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Can Hydrogen Peroxide Cure an Infected Piercing?

I have a particular interest in health, spirituality, fitness, and the mind-body connection.

Handling a new piercing isn't exactly obvious.

Handling a new piercing isn't exactly obvious.

Hydrogen Peroxide for Ear Piercing

Piercings are quite a popular fashion trend, but in fact, piercing can be traced back thousands of years. While it is a safe procedure if done properly, it can occasionally cause infection. If not treated properly, piercing infections can become a serious issue.

Is Hydrogen Peroxide Good for Treating Infected Piercings?

The short answer is no, hydrogen peroxide will not cure your piercing infection, and it's not the ideal piercing cleanser, either. It's best to avoid using harsh chemicals like hydrogen peroxide or alcohol to clean your piercing because you'll risk drying your skin out and delaying the healing process.

Here, we'll delve into why H202 is a poor solution for your piercing infection and alternative treatments. I cover the following about piercing infections:

  • How do piercings become infected?
  • How can you tell if you have a piercing infection?
  • Cleaning and hydrogen peroxide rumors: What should you use instead?
  • Changing your ring (ear, belly button, etc.)

How Do Piercings Become Infected?

Ear piercings or any other body piercing causes a wound in the skin. Because of the nature of our skin, the wound begins to heal in 24 to 48 hours. That's the job of our immune system.

Additionally, the technician doing the piercing usually applies an anti-septic and anti-bacterial gel before and after the piercing. The piercing professional also uses clean needles to limit the potential for person-to-person transfer of pathogens. This is why it is important to get a piercing done by a professional, reliable expert. This minimizes the risk of contracting an infection after piercing.

Despite all efforts and precautions, some people end up getting infected because of the piercing.

Causes of Infections After Piercing

  1. Infected needles or unclean hands are used
  2. Improper handling of the pierced body part
  3. Contaminated ring
  4. The earring or any ring used is clasped too tightly
  5. A part of the ring is embedded in the skin
  6. Experiencing an allergic reaction to some metals like nickel
What are the signs of an infected piercing?

What are the signs of an infected piercing?

How to Tell If Your Piercing Is Infected

It is normal for your piercing to hurt, look pink, and swell initially. This is because you have a wound in place of the piercing. The infection doesn't become obvious immediately after piercing. It usually takes 3 to 5 days to become visible. However, in a few cases, you may have developed an infection during or after piercing.

Here are some sure signs and symptoms that you have an infected nose or ear after getting it pierced:

  1. At-Home Piercing: If you have pierced your own nose or ear, then the risk of the wound becoming infected is potentially higher due to unregulated, unconventional tool sterilization practices.
  2. Swelling: If there's swelling, then you have an infected nose or ear. Don't confuse this with minor swelling immediately following piercing, which is our body's natural reaction to the wound and will last up to a few days after the procedure.
  3. Redness: The infected area will become red. Again, this is not the same redness that you see immediately after piercing. The pinkish wound should return to normal skin color within a few days of piercing. If it turns red instead, then it's infected.
  4. Pus: You may also notice some pus forming in the infected area.
  5. Inflammation: You feel slight inflammation in the affected area. The area may feel warm, and you could almost feel your blood pulse against your skin near the infected area.
  6. Other Physical Symptoms: You may also experience symptoms of fever and nausea. You may feel a little over-sensitive about the skin around the infected area and would want to protect it from any touch.
Any piercing can potentially become infected.

Any piercing can potentially become infected.

How (Most) Studios Recommend Cleaning Your Piercing

Piercings should be cleaned with sterile saline or a distilled water and salt solution. Alcohol, hydrogen peroxide, and antibacterial ointments are not recommended, as they can slow the healing process. Use the following method according to your individual need.

How to Clean Your Piercing Infection

The best thing you can do is keep your piercing from becoming infected in the first place. But if you do get an infection...

