We’ve heard the horror stories: someone gets an adorable nose piercing, and two months later, they end up in the hospital with a horrible infection. Yikes.
Choosing the right piercer who uses proper, clean supplies is an important factor while getting a piercing, but what truly makes or breaks your healing process is your aftercare. Don’t let your new piercing become a horror story. Here’s how to stay safe:
Just like any open wound, keeping your body piercing clean prevents infection and ensures that your healing process goes smoothly. Once or twice a day, clean your piercing in three easy steps:
1: Wash your hands
2: Carefully soak the piercing with either saline solution or a sea salt bath for 5-10 minutes
(You can mix your sea salt bath at home by dissolving ¼ cup of non-iodized salt in one cup of warm water.)
3: Pat dry with a disposable paper towel
Throughout the day, keep it clean and away from things that might pull or otherwise irritate the piercing. It’s really about simple hygiene; if you keep yourself clean, your piercing will stay clean.
Sleeping can be a little tricky, since you want to try to avoid laying on top of your new piercing. Keep your bedding clean (again, basic hygiene, people!), and if you have a new facial or ear piercing, put a clean t-shirt over your pillow every evening, and try to rotate the pillow at least once every night to minimize bacteria growth. For new body piercings, such as nipple piercings or belly piercings, wear a tight shirt to protect from snagging. This trick can also help ease any discomfort during healing.
Our bodies are truly the biggest enemy when it comes to piercing aftercare. Not only are we riddled with bacteria (which is why it is so important to follow basic hygiene practices during healing), the body is designed to reject any foreign objects. As you heal, the body will swell and secrete liquids around the piercing and do everything in its power to let you know that there is something there that shouldn’t be. Placate it by keeping it clean.
DON’T rotate your jewelry. This was common practice in the past, but has been found to irritate the piercing site more than help. It’s common for the skin to swell and tighten around the ring during healing, and forcing the ring to move can cause damage.
DON’T clean your piercing more than twice a day. The saline solution or salt bath can irritate the piercing if used too much. You should adhere to basic hygiene practices, but don’t go overboard. Additionally, don’t use too much salt in your salt bath for the same reason.
DON’T use a cloth or towel or any non-disposable rag to dry your piercing. These harbor bacteria and can snag your piercing. Ouch!
DON’T use makeup, lotion, Vaseline, or any other product on or around the piercing site. These could lead to infections.
DON’T stop aftercare until the entire healing process is over. It’s kind of like how you have to take the full dosage of antibiotics even after you feel better. Even though the piercing may seem like it’s healed on the outside, there will still be some healing taking place internally.
DON’T swim in lakes, oceans, ponds, kiddie pools, or any unsanitary bodies of water. They carry tons of harmful bacteria. Similarly, opt for showers rather than baths, since a shower offers a running stream of clean water, and a bath is a breeding ground for bacteria.
DON’T participate in recreational drug use and limit nicotine, caffeine, and alcohol intake. Piercing aftercare is a matter of letting your body heal. You wouldn’t (or shouldn’t) partake in these activities while healing from an illness, and the same goes for when you’re healing from a piercing.
DON’T change your jewelry. It will irritate the piercing, and new piercings take only minutes to close once you remove your jewelry. If you have to change your jewelry (say your boss wants you to wear something more discreet), visit your piercer so that they can do it safely. Additionally, don’t add charms or dangles to the piercing until it is completely healed.
Oh no! I’m Bleeding/Bruising/Swelling! Is This Normal?
Short answer: yes. You can expect a minor amount all of these symptoms during the healing process. As stated above, this is your body doing what it was designed to do: reject foreign objects. You can also expect secretion of a whitish fluid that may crust on and around your jewelry. While it may be tempting, don’t pick at it. It should come off with regular cleaning, and picking at the jewelry will cause irritation and scabbing.
If you fail to keep your piercing clean, the secretion may have an odor. This is normal too, if a little gross, so be sure to keep yourself clean.
If any of these symptoms are extreme or if the piercing secretes pus, then you should consult a doctor. If you do have an infection, don’t remove the jewelry because it will allow the infection to drain and avoid abscess.
Piercing aftercare seems scary, and there is a lot that you have to think about in order to keep yourself healthy, but really it comes down to basic hygiene. Take care of yourself, keep your piercing clean, shower regularly, and your piercing should heal beautifully.