Lynsey has amassed a collection of tattoos and piercings over the last decade. Her body modification tips are based on personal experience.
So, you have just got a new piercing OR you are researching how much care and time healing takes. Before going ahead, this article should give you plenty of information on how to best take care of a new piercing.
As someone who has had over 30 piercings, I have experienced the good and the bad when it comes to healing. I have had piercings rejected, become infected, and some have just been generally difficult. I have learned over the years how to reduce the risk of complications.
Basic Tips for Every Piercing
- Keep It Clean: Bear in mind that there is no "one size fits all" approach to piercings. What works for your friends may not work for you. But the single most important rule of caring for a new piercing is to keep it clean.
- Boost Your Immune System: As well as keeping it clean, you should try to cut out smoking and drinking if possible, and begin to take a multivitamin that includes vitamin C. This will encourage your body to heal quicker as it helps boost the immune system. There are some piercings that you should simply not consider if you are unable to stop smoking or drinking, so speak to your piercer about this, and I will touch on this further on.
- Make Your Own Saline Solution: You can use a saline solution that is available from the piercer's shop, or you can get it in the chemist. I would recommend this only for use if you haven't got the time to make up your own salt solution, as it is more effective whilst warm. So, only use the saline solution once or twice a week, do NOT use it as your primary cleaning solution.
How to Use Salt Water to Heal a Piercing
Salt water (or saline) solution is your best friend when it comes to caring for a piercing. It is strong enough to remove any impurities and possible infections, yet doesn't include any harsh chemicals that could cause the piercing to reject. Avoid using TCP or rubbing alcohol, as anything this harsh will just irritate the area and encourage migration of the jewelry.
- To prepare the salt water solution, boil the kettle and let it cool down. DO NOT just use hot water from the hot tap, because it will not be sterile.
- Once the water is at a comfortable, warm temperature, pour a cup full, add 1tsp of sea salt and stir in. This solution can then be used to clean your piercing.
- Use a cotton bud, and dip it into the solution. This can then be used to remove any crust that has formed around the jewelry. Do not "double dip" the same bud into the solution, as this will contaminate the solution.
- Then, put some of the solution into a small container, such as a sake cup, and hold this flat against your skin, covering your piercing. The heat, coupled with the salt, will encourage any infection to be drawn out, and will clean the area. If the piercing is in an area that is difficult to hold a container over without a mess, such as your eyebrow, then dip some clean cotton wool balls into the solution, and hold against the piercing for a couple of minutes each. Repeat this every time the water cools, for about 10 minutes.
This procedure is ideal for most body piercings such as facial, nipple, ear, and belly button piercings.
Aftercare Tips for Oral Piercings
When it comes to oral piercings, such as lip, tongue, cheek and anything in between, the aftercare is slightly different.
- Use Mouthwash: The salt solution can still be used to clean everything, and you can gargle with it, although it doesn't taste pretty...But I also encourage the use of medicated mouthwash twice a day to ensure that no bacteria grows around the piercing site. Your mouth is TEAMING with bacteria, some good, but a lot bad, so it is super important to try to cut down on pollutants while the piercing is healing.
- Don't Smoke: Under no circumstances should you smoke- I have seen an example of someones tongue going black because she was not told to stop smoking. Definitely not a nice look!
- Avoid Drinking: Try to avoid drinking, particularly for the first 3 weeks, because you can actually cause the piercing to swell over the jewelry, and this has to be surgically removed. Again, not a good look!
- Avoid Junk Food: Certain foods should be avoided, such as spicy food, seafood and try to avoid greasy take- aways. Think of your diet as though you were pregnant, at least for the first month or so. If something could give you food poisoning, avoid it, because it can do much worse if it has direct contact with your bloodstream.
- Avoid Sexual Contact: Last, but certainly not least, avoid any sort of sexual contact that involves your mouth. I wont spell that out, you can interpret it for yourself. Be especially vigilant of new partners or strangers- think about the fact you are letting their germs into your blood! eeew!!!! If you think this will be impossible, don't get the piercing. Wait until you are apart for a few weeks!!
Make Sure Any Hidden Piercings Can Breathe
One of the most important elements to a healing piercing is air. Your new piercing needs to breathe in order to scab over and heal the way that nature intended. If your new piercing happens to be in a place that is covered by your clothing most of the time, you will need to allow some time each day where it can be totally uncovered. If not, the piercing will take a prolonged period to heal, and can flare up now and then.
