercing is done through this flap of cartilage, usually centralised but can also be off-centre. The most common jewellery used is either a ring, micro-bar bell or comfort fit BIOFLEX Stud
Did you know why it’s called a Tragus?
I didn’t, but this is what I found out. It comes from the Ancient Greek tragos meaning GOAT - Say WHAT????
Ok stick with me here while I explain. So not only is the cartilage called the Tragus but also the name of the hair that grows at the entrance of the ear – Gross!
Now here's the bit where you are going to have to use your imagination. The appearance of the hair from behind the Tragus cartilage flap looks like the beard growing on a billy goat's chin – turn your head and maybe just squint a bit.
(If you're brave hover/click the goat picture - Don't say, I haven't warned you, you can not un-see what you are about to look at !!)
I'm guessing this is an old man thing and the Greeks hadn't heard of ear and nose trimmers yet.
Seriously, How Much Does It Hurt?
Let's face it, if you're getting any sort of piercing you're going to feel it. You need to be prepared for an element of pain. But hey, that's half the fun - you're so bad ass !!
There are however, a number of factors can make this more or less. These include placement, area sensitivity and your individual pain threshold.
So let's talk specifically about the Tragus and how these factors affect the pain level - Use our handy tabs below to find out more about each factor.
As we now know, the Tragus in pierced through cartilage, but to you get a better understanding about cartilage we need to go back to Year 8 Science - Anatomy class.
Cartilage is a strong, rubbery and flexible tissue, that provides structure. On the face it's found in the areas of the nose and ears. These areas are prone to being knocked and bumped so need the ability to bounce back and not break like fragile bones of that size. Additionally, cartilage does not contain blood vessels or nerves. Sounds great for piercing - no blood or pain!!! However, the skin tissue that covers the cartilage DOES contain blood vessels and nerves, so you're not getting out of it that easily.
When a Tragus piercing is done, initially you feel the sharp the momentary insertion of the needle. However, once it enters the cartilage (without nerve receptors to feel the pain,) the feeling changes to a dull pressure as the dense cartilage creates resistance on the pushing needle. Finally, when the needle passing through to the other layer of skin, the nerves kick back in and you will feel the sharp pain as it passes out the other side.
The sensitivity of an area is related to its purpose and the frequency of usage. For example, our hands and feet are very resilience to touch due to them being used almost constantly so are low on the Sensitivity Scale. While other areas such as the armpit rank a lot higher as they do not encounter a high frequency of contact and are extremely sensitive to touch.
So how does the Tragus compare for sensitivity. As we know the ear is made from cartilage because it is prone to being knocked and bumped. Think in a day how many times you make contact with your ear – brushing your hair, putting on a hat, changing earrings or rubbing them when you feel someone is talking about you. All this contact helps your ear and particularly your cartilage achieve a lower ranking on the Sensitivity Scale.
Having said all that about placement and sensitivity, your own tolerance will be the major contributing factor when it comes to pain. Each of us know how we have experienced pain in the past and to what extent we felt it. Be honest, you know yourself whether you are a natural Zen Master, that can control the mind, body and spirit, or you are one of us mere mortals that managed to get a double serving of the pain gene when it was being handed out.
Don’t worry, there are some things you can do to decrease the level of pain you experience. It’s important to note that none of these recommendations will physically take away the feeling of the pain, such as a numbing cream or pain relief tablet. Personally I think the pain is part of the experience and process. If it's a huge concern, maybe a piercing just isn’t for you. If you're still in though, these suggestions can help on the day.
- Breathe - IN and OUT - DEEP and SLOW
- Be Mentally Prepared and Focus. Understand what you have got yourself into.
- Back yourself - YOU GOT THIS - Be your own cheer squad
- Stay Hydrated - this helps with skin elasticity and recovery
- Try essential oils such as Lavender or Chamomile, to promote calmness, on a tissue to smell NOT on the piercing!!!
