***READ POST #1 BEFORE ASKING A QUESTION***After over a year of answering Soompiers’ questions about piercings on other threads, it has become clear that the general population lacks some very basic knowledge about piercing care and healing processes. This first post will be basically be a "Dumbie's Guide to Piercing Care". It will also answer the most common questions that people tend to have. Enjoy!
Visit the newly revamped Tattoo Thread!
*UPDATED WITH NEW INFO ON MARCH 8, 2010*
TWO RULES FOR THIS THREAD:
1. DO NOT ANSWER QUESTIONS IF YOU ARE NOT
HIGHLY EXPERIENCED / KNOWLEDGEABLE
I cannot stress this enough. People are repeatedly giving horrible advice that could endanger others.
This thread is composed of info provided by the APP (Association of Professional Piercers) as are my responses, to the best that I am able.
2. READ THIS POST CAREFULLY BEFORE ASKING A QUESTION
so that the same answers don't have to be repeated over and over.
- Clean your piercing with the following products:
LIQUID ANTIMICROBIAL / GERMICIDAL SOAP
These soaps not only kill germs, but also remove the residue of dirt, skin oils, cosmetics, cigarette smoke, and natural discharge. Healing piercings discharge secreted lymph, blood and blood plasma, and dead cells. This is a normal part of healing. Medicated soaps such as Satin and Provon are most effective and available from your piercer and some pharmacies. If these are unavailable, use a mild, additive-free and fragrance-free liquid soap. Stay away from harsher, commercially available anti-bacterial soaps, especially soaps containing triclosan (such as Dial). These soaps can be very irritating and less effective over time.
To clean your piercing, first wash your hands. (Never touch your piercing with dirty hands. This is the easiest way to get an infection.) Lather the soap in your hands--do not apply directly to the piercing--and then lather the piercing and the surrounding area. Make sure to remove any discharge on the jewelry. It is not necessary to rotate the jewelry during the cleaning.
WARM SALT WATER SOAKS
Warm salt-water soaks can be very helpful in healing piercings. They help to draw out discharge, stimulate blood circulation, soothe irritations, and help heal/prevent infection. To soak, tip the container against your pierced area creating a seal, or simply submerge your piercing in the container. It is strongly suggested to soak your piercing as least once a day, and more often if healing is difficult. Soak your piercing for 5-15 minutes...the longer the better.
With some piercings, it's nearly impossible to fully submerge it in a container of the solution [tragus, rook...], in which case you can hold a drenched cotton ball to your piercing instead. However, as long as you are physically able [even if it's uncomfortable!], submerging your piercing is very important since it allows the solution to flow through and flush out the wound.
Afterwards, rinse with water [preferably along with one of the liquid soaps mentioned above] and pat dry with a clean cloth or paper towels. Make sure you clean your container very thoroughly before you use it again for a soak.
Make a soaking solution by mixing 1/4 tsp. sea salt and 1 cup warm water. Use pure sea salt (non-iodized) and not table salt, which contains extra chemicals (aluminum, magnesium, iodine, etc.) that can irritate your piercing and dextrose (sugar) that can cause yeast infections. When buying salt, read the label: if it contains only sodium chloride (salt), or just salt and calcium, it's good. It can be purchased at most grocery and health food stores. Do not use Epsom salts.
SALINE WOUND SOLUTION
[Such as H2Ocean and Blairex]
Sterile saline solutions are NOT a substitution for sea salt soaks, but are a convenient, portable cleaning solution. While saline rinses or soaks do not remove skin oils, discharge, dirt, or residue around a piercing as effectively as soaps, they are more convenient and are not as prone to irritate your piercing. To use, liberally spray the solution, thoroughly irrigating and rinsing the piercing. Sterile saline pads are also good for on-the-go cleaning. Your jewelry does not need to be rotated, and the sterile saline solution does not need to be rinsed off.
- Oral piercings require special care:
If you have a lip or cheek piercing, the outside should be cared for like any other piercing. However, the wound on the inside of your mouth requires some special care. You will need to clean the inside of your mouth every time you eat, drink or smoke. The only exception is water. Rinse for 30-60 seconds with warm salt water or non-alcohol antimicrobial/antibacterial mouthwash diluted according to package instructions. This will not only clean your mouth, but will soothe mouth pain and speed healing.
Try to cut back on smoking, and avoid chewing gum or playing with your piercing during healing. Avoid wet kissing and unprotected oral sex until healed. If you must kiss your partner, have her/him first clean their mouth (see above) and clean your own mouth afterward. Even if you are monogamous, your partner still has different natural bacteria than you do, which can cause infections.
Keep your fingers out of your mouth! Don't lick your fingers, chew your nails, or touch the piercing during healing.
