Piercing Aftercare

 

Please read the following instructions carefully as it underlines some important general aftercare information, which will aid a quick and effective healing process.  

If you are unsure of anything, have any questions or adverse reactions please do not hesitate to contact us. Remember we are here to help you.

There are various factors which will determine the healing time of your piercing. These include diet, lifestyle, your immune system and irritation to the piercing during the healing period.

Problematic piercings are usually caused by:

  • Not washing hands thoroughly before cleaning the piercing
  • Not following our given aftercare procedures
  • Aggravation (due to clothing etc… on the area)
  • Touching or playing with piercing/jewellery unnecessarily
  • The use of cotton buds/pads/tips
  • Using too much salt and not natural sea salt
  • Using chemicals, lotions and creams other than what is advised by the piercer

Cleaning your piercing:

The most effective way of cleaning your piercing will be to use a SEA SALT & WATER solution (saline solution).

To make your saline solution mix ¼ teaspoon of sea salt to ½ pint or 450ml (approx. a mug) of boiled water. Wait until the solution cools down to lukewarm before starting your cleaning procedure. This will prevent you causing accidental burns.

First 3 days.

  1.  Soak a wedge of clean tissue, ideally kitchen roll, with the solution and place on the piercing for a few minutes or until it cools down.
  2.  You can then remove any dry matter gently from each side of the piercing and the jewellery with a newly soaked piece of tissue without rotating or moving the jewellery.
  3.  Finish your cleaning by patting it dry with a fresh clean tissue.

After 3 days.

Repeat step 1 & 2. After making sure that the piercing and the jewellery are free from dry matter, rotate/slide the jewellery gently to the one side of the piercing, gently cleaning excess discharge with the same solution. Repeat this at each of the entry points then finish your cleaning by patting it dry with a clean tissue.

It is important to follow this cleaning process twice daily until the piercing is fully healed. This must be done in the evening before going to bed (as this is the most common time for bacteria to enter the piercing due to uncontrolled movement of the jewellery), and should be done in the morning before starting your active day.

If you are unable to make up your own solution (for example if you are at a festival, travelling etc.), you can use a pre-made sterile saline solution (available to purchase from any chemist) to clean your piercing. However it is worth noting that even though the pre-made saline solutions are sufficient for cleaning your piercing in the short term, it is unlikely to contribute to the actual healing process.

 

You should avoid anything that is alcohol-based (for example surgical spirit) as it can dry out and damage delicate healing skin, and avoid oils (for example tea tree oil) as oils can suffocate the piercing, preventing oxygen flow and therefore causing further irritation.

 

This may sound complex, however, after a couple of days, it will become second nature.


Healing times:

For most piercings, you are looking at about 2 months for the initial healing process; this is where you will experience the majority of swelling, discomfort, discharge and crustiness around the piercing site. Soft tissue piercings (for example most facial piercings and ear lobes) will generally be close to healed by the end of the 2 month period.

It is important to note that anything going through hard cartilage (for example most ear piercings that are not the lobes) often take up to a year to fully settle down. You may find that if you are stressed, not eating or sleeping well, or if your hormones are playing up, this may cause the piercing to flare up, in which case you should treat the piercing as if it’s fresh and pick up on your warm salt soaks again. Don’t panic if your piercing was fine one day and then swollen the next – it’s just part of the process!

Nipple, navel and cheek piercings will often take 4-6 months to fully heal, and genital piercings can take anywhere from one month to six (depending on the piercing). Generally speaking, the thinner the tissue, the faster it will heal (for example an inner labia piercing would heal significantly faster than an outer labia piercing, and a frenum would heal faster than an ampallang). Tongue piercings should be downsized after 2 weeks but are not considered fully healed until at least 4 weeks.

Please note that these time-frames are just a rough guideline – you may take slightly shorter or longer to heal depending on a number of health and lifestyle factors. Trauma such as catching/knocking the piercing may send it backwards in the healing process. If you are unsure if your piercing is healing properly, you can come and see us any time and we would be happy to take a look.

 

Jewellery and materials

We only ever pierce with sterile, medical-grade titanium jewellery (the same metal a hospital would use for a hip/knee replacement). This is because titanium is fully hypoallergenic and is the safest metal for the body (even more so than steel, sterling silver and gold). For certain genital piercings, the piercer may opt for a PTFE (medical grade flexible plastic) bar.

We would perform your piercing with either a straight barbell, a curved barbell, a labret bar (flat back) or a ball closure ring depending on the piercing. We use surface bars or curved bars for surface piercings (depending on the location), and of course have sterile microdermal bases and various coloured tops for single-point piercings. In most cases, the length of the starter jewellery will be longer than your final size as it has to accommodate for swelling. If you would like to know more about what jewellery we use for specific piercings, feel free to give us a call and ask.

 

Bleeding and swelling

It is not uncommon for a piercing to bleed at first, but the active bleeding should stop within a few minutes. Some bruising may occur, with some spotting in the days that follow. If you have ingested alcohol, THC, or any kind of blood thinning medication, you are more likely to bleed after the piercing is done. Gentle pressure around the piercing site should slow the bleeding, but if the bleeding is excessive and persistent then let us know as soon as possible in case you need to seek medical advice.

All pierced sites tend to swell immediately after treatment, but the starter jewellery used will be chosen to accommodate for this. Piercings may swell to the limit of the bar before settling back down again. In rare cases, the piercing site will swell excessively and the bar may start to embed. If you think your piercing is becoming embedded, come and see us as soon as possible so that we may switch it for a longer piece.

In some cases, there may be a delay in swelling; this could be anywhere from 1-3 weeks. If you suddenly wake up and your new cartilage piercing is suddenly swollen, throbbing and hot to the touch, don’t panic! It should settle down within a week or two, but if not then do not hesitate to contact us.

 

Allergic reactions and infections

It is not uncommon for some people to be sensitive to certain metals, due to the rate at which nickel is released into the body. Signs of an allergic reaction are a rash, redness or itching around the area of the piercing. If you think you may be having an allergic reaction to jewellery purchased elsewhere, you may try switching to titanium jewellery.

An infection may occur when the equipment or jewellery used was not sterile, and if the piercing wasn’t kept clean. Signs of an infection include: green or yellow coloured discharge with a strong odour (not to be confused with the pale yellow discharge which is normal for healing piercings); the pierced area may feel hot to the touch and you may develop a fever and swollen glands. Infection is serious so if you think your piercing may be infected, come in and see us or go straight to your GP.

 

Migration and rejection

In basic terms, a new piercing is a foreign object in the body; in some cases, the body will treat it as such, and will try to reject the jewellery in the same way it would reject a splinter. The piercing will move from its original position towards the surface of the skin (this is called migration). In some cases (e.g. navel, bridge, eyebrow, surface piercings), slight migration of the jewellery is a normal part of the healing process as the piercing settles into a comfortable position. Migration is more likely to occur if the piercing was not positioned properly and with the correct jewellery, and if the piercing site is experiencing excessive irritation (e.g. high waisted jeans on a fresh navel piercing).

You should try to wear loose, cotton clothing to minimise irritation against the new piercing, and in general should try to keep the piercing as dry and exposed as possible so that oxygen may circulate around the wound.

In some cases where the piercing is experiencing excessive friction or if the anatomy is not suited to the piercing, the migration process will continue until the jewellery is completely rejected from the body. Signs of rejection include excessive swelling, inflammation, and hyperpigmentation around the area. If you think your piercing may be rejecting, come in and see us so that we can talk about the best course of action.

 

Scarring

Some people develop scar tissue at the site of the piercing. While scarring often develops as a result of trauma or infection, some people are simply more prone to it than others. Most scar tissue matures and settles in its own time, but oil based moisturisers can help to flatten excessive scar tissue (only on fully healed piercings or old piercing scars).

In some cases, the body doesn’t know when to stop producing scar tissue around a piercing, creating a keloid (which looks like a small bubble or pimple next to or on the piercing, sometimes accompanied by discharge and crustiness). Although unsightly and sometimes uncomfortable, keloids are nothing to worry about and can go away with patience and proper treatment. If you are worried about scar tissue or think you may be developing a keloid, give us a call so that we may walk you through a treatment plan.

 

General Dos and Don’ts

  1.  You should not touch the piercing unless you are doing your cleaning routine, and should always wash your hands before touching it.
  2.  You should not play with oral piercings as this can delay healing, as well as cause potential damage to your teeth and gums.
  3.  Don’t use cotton buds – the fibres have a tendency to wrap around the jewellery, causing irritation.
  4.  You should not switch your starter jewellery out until you are past the initial healing period (approx. 6-8 weeks depending on the piercing). If you are unsure whether or not your piercing is ready to change, pop in and a team member will take a look.
  5.  Do not pick at the build-up around the piercing during the day – if you are doing your salt soaks as advised then the ‘crusties’ can be easily wiped away during the cleaning process.
  6.  Do ask us any questions you may have – remember we are here to help, regardless of where you got pierced or what advice you have been given previously 🙂

 

What to do if something goes wrong:

If you are experiencing problems or complications with your piercing then you should come in and see us at your earliest convenience; most of the time it’s nothing to worry about but it is better to be safe and we are always on hand to help. If you think you may be developing an infection then visit your GP promptly; do not remove the jewellery until the infection has cleared, as this will prevent drainage which can lead to an abscess developing.

Bournemouth Body Piercing Clinic