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daith -- the epitome of perfection

In my humble opinion, the daith is the epitome of perfection in the world of cartilage piercing. Its sister piercings the helix, conch, industrial, rook, etc., are all exposed and vulnerable to damage in the event of receiving a big hug from a friend, picking up the phone too fast, or sleeping on the wrong side. None of these problems plague the daith, which is perfectly nestled away in the ear -- away from harm's way. My first cartilage piercing experience was in February 2001, and consisted of a tragus and rook in my left ear and a daith in my right. From day one, the former two were a constant hassle. I was always accidentally bumping them while sleeping, visiting my boyfriend, even brushing my hair. Not to mention the occasional mind-numbing moments of pain when I accidentally slammed the phone into my ear or got an extra-big bear hug from a male friend... The daith, however, was perfectly well behaved; I was even able to sleep on that side a few days after being pierce d! (sleeping on the fresh tragus and rook was obviously not an option) As a result of all this accidental abuse, my tragus and rook just didn't want to heal. After about a year of dealing with them, I decided it was time to say goodbye. I had also become more partial to the look of the daith piercing anyway -- I think it suits my ear structure much more than the other two. So, I retired my tragus and rook and redecorated my left ear with a matching daith piercing. This is its story.
My second daith was done by a different piercer than my previous three cartilage piercings. My first piercer, being chosen when I had just entered the world of body modification, was quite bad as far as piercers go. His placement in all cases had been accurate, but the jewelry used was of nightmarish quality -- I found out later that it was simply stainless steel welding rod (i.e. full of impurities like nickel, which will irritate a fresh piercing and inhibit healing) bent into a ring with the tips ground down into points for the bead to sit in between. The points, as a result, were of a slightly larger diameter than the ring itself. So whenever the jewelry turned, I experienced pain due to the minor stretching that resulted. As well, this type of ring design is inferior to a rounded-end CBR; the gap resulting where the point and bead meet provides a nice small area for bits of lymph and other crusted matter to collect, and become a breeding ground for bacteria. Unfortunate ly, at the time of piercing I didn't realize this style of ring was indicative of cheap, poorly made jewelry. This piercer also did the piercings with 14ga jewelry, using a 14ga needle. It is generally accepted in the piercing community that cartilage piercings should be done either with a needle one or two gauges larger than the jewelry to be used, or even better, dermal punched. Unlike normal tissue, cartilage will not shift to accommodate jewelry; it pushes in on the piercing, creating pressure that can lead to problems. In my case this was manifested in a constant aching pain, which increased a thousand fold if the piercing was bumped. When I realized these mistakes after doing some research on BME, I had the jewelry in all three piercings changed to higher-quality, smaller gauge pieces by a different piercer in May 2001. I had requested him to put in 16ga jewelry, but he discovered there was none in stock. So, he put in 18ga -- without telling me. Needless to say I was not too impressed! I did get a discount as a result, but it left a ba d taste in my mouth. Lesson: always make sure you know exactly what your piercer is going to do BEFORE he does it! All three piercings did much better after this gauge downsize, but it wasn't enough to save the tragus and rook -- they had simply gotten too much accidental abuse. I grew tired of having to live my life around protecting my piercings, so decided they had to go. They were retired in January 2002, to be replaced by a daith in the near future. Due to various circumstances, the near future ended up getting stretched out, and it wasn't until July that the replacement daith was done. By this time, I was practically living on BME; as such, I had found a fabulous piercer (syx of Anatomic Adornments, formerly of Sacred Heart [also in Vancouver] and Skew Skin in Windsor, Ontario) and knew this daith would be done right, from the start. I elected to use my own jewelry for the piercing, as I had two small 18ga CBRs from my retired tragus and rook that were the same size as the ring in my daith. My old ring was inspected for any nicks or scratches (which would irritate a piercing), cleaned ultrasonically and autoclaved, so it was just like new! I had to use a stainless steel bead for the piercing and first month of healing, as other bead materials (hematite and other stones) are porous and can trap bacteria. So, Syx changed out the bead in my old daith to a stainless steel one so I would match, and we were ready to roll. The piercing was performed with me lying on my side, on the piercing table. First my ear was cleaned well, to remove any dirt or debris from the skin surface that could be drawn into the fresh piercing. Anatomic uses their "patented" castille soap for piercing prep, but the typical iodine-based soap used by the majority of shops is equally adequate. Next, the piercing entry and exit holes were marked with a sterile, single-use genitan violet marker. (This part is important! Make sure the marker is new, and has never been used on anyone else -- anything that was on their skin will now be on yours, which is about to be cut open by a needle) Syx of course asked for my approval of his marking -- everything looked good to me, so we went on to the next step. The needle used was 16ga (two gauges larger than the jewelry used, to prevent pressure problems from the surrounding cartilage), and bent into an arc shape for the piercing (to avoid the needle going through the daith and imme diately hitting the next part of the ear in line with it). Syx used a needle receiving tube to catch the needle tip after the piercing to further avoid this problem. Of course, during this time Syx performed many glove changes to avoid cross-contamination, and every tool used came out of an autoclaved bag. Then it was time for the piercing. Syx and I did the usual "breathe in, breathe out, breath in, pierce on breathe out" procedure, which