- Relief from hypertrophic scarring:
Hypertrophic scarring is the name for that annoying little bump that can appear next to a piercing. It is often caused by longterm irritation/abuse to a piercing or just simply bad luck. It is seen especially often around ear cartilage piercings, like industrials. To help reduce your scarring, make sure you have high-quality, straight-backed jewelry in your piercing and continue to soak and cleanse it. When it comes to industrials, my personal suggestion is to be pierced with 2 labrets/barbells and switch to an industrial bar after it has healed. This will prevent the extreme (and potentially scar-causing) pressure applied to the healing piercings by the industrial bar. Soaking it in warm salt water will remove any discharge in your bump and decrease swelling. These products may also help:
Gently massage a drop of this oil onto the affected area. It can be purchased online or at many piercing shops.
Dermatologists suggest a similar treatment for shrinking any scar on the skin.
TEA TREE OIL
This oil is extremely concentrated and must be diluted with vitamin E oil or jojoba oil. Combine a drop of the tea tree oil with a drop of the vitamin E or jojoba and gently massage into the affected area. This is very effective, but can be quite drying to the area.
CRAZY CHAMELEON SOAP
This product is incredibly effective for shrinking hypertrophic scarring. It also smells great! It can be a bit drying to the area.
CHAMOMILE TEA COMPRESS
Simply make some chamomile tea and press the warm tea bag to the affected area until it cools. You will need to dunk the tea bag in the tea every once in a while to keep it hot.
- Do NOT use the following to clean your piercing:
PIERCED EAR SOLUTION / BENZYLKONIUM CHOLRIDE
While sometimes used in the past, Benzylkonium Chloride has proven to be problematic for many people. It is not as effective a cleanser as antimicrobial soaps and does not penetrate or remove oil and discharge in the piercing. Most BZK products have a very short shelf life of a month or less. Additionally, there has been some confusion over ingredients and it seems some manufacturers may be using formulas which are not compatible with human tissue.
Alcohol is far too harsh. It irritates and dries out the skin and can delay healing.
Peroxide does kill many bacteria, but it also destroys the healthy skin around the piercing. Used long enough, it can eat away at the skin and actually keep your piercing from healing.
ANTIBIOTIC OINTMENTS (BACTINE, NEOSPORIN, ETC.)
These include such products as Neosporin, Bacitracin and triple antibiotic ointments. These do not work for more than two weeks, as your body becomes tolerant to the antibiotic in that time. This makes them worthless for healing piercings. They also have large amounts of petroleum jelly in them, which keeps oxygen out of the piercing and creates the perfect warm moist environment for bacteria to breed. The greasy barrier also keeps water and cleaning solutions from effectively reaching your piercing, making it impossible to clean. Read the label: "Do not use on puncture wounds."
It is highly suggested to wait these these times before changing your jewelry. Within these timeframes, you will know your piercing is healed when it is 100% comfortable every day--no more redness, swelling, discharge, sensitivity, or anything along those lines. Your jewelry should feel like it is an extension of your body that you can move around without any discomfort.
Earlobes: 6-8 weeks (MUCH longer when pierced with gun)Ear Cartilage [tragus, rook, conch, helix, etc.]: 6 months - 1 year (MUCH longer when pierced with gun)Eyebrow: 6-8 weeksNostril: 6 months-1 yearSeptum: 6-8 weeksBridge: 8-10 weeksTongue: 4-6 weeksLip/Labret: 8-10 weeksMonroe/Medusa: 8-10 weeksCheek: 3-4 monthsFemale Nipple: 6 months - 1 yearMale Nipples: 4-6 monthsNavels: 6 months - 1 yearSurface: 1 year +
INFECTIONS & IRRITATIONS:
IRRITATIONS: More often than not, what you think is an infection is really irritation, caused by anything that puts pressure on the jewelry or holds it in an unnatural position. If your piercing is red, swollen right around the hole, peeling, excreting white or yellow fluid or blood, or appears to have a solid lump or bubble of discolored skin around it, it is probably irritated. This is a sign that you are subjecting it to excessive abuse.
If your piercing gets irritated, figure out what is causing the problem. Be particularly aware of automatic actions (unconsciously playing with it, grinding teeth with tongue piercings, etc.). Usually the symptoms will go away if you eliminate the cause. Warm salt water soaks can help ease irritation and heal any existing tears, and prevent infection from setting in on the raw tissue. The longer you soak an irritated piercing, the better, so try to soak for at least 10 minutes 2-3 times per day.