Oh and one last thing, sort of pain related, make sure you have eaten, low blood sugar can lead to dizziness and fainting. Honesty that would be more embarrassing and painful than the actual piercing.
On one hand many people in my experience describe cartilage piercings as being 'painful'. I think this is for 2 reasons.
Firstly, I know from experience that it was difficult in the moment to distinguish the difference between the nerve pain and the intense feeling of the increased pressure caused by the cartilage resisting the needle.
Secondly, additional force and time is need to perform a cartilage piercing. I think subconsciously we equate more force, more time to more pain. Normally the ultra sharp needle does the majority of the work and the piercing is quickly and smoothly done. However, these type of piercings need the piercer to exert greater effort to make sure the needle pushes through more dense cartilage. I think that this difference in the process can also change the perception of pain.
On the other hand, I have spoken to many others who have describe cartilage piercing as not that painful. This could be explained due to the firm path and support the cartilage offers and lack of nerve receptors.
I can't say which camp you will fall into, but I can say, knowledge is power and now with this information you might be able to have a stern talking to your brain and convince it.
Pain is Temporary - Bling is Forever.
Tell Me Straight, How Long Before It's Healed?
Just like we all deal with pain differently the same can be said about healing times. Many factors affect the time it takes for a piercing to properly heal, but on average
Cartilage Piercings like the Tragus will take between
6-12 Months to heal completely.
The healing of a cartilage piercing can be deceiving and hard to judge. The reason for this is that the skin surrounding the cartilage will heal quite quickly but internally the cartilage takes a lot longer to heal and form the rigid tunnel.
You can see compared to other piercing placements, up to 12 months is quite a long time and commitment. Remember, cartilage tissue does not have blood vessels. During the healing process the blood plays an important part in delivering nutrients and defense forces to the area as well as removing harmful matter away. Instead cartilage uses a diffusing method to distribute nutrients. This is a much slower and less effective.
To ensure that the healing process doesn't take any longer than it has too, check out contributing factors below, click the tabs to see more on each.
Aftercare - 10 Commandments
The hygiene and aftercare of your piercing is the number ONE factor in a quick and painless healing process.
Like most things though, too much of anything is also harmful, so here is our daily aftercare routine for new piercings.
Only clean and touch your new piercing twice a day. More than that will interrupt the healing process and damage the growing new cells. Always, ALWAYS make sure you have freshly washed hands before you start. Your piercing is a direct and open path inside your vulnerable body, you are giving any contaminates on your unwashed hands a FREE PASS to wreak havoc on your wound.
MORNING and EVENING
Carefully clean the area around your piercing. You can choose between a commercial product such as convenient aftercare spray or go old school with a fresh homemade saltwater solution. Our favourite spray is the Protat - Sea Salt + Tea Tree Spray available on our website for $9.95 . Once you have bathed the area and given the solution a chance to clean the piercings, lightly wipe off the excess and any normally forming white to yellow Crusties that have formed (To find out more about the delightful topic of Crusties, please refer to the MINOR COMPLICATIONS tab in the next section – Are there any Risks?
Make sure to do this gently though you don’t want to aggravate or damage the healing that has already happened. If there are any Crusties that are really stuck, give them another day rather than forcing them off, as this may also damage the healing site. Remember to use a low fibrous wipe. Things like cotton balls have a higher chance of fibers getting stuck in the jewellery and remaining behind. These can act like nets for contaminates and infect your piercings even if you haven't touched it.
Now it's time for some Myth Busting!!
Ever heard or thought...
MYTH – I am going to use the strongest solution I can legally get my hands on to "Kill Every Last MF one of Them"(nasties) – Pulp Fiction Style
FACT – Using a harsh chemical not only kills the bacteria but the necessary healing cells as well. It also irritates and damages the healthy skin cells around the piercing site causing dryness, itching and redness. So best to put the Peroxide down and walk away from the Methylated Spirits.
