Body Piercing Frequently Asked Questions

Welcome to the Tribalectic Body Piercing FAQ! Here you will find answers to some of the most common questions about body piercing. If you can't find the answer to your question here, also see our articles and information. Our message board forums are also a great place for information.

1 - Is it gonna hurt?

Not nearly as much as you might think! In fact, the actual piercing is so brief that the worst part is the preceding mental anxiety and fear. And, no matter how the piercing felt, almost everyone who gets pierced can't help but laugh or smile when it's over. Don't get me wrong, piercing is not a painless experience--but pain is completely relative to the individual and the pain incurred during a piercing is nothing that the average person can't handle. Remember: the piercing process only lasts a split second, while the new addition to your body can be enjoyed as long as you like! 

2 - How long will it take to heal?

That depends. Each area of the body has its own unique healing period and process. Oral and oral/facial piercings tend to heal fastest, while others tend to heal a bit slower. Also, every individual body heals and reacts to piercings in an individualized manner. So, your friend may have tackled an entire pizza a few days after getting a tongue piercing (which is HIGHLY unrecommended) while you, on the other hand, may still be spoon feeding yourself ice cream and soup after waiting the same amount of time. A general guideline for approximate healing times is as follows:

Cheek: 2-3 months
Cartilage: 2 months-1 year
Earlobe: 6-8 weeks
Eyebrow: 6-8 weeks
Genitals: 4 weeks-6 months
Labret: 6-8 weeks
Lip: 6-8 weeks
Navel: 6 months-over 1 year
Nipple: 2-6 months
Nostril: 2 months-1 year
Septum: 6-8 weeks
Tongue: 4-6 weeks 

3 - What if a shop doesn't seem clean and my piercer isn't wearing gloves, isn't using pouched needles and jewelry, or simply being an assh*le when I ask questions?

Get up and walk out! Stright up, there's no longer any reason to put up with inferior and unsafe shops and piercers. The APP states that there are between 7,000 to 10,000 shops in the United States that perform piercings--and the numbers are growing rapidly. For you, the piercee, this means that you have the decision to go many different places to get pierced. So, if a shop seems to suck and appear unprofessional, there's no reason to feel as though, "I guess I'm getting pierced here or nowhere." I highly recommend you check out our What to Expect link in the Pierced Community. After that, try and do some research before choosing a shop or piercer. Ask around and determine what shops have solid reputations for being sterile, quality, and friendly. 

4 - What can and can't I do during the healing period?

Basically, treat your piercing like what it is: a wound. Would you play rough sports or have rough sexual encounters if you were wounded? Would you irritate a wound that is trying to heal? You should treat your fresh piercings as gently as possible--at all times, at all costs. This will insure that your body is healing your new piercing at the fastest rate possible. And always remember to wash your hands thoroughly with anti-bacterial soap before touching your healing piercing. For further information regarding healing and aftercare please click on the 'Healing and Aftercare' link.

5 - How long before I can change the starter jewelry?

In accordance with healing, this time period can vary from person to person. There are two things to consider: the initial and full healing periods. The initial healing period is that time when the body creates a nice layer of skin between you and the starter jewelry. The full healing period is when the new piercing is entirely healed. Now, when deciding how long to wait before changing your jewelry you have to remember that you don’t want to reopen the wound. This will delay your healing process and require intense aftercare to prevent possible infection. And when you change your jewelry you are going to irritate your new piercing—no matter how gentle you are. So, my advice is to wait until the piercing is no longer tender (meaning, you can play with your piercing without experiencing ANY discomfort). At this point you can consider changing your jewelry. However, use as much care as possible when changing your jewelry for the first time! 

6 - Why do I have to start with stainless steel, titanium, or gold jewelry?

These are the best materials to prevent adverse reactions to the new object in your body. There will be plenty of time for the fun involved with changing your jewelry to express yourself or reflect your personal style. But it will suck if you lose your piercing because you have no patience. So, try to enjoy each stage of your new piercing and understand that better you treat your new holes, the sooner you’ll be able to pimp-out your new piercing. 

7 - For how long can I keep out my jewelry?

This depends. Each piercing has a different lifespan without jewelry. For example, I removed my second tongue barbell to go to the dentist and after an hour and a half the hole closed up. On the other hand, I've kept my earlobe jewelry out for days without having my holes shrink or close-up. Bottom line, if you have to remove your jewelry, get a retainer. This will prevent any chance of losing the piercing. And retainers are made with clear lucite, flesh colored or clear acrylic ends, and other styles of "hideable" accessories. So hiding your piercing shouldn't be an issue. And for athletes, monofilament nylon, or other types of inert metallic substances may serve to keep your piercing open while engaging in activity.

