Body Piercing Healing and Aftercare Concepts

There are numerous philosophies and concepts when it comes to caring for your new body piercings. Many professional body piercers and health care practitioners may advocate differing or divergent schools of thought regarding the best way to ensure the health of your new piercing, but there is no single correct method or absolute answer. Just like everyone’s body is different, successful methods of healing a body piercing can also differ. Most general concepts will support certain basic guidelines, such as a clean piercing, healthy lifestyle and appropriate attention will go a long way in promoting expedient healing of a new piercing. The following abstracts will outline a few prominent aftercare concepts, and you can use these ideas and tools to guide you through your healing process. 

DRY & CLEAN/IMMOBILE

(Does not apply to oral and many genital piercings.) 

DRY & CLEAN: Keeping piercings dry has a lot of advantages. Many harmful microbes are transferred to wounds in water, and water can get deep into a piercing. In addition to bacteria and other microbes, water can also contain other harmful additives, compounds or trace elements that can cause damage, reactions, or otherwise negatively affect a healing piercing, such as chlorine, fluoride, lead, rust, calcium, lime and more. Any of these things could be problematic. 

IMMOBILE: Keeping the amount of jewelry movement to a minimum will reduce mechanical stress and irritation. This can mean less scarring, quicker healing and less discomfort. 

Unfortunately, the Dry & Clean/Immobile method can be extremely impractical. Depending upon your personal motivation and dedication, it can be nearly impossible to actually accomplish these suggestions for longer than a few days. Certain piercings, such as a Helix, Nostril, or Navel piercings are very difficult to keep dry, clean and immobile during daily processes, such as bathing, breathing, or getting dressed. For some people and some piercings this method is just perfect. A male nipple piercing, for example, is fairly easy to bandage properly and gets little natural mechanical stress. So again, depending on the individual piercing and your own dedication and motivation this may or may not be a practical method. 

SOAPS and FIRST AID PRODUCTS

Soaps help remove oils, dirt, bacteria and other debris from skin when used as directed. Antimicrobial and antibacterial soaps have chemicals added which kill bacteria and/or other microbes to different degrees. Most medicated soaps are intended for hands or surfaces, and are not intended to be used internally or in open or exposed flesh. Many professional piercers agree that hand soaps cause more harm than good when the soap gets into a healing piercing. Satin Soap, manufactured by CareTech Labs is unique in that it is intended as a wound-care product. For oral piercings, alcohol free mouthwash such as Tech2000 (manufactured by CareTech Labs) can be used 2-3 times per day to help kill harmful oral bacteria and microbes. 

First Aid products such as Bactine (ear care solution), Iodine, Hydrogen Peroxide, Rubbing Alcohol, Neosporin (and other bacitracin or suspension ointments) are almost always harmful to new piercings. They can be so harsh that they can actually prevent healing. First aid products can be effective when treating an infected piercing with medical supervision, but they typically fail when used for home piercing aftercare. 

Many piercers also agree that keeping a piercing clean means washing the skin near the piercing regularly. Basically, this means washing in the shower as you would if you were not pierced in that area, with no special soap and no extra attention given to the piercing. This traditional method of normally washing and rinsing the skin is often sufficient for keeping a piercing clean in a daily routine. 

Some piercers will suggest having an antimicrobial soap such as Satin Soap available when a contaminating event does occur. It is always better to be prepared just in case something happens 

SEA SALT SOAKS (SSS)

Soaking piercings in warm salt water can be as hazardous to a healing piercing as it is beneficial. There are so many factors that can turn a good soak into a bad one. Individual skin type, salt quality, water quality, pH, salinity, temperature and time all factor into whether a SSS is beneficial or hazardous. This method seems to work extremely well for some and very poorly for others. This method is cheap and easy. 

Mixing ¼ teaspoon of non-iodized sea salt mixed into 8 ounces of clean water (4 teaspoons salt into 1 gallon water) creates an approximately 0.9% saline solution. Piercings are submerged and soaked for 5 minutes or so and then rinsed quickly with clean water or sterile saline and patted dry with paper towels or gauze. This is usually done 2-4 times per day. Some Piercers suggest soaking prior to showers and others suggest soaking following showers. 

SALINE SPRAYS

Sterile, isotonic, buffered saline Sprays are readily available at most drug stores and supermarkets. They’re most often found in contact lens care areas. A can of saline can cost anywhere between $3.00 to $10.00 depending on the brand and retailer. These products usually have no more than 5 ingredients: sodium chloride, purified water, boric acid and sodium borate (pH buffers), and nitrogen (propellant). 

While these products are intended to rinse contact lenses and they are not specifically meant for wound care, they do seem to work extremely well for most people as an aftercare product. 

These products can be used for soaks or compresses, and the salt concentration is consistent, the liquid is sterile every time it’s used (assuming the spray nozzle isn’t contaminated), the water quality is nearly identical from can to can and the pH is always balanced. Unless someone is allergic to an ingredient these products can be superior to self mixed salt water solutions. 

For Soaks: Fill a very small, clean container such as a one ounce glass with saline solution and microwave it for a few seconds or until very warm but not too hot. Soak normally. For Compresses: Spray saline solution onto sterile gauze or a folded paper towel and microwave it for only a few seconds until warm. Gently but firmly hold the warm compress onto the piercing until cool. Gently wipe away any softened tissue and secretions. 

WOUND WASH SALINE (Blairex): Wound Wash Saline is usually not buffered, it’s simply sterile 0.9% saline. It’s intended for flushing wounds. Many Piercers agree that Wound Wash Saline is also superior to hand mixed saline even if it might sting a bit. After all, it’s sterile and mixed perfectly. 

DRY HEAT

The Dry Heat theory suggests that simply increasing circulation near a wound helps your body heal the wound. Dry heat compresses can be done by holding any warm object such as a hot water bottle, a cup of hot tea, a bowl of soup, etc., against the piercing. This can be done any time during the day, and as often as is convenient, as long as it’s clean and doesn’t burn your skin. It is a wonderful addition to any aftercare regimen. 

LITHA  Leave It The Heck Alone

This concept means exactly what it says. Leave your piercing alone. Don’t touch it, don’t clean, don’t soak it…just ignore it an maintain a clean and healthy lifestyle and diet. 

Professional Piercers don’t offer up LITHA as an aftercare regimen because is specifically tells you not to keep your piercing clean. Of all the aftercare suggestions a piercer gives, KEEPING IT CLEAN is the single most important one. Ethically, legally, logically, and professionally, a piercer must explain the importance of keeping your piercings clean. 

For this reason alone, LITHA should not be considered an Aftercare Suggestion on its own. But you will notice that many aftercare suggestions do incorporate some LITHA ideas. 

PIERCING SPECIFIC AFTERCARE PRODUCTS

There have been many piercing-specific aftercare products introduced to the public. The manufacturers make all sorts of fantastic claims about their products, some of which are more scientific and others more alternative. It’s important to remember that when something sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Many of these manufacturers don’t respond to questioning very well and rarely provide legitimate proof of their claims. So as usual, BUYER BEWARE, and don’t believe that any one product will act as a magical potion!