T.L.C. stands for tender loving care, and that is exactly what your new piercing is going to need. Slacking off on your aftercare or using harmful products will only prolong your discomfort and the healing process.
Most piercers will give you aftercare instructions, and the general rule of thumb would be to follow their advice. But I have found that about 60% of all customers allow this information to enter one ear and exit the other. Also, 47% of all piercing clients lose their paper aftercare instructions and blame it on their hungry dog. And then there is the 21% that go to a mall kiosk and get pierced with a gun, and then come here to learn they shouldn’t have done that. For those of you in any of those groups, or if your piercer really didn’t tell you how to care for your new piercing, here are my recommendations.
*Disclaimer* I do not claim to be a professional piercer. Not all aftercare methods are appropriate for all people, but I am recommending what I have found to be best after experiencing and caring for over 20 piercings.
General Piercing Aftercare
What You May Need:
- Sea Salt
- Anti-Bacterial or Antimicrobial Liquid Soap/Wash (Like Provon or Satin)
- Cotton Balls
- Cotton-tipped Swabs
- Small disposable cups (2-4 ounces)
- Paper towel or newly cleaned washcloth
Cleaning Your Piercing:
1. First, wash your hands thoroughly. Never touch your piercing or jewelry with dirty hands.
2. Saturate a cotton ball with warm water, and gently wipe away any “crusties” that have gathered around the piercing site. Throw the cotton ball away.
3. Apply a generous amount of liquid soap to your fingertip, and apply to the piercing site and jewelry. Make sure you get the soap everywhere, but rotating the jewelry is not necessary as long as you work the soap around the piercing and jewelry completely.
4. Rinse the piercing and jewelry several times with warm water, ensuring that all soap has been removed.
5. Dry your piercing with a clean paper towel and then dispose of it.
- Although it’s a very antiquated method, some piercers will still tell you to rotate your jewelry. This is not wrong per say, but I have found that it causes more problems than it solves. Any crusties or bacteria still on the jewelry are then introduced inside the raw piercing when the jewelry is rotated. This can cause irritation or even infection. It’s best to just clean the piercing and jewelry thoroughly without actually moving it.
- Cloth towels, especially those that have been already used, can harbor germs and bacteria. This is why it is safest to use a disposable paper towel. Other single-use products such as gauze, napkins, etc. can also be used. If you must use a fabric cloth or towel, make sure it is clean from the laundry.
Acceptable Healing Aids and Products
- Tea Tree Oil – This soothing liquid cools and refreshes an irritated piercing. Use only high quality tea tree oil that has been diluted with distilled water.
- Emu Oil – A universal healing product that has been discovered to also produce exceptional results when healing a piercing.
- H2Ocean – Although some would call it “glorified saline solution,” most do report excellent healing results with this product.
- Saline Solution – Less expensive and more readily available than most other products, saline solution is very effective in soothing and healing a new piercing. It’s also an acceptable substitute for sea salt soaks.
Do NOT Use:
- Hydrogen Peroxide – Hydrogen peroxide kills bacteria, but it also kills the white blood cells attempting to heal your piercing. It can cause irritation and lengthen overall healing time.
- Rubbing Alcohol – Alcohol will dry the skin and irritate the raw piercing, which could actually lead to infection.
- Glyoxide – This is a product that contains hydrogen peroxide and hinders healing rather than aiding it.
- Ear Care Solution – Solutions that are provided by jewelry boutiques and department store piercers usually contain alcohol, hydrogen peroxide and other harmful chemicals that only aggravate a new piercing.
- Ointments – Antibacterial ointments or similar products only clog pores and/or kill good cells trying to heal the piercing.
Sea Salt Soaks
1. Wash your hands thoroughly with liquid antibacterial or antimicrobial soap (Satin and Provon are best).
2. Place a pinch of sea salt in the bottom of a small disposable cup. About 1/8 teaspoon.
3. Add hot tap water – as hot as you can stand – to the salt. Use about 3 ounces of water – which is just over half-full in a 5 ounce cup.
4. If possible, invert the cup right over the piercing and allow it to stay there for 5 minutes. This usually works well for nipple and navel piercings. If you can’t create a sufficient seal against the skin with the cup, then soak a cotton ball in the salt water solution and apply the cotton ball to the piercing. When it cools down, throw it away and place a newly saturated cotton ball on the piercing. Do this for 5 minutes. 5. Rinse the piercing with warm water and dry with a clean paper towel.
- Only pure sea salt is to be used. Table salt, kosher salt, epsom salts, and iodized sea salts are not acceptable. Sea salt can be found in many grocery stores and almost all health food stores.
- If you are not sure about the solution strength, put a dab on your finger and taste it with the tip of your tongue. It should be no saltier than a potato chip.
- To aid in healing a new piercing, sea salt soaks once a day should be sufficient. If your piercing is irritated, increase sea salt soaks to 2-3 times per day until the irritation subsides.
- If your piercing becomes irritated as a result of sea salt soaks, you are probably using either the wrong kind of salt or have made your solution too strong.