This is a no brainer, the body is basically a sophisticated machine. It needs quality input, to be used only as per the manual, follow the care instructions and keep well maintained. Ignore this and you will have a poor performing machine. So look after you body, do all the things you know you should and support your healing by not making it work more than it has to.
So here's where I start to nag....
Get Plenty of Sleep
Be Nice to Your Mother
Finally, this is where I will give you some information, you can choose to do what you like with it. Lifestyle choices can also make a big difference to your general well-being and the ability for your body to heal.
So here goes the preach...
SMOKING is BAD for YOU - MKAY
It affects and delays the healing process by causing a constriction/tightening of your veins, decreasing the natural flow of your blood and restricts oxygen and nutrients from reaching the site of healing.
ALCOHOL is BAD for YOU - MKAY
Excessive drinking can affect the immune system, leading to an increased chance of complications and infections. Also, on a big night out, you won't feel you knocking your new piercing until the next morning.
DRUGS are BAD for YOU - MKAY
Your body is a temple ... you know the rest....
Ok, this isn't a drug but is a major modern epidemic..
STRESS is BAD for YOU - MKAY
This is probably the hardest one to manage. If possible, try to keep your stress levels under control. The hormone 'CORTISOL" puts the body into alarm mode and suppresses the non-vital systems including the immune system. High levels of Cortisol over a prolonged period can leave you feeling flat and exhausted.
- Thou shall always wash and clean hands before EVEN thinking of going near a new piercing
- Thou shall not play with, fiddle, squeeze or poke new piercings
- Thou shall never use soap / alcohol / peroxide on fresh piercings.
- Thou shall not over clean at an OCD level
- Thou shall avoid contact and application of makeup and moisturisers
- Thou shall Never EVER wear inferior jewellery
- Thou shall avoid immersing in unhygienic water like lakes, streams, hot tubs
- Thous shall avoid clothing and accessories that is tight and applies pressure
- Thou shall continue to uphold your aftercare routine for the recommended healing time.
- Thou shall be patient and not change thy jewellery until the healing process is complete
It's important to let your piercing properly heal before you change the jewellery, otherwise you run the risk of
- The hole closing quickly and you needing to get the piercing done all over again – what a waste of time
- Higher risk of infection as the healing tissue has a diminished defense system
- By rushing to change the jewellery, the area can become aggravated and actually prolong the healing process.
Once your piercing has healed completely, it always a good idea to keep up Always Care. This means regularly cleaning your piercings and jewellery and keeping a quality aftercare spray nearby. For those occasions when you might knock or aggravate your piercings or be exposed to an unhygienic situation like jelly wrestling, mud baths or living in the wilderness (AKA camping). We suggest taking preemptive measures and give a quick aftercare spray before the nasties get a chance to take hold. Our favourite spray is the Protat - Sea Salt + Tea Tree Spray available on our website for $9.95
Ok Sounds Great, BUT Are There Any Risks?
While to most of us the decision to get a piercing is a relatively casual one. It still is an invasive procedure that modifies the body and introduces a foreign object in the form of jewellery.
Our bodies have evolved to be very good at defending itself from external threats and when you get a piercing, it's basically an act of war.
Of course there will be some resistance but you would be worried if there wasn't. With anything there are risks of complications, one study found that it's actually around 35 percent of people with pierced ears had one or more complications.
Lets have a look at some of the most common complications - Use the handy tabs below to find out more information about each.
Generally with all piercings, once its been done, it appears to be perfect, like you have always had it. WAIT FOR IT........ Be prepared for the delayed reaction. It takes a moment for the body to realise what the heck just happened. In the first week you might expect some / all of these common experiences.
- Soreness, tenderness, mild discomfort
- Feeling of heat/burning
- Dryness and itching
- Possible light bruising
- Possible light bleeding
- Slight dis-colouration
- Slight swelling
- Light fluid secretion AKA The CRUSTIES
A Quick Note on the Crusties
This is a natural part of the healing process and is actually a good sign. Blood is delivered to the healing site, it contains blood plasma a light yellow fluid. This is the part of the blood that contains the enzymes and nutrients. When it makes it way to the surface, the exposure to air dries it out and Voilà - Your very own Crusties!!!
