Piercing Aftercare Guide.
TL; DR – Too Much Information? For a shorter version try our quick reference guide here!
Your piercing should be healed after 18 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).
This piercing is prone to a large amount of swelling and may swell up on and off for up to two weeks. Your initial jewellery will be longer than normal in order to accommodate this swelling but it is important to treat the swelling so that it doesn’t get too tight.
- Use anti-inflammatory pain killers. Medicines such as Ibuprofen target swelling and work best when taken regularly. They are cheaply and easily found in most supermarkets and pharmacies. Read the patient information leaflet or ask a pharmacist for advice before use.
- Drink icy drinks. Sipping from ice-cold drinks is more effective than just eating ice as the cold liquid flowing over the piercing covers a larger area and carries away any heat. Be sure to rinse out your mouth after using milky or sugary drinks.
- Use arnica supplements. Arnica is a natural herbal product that can help to reduce swelling and inflammation. You can find arnica tablets from health food shops such as Holland an Barrett and can start taking them a day or so before getting pierced for maximum effect. The usual recommended dose is 2 tablets 3 times a day. If you take medication or have a condition that slows blood clotting talk to a pharmacist before using them.
- Have chamomile tea. Chamomile is very soothing and is a great natural anti-inflammatory. It can easily be found in the fruit tea section of most supermarkets. The tea can be made into ice cubes for short bursts of regular relief. It can also be drank hot but should only be used a handful of times during the first 48 hours as cold is better for swelling than heat.
- Eat frozen foods. Eating frozen food can bring relief to swelling and soreness. Try to allow harder foods like ice lollies to melt a little before eating them as they can knock or catch the piercing. Fruit smoothie, angel delight, moose or yoghurt can be frozen into ice cubes that remain soft enough to eat immediately and are small enough for regular relief.
After two weeks you should return to your piercing for a shorter bar. This will help to reduce tooth and gum damage and make your healing time more comfortable. You will need to continue returning to your piercer every month or so to have the bar trimmed or replaced as the piercing will swell on and off for a while, and can only be reduced slowly.
- After eating, drinking and smoking rinse your mouth thoroughly with fresh water or a 50/50 mix of alcohol-free mouthwash and water.
- The best thing to clean your piercing with to begin with 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 clean 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.
- Brush your teeth and tongue thoroughly and then rinse your mouth with an alcohol-free mouthwash and clean around the front and back of the piercing with a clean cotton bud.
It is best to clean your piercing like this 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.
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.
Personal relations. During the first two weeks you should avoid exchanging body fluids (kissing and unprotected oral sex). Other people have different bacteria on their skin, salvia and other fluids (even when they are clean) which can be harmful to you and cause infection. They can also carry viruses which can be transferred into an open wound like a piercing.
Irritation and swelling. Your piercing may get slightly swollen or irritated on and off during your healing time. 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 easy way to find chamomile and is found in the fruit tea section of most supermarkets. Simply drink the tea or use the hot tea bag as a compress. 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, getting a new tooth brush, cleaning make up brushes or washing mugs and cutlery in antibacterial soap 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 two weeks of healing. Swimming pools have the added complication of being full of chemicals which are not good for your healing. If you must take a bath simply do not immerse your piercing and clean it with sterile saline afterwards.
Troubled healing time. Cheek piercings take a very long time to heal (up to 24 months) and can swell up or get sore on and off during this time – more so than most other piercings. They are also prone to some unique problems due to their placement, more about these can be found here.