What to Do If Your Piercing Is Infected
There are some instances where piercings can flare up, despite our best efforts to keep them clean. If your piercing begins to look red and enflamed, and starts to hurt, it is probable that you have an infection. This can sometimes happen when you have changed jewelry (hence why it is so important to stick to the healing times before changing over).
- Do Not Remove the Jewelry!: If you have an infection, DO NOT REMOVE THE JEWELRY! I have had doctors misinform me about this when I had septicaemia. If you remove the jewelry, the infection can become trapped in a ball inside the site of the piercing. So, deal with the infection, and if you choose to remove it afterwards, fair enough!
- Amp Up Your Cleaning Routine: To remove the infection, just go back to your salt water application, but use slightly more salt.. say 1.5 teaspoons per cup of warm water. Up your cleaning to about 5 times a day, concentrating on holding the liquid over the site to extract the pus and infection. I would also use an antibacterial salve such as Savlon for extra bacteria fighting power!
- Go to the Doctor: If the site doesn't look better by about 3-5 days, OR if you begin to feel sick or dizzy, go to a doctor. You could develop blood poisoning, and be in need of antibiotics. Again, don't remove the piercing, but continue to treat it with the salt water solution, plus the antibiotics.
The infected look can also happen if your body begins to reject the piercing, which, unfortunately is possible! Remember that a piercing is a foreign object, so don't feel bad if you begin to reject a piercing- the fact that your body is rejecting this foreign body just proves that your immune system works well! Go and have it looked at by your piercer, who will confirm whether it is migrating, and if so, remove it ASAP. The big migration scar doesn't look pretty, trust me! And it's easier to re-pierce the area than try to persevere with a rejecting piercing.
Healing Times by Piercing Type
As I said before, everyone is different. In general, piercings are fully healed after about 8 weeks. Some people have super immune systems and are healed within 4 weeks, others can take up to 12. Your piercer should be able to advise you of how long your particular piercing should take to heal, but here is a list of the more popular piercings, and their estimated healing times.
- Earlobe—6–8 weeks, fairly basic piercing with little trauma.
- Ear Cartilage—12–24 weeks, depending on method and trauma to the site.
- Eyebrow—8–12 weeks, can be prone to migration.
- Nostril/Septum—9–12 weeks, quite eye-watering when piercing and caring for.
- Lip/Labret/Monroe—9–12 weeks, heals fairly quickly when properly cared for.
- Tongue—4-6 weeks, but swells A LOT at first.
- Belly Button—24–36 weeks, prone to irritation and migration because of clothes placement.
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Again, this is a guide and everyone is different. If you feel that your piercing isn't properly healed, give it a bit more time. As a guide, when there is no more pain and when the crust stops forming, then it is likely that the piercing is healed.
Be sure to use quality, high-grade steel body jewelry to avoid discolouring and infection. Also, ensure that any jewelry bought that isn't sterile packed should be thoroughly cleaned before you even attempt to put it in- you never know who's been touching it!
Hopefully this article has given you all the information required to properly take care of your new piercing. I hope you enjoy it, and feel free to comment with any questions you may have that are piercing-related; I have had a lot of experience personally, and will answer any queries to the best of my ability!
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2012 Lynsey Hart
Lynsey Hart (author) from Lanarkshire on July 04, 2017:
Hi Joyce, please read the full article, as there is some information on what to do if your piercing is infected, which is what this sounds like. If it gets any worse, or you are feeling ill, please go to your doctor straight away.
Joyce on July 03, 2017:
My piercing is about a 6days now and is bringing out pus in the right earlobe with ichting and pain.pls help..
Lynsey Hart (author) from Lanarkshire on December 20, 2013:
Ok. U need to make a batch of salt water as per instructions- perhaps with some extra salt in.
Use the solution while still warm on cotton wool, and hold over the piercing. Replace when cooled. Repeat for 15 mins per time... Twice a day.... Remove any crust with a cotton bud dipped in solution.
Use listerine or cortisol mouthwash to rinse 2-3 times a day!
Most importantly, stop smoking and drinking- this affects oral piercings. Avoid spicy food too.
Plus it might help to take a daily multivitamin!
If symptoms worsen, or ur neck/ glands swell, go to a doctor!
Sonia Regan on December 20, 2013:
Monroe piercing very red at moment it's 2 week old help