Now that you’ve received your piercing, it’s your responsibility to take good care of it until your piercing fully heals.Your main responsibility is to actively keep your piercing from getting dirty in the first place. And yes, it is an active process, not just “doing nothing.” So what does this mean?
Things to do:
First, be as healthy as you can be.
No one likes to hear it, but your nutrition, sleep habits, and hydration levels can and do affect healing. Make sure you eat a healthy diet, get enough sleep, and drink plenty of water. Avoiding alcohol, smoking, and other drugs will also benefit your piercing.
Protect your piercing in the shower
Showering can introduce bacteria or irritants from shampoos, conditioners, soaps/body washes, etc.Tap water can have chlorine and hard minerals. These irritants can rinse into a piercing and cause swelling, prolonged healing, or even lead to scar tissue. Watch for snags!
Facial piercings can be kept out of the spray. Wash your face at the sink and use a clean washcloth or towelette to wipe around the piercing. Don’t splash, as this will rinse face wash and other products into the piercing.
Ear cartilage piercings can be covered with a plastic cup when rinsing hair. If they do get wet, it’s very important to rinse thoroughly with tap water to remove shampoo and other residues. Be sure to then follow the instructions to clean with the saline spray to below.
Earlobe piercings aren’t quite as sensitive as cartilage, but it’s still important to make sure they are rinsed and dried thoroughly after showering. Rinse with tap water, then saline as below. Be sure to dry the backs completely!
Body piercings, like nipples and navels, are harder if not impossible to keep dry. It’s imperative to limit what products come into contact. Shower with a soap that does not contain fragrances, antibacterial ingredients, or moisturizers. NO Dove or Olay products! Instead, use something with simpler chemistry, such as an unscented castile soap (e.g. Dr. Bronner’s).
Keep soap away from the piercing itself.
Avoid personal care products like lotion/makeup.
We use a lot of chemicals on our bodies. While these may be OK for intact skin, many of these products will cause irritation in a healing piercing. For safety, keep these products about a quarter size distance from your piercing so they don’t accidentally get in it.
Clean the piercing if it gets sweaty, dirty, or wet.
Rinse the piercing with sterile wound wash saline (spray straight from the can onto the piercing), then pat dry with sterile gauze. Cleaning more frequently than necessary does not benefit the piercing and can actually cause dryness and irritation. DO NOT pick at the piercing!
Soothe with a cool compress
To ease discomfort and swelling, apply a cool, dry compress to your piercing for 5-10 minute intervals. Gel type compresses from the pharmacy work well! Place a clean piece of gauze between your piercing and the compress for protection.
Use a warm compress for better circulation
After the initial swelling goes down, you can use a heating pad or hot water bottle for 5-10 minutes to increase circulation. Place a clean piece of gauze between your piercing and the compress for protection. If you’re experiencing swelling, use cold instead.
Use a travel pillow with cartilage piercings
U-shaped or donut-shaped pillows can help keep pressure off your ear when healing cartilage piercings. While sleeping on the other side is best, these pillows will minimize damage done.
Come in for a Checkup/Downsize
As pros, we can help with potential problems and let you know how much longer your healing process should take. Many piercings also benefit from downsizing jewelry during healing.
Things to avoid:
DON’T Touch It
The main causes of infection are dirty fingers and dirty fluids. Keep both your and your friends’ fingers away.
DO NOT twist/turn the jewelry or play with it – it’s
irritating, like picking a scab. If you notice a build-up of
material on your jewelry – and the build-up is not attached to your skin – you can gently brush it off the jewelry with DRY sterile gauze.
DON’T Soak It
This will introduce bacteria and irritating chemicals and water-log your piercing. Waterlogged skin is more delicate and susceptible to damage. Soaking has never been shown to improve the healing process. This also means no swimming or baths while your piercing is healing!
For nipple or navel piercings, TEGADERMTM or other occlusive bandages can be used to seal your piercing if you swim during healing.
DON’T Use Cotton Swabs/Balls
These products can leave irritating lint on and around your piercing and easily snag on your jewelry. Use non-woven sterile gauze instead!
DON’T Use Harsh Chemicals
No tea tree oil, alcohol, peroxide, antibacterial soap, or ointments. DO NOT use moisturizing soaps like Dove and Olay or antibacterials like Dial. These soap additives leave a residue that builds up in piercing and can contribute to irritation bumps.
DON’T Sleep on It
Sleeping on piercings reduces circulation, delaying healing and causing swelling. The pressure may cause piercings to migrate or change their angle.
DON’T Take Your Jewelry Out
If removed during the healing process, your piercing will close almost immediately. Once healed, it is safe to take your jewelry out long enough to change it, but not longer. As your piercing becomes more established, you’ll be able to leave it out for longer periods.This process can take a year or longer. If you need to hide your piercing for work, or need a non-metallic option for surgery, we can help!
Oral Aftercare (Lip & Tongue Piercings)
- Keep it cold
The more ice you put on your piercing, the less swelling you get and the faster it goes away.
- Rinse with bottled water
Anytime you eat or drink anything other than water, rinse your mouth with water until you don’t taste anything. This removes food residue and helps keep the bacteria in your mouth to a minimum. It also has the nice side effect of keeping your breath fresher.
- Brush your teeth with an electric toothbrush and water
Do not use toothpaste while your piercing is healing – the complex chemistry and gritty bits will cause more extreme and prolonged swelling. An electric toothbrush moves fast enough that it makes up for the lack of toothpaste.
- Eat real food, just not stuff that hurts.
Living off baby food and oatmeal will only deprive you of the nutrition you need. You can eat normal food, just take small bites and chew slowly while you’re getting used to your jewelry. The only things to avoid are spicy, acidic, really salty, and crunchy foods. These can irritate your piercing and make the swelling worse.
- Protect yourself
Kissing, oral sex, or any other exposure to others body fluids is simply asking for an infection. Use a protective barrier like condoms or dental dams while you’re healing.
Shorten your jewelry
After the swelling goes down, come in for a shorter post for your jewelry. Jewelry that fits flush will protect your teeth and gums from damage and just looks and feels better.
When to see a Doctor
Rarely, serious complications can occur in piercings that require a doctor’s intervention. If you have a concern that something is wrong, we do want to see you first! The APP has a great brochure on Troubleshooting problems.
If you have any concerns about your piercing, please book an appointment for a checkup to let our piercers assist you.
Irritation in piercings is much more common than actual infections and can be mistaken for an infection. Irritation can result in redness around piercings, swelling, and/or small bumps forming next to the piercing. Irritation results from physical trauma like snagging or sleeping on your piercing, chemicals like shampoo getting into the piercing, playing with the jewelry, over-cleaning, and/or using harsh aftercare products. The key to clearing up irritation is to remove the source of the irritation and let your immune system heal things. This can take several weeks, depending on the seriousness of the irritation.
Infections are caused by germs getting into a piercing, usually by touching the piercing with dirty hands or swimming while a piercing is healing.
Actual infections will need to be evaluated and treated by a doctor. The following are symptoms of an infection:
- Red streaks radiating from the piercing
- Area is hot to the touch
- Discharge is a funny color like green/blue/purple and/or smells bad (Normal discharge will be an off-white to honey color)
- Extreme swelling.
Complete Embedding of Jewelry
Extreme swelling or trauma to a piercing can cause jewelry to be pulled completely under the skin. It’s vital to make sure this is remedied ASAP. If you can get in within about 48 hours of this happening, our piercings should be able to remove the embedded jewelry and install a larger piece to allow recovery. If the skin actually heals over the jewelry, this would need to be surgically removed by a doctor.