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By Meghan O'Neal 03/02/2021

Cartilage piercings are infamous for their long, arduous healing times. Since cartilage is avascular, it heals more slowly than other piercing areas—you must be prepared to commit up to a year to healing. As your cartilage heals, you need to make sure that you keep it protected from things like dirt, debris, and painful snags.

If you have long hair, you’ll need to take extra care to keep your hair away from your new piercing. Cartilage jewelry—especially those found in the upper cartilage of the ear like the helix or industrial—can easily be snagged by your hair. Not only will this tug painfully at your sensitive new piercing, but it could also damage the piercing site, leading to piercing bumps and other complications.

Beyond posing a snag risk, the chemicals found in the products that you use in your hair could irritate the healing piercing. During the healing period, your piercing should only be introduced to a piercing aftercare saline solution. Any other product could dry out or otherwise harm your piercing which may lead to piercing rejection, bumps, or other issues.

Your keratined hair needs gentle shampoos with micro keratin that will progressively enhance the treatment to always look fresh and hold on for longer. Using dry shampoo on keratin treated hair will dissolve the keratin coating and wash out your expensive treatment prematurely.’

This makes certain daily tasks, like showering, a bit difficult. When your piercing is so close to your hair, how can you possibly wash it without snagging it or exposing it to the harmful chemicals in your shampoo and conditioner?

Lucky for you, we’ve got a few tricks up our sleeves. Here are some tips for safely showering as your cartilage piercing heals.

Keep all hair products away from your piercing 

Due to the proximity to your hair, you may find it difficult to keep shampoo, conditioner, and other products away from your piercing as you wash and style your hair.

This is especially true with products with strong chemicals like hair loss products or scalp stimulating products. However, any product may pose an issue, and you should do your best to keep your piercing clear of all products that aren’t related to piercing aftercare.

person putting lotion on hands

Any product that’s not piercing aftercare saline solution should stay far away from your new piercing.

If you do get hair products on your piercing, don’t panic. All you need to do is gently rinse your piercing and be sure to pat it completely dry. Once you get out of the shower, it’s a good idea to give your cartilage piercing extra care by providing a quick rinse and a pat down. This small task could mean the difference between happy healing or dealing with complications like cartilage bumps.

Wash your hair at an angle

Throughout healing, you’ll need to adjust your hair washing routine in order to keep your piercing safe. One of the best ways to keep products away from your cartilage piercing is to tilt your head away from the piercing to keep it free from suds and water. Here are our favorite techniques. 

The side flip: Flip all of your hair to one side—opposite your new piercing. Tilt your head so that your hair is under the water but your piercing can stay dry as much as possible. You can now begin gently washing your hair. Keep your head in this position until the shampoo and conditioner has been fully rinsed from your hair. When you leave the shower, be sure to give your cartilage piercing an extra rinse, and fully pat the piercing dry.

The upsidedown wash: Flip your head totally upside down when shampooing and conditioning. This method is ideal if you have new cartilage piercings in both ears. Do your best to keep your jewelry dry and free from stray suds, but just in case, give it an extra rinse and fully dry the piercing once you leave the shower.

The real key to keeping your piercing free from hair products is to be mindful. It won’t be possible to fully keep your piercing free from suds, so just be sure to rinse the piercing clean as soon as you can. 

When it comes to mousse, hairspray, or other hair products, remain mindful for the entire time that you’re styling your hair. You might consider wearing your hair away from the piercing for at least the first few months of healing. This will remove snag risks and other problems associated with your hair and your healing piercing.

Be mindful

The key to washing your hair with a new cartilage piercing is simply being aware. As you play with your hair, be careful when you’re around your ears. The jewelry needs to stay still, so you should try and touch the area as little as possible.

Try not to touch your cartilage jewelry, especially when running your fingers through your hair.

Give yourself a few extra minutes in the morning. When you’re rushing, it’s easy to forget to be careful. All it takes is one bad snag, and it could spell the end of your piercing. Don’t let the snooze button on your alarm lead to piercing complications down the line.

Washing your hair with a new piercing doesn’t have to be difficult. All you need to do is take your time, be mindful, and give your piercing a little bit of attention when you step out of the shower. Learn to love your hair in a ponytail for the first few weeks just to mitigate any snag risks. If you start to see irritation or signs of cartilage bumps, visit your piercer, and they can help you troubleshoot the complication so that your piercing can continue to heal well.

Shop cartilage piercing jewelry

Healing may be a long process, but dreaming about the jewelry you can wear once you’re done might make it go a little faster. Check out our favorite cartilage piercing jewelry.

Meghan O'Neal

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