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Body Piercing Aftercare & Healing Essentials
The most important thing to remember after your body piercing is done is that you have essentially just sustained an open wound and you should care for it exactly as you would a surgical wound or injury. That is, with the same kind of care, cleanliness, and attention that you would do to a serious injury to make sure you don’t scar or get an infection. There are two different types of body piercings to consider: non-oral and oral.
Non-Oral Body Piercing Aftercare Keeping your piercing clean cannot be stressed too much! It just can’t. Twice a day, every day, without fail. No excuses. Use a mild antibacterial soap that does not contain fragrances, such as Provon® Antimicrobial Lotion Soap or Satin® Therapeutic Skin Cleanser, both approved by the Association of Professional Piercers (APP). The best place to clean your piercing is usually in the shower, where the warm water will help loosen and remove the crusts around the base of your jewelry. Use a cotton swab or a Kleenex to remove these, then throw the swab or Kleenex away. Never use a washcloth – these things are breeding grounds for germs and bacteria! The same for bath towels after your shower! Then, with clean hands, gently clean the area with the soap and turn the piece of jewelry so that the soap enters the piercing and leave this on for a minute or two. After rotating it again, rinse thoroughly with warm, clear water. Be sure to get all the soap out to prevent irritation. The rinse is very important, so try to be thorough without irritating the area. It often helps to get your hands and drip water over the area, as the shower stream can be a little too strong to aim directly at the area. Don’t forget your sea salt soaks After cleansing, a sea salt soak helps draw out any piercing infection and impurities while soothing the area and soothing any inflammation that may be present. Mix about ¼ teaspoon of sea salt with 8 ounces of warm water. Use a disposable cup to soak your piercing in this for ten minutes the first time and five minutes each time thereafter. If your piercing is in a spot that makes it difficult, apply the solution with cotton swabs, wipes, or another disposable product that is soft and clean. Never use a hanky, washcloth or other items that need to be reused. Always pat your piercings dry with cotton balls, cotton swabs or tissues – don’t rub them, pat them. This reduces irritation and possible tearing of the skin and helps promote healing. Although it seems like a minor step, keeping your piercings dry is actually an essential part of piercing aftercare because it reduces the opportunities for bacteria to breed (they love a warm, moist place to play). If you’re not sure about soaking your sea salt, or if it’s too inconvenient, there’s a new alternative on the market that’s less messy and portable. H2Ocean® Piercing Aftercare Spray is a pre-mixed sea salt solution containing lysozyme, a natural antibacterial agent that is gentle on the skin. Simply spray it on the area and let it drip dry; it is easy to use due to their patent pending compressed air supply system that produces a fine mist. This product is guaranteed to heal navel piercings in just a month and a half if used regularly and is highly recommended by several piercing societies such as BME and Prick magazine. H2Ocean® also comes in a portable size for your pocket or purse, making piercing aftercare away from home easier. Also available for both oral and non-oral body piercings, X-pressions Piercing Aftercare Spray is a mild antibacterial solution with purified water in a non-aerosol pump spray with a pleasant peppermint flavor. Once a day (not more often, because you want to irritate the area unnecessarily), check that the ends of your piercing jewelry are screwed in securely. But first wash your hands with antibacterial soap. And now, a few “don’ts”
- Never put hydrogen peroxide or alcohol on a piercing – they are too drying and will delay healing.
- Never use Neosporin on a piercing – it can actually trap bacteria. Read the label; it actually says: “Not for puncture wounds.” Guess what? A piercing is a puncture wound.
- Never remove your piercing jewelry until the piercing is completely healed, which can take months or up to a year. If you suspect a piercing infection, contact your piercing professional or doctor first.
- Do not sleep on your piercing until the initial healing phase is over.
- Do not wear tight clothing over your piercing during the initial healing phase.