If your Crusties, look a dark yellow, green or brown in colour, this may be a sign of infection.
Infection is the most common complication in getting a piercing. It is a result of nasties getting into your piercing due to poor hygiene or a depleted immune system. You will know you have an infection when you will literally destroy anything or one that even comes close to your UBER sensitive piercing.
Symptoms of infection include
- increasing swelling,
- heightened tenderness/soreness,
- a feeling of pressure
- hot/burning sensation
Accompanying these in most cases will be the presence of pus. This smelly white secretion is different to the clear-pale yellow Crusties that normally form. Other signs of infection are dark yellow, green or brown fluid/secretions.
At first sign of infection you can try to increase your aftercare by cleaning and using a salt water soak in the morning and evening. However, if there is no improvement in a couple of days it is vital that your see your doctor. Infections of the blood can be extremely serious. When an infection takes hold, more damage is done the longer you leave it. Don't take a blasé approach you might lose part of your ear! Seriously - don't make me show you gross photos of people missing parts who thought it would just get better - I'm warning you.
Anyway getting medical help is good, the pain and swelling will go down and who knows, Dr. Mikhail Varshavski might be working Photo courtesy of PINTEREST
It is important to know the difference between an allergic reaction and an infection. As explained in the previous tab, an infection is the result of a contaminate entering the body and the immune's systems reactive response to heal the body.
When an allergic reaction occurs it is a response of your amazing body's immune system reacting to the foreign object in your body. It is a very individual reaction. While some people will be allergic to every and anything others can put a rusty nail in the piercing with no dramas. (Seriously - don't try that, I'm just using dramatic effect) I'm sure by now you probably know where on the scale your are from previous experience.
Signs of an allergic reactions commonly appear as a rash, itching and or severe redness.
So here are the 2 main types of allergic reaction. If you can work out which one you have, it will help you find a solution.
Reaction to the Jewellery
This usually occurs when the jewellery is of an inferior quality. Most commonly people will have reactions to Nickel which can be found in many alloy mixes used in inexpensive jewellery. The safest materials for body jewellery are
✅Surgical Stainless Steel
✅Gold - 18 of 24 Karats
Your piercer should only ever use these on new piercing.
SOLUTION - Change the Jewellery
If the piercing is fully healed, do yourself and up the after care
If the piercing is new, see your trusted piercing to remove and replace with jewellery of a different material.
Reaction to the Aftercare
This can occur when your body is irritated by solutions you are using for aftercare. If they are too harsh, they will damage the healthy cells around the healing site. Additional signs of aftercare reaction can be skin dryness, flaking, peeling.
Try and keep clear of these bad boys
SOLUTION - Change your aftercare solution
Try to use a simple saline/salt water solution. Note that as the skin is already damaged it may take a week of so for the skin to recover from the initial reaction
REMEMBER - It's important to seek medical assistance if symptoms persist. Sooner rather than later.
As mentioned earlier, our bodies have an amazing defense system to protect and heal. Sometimes this healing process goes into overdrive and does not stop once the initial site has been healed. This excess scar tissue is called a Keloid.
What Do They Look Life?
Keloids can be a number of different colours (pink, red, brown or skin tones) in a number of different shapes and sizes. Basically, though they are all just large scars. You will know it is a Keloid as it will look like the skin is growing a new part, past the point of the piercing. They can be itchy or feel tight.
So What Causes Them?
During the healing process the body produces additional Collagen to strengthen the skin at the piercing point. Sometimes too much collagen is produced and excess scar tissue forms. This scar tissue then spreads beyond the healing site and forms the raised/bump like scar. As it is growing tissue, Keloids unusually are slow-growing and can appear months after the initial healing has passed.
Will I Get One?
