Any tips for caring for a new ear-cartilage piercing? —Em, 16, Toronto

My tradition is to greet anyone with a new piercing with a spirited cheer of “Who mutilated my baby?!” But, really: Congrats on your new piercing! I shall impart my wealth of knowledge from the four years I’ve had a nursing license and the 12 years since this dude put a bar through my left ear:


The cartilage in your ear is a special kind called hyaline cartilage. Cartilage is more rigid than other kinds of tissue you might pierce, like your skin or your tongue, and has has less blood pumping through it, which all means this piercing will take longer to heal than most. I found a nice info sheet from the Association of Professional Piercers that you should check out, but here’s a summary:

Minimize the frequency with with you touch/twirl/tap your piercing for clues. Hands are gross and germy, and moving a piercing around too much disrupts the healing process. Try to keep your hair off of it. Don’t pick the crusties off during the day, even though it’s so satisfying in ways you could never have imagined. Try not to sleep on that side, and make sure that your pillowcase is clean. The info sheet (you are going to read it, right?) suggests using a new clean T-shirt as a pillowcase every day. (Anecdotally, after I got mine done, it took me 2.5 years to be able to sleep comfortably on my left ear.)

When it comes to cleaning your piercing, most piercers recommend a sea salt solution that matches the salinity of your actual body (Oh, hey, quick aside: We all come from the sea)—that’s one part sea salt to eight parts water. Heat it up until it’s as warm as can be without burning, then use a cotton swab to gently apply it to your piercing. Don’t use products like betadine, hydrogen peroxide, soap, liquid soap, honey mustard, etc. They irritate the piercing and make it have to work harder to heal (even though the honey mustard would also make it smell delicious, it would only be for a short time). As for how often you should clean your ear, each piercer has their own schedule, but the general consensus seems to be once or twice a day. Finally: Don’t change the jewelry until it’s done healing.

Like most puncture wounds, piercings are supposed to hurt and be sore, especially at first. So how do you know if it’s getting infected? Well, have you had a lot of contact with it lately? Did your hair get caught in it when you took off your shirt? Did you sleep on it funny? It might just be irritated—be extra-gentle to it for a day and see if anything else develops. If the area around the piercing is hot and painful to the touch, suddenly gets very swollen, smells bad (!), or is oozing white, yellow, or green pus (and not just clear “inside body goo” called lymph), or if it hurts to touch your entire ear, it may be infected.

If this is the case: Don’t take it out. [Spooky voice] D o n ’ t t a k e i t o u t. If you remove the jewelry, your bod can wall off the infected tissue and prevent it from draining, creating an abscess, which is really bad news. In the best of situations, you’ve gone to a reputable shop and not, say, a guy at a street-side booth on St. Marks Place who laughed good-naturedly when you showed them your fake ID. Even if you didn’t go to a reputable piercing place, they may still be able to help you figure out what to do next. But move quickly—like, within the next 24 to 48 hours, and if you’ve got all this going on and develop all-body symptoms like fever or chills, go to the ER! —Lola
I have scars on my arms that I want to cover up, but I don’t really want to wear a cardigan/shawl all the time. Do you have any tips on covering them with makeup? —Zoe, 17, Sydney

Sure do, my sister in (marked-the-hell-up) arms. I know tons of reputable beauty writers stan for Cover FX and Dermablend products, which reportedly provide excellent, opaque results, but I can personally vouch for Kat von D’s Lock-It Tattoo Concealer. It applies like full-coverage body paint, except instead of looking like a RAVE PARTY NEON EDM-DAME, you look like same ol’ regular you, minus whatever it is you’re trying to obfuscate on your skin. (Also, it’s a little cheaper than those other products.) Since your limb skin is sometimes a different color from the skin on your face-case, I recommend testing whatever product you go with in person, rather than relying on rickety internet guesswork—like, those pictures are tiny and very similar! How am I EVER supposed to figure out whether I’m more of a Tease-tastic Tan(talizing Tease) or Bitchin’ Bisque??? (I forget what Kat von D’s shade names are, but I am willing to bet that these are more or less accurate.)

Use a dime-sized gob of your product for two-dimensional, light scratches, and build up to a quarter’s worth for deeper, textured scars. Massage it over the area in question until it blends seamlessly with the rest of you. If you want to double down on ensuring your makeup’s indelibility, use a setting spray over it—I like Make Up For Ever’s, which doesn’t cause product to weirdly bead up over time, as I’ve found some others do. If you don’t feel like spending more money on specialty products, you can also fix your concealer in place with the same translucent setting powder you might use on your face and a big, fluffy brush. Repeat as needed all over your arms. Or don’t. I bet your scars are far from the most noticeable thing about you, gorgeous. And scars can be sexy or beautiful or interesting—they’re not a “flaw” you need to “fix.” It’s OK if you want to cover them up, but you don’t have to. —Amy Rose ♦
Do you have a question about exfoliants, eyebrows, elbow glitter, or any other beauty concern that you’d like ARS and her squadron of majorettes to answer 4 (for) U (you)? Email [email protected], and be sure to include your name/nickname/initials, age, and city.