Body piercing is a popular form of self-expression that has been practiced for thousands of years. Whether you're getting a simple earlobe piercing or a more elaborate body piercing, it's important to take proper care of your piercing to ensure it heals properly and without complications. In this article, we'll discuss the basics of piercing aftercare to help you keep your piercing healthy and looking great for years to come.
Before we get into the details, it is important to remember thar aftercare is an evolving conversation in the progression of body piercing. Aftercare needs differ from one region and climate to another and not all products are widely available. Always discuss your specific needs with your piercer.
Cleaning your piercing
The most important step in piercing aftercare is keeping your piercing clean. Always wash your hands thoroughly before touching your piercing. The Association of Professional Piercers (APP) suggests cleaning a new piercing with a sterile saline solution. Packaged sterile saline can be purchased from most studios. Mixing your own sea salt solution is no longer a suggested practice from the APP as it will commonly result in the solution being far too salty and strong, which can over dry the piercing and interfere with healing. Contact lens saline, eye drops, and nasal sprays should never be used on a body piercing.
For certain piercing placements it may be easier to use a clean non-woven gauze saturated with saline solution. If your piercer suggests using soap, gently lather around, not inside, the piercing and rinse as needed. Avoid using bar soaps, soaps with dyes and fragrances, or triclosan (anti-bacterial soaps). Always be sure to thoroughly rinse the piercing to remove all traces of the soap. It is not necessary to rotate the jewelry through the piercing. Dry the piercing by gently patting with clean, disposable paper products. Avoid cloth towels, as they can harbor bacteria and snag on the jewelry, causing injury and irritation.
What to expect
Caring for a new piercing can feel like a daunting task. It is helpful to know what is normal in the healing process. Initially after getting your new piercing, you can expect some bleeding, localized swelling, tenderness and/or bruising. During healing some discoloration, itching, secretion of a whitish-yellow fluid (not pus) that will form some crust on the jewelry is normal. The tissue may also tighten around the jewelry as it heals.
It’s important to remember healing is not a linear process. A piercing may seem healed before the healing process is complete. This is because tissue heals from the outside in, and although it feels fine, the interior remains fragile. Be patient and keep cleaning throughout the entire healing period.
Once a piercing is healed the jewelry may not move freely in the piercing. Regular cleaning as part of your daily hygiene routine will help keep a healed piercing free of normal, but smelly, bodily secretions that can accumulate.
Even healed piercings can shrink or close in minutes after having been there for years! This varies from person to person; if you like your piercing, keep jewelry in—do not leave it empty.
What to avoid
The first rule of new piercings? DON’T touch it. Touching your piercing with dirty hands can introduce harmful bacteria which can cause infections and slow the healing process. Always make sure to wash your hands before touching, and avoid playing with the jewelry.
It is also important to avoid cleaning your piercing with alcohol, hydrogen peroxide, antibacterial soaps, iodine, or any other harsh products, as these can damage cells. In addition, avoid ointments as they prevent necessary air circulation.
Avoid submerging the piercing in unhygienic bodies of water like pools, hot tubs, or baths for the first 2-3 months. Chlorine and other chemicals can irritate the piercing and slow down the healing process. If you must enter a body of water, protect your piercing using a waterproof wound sealant bandage. These are available at most drugstores and work best for nipple, navel, and surface piercing placements.
While it may be tempting it's important to wait to change your jewelry until your piercing is fully healed. This can take anywhere from a few weeks to several months or even years, depending on the location and size of your piercing. Changing jewelry too soon can cause the piercing to become irritated or infected, so it's best to wait until your piercer gives you the green light before making any changes.
Keep an eye out for signs of infection
While it's normal for a piercing to be a little red and swollen in the first few days after getting it, it's important to keep an eye out for signs of infection. Symptoms of an infected piercing include redness and swelling that persist or worsen, discharge or pus, and pain that becomes more severe over time. If you suspect that your piercing is infected, it's important to speak to your piercer, or seek medical attention as soon as possible to prevent the infection from spreading.
Unless there is a problem with the size, style, or material of the initial jewelry, leave it in the place for the entire healing period. Always see a qualified piercer to perform any jewelry change that becomes necessary during healing.
Make sure your bedding is washed and changed regularly. Wear clean, comfortable, breathable clothing that protects your piercing while you are sleeping. Sleeping directly on a piercing, especially a healing cartilage piercing, can cause irritation and shifts in the piercing’s angle. Using a travel pillow and placing your ear in the opening can be helpful to avoid this.
Take extra care to clean telephones, headphones, eyeglasses, helmets, hats, and anything that contacts the pierced area. Be sure to use caution when styling your hair and advise your stylist of a new or healing piercing.
In conclusion, taking proper care of your piercing is essential to ensure that it heals properly and without complications. By following these basic aftercare steps, you can help keep your piercing healthy and looking great for years to come.
If you have any questions or concerns about your piercing, be sure to speak with a professional piercer for more guidance.