While aftercare is vital in the prevention of Keloids forming in the first place, there are some factors that are beyond your control. It has been discovered that some people have a higher likelihood in developing Keloids. According to The Australasian College of Dermatologists website, factors that can indicate a higher risk can include
- Genetics - Other family members have them
- Age - Most common in people under 30 years
- Ancestry - If you are of Asian, Latino or African descent
What Do I Do If I Get a Keloid?
It's important to remember with all complications that early detection and action are key. As Keloids have the potential to continue to grow, an ignorant attitude could result in a much larger Keloid than a diligent attitude. If you get a Keloid, my best advice is to contact your trusted piercer. They will have the most experience to recommend a variety of tested treatments and the expertise to know when it time to seek medical advice.
While Keloids have the potential to grow, they are not signs of a tumor or cancer. The Australasian College of Dermatologists say there are no internal or medical complications associated with this harmless condition, HOWEVER, it's important to consider how excessive scar tissue in a highly visible location may affect your confidence or self-image. Remember there is treatment for Keloids and early action is vital.
For some the piercing journey is well out of their control. Sometimes the body can not play nice and migrate or even reject your piercing. Pushing the jewellery to the surface and eventually completely out.
This is more common in surface piercings such as eyebrows, neck and hip. Navel (belly) piercings are also more prone to rejection.
Migration and rejection is an outcome of the body's immune system trying to expel the foreign jewellery. As a surfacing piercing is through only a small amount of skin, it is easier for the body to push the jewellery out.
Signs this is happening can include
- The piercing taking a long time to heal.
- The piercing hole looks like it's getting bigger
- The jewellery position changes or hangs differently
- The jewellery feels loose
- The jewellery can be seen through the skin
As everyone's immune system is different it is difficult to say whether or not you have a predisposition to this happening or not. Here's three things you can try to reduce the chances of it happening.
FIRST - Makes sure you choose a reputable piercer who will make sure your piercing is in the correct position and depth.
SECONDLY - Try and sneak under the immune radar. Don't wake the sleeping bear! Make sure you are taking care of your piercing with a good aftercare routine
FINALLY - If you do notice changes and suspect your jewellery is migrating, go to your piercer straight away for some expert advice. Don't wait until it's been completely rejected, this will cause unnecessary scaring and heartache.
The most important thing to remember here is not to ignore any changes in your piercings. Keep an eye on them and if symptoms don't improve make sure to seek medical attention, sooner rather than later.
Remember do not to take the jewellery out of a problem piercing without proper advice. If you have an infected piercing, by taking out the jewellery you effectively close the drainage hole for the pus and an abscess can result from the trapped pus, if not treated
How Much Will This Cost Me?
A Tragus piercing will range from $30 -$65
Also be aware that jewellery is not always included and may need to be additionally purchased.
Aftercare is also a fantastic investment if you don't already have some.
(Prices in Australian dollars - QLD Based locations - 2019)
If you can't afford to go to a reputable piercing establishment * you should really reconsider getting a piercing done or at least save up until you can. While you might save a couple of dollars at the start, more likely than not you'll end up spending so much more on medicine and worse still end up in a lot of avoidable pain. REMEMBER, this is your body and health, you will need to live with your decisions. It is worth so much more than a couple of dollars.
* By reputable we mean
- The piercing room should be clean
- The piercer should be knowledgeable and experienced
- They should also have a hygienic appearance and wear gloves
- All equipment should be sterilized
- YOU should feel comfortable and confident, IF you don't - RUN FOR THE HILLS!!!!
You are officially now Tragus Savvy
So there's not much left to do but let you know all about the gorgeous bling you can decorate your Tragus with. Check out our beautiful range below.
Thanks for taking the time to read my article, I hope you have found it useful. Please leave a comment in the space below if you have any requests or questions.
Looking forward to seeing you
More Placement Guides...
We are by no means experts and if you have any questions about your heath, please speak to a doctor.
However, like all good students we have scoured the internet to research and source technical information. If you would like to see where GOGGLE sent us, here is a list of resource pages we used.