INFECTIONS: These come from exposure to bacteria and other contaminants (by contact with dirty hands, other people's body fluids, dust, unclean jewelry, swimming in dirty water, etc.). They are often easily avoided with common sense and hygiene (see Quick Tips & Common Sense). You will usually know your piercing is infected if: the surrounding area becomes red, swollen, hot to the touch or itchy; you get discharge which is dark yellow, greenish or bloody, or has an odor. Facial piercing infections are often accompanied by a small fluid-filled pimple on the hole. If discharge is light in color and not accompanied by pain, itching, redness or swelling, it is probably healthy. Step up your soaks and cleaning and it should come off.
If an infection occurs, DO NOT REMOVE THE JEWELRY! Infections are more easily treated if an opening exists for antiseptics to enter the wound and for discharge to exit. Without jewelry, the surface closes over, trapping the infection inside and turning it from a local surface infection into a generalized body infection. Plus, you lose your piercing unnecessarily. Hot salt water soaks are the best way to calm minor infections. They help draw out discharge and contaminants, soothe raw tissue and stimulate the body's natural healing mechanisms. The longer you soak an infected piercing, the better, so try to soak for at least 10 minutes 3 times per day. However, even if the infection clears up, it will return if you do not eliminate the original cause of contamination. Pay close attention to how you treat your piercing and try to find the problem.
Of course, in the event of a serious infection, see your doctor. Bear in mind that they may not be familiar with healing patterns and problems specific to body piercings. If you wish to keep your piercing, firmly and clearly explain this. If infection (rather than allergy or scarring) is indeed the problem, leaving the jewelry in will not cause complications.
Q: I want to get 2 (or 3 or 4...) piercings in one sitting. Is that a good idea?
A: The amount of piercings one gets in a single sitting it purely a matter of personal preference. If you are responsible and think that having multiple new piercings will help you be regular with your aftercare regime, then go for it. On the other hand, if you think it would be too much soaking and cleaning for you to do a good job with, wait and get just one piercing at a time.
Q: How much does it cost to get a ______ piercing?
A: It depends ENTIRELY on your location, your piercer, and what jewelry is used. Call your piercer and ask.
Q: What is the piercing process like?
A: First your piercer will consult with you about exactly where you would like the piercing to be. They will mark you with a pen and let you check the placement with a mirror. They will often make multiple, small adjustments to the placement of the mark. Then it will be time for you to relax and take deep breaths while your piercer prepares the jewelry and the hollow, specifically gauged needle. After everything is ready, they will position the needle carefully by the mark that they made earlier and tell you to take a slow, deep breath. As you exhale, your muscles automatically relax and they will quickly slide the needle through. They will immediately follow the needle with your jewelry. Finally, it's time to and get your aftercare instructions (you can always come here for questions about those!) and to admire your new piercing.
Q: Do I need to rotate my jewelry when I clean my piercing?
A: Absolutely not. The need to rotate your jewelry is just an old wives tale that many less knowledgeable piercers still believe. Rotating your jewelry while your piercing is still new will disrupt the healing tissue and possibly delay your healing.
Q: I have sensitive skin...What are materials that are definitely safe for me to wear in my piercings?
A: Implant grade steel, titanium, niobium, PTFE, silicone, glass, and solid, high-karat gold (nothing less than 14k, 18k is best). Against common belief, silver is one of the worst choices for sensitive skin (or ANY piercing for that matter).
Q: What is wrong with piercing myself/having a friend do it?
A: Many things...It is extremely unsafe. Since you probably do not have autoclaving equipment, you could easily get a disease/infection. Unless you have professional piercing needles, the blunt and not hollow tool that you are using (piercing earring, sewing needle, whatever) will cause major trauma to your skin. Also, when you pierce yourself, it is MUCH harder to do it smoothly and at the correct angle. Piercings done at home are just a terrible idea...And they never look as nice as professionally done ones.
Q: What is wrong with getting pierced with a gun?
A: They can't be effectively sterilized. Low quality jewelry is used. The design of the studs is bad for piercings - the butterfly backs collect bacteria and discharge. The studs tend to be too short for many people, which may cause piercing to completely envelop the jewelry. The actual 'piercers' using them have little or no knowledge of piercings and aftercare and are likely to give you bad advice since they aren't trained professionals. The stud being forced through your ear causes much more trauma than a sharp, clean cut by a needle. This trauma often leads to hypertrophic scarring, a MUCH longer healing time than is listed above, and infection. DO NOT GET PIERCED WITH A GUN.
Q: HELP! I have a bump next to my piercing…Is this a keloid? What do I do?
A: Keloids are quite rare and are a serious medical condition. People who get keloids are genetically predisposed for the condition. You would probably know you were susceptible to keloids long before you got pierced, since they would appear at the sites of other wounds--not just piercings.
What you probably have is common hypertrophic scarring, which results from trauma or abuse to the piercing--long-term wear of a hoop/ring, low-quality jewelry, sleeping on it, touching/bumping it, poor aftercare, and/or changing the jewelry in your piercing too early.