works best for me. I usually substitute a scream on the last breathe out part, though... I'm never nervous about getting new piercings and am not bothered by the thought of pain, but when it actually comes time for the needle to go through my flesh I REALLY feel it (I consider myself to have a very low pain tolerance, despite the fact that I've been pierced numerous times and done a pull and suspension). Cartilage work is some of the most painful to have done (though not as much as 8ga hooks!), but like anything it's over in a short enoug h time that anyone can bear it. A few seconds of pain for a possible l ifetime of pleasure from a piercing isn't too much to ask, I think. Anyway, the piercing went without a hitch: perfect placement, no blood, etc. I brought in a friend for a daith piercing a month later, and immediately upon piercing her ear filled up with blood -- it was quite a sight! It's not usually a problem, just makes it a bit messy for the piercer. You're not going to hit any major arteries in your ear, after all... The ring was fed through on the end of the needle, and then the bead was put in. This part was a bit hard for Syx (he has big hands ^_^), but his clients would never know it. It really pays to go to professionals! After that, all that was left was to clean up the piercing and send me on my merry way. Healing was very uneventful -- just the way I like it. For the first few hours after the piercing, I experienced a small numbing pain from my ear down to my jaw; I've had this after all of my previous ear work though, so was expecting it; I just took a few Advils. Regarding cleaning, I adopted a LITHA (leave it the hell alone) attitude. I found with my past cartilage work that the more you bump the piercings, the slower they heal. Cleaning them invariably involves bumping them, so... I just let this one be and it healed much faster than the previous three had. It's important to clarify that LITHA doesn't mean to IGNORE the piercing -- if you think it's been contaminated by dirt, sweat, or someone else's bodily fluids (not really a major concern with a daith, but more so with other body piercings), give it a clean to prevent infection. As well, whenever my ear felt "nasty" (sore, more discharge than usual, etc.), I would do a warm saline soak to put things right. For these I used sterile 0.9% W/V saline solution, which my mom (a nurse) gets for me from the hospital; it can be found in most pharmacies. I found that a 1/4cup measuring cup filled with microwaved saline (make sure it's not too hot though -- you don't want to burn your ear) fit my ear perfectly. The soaking is a bit awkward to do: you have to rest your head horizontally over the cup and submerge the ear. It invariably results in saline getting spilled on the table and soaked in your hair, so it's a good idea to do this BEFORE a shower (unless you like having salt residue in your hair, of course). Most piercers recommend not using any sort of soap product to clean cartilage piercings, as it's too hard to ensure all the soap residue is removed from the area (if left, it will irritate the piercing). After showers and soaks, I dry off the piercing with a q-tip to remove any crusted lymph, blood, etc. Be VERY careful if you are going to use q-tips in your ears; don't shove them in your e ar (you can easily pop your eardrum and suffer hearing loss as a resul t), and try to just concentrate on cleaning the piercing -- not the lower part of your ear canal (it's self-cleaning anyway; we survived fine for thousands of years without the q-tip). Doctors discourage their use in this way as the potential of damaging the fragile ear structures is high, and they actually compact earwax further down the ear canal while only removing the surface wax (these compactions can dull hearing). Phish on BME QOD is known for discouraging their use even for cleaning piercings, saying that small cotton fibers can enter the piercing and cause irritation, possibly leading to follicular cysts. I personally have never suffered from this problem. Q-tips have their negative points, but I personally can't see any other option for removing the dried lymph and blood that collects on the jewelry of healing piercings. I have tried to go without using them for a few days, but find that the build-up of crusties irritates the piercing too much. As such, I personall y consider q-tips the lesser of two evils. Anyway, enough on my q-tip rant... After the healing period it's fine to move the ring around a bit to get out hard-to-reach crusties, but DON'T force the jewelry to move in the first few days. The area is swollen, and if you force the jewelry to move you're probably going to damage the newly forming skin tube as a result. Basically, the most important thing to remember is to listen to your body. If your piercing is sore and/or needs to be cleaned, clean it. There's no need to clean it five times a day though -- when you are healing a normal wound, would you clean it this much? Every time you clean a wound /piercing, you damage the fragile healing tissues. It's important to maintain a balance between cleaning enough to prevent infection and leaving the area alone to heal on its own. It's always hard to pinpoint the exact time when a piercing can be considered "healed". I never had any problems with this daith, and besides being [understandably] sore for a few weeks after the piercing, I've hardly even noticed that it's there. It certainly healed faster than my first daith piercing, and with fewer complications, which I attribute to it being pierced with a better method, using higher quality jewelry, and following a better cleaning procedure (my first piercer recommended cleaning three times daily with water, and applying a special Aveda moisturizer the shop sold afterwards -- very bad idea, as the moisturizer residue irritates the open wound). I would encourage anyone thinking of getting a cartilage piercing to go with a daith; it's by far the least work to care for, and I think has the best potential for healing properly. I hope some people have found this at least reasonably helpful, and will consider getting a daith in the future!

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submitted by: Anonymous
on: 14 Dec. 2002
in Ear Piercing

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Artist: syx
Studio: Anatomic+Adornments
Location: Vancouver%2C+BC

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