Aftercare for Oral Piercing During the first three to six weeks after an oral piercing, rinse your mouth with an antibacterial agent after every meal to kill bacteria and make sure there are no small food particles stuck around your piercing that just waiting to fester and become problems later. There are several excellent products on the market for this, including APP recommended Biotene and Tech2000 Dental Rinse; these have the right ingredients and have the right strength to get the job done without being too strong. Don’t bother with mouthwash because it’s not strong enough to do anything but cover up your bad breath, which won’t be much comfort when you have a swollen, sore tongue from improper aftercare. You can also use a commercial antibacterial rinse, but dilute it so it’s not too strong. If your tongue develops a whitish or yellowish appearance, your mouthwash is too strong and will slow healing. Sea salt rinses … ahh! Mix the well-known hot water solution of 8 ounces of water to ¼ teaspoon of sea salt and rinse this in your mouth for 15-20 seconds after drinking anything other than water and after smoking. It not only aids in healing but can be very soothing to the pierced area. If your mouth piercing is sore or swollen, you may find some relief by letting crushed ice melt in your mouth. Popsicles, ice cream and the like also work, but like everything else must be followed up with a sea salt rinse (or H2Ocean®). Brush, brush, brush You can keep your tongue and piercing as clean as you want, but if you don’t brush your teeth well, you still have millions of bacteria in your mouth. Try to brush your teeth three times a day during the first few weeks of healing. Buy a new soft brush that will be gentle on your piercing. Do not use a brush that you have already used before your piercing, as it will harbor old bacteria. You should also gently brush the balls on the ends of your piercing jewelry to prevent the natural build-up of plaque on your jewelry. Oral piercing “don’ts”
- Do not smoke, chew gum, or use snuff or rub during the healing period; these increase the risk of piercing infections astronomically.
- Do not play with the piercing jewelry or click it against your teeth; this can cause cracks in your tooth enamel.
- Do not engage in any activities, including kissing, that exchange bodily fluids during the initial healing period of several weeks.
General Tips to Improve Healing Success Proper piercing aftercare is the primary reason for a successful healed body change, but your general health and how well you take care of yourself is also a contributing factor. If you are worn out or your immune system is compromised, you will not heal as quickly and you will be more prone to infection. For that reason, there are a few things to keep in mind when you have any type of piercing to help ensure that your piercing aftercare measures have the best chance of success:
- Drink plenty of fluids, especially water. At least eight glasses a day.
- At least eight hours of sleep a night
- Try to limit the amount of stress in your life
- Vitamin C and zinc supplements to help speed up the healing process
- Lots of fruit and vegetables, and a multi-vitamin if needed
- If the pain bothers you, take Ibuprofen. If you feel good, you are less likely to fiddle with the piercing.
Signs of Trouble Even with excellent piercing aftercare, there will be some swelling at the site of a piercing for a few days. You will also have some clear, watery discharge and maybe some mild bleeding. The bleeding will usually stop within 24 hours, while the discharge may last for several days or weeks. This is simply drainage of the wound and actually helps prevent piercing infection. Signs that the piercing is in trouble include:
- Discharge that becomes noticeably thicker and is yellow or green in color. This is a sign or infection and should be checked by a doctor.
- Inflammation that lasts longer than a few days, with redness and irritation. See your piercing professional or doctor.
- Red streaks from the piercing site and fever and pain in the body. See your doctor.
- Hives, redness, itching and irritation around the piercing, which may signal an allergic reaction to the piercing jewelry. Your professional piercer may try to replace it with an alternative metal.
- Difficulty breathing or wheezing after your piercing, or a feeling that your mouth or throat swells shut. Seek emergency help immediately!
So how long does all this healing take? If you perform your piercing aftercare correctly, your body piercing will heal cleanly, leaving you with a beautiful new piercing without scarring, migration or keloids. However, the time it takes to achieve this will vary depending on the type of piercing. The general timeframes listed below are for reference only. All of these depend on your individual body’s response, how much stress you are under and a thousand other variables. Earlobes or eyebrows: 6 – 8 weeks
Genitalia: 4 weeks – 4 months
Labret/Lip: 6 – 8 weeks
Navel: 6 – 18 months
Breasts: 3 – 6 months
Nostrils: 3 months – 1 year
Septum: 6 – 8 weeks
Tongue: 4 – 6 weeks
Cartilage: 3 months – 1 year Disclaimer: All piercing aftercare information provided herein is for informational purposes only. It is not intended as a guideline for body piercing aftercare, but a starting point for making an informed decision about body piercing. If you have any questions or continue with a body piercing, be sure to discuss the procedure with a doctor or piercing professional and get complete and clearly understood instructions about piercing aftercare at that time. Evaluseek Publishing assumes no responsibility for the accuracy of this content, which is based on the general consensus of the piercing community, which is constantly evolving and changing. This article on “Body Piercing Aftercare & Healing Essentials” reprinted with permission.
Copyright © 2004 Evaluseek Publishing.
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