To help reduce your scarring, make sure you have high-quality, straight-backed jewelry in your piercing and continue to soak and cleanse it. Soaking it in warm salt water will remove any discharge in your bump and decrease swelling. Also, see the suggested products above in the "For relief from hypertrophic scarring..." section.
Q: I changed my jewelry earlier than I should have...Is that bad? What should I do now?
A: Yes, it is bad because your body needs the FULL healing time [times are listed above in HEALING TIMES] to heal perfectly around your piercing. Changing your jewelry before that time is up will make your piercing raw and irritated all over again and drastically increases your chance of infection and scarring. All you can do now is put your jewelry back in and treat your piercing as though it is brand new [see BASIC CLEANING] and this time, wait the FULL TIME before you change it again.
Q: How do I find a safe piercer/know if my piercer is safe?
A: I highly recommend using http://safepiercing.org to locate an APP certified piercer in your area. The APP is an international association dedicated to the spreading of vital health and safety info related to body piercing, piercers, health care providers and the general public. If a piercer is recommended by the APP, you can trust that they are top-of-the-barrel. However, if you would rather use a piercer that is not certified by the Association of Professional Piercers, just make sure that it follows these safety guidelines.
Q: I want to stretch my piercing! How do I do it?
A: This guide is one of the best stretching guides out there.
Q: I want to get [insert name of piercing]. For anyone who has that done, how much did it hurt?
A: Piercing pain varies COMPLETELY from person to person, and the experience is never the same for any two people. For example, my tragus and monroe piercings did not hurt at all, but my nose piercings did. But some people say the complete opposite! The only way to really know is to find out for yourself :]
QUICK TIPS & COMMON SENSE:
KEEP YOUR JEWELRY IN.
While your piercing is healing, keep your jewelry in at all times. After your piercing has healed, you can change your jewelry, but jewelry should never be left out for longer than the time it takes to insert a new piece. If you must remove your jewelry temporarily after healing (such as for work or surgery), there are less visible and non-metal alternatives that can be worn for short periods of time.STAY HEALTHY.
The healthier your lifestyle, the more quickly you can heal. This includes eating well, easing stress and getting enough sleep. A good multivitamin, especially one containing zinc and vitamin C, can help your body rebuild itself. Avoid getting pierced while you are sick, as your immune system is already strained and healing will be harder. Also, avoid getting pierced while pregnant; your body’s energies are focused elsewhere. Reduce smoking and avoid recreational drug use.KEEP HANDS OFF.
Dirty fingers are an excellent way to get a piercing infected. Wash your hands with an antibacterial soap before handling your piercing or jewelry. Contrary to popular rumor, dirty rings do not need to be turned through all day. This only pulls germs into the hole. Unless you are cleaning your piercing, keep your hands off!CHECK JEWELRY.
Any jewelry with screw-on balls, discs, etc. should be checked occasionally to make sure the ends are on tight (especially tongues, labrets and navels).DO NOT CONSTRICT YOUR PIERCINGS.
Your piercing will not heal properly if the jewelry is held in an unnatural position. Therefore, avoid wearing tight clothing over a healing piercing. This is especially true of navel piercings. For these, the waistline of the clothing must be low enough that it will not hit the piercing when you stand, bend over or sit down. Remember that once the ring begins to heal crooked, it will not go straight again.
AVOID ORAL CONTACT.
Mouths harbor lots of bacteria and germs. Putting them on/near your piercing is one of the fastest ways to get an infection.AVOID OTHER PEOPLE'S BODILY FLUIDS.
Remember, you and your partner have different bacteria and can give each other infections. Pay close attention with new oral and genital piercings.KEEP MAKE-UP AND HAIR PRODUCTS AWAY.
Dirty hair should be kept off fresh ear and facial piercings. Clean piercings after applying hair products and make-up, as they contain irritants and may harbor bacteria. Also consider that telephones and eyeglasses can come into contact facial and ear piercings. Wipe them down with antiseptic and keep them away from piercings.CUT DOWN ON SMOKING.WEAR CLEAN CLOTHES.
The clothes over a fresh piercing can harbor bacteria and other infectious matter. Make sure your sheets and bedding are clean as well.KEEP PETS AWAY FROM FRESH PIERCINGS.BE CAREFUL WHERE YOU SWIM.
Sea salt and chlorine may accelerate healing, but the bacteria and pollution in water do not. If possible, avoid swimming for the first few weeks of a new piercing, and always clean your piercing when you get out of the water (EarCare or saline comes in handy here). Public pools, lakes and hot tubs are especially nasty germ breeding zones. If you must swim during healing, consider using a water-tight wound covering such as Tegaderm or Clean Seals, available at your pharmacy.