Body piercings are a great way for self-expression and changing your look around. Plus, who doesn’t love sporting new types of jewellery is different styles. But while the piercing is a job that takes less than a minute at the jeweller or professional piercer, the aftercare is not as speedy and can even be much more painful (and tedious) than the split second puncture through your skin.
Healing from body piercings is a long, drawn-out process that can span from a few weeks to years. Taking adequate precautions and care is essential to avoid complications such as infections and closing up of the piercing.
So, getting the piercing is easy, the aftercare less so. However, for those who really want it, even months of careful cleaning and care is worth the effort for a beautiful new adornment. If you’re thinking of getting a new modification done or have just treated yourself to a new piercing, here’s everything you need to know to have it healed and hearty as soon as possible.
Cleaning your piercings
- Wash Your Hands: Before you attempt to clean your new piercing, clean your hands thoroughly with soap.
- Saline Solution: Most professional piercers recommend using saline solution for cleaning. You can buy packaged saline at the pharmacy or you can make a sea salt solution which will serve the same purpose. To make the sea salt solution, mix ¼ teaspoon of iodine-free sea salt with a cup of warm water. Do not add more salt as it could aggravate the piercing.
- Saline Soak: Use a saline solution to clean and soak your piercing in for five minutes daily, even two or three times a day. You can do this by placing the solution into a cup and inverting it over the pierced area to form a vacuum, keeping the piercing submerged. In areas where this is not possible, clean with a soaked gauze.
- Using Soap: If you have been told to wash the piercing with soap make sure that you use gentle, natural variety (avoid scented and coloured) that does not contain triclosan.
- Rinse: After soaking, rinse the area thoroughly and pat dry with clean paper towel or tissue.
Regular Issues After Piercing
Every modification has a certain healing time which depends on the types of piercing as well as the individual’s body’s response to the foreign object. Initially, it is common for the body to reject the material inserted into the piercing but this is no reason to panic or worry. Here are some common issues you may face in the weeks that follow.
- Just after piercing: In the days following piercing you may see some swelling occurring on and around the area. It may be tender and painful to touch and can show bruising and even experience slight bleeding.
- When it starts healing: During the healing process, you may see some secretions out of the piercing hole. This won’t be pus but an odourless, white-yellow substance that may crust around the jewellery you have inserted. The area may feel a bit itchy and there could be some discolouration.
- When healing is complete: The jewellery you have inserted may seem stuck when it has healed – do not force it to rotate or move. This may be due to secretions being accumulated over time and having hardened. Gentle and regular cleaning should solve this problem over time.
- Don’t hurry the healing process: Your piercing could look and feel fit and fine within a matter or weeks but the truth is that the layers under the surface could still be recovering and healing so continue with your cleaning and be gentle on the area.
- Keep your jewellery in: It’s not advisable to change your jewellery too soon after a piercing. Ask your piercer for a recommended time for which you need to keep your jewellery on before adequate healing allows you to remove it and stick to this. Get your jewellery removed and replaced by a professional if you aren’t sure how to swap it out.
What to do if your piercing is infected?
If you fear your piercing has become infected then ask your piercer to check on it. Infections are characterised by:
- Unusual redness and swelling
- Pain and tenderness that gets worse instead of better
- Burning or uncomfortable sensation around the area
- Coloured discharge that may have an odour
Minor infections can usually be treated at home with careful, regular cleaning. However, if your infection has not gotten better after a few days of treatment or if you are experiencing a fever, go to a doctor to have it examined. Do not attempt to remove the jewellery on your own – it is often recommended that you leave the jewellery in even when dealing with an infection.
Piercing Aftercare: Dos and Don’ts
- Keep your hands away from your piercing. A new modification may be tempting to touch but keep your hands off it to avoid contamination from germs and bacteria on your fingers to the healing wound.
- Always wash your hands before you start the cleaning process.
- It’s not required that you rotate the jewellery regularly. This is an old practice is now considered outdated and thought to prolong the healing process as it does not allow scabs to heal quickly.
- Don’t pick at the crusts that may form around your piercing. This is normal and part of the initial healing process.
- Keep your immunity up by eating well and getting enough sleep. The healthier you are, the better chance you give your piercing at healing.
- You don’t have to avoid exercising during the healing process unless it is an activity that directly affects or puts pressure on the piercing.
- In addition to wearing clean garments that come into contact with the pierced area, keep your bed linen clean too and change it regularly.
- Avoid taking tub baths which can expose your skin to bacteria harboured on the surface of the tub. Take showers instead.
- Do not clean your piercing with harsh cleaners and disinfectants such as hydrogen peroxide, betadine solution, spirit wipes, alcohol or harsh soaps.
- Don’t clean your piercing too often as you may end up aggravating the area and delaying the healing process.
- Avoid activities where you risk bumping or moving the jewellery and causing trauma to the area which can result in uncomfortable scarring.
- Limit or avoid the intake of alcohol, caffeine and nicotine products.
- Don’t go swimming in pools or lakes or go into hot tubs and jacuzzis at least till your piercing has undergone the initial healing period. If you have to, wear a water-proof bandage to protect it.
- Don’t wear make-up or apply cosmetics, perfume and creams near the area.