Piercing Aftercare Guide.
TL; DR – Too Much Information? For a shorter version try our quick reference guide here!
Your piercing should be healed after 12 months. The jewellery should not be removed during this time.
Piercings heal from the outside inwards, so they often feel healed long before they actually are. During the healing process a body piercing forms a very delicate type of tissue that can be easily damaged by moving the jewellery. It is a myth that jewellery will get stuck if you do not move it. Twisting or turning the jewellery can grind dirt or bacteria in to the wound, potentially causing irritation and infection (more information).
If your piercing has been performed properly everything that has been used will be sterile. This means that the inside of the piercing is free from bacteria and will remain so when it clots (forms a ‘scab’ inside). By dislodging this clot or ‘scab’ you may accidentally introduce bacteria into the wound. To prevent this it is recommended that you keep your piercing dry and do not clean it for the first 48 hours. This allows the piercing to form a stronger seal and reduce your chances of infection. After this time you will need to clean your piercing regularly.
If you have pets which freely roam your house or lead a lifestyle that exposes you to lots of dust or dirt which cannot be avoided in this time then it is likely you will be exposed to more foreign substances than most other people and so will need to clean much sooner (after around 12-24 hours).
- The best thing to clean your piercing with initially is sterile saline.
- This can be purchased from most pharmacies (drug stores) – you should look for products that are intended as eye rinses or first aid products.
- You should try to ensure that your saline contains no antiseptic ingredients and is as pure as possible
- The best kind of saline comes in single use pouches (like emergency eye rinse) or under pressure in a spray can. This is because the product remains sterile much more easily and isn’t exposed to bacteria which could harm your piercing.
- Make sure your hands are thoroughly cleaned with soap and water and then slowly pour the saline over your piercing.
- Make sure to pour over both the front and the back of the piercing and use a fair amount – you want to really soak it.
- If possible it is recommended to put your saline container into some hot water (not boiling – don’t melt your container) for a few minutes before use so that the saline is warm rather than cool. This helps maintain a good temperature for your healing cells to work at and helps loosen any crusties.
- Clean thoroughly around the front and back of the piercing with a piece of sterile gauze soaked in the solution.
- Sterile gauze can be found in the bandages sections of most pharmacies.
- Crust or discharge on the jewellery in a light yellow or white colour are used up healing cells (not pus) and are normal to see throughout the healing time. Simply clean this away when it appears.
- Dry the piercing thoroughly on a dry piece of sterile gauze and check the jewellery ends are on tightly.
- Drying the piercing is important because moist wounds can attract bacteria
- Towels, tissue and kitchen roll can harbour bacteria, dirt and dead skin so it is best to avoid them for this.
- Turn the ball to the left to loosen or to the right to tighten.
It is best to clean your piercing once or twice a day for the next 10-12 days. After this, simply soak whenever the piercing feels sore or has crust on the jewellery and keep it clean in the shower.
In between soaks try to keep the piercing as dry as possible as over cleaning will only irritate the piercing and slow your healing process. It is perfectly fine to replace one of your daily cleans with a regular shower (baths should be avoided where possible).
It is important not to use any kind of alcohol or peroxide on the piercing. (Like hydrogen peroxide and rubbing alcohol). These products are too strong to use on piercings. They harm and weaken the healing tissue, complicating the healing time and increasing the risk of rejection.
Also avoid antibacterial, antimicrobial and antiseptic cleaners. (This in includes things like TCP, Bactine, Dial, Savlon and ‘piercing’ solutions containing Benzalkonium Chloride). They remove all the ‘good’ bacteria your body needs to heal with, repeatedly making your body restart the healing process.
You should also try to avoid using any kind of cream on the piercing. (This includes things like moisturiser, body lotion and foundation). This is because creams are petroleum based and cannot be absorbed by the body – meaning that it will form a seal and linger inside the piercing, trapping dirt and encouraging bacteria.
Irritation and swelling. Your piercing may get slightly swollen or irritated on and off during your healing time. After the first two weeks and initial healing phase chamomile may help with this as it is a natural anti-inflammatory and very soothing but won’t interfere with your healing. Chamomile tea is a cheap and found in the fruit tea section of most supermarkets. Simply use the hot tea bag as a compress or soak your piercing in a bath of it. People who have a ragweed or celery allergy should do a skin test before using the tea.
Bathing with piercings. When you’re in the shower wash the piercing with a natural, gentle, soap. Preferably use perfume free, baby or sensitive soap to avoid any irritation. Soap helps to remove surface dirt and microbes which can cause infections.
Supporting healing. Take care of your general health. Drink plenty of water, sleep well, de-stress and eat properly. For the first few weeks try to avoid smoking, or drinking alcohol as they are immune system suppressants. Alcohol also thins the blood which can cause additional bleeding. Try taking a multivitamin that contains zinc, iron, vitamin A and vitamin C as these help to support your immune system and aid tissue repair. They may even reduce the chance of complications during healing.
Household environment. It is also important to keep areas that come into contact with your piercing as clean as possible so regularly changing your bedding and towels, tying back your hair, or washing any hats, phone receivers, earphones and reading glasses will help to support your healing.
Swimming and bathing. Your bathtub, the sea, lakes and pools contain a lot of bacteria which should be avoided for at least the first few weeks of healing. Swimming pools have the added complication of being full of chemicals which are not good for your healing. Do not immerse your piercing if you need to take a bath.
Sleeping. Cartilage piercings get very irritated by being slept on. Your head is the heaviest part of the body and so the weight puts a lot of pressure on the piercing and often causes healing problems like hypertrophic scarring. If you can, it’s best to sleep with the piercing cradled in your arm, cupped hand or in the centre of a doughnut shaped / travel pillow.
Extra healing time. Cartilage piercings can take up to 18 months to fully heal for some people. If you find changing the jewellery is sore or makes the piercing bleed then leave it a few more months before trying again and give the piercing a soak to help lessen irritation.