8 - Will a piercing heighten sensitivity in the pierced area?

Yes. While all piercings will make you more aware of the pierced area, there are definitely some piercings that heighten sensitivity more than others. Typically, these include the tongue, nipples, and genitals. As a piercer I have heard everything from “erotic stimulation” to “instant orgasm.” Now, I cannot guarantee that one of these three types of piercings will make you shudder in sexual or sensual delight; but, I will say that I have never heard anyone say that one of these three types of piercings did not enhance sensitivity. 

9 - My piercing looks phucked-up … what should I do?

There are several different things that can be wrong with your piercing. Most commonly, you may have an infection or adverse reaction to the jewelry. Please click on the Healing and Aftercare link for our comprehensive Suggested Aftercare & Healing Guidelines. If you feel as though this information is not clarifying your problem, please contact the piercer at or shop in which you were pierced. If you are in a new location, contact your local professional piercer or shop. If you still don’t feel satisfied, or if the complications persist, please contact your personal physician or schedule to see a local doctor. 

10 - Is piercing some new “fad” or “trend”?

Hell no!! Piercing has been around since back in the day. It has been practiced in nearly every culture all over the world for thousands of years. The reason why some weak-ass journalists call piercing a “fad” or “trend” is either because they don’t get around much (non-ear piercings have officially been in the US since Gauntlet opened shop in the early 70’s) or they are uneducated about the myriad of cultures and societies that inhabit our planet. In my opinion, we are merely experiencing the Western Body Art Renaissance. Now that body art has spread beyond a select few subcultures in the US, our peoples have come to appreciate the beautification and joy that body art offers. Tribalectic is currently embarking on a huge project to provide you with the most comprehensive and accurate information regarding the history of body piercing. For now, keep your eyes on Tribalectic’s Online Magazine for new and archived articles about body piercing and body art.

11 - Should I "spin" my jewelry when cleaning a new piercing, or will this drag bacteria into the wound and delay healing?

After receiving a couple emails concerning the effectiveness of "spinning" jewelry during the cleaning process (for a fresh piercing), I went ahead and consulted Tribalectic's piercing-friendly medic, Dr. Janet L. H. Keating. The following is her response to my inquiry:

"Rotating or "spinning" the jewelry during healing will cut down on scabbing. If done with clean hands, it should not increase the infection rate--though I have seen recommendations for minimal handling. In other words--it is not necessary, but should not be harmful, if done properly."

- Dr. K

There are those who believe "spinning" will drag bacteria into the wound, and others who believe it's the only way to get sea salt and/or antibacterial soap into the piercing in order to accelerate healing. If you have gentle hands and don't mind doing the extra deed, I recommend it. If you are already bothered by the cleaning process and aren't sure whether you can be careful to avoid irritating the piercing, i would not recommend it.

However, a fully healed piercing can be kept in healthy shape by making sure to run some antibacterial soap and/or sea salt through the piercing a couple times a week (or more if you are active). Also, "spinning" your jewelry while in or immediately following a hot shower will soften your skin and make "spinning" your jewelry a much easier and safer process.

12 - Should I use alcohol to clean my piercing?

DO NOT use any type of alcohol to clean your piercing. Alcohol is not meant for internal use, and will only irritate and further complicate the healing process. 

13 - My piercing is red and seems to be infected ... what can I do?

First, make sure that you are NOT using Bactine, alcohol, or Neosporin. The largest amount of complaints come from those who use these products to heal their piercings. Second, make sure that you are only using anitbacterial or antimicrobial soap and sea salt to clean your piercing. Proper instructions can be found on our medically reviewed Healing & Aftercare articles page.

Another great resource is Dr. Janet Keating's article "Caring for Infections"

Remember, piercings such as the navel and nipple tend to get irritated easily because they are in active areas of the body. So be careful not to pull on your jewelry while the piercing is still healing. 

14 - How long should I wait before stretching my piercing?

It's a good idea to wait at least 3 times as long as the healing period before attempting to stretch. This is only a General Rule, so sometimes you can go faster, sometimes slower. It's always a good idea to let your piercer do the stetching as the right tools for the job make it a lot easier. Patience is a virtue, stretch at a normal pace...when your body wants you too. Please check out our online stretching guide and our body piercing stretcher kits. (Answered by Dave Gillstap & John Lopez) 

15 - Will I have a problem breast feeding if my nipples are pierced?

As long as the piercing are well healed one would not have a problem with breast feeding. The nipple has plenty of cells of mammory glands. If the piercing is at the base of the nipple, jewelry doesn't matter. A lot of people choose barbells so they can remove them during the great feed. Some leave them in.