  • Consulting a doctor should always be your first step when dealing with your infection, but keep your jewelry in.
  • Don't remove your jewelry from the infected area. I know, it's a natural reaction, but removing the ring will expose the infection and potentially increase the surface area. The hole will close and could potentially cause an abscess to form, trapping the infection. This will then be even more difficult to treat. Instead, keep the ring (or another jewelry piece) on.
  • Clean your hands thoroughly before trying to treat the infection.
  • Use sterile saline water to clean the infected area three times a day.
  • Do this for about 3 to 4 days, or until the infection goes down.
  • Sterile saline water is available at most pharmacies such as Walgreens or Rite Aid.

Why NOT Use Hydrogen Peroxide?

According to many sources, including Kaiser Permanente and The Association for Professional Piercers, hydrogen peroxide will stop the healing process of a wound.

How to Change Your Jewelry

You will need to be a little patient while changing the jewelry in an infected area after you've alleviated some of the symptoms with careful care. Be sure to ask your doctor before removing your jewelry after an infection. Here are some tips when you are ready:

  1. Seek professional help. Doing it on your own may be difficult. Ideally, you should go back to your piercer for the first cleaning, and use that opportunity to change rings.
  2. Be patient. Treat one piercing at a time if you have multiple piercings.
  3. Resort to warm saline water. If it is very difficult to remove the ring, then use warm water and saline. Mix warm water and saline and dab a cotton ball in it and squeeze it over the hole. Rotate the ring while you put warm water on the wound.

What Kind of Metal Jewelry Is Best to Prevent Infection?

If you are getting a piercing done for the first time, here are some tips.

Buy Silver or Gold Jewelry—Not Steel

Make sure you buy the right kind of ring before getting your piercing. Don't take a shortcut and buy some cheap jewelry, which is a common mistake. If you buy a steel ring, it will increase your chances of an infection. Steel reacts to water and can rust.

Ideally, purchase white silver or gold jewelry. Because you don't wish to leave the wound open, buy your jewelry before going for a piercing.

Exception: If you have already got a piercing done and are wearing steel jewelry, don't take it out until you have found a gold or white silver ring of the same gauge (circumference or thickness) to immediately replace it with. Leaving the wound open will only increase the risk of infection or aggravate one that is present.

Removal of rings can lead to the piercing closing very quickly after the procedure.

Removal of rings can lead to the piercing closing very quickly after the procedure.

Things to Remember If You're Considering Getting a Piercing

  • Don't pierce yourself (and don't ask your "most experienced" friend). Go to a professional piercer with good, consistent online reviews.
  • At the first sign of an infection, make an appointment with your doctor. If symptoms persist after treatment, see your doctor again. Small infections can grow and potentially be life threatened if not treated properly.

Share Your Experience With Piercings

Have you had any piercing done? What's your experience? Do you have a favorite home remedy for treating a piercing infection?

Share it in the comments section below!

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.


Kimberly jancsy on November 10, 2019:

Neat and clean that is it

Avery on October 02, 2019:

I got my ear pierced along time ago, but there is a bad infection on my two bottom piercings on one of my ears. It has been infected for about 3/4 weeks , but I finally looked into it and realized that I should probably consult a doctor.

Lili on December 08, 2018:

I have an industrial bar. I got it done about 9 months ago. Today it was hurting more than usual so I put some hydrogen peroxide after my shower. I just hope there’s no infection, and that tomorrow it will be better

Alana Niall (author) from Christchurch, New Zealand on April 04, 2018:

Hi Callmehbob, please consult a doctor if you experience any pain after the first 24 hours.

Callmehbob on March 29, 2018:

So my ears are not infected but they are pink and I just got my ears pierced 2 days ago what do I do

Ester on September 09, 2017:

What kind of piercing is that in the picture?

Michelle egan on August 10, 2017:

I got 2 ear piercing done but both got infection get them takeing out

Sora on June 03, 2017:

Honestly unscented soap and hydrogen peroxide are your best friend sometimes sea salt soaks don't help much depending on how bad the infection. For me the best soaps are dove or dial.