Healing and Aftercare FAQ

Answer 1 - How long does it take a piercing to heal?

There are two stages of healing a piercing, the initial healing period and the full healing period. The initial healing period is the time between the second that the piercing occurs through when the fistula (skin tube) forms. Usually, you can change the jewelry after the initial healing. The full healing is the period after the fistula forms when the skin around the piercing "toughens" and the piercing "settles in". 

Answer 2 - How should I clean my new piercing?

For non-oral piercings, you have two basic options. One is the LITHA method, which is basically leaving it be without a special care except for water rinses in the shower. The other is to clean the piercing with a mild soap such as Satin or Provon. Mild soap means that it does not contain any extra fragrances or oils. If you choose to do sea salt soaks, that will help loosen any crusties that you get.

Some piercers believe that you should not use q-tips (cotton buds) to clean piercings due to micro fibers that may be left behind near or in the healing hole. Some people use q-tips with no consequence.

It is most important to remember that the following substances have no desirable cleaning or healing effect on piercings, and may in fact, be detrimental.

  • Bactine
  • Neosporin
  • Antibiotic ointments
  • Petroleum based ointments regardless of active ingredient
  • Ear Cleaning Solution of the type that you get at mall piercing booths
  • Alcohol, or any products containing alcohol
  • Lotions of any variety

The following cleansers/solutions have been used to successfully heal piercings, and are recommended by piercers. Each piercer has their own favorites and will like some on this list better than others, but they have all been proven to work to varying degrees for different individuals.

  • Provon Soap
  • Satin Soap
  • Dial soap (anti-bacterial)
  • Sea Salt Soak

3 - What is a sea salt soak (SSS) and where do I find sea salt?

Sea salt soaks are recommended for both the initial healing period and any time your piercing gets pissy. You may do them twice a day for ten minutes each, or once a day if the effect is too drying on your skin. For hard to soak areas, you can soak a clean cotton ball in the solution and hold it