You’ve just got a shiny new piercing and you can’t wait to show it off to your friends and post it on Snapchat. It’s probably a bit swollen and you’re already itching to change the jewellery for something prettier, but here’s the key to healing your piercings: leave it alone. Unless you’re cleaning it, try to touch it as little as possible in the first few weeks. It’s hard, I know, but it will do wonders for the healing process.
Sterile Saline Solution
I primarily recommend buying sterile saline solution (and not only because I sell it) over making a sea salt and water mix (which is now outdated aftercare advice) as when you have something pre-made you’re more likely to clean your piercings. On top of this, it also leaves no chance for wrong sea salt:water quantities or any impurities to disrupt your healing process like with homemade sea salt solution. To use, just spray/drip onto your piercings twice a day.
Crusties can sometimes build up around your piercing. They are usually best left to fall off by themselves rather than disturbing the healing process and removing them manually. You can encourage this by letting water run over them in the shower to help soften the crusties making it easier for them to fall off. However, sometimes they just won’t budge and can put pressure on a new piercing if they get too built up. For this you can soak a cotton bud in saline solution to remove the crusties. Cotton buds are often frowned upon for their potential to leave fibers at the site of a healing piercing. The risk of this is minimised when soaked in solution however they should still be used sparingly. Ideally you want to clean and look after your piercing with minimal touching, so stick to spraying with sterile saline only wherever possible.
I often recommend doing one of your cleans after a shower as the hot water from that helps to soften your crusts beforehand.
LITHA (Leave It The Hell Alone) Method
This cleaning method simply involves running your new piercing under warm water in the shower to clean it and leaving it the hell alone other than that. It’s not something I recommend to inexperiences piercees as I find they often do not actually leave it the hell alone.
Other Methods You May Have Heard Of (not recommended)
Another popular cleaning method is making your own sea salt solution and doing sea salt soaks as piercing aftercare, however this is not something I recommend anymore.
The problem with using homemade saline solution as opposed to shop bought products etc, is most people can’t be bothered to make it twice a day to clean their piercings. There are two ways around this 1) Buy sterile saline solution to use on your piercings 2) Make a big batch. To make a batch mix up the solution each week and transfer it to a clean water bottle and using it throughout the week. This makes the cleaning process a lot less effort. You can even buy an empty spray bottle from the pound shop or Wilko and put the solution in there. The warm saline solution can help get rid of crusties and draw out fluids, but you can always get rid of crust with plain hot (but don’t burn yourself) water before using saline solution.
Many people believe piercings need to be cleaned with shop-bought antiseptics to avoid infection because they feel saline solution isn’t enough and antiseptics will clean it more. In reality, antiseptics can often be too harsh on new piercings, and while it will clean the piercing and get rid of bacteria, it also removes the good bacteria and won’t encourage healing.
Healing times vary wildly from person to person, often depending on their body, lifestyle and aftercare routine. Most piercings take a minimum of 3 months to heal, but can (and often do) take longer. Many piercings (such as cartilage) can take up to a year to fully heal and may leak lymph (often mistaken for puss) for months. It’s common to mistake this for infection, but as long as your piercing isn’t super painful or swollen, it’s likely that it’s just still healing. If after a few months your piercing has healed slower than expected, be patient. Don’t start changing it to any old jewellery just because your piercer said a shorter time frame. If you think there might be a reason for your slower healing (such as jewellery size etc.), visit your piercer.
Common Piercing Problems
Your piercing is more susceptible to problems at the start of its life. Here are a few problems that are common with initial piercings.
Piercing infections tend to be pretty rare and causes of alarm are usually just normal signs of healing or signs of something else such as irritation, but that’s not to say that piercing infections don’t happen.
Piercing infections tend to be quite red and painful and the area around the piercing will usually be quite swollen. You may also get a foul-smelling yellow/brownish puss. The area around the piercing may also be quite warm and even throb a little bit. These are the things you need to look out for and be aware of.
How To Spot An Infected Piercing – Signs Of An Infected Piercing And What To Look Out For
- Yellow/brownish puss that may smell
If you think you have an infection, visit a reputable piercer to have them confirm it’s not just the normal healing process or some kind of irritation such as a piercing bump as often they’re mistaken for infection.
If your piercing is infected your piercer will send you onto your GP. A lot of people’s reaction to thinking/knowing their piercing is infected is to remove the piercing. I advise against this as an open/occupied piercing acts as a drain for the infection. Removal and eventual closure of the piercing can result in the infection being trapped inside your body.
In my experience when I’ve been to a GP for an infected piercing they’ve always advised me to take it out. I suggest you ask for antibiotics to treat the infection. However, remember I am not a medical professional. Use common sense and be responsible when making these choices. If your ear is falling off, it makes sense to listen to the medical professional. This advice is to be used for minor infections.
If you are prescribed antibiotics, it’s essential that you finish your course. If you just stop taking them when it looks like it’s getting better, it’s likely that the bacteria will still be present. If you stop taking them, it’s likely that the infection will return but this time the bacteria will be resistant to the antibiotics. Make sure you finish your course so you can be sure that the bacteria is gone and the infection is no longer present.
When you’re pierced you’re piercer should have put a slightly bigger piece of jewellery in to allow for swelling. Sometimes they don’t, or sometimes a client swells more than expecting. If your piercing is pinching, cutting or the balls of the jewellery are imbedding into the piercing you may need to go back to your piercer and get your jewellery swapped to a larger size. It may not look as good, but once it’s all healed you’ll be able to downsize your jewellery again.
Nickel allergies are very common, and nickel is present in many materials used to make cheap body jewellery. If your piercing is irritated either by the initial piercing jewellery or by jewellery you’ve put in after it’s healed, it may be that you’re allergic to it. Swap to implant grade titanium and see if it improves.
There are many types of lumps that can appear on your piercing, particularly on cartilage piercings. Ideally you should go and see a piercer to see what kind of bump it is. These bumps are usually due to irritation. You need to remove the source of the irritation in order to resolve the issue and get rid of the bump. This irritation could be due to things like the jewellery, incorrect aftercare routine or sleeping on your piercing. In the meantime, gentle compression from No Pull Piercing Discs and a daily hot chamomile compress should help clear this up, but you need to be persistent and stick with it for a few weeks. If you still have bumps, but they’ve improved, stick with it longer. Do not pick your bumps. You’ll irritate the piercing more and they’ll usually just grow back.
Migration/rejection is less common at the start, but still something I feel you should be aware of so you know what to look out for. Some piercings can move/grow out the skin over time. If you notice signs of your piercing migrating or rejecting, contact your piercer and ask them to take a look. It’s usually best to take it out, but piercings can sometimes be saved by using different size jewellery. If you do take it out, you can usually get it redone when it’s healed over.
Be careful not to catch it
Don’t sleep on it
Check the balls are tight every couple of days to ensure the bar won’t fall out
Google problems, but use caution – Most people do not realise how common and easily solved their piercing problems are before they consult their piercer. Sometimes a quick search can take away all the anxiety of a piercing problem, but be careful not to over-diagnose yourself!