If the piercings are not healed, take'em out. Or, get the the gerber formula stuff, I have had it on honey smacks and the difference is barely noticable.

(Contributed by Dave Gillstrap)

16 - How do I insert new jewelry?

Please read Tribalectic's Insertion Tips. 

17 - My tongue is really white and there seems to be a whitish ring around my piercing ... what should I do?

This is often caused by too much mouth wash. If you are using mouth wash too frequently and/or it contains alcohol E.G. listerene, it can destroy the layer of healthy bacteria on the top of your tongue. If this is the case I would suggest that you use the mouth wash less frequently or dilute your mouth wash with 50 percent water. You can also switch to a salt water mixture. 1/4 teaspoon of non iodized sea salt to 8 oz. of water. (Thanks Dave Gillstrap) 

18 - My nipple piercings puss and end up crudding up and have to cleanse a couple times daily to keep clear of this crusting. It never seems to go away no matter how long i've had them or the cleanser i use. What should I do?

Please try this: Mix 4 teaspoons of Non Iodized Sea Salt to 1 gallon of distilled water. Pour 1 cup (8oz) into a disposable cup and heat it in a microwave until very warm. Soak your piercings for 5-10 minutes. Do this 2/day and you should see a huge difference. Remember, NO TOUCHING. There is no need to rotate the rings if you're soaking. The crusty matter will probably keep appearing for 4-6 months. (Submitted by John Lopez) 

19 -  there is a ring around the bar. and it's hard, like the skin is hard, kinda like scar tissue. on the top it's starting too, but not as big, but it's still starting.. what is this?

The bump that appears to be scar tissue is just that, scar tissue. This is not too uncommon. It is usually caused from mechanical stress or too much movement. I would suggest that you get your barbell downsized and that alone should alieviate the irritation. (Submitted by Dave Gillstrap) 

20 - Can you please tell me about "migration"?

Curved bars, when placed properly, are the one type of jewelry that is least likely to be rejected. Rejection is usually caused by "back pressure" often caused by using straight bars, or simply the body refusing to accept the piercing. Rings can get knocked around quite a bit and that irritation can also cause rejection. In fact, any piercing, it it received enough trauma, can be rejected. Infection and allergy/sensitivity are also types of irritation and can lead to rejection. Some piercing will "migrate" to a more comfortable setting without being rejected. Eyebrows that are pierced too deeply will often migrate to a more comfortable position and stop. This is common with Guiches, Frenums, Brows and even Navels. You can tell a piercing is rejecting when the skin is pink (not infection) and sometimes tender. The holes begin to get closer together leaving a thin scar in their wake. This can happen extremely quickly or over a long period of time. And it can happen to a brand new piercing or one that is 5 years old. (Thanks John Lopez) 

21 - I want to get my cartilage pierced but dont want a huge hole in my ear forever. If I wear jewelry in it for a year or longer and then decided to take it out, will the hole close back up?

As long as there is no complications during the healing process, and/or obscene amounts of scar tissue, the piercing will close. It may leave the reminents of discoloration, but that too will fade over time. (Thanks Dave Gillstrap) 

22 - Where can I get sea salt?

The best places to look are:

  • Tribalectic
  • a drugstore/pharmacy
  • an organic food store
  • a health food store

23 - Do you see puss? (thick, white, liquid, sometimes tinted pink, yellow and even green) Is it swollen? Is it warm to the touch? Is it red and inflamed? Does it hurt?

 

"Yes" to these could indicate infection. Bacteria or another irritant has caused an infection or a response from you body that resembles an infection. See your doctor if your piercers instructions don't help within 3-5 days.

24 - Is there a hard knot under the piercing? (like a marble under the skin) Is it warm to the touch? Does it hurt? Is it red and inflamed? Does puss sometimes ooze out?

 

"Yes" to these could indicate an abscess. An infection is trapped and could burst. Don't squeeze it and don't remove the jewelry until your doctor tells you to. See a doctor immediately, this could become very serious! 

25 - Is there a bump next to the piercing? (like a pimple) Is it red and inflamed? Does puss sometimes ooze out? Is it tender near the bump?

 

"Yes" to these could indicate a follicular cyst. Something is stuck inside the piercing or a pore or follicle near the piercing is blocked. Hot soaks should take care of it very quickly. 

26 - Is the skin tight and shiny? Is there a rash? Does the rash seem to "flow" downward? Does the piercing seem moist or wet constantly? (clear moisture)

 

"Yes" to these could indicate a chemical reaction. Simply stop using your cleaning agent and try saline soaks. Results should be almost instant. 

27 - Is the skin tight and shiny? Do the holes seem to be enlarged? Does it itch? Does the piercing seem moist or wet constantly? (clear moisture) Is the skin tender?

 

"Yes" to these could indicate a metal reaction. Simply change to a different metal. Results will be almost instant. 

28 - Is the skin darkening around the piercing? Does the ring stand at "attention" constantly? Does it hurt? Are the ends of the jewelry tight against the piercing?

 

"Yes" to these could indicate constriction, that your jewelry is too tight. A larger diameter should fix the problem. See your Piercer.

29 - Is there a "volcano" of skin forming around the jewelry? (this extra skin isn't tender) Is the piercing tender? Is the piercing inflamed? Is the skin darkening around the piercing?

 

"Yes" to these could indicate a keloid do to irritation or friction. Is the jewelry to long? Are your clothes rubbing a lot? Are you physically active? See your Piercer to find a solution…it may take time to find a comfortable solution. 

30 - HELP! HELP! I have an emergency! What should I do?

 

No matter how much valuable information you may find on the Internet, there is no substitute for a visual diagnosis -- which can be given best by your local piercer. If you are uncomfortable with your piercer's opinion in any way, please consider visiting another piercer in your area (ideally, someone with a good reputation). If you still feel uncomfortable, please visit your physician. Keep in mind, though: some doctors are knowledgeable about piercings and some are not. 

31 - I just removed the jewelry in one of my piercings and I want the hole to close up as best as possible ... what should I do?You should:

 

Massage the tissue while you're in the shower letting very hot water run over it and help break up the scar tissue, stimulating new skin growth.

Try dabbing a small amount of Vitamin E oil on the piercing once a day before you go to sleep.

AFTER a few weeks give cortizone cream a try ... it's cheap enough.

(Answered by Damien and John Lopez) 

32 - I'm using a bottled saline solution for my sea salt soaks and I want to make sure the product is the right one...

 

The proper mix of saline creates a .9% saline solution...very close to your bodys natural make-up. But the difference is that the saline PH is slightly lower than your body. The body always wants to balance PH, so the body "pushes" into the soaking cup, actively cleaning the piercing. So, not only does the warm saline soften the tissue, draw out the debri, draw blood to the area, but the body is actively pushing as well. (Thanks John Lopez) 

33 - What's the deal with Gly Oxide?

 

It can destroy the layer of "good" bacterial on the back of your tongue which can allow thrush to take hold. Salt water or a mild mouthwash like Tech2000 or Biotene is all you need. (Submitted by John Lopez) 

34 - I'm thinking about stretching my piercings. How do I do it?

 

Please see on online Body Piercing Stretching Guide as well as our Body Piercing Stretcher Kits. The kits include everything you'll need to safely stretch your body piercings. 

35 - Can't I just get pierced with a gun at the mall?

 

Getting pierced with a piercing-gun is very unhealthy for your body. A piercing-gun inflicts blunt trauma force to the body (sort of like trying to punch a hole through your arm) which increases the chance for infection and an unpleasant healing process. ALL piercings should be performed with a hollow, surgical steel tribevel needle. This will alleviate the problem of "blowout" (having a volcano-like build-up of flesh around the exit hole of you piercing) and decrease chances for infection.

The first such problem is the risk of contracting disease. Most guns have plastic parts which cannot be properly sterilized, giving rise to the possibility of spreading bacterial infections, such as those suffered recently by a group of people in Oregon after getting pierced at a mall, or more serious blood-borne diseases such as Hepatitis B and C.

The second problem has to do with the shape and composition of the jewelry itself and the force applied by it to the earlobe (or any body part), making healing difficult. These guns were first manufactured to tag livestock, and inflict unnecessary blunt trauma to the tissue. The studs used by the guns have clasps which trap bacteria and which, when combined with the too-short post used by the jewelry, compress the tissue. This does not allow for any swelling, makes cleaning the site difficult, and reduces the availability of oxygen to the wound. In addition, the metal used for most of the gunned jewelry is of inferior quality and may inhibit healing by causing contact dermatitis or nickel allergies.

The best and safest option for any piercing, including earlobes, is to patronize a professional body piercer. These individuals have the proper training to perform safe piercings, unlike most physicians, and certainly unlike the poorly trained clerks piercing people in malls. Professional piercers observe proper sterile procedures, use a single-use, sharp needle which does not damage tissue, and good quality body jewelry made specifically for safe and speedy healing. 

35 - Help, I lost one of the balls off my circular barbell. What can I do to keep this on until I get home?

 

Don't use tape! Do find a rubber band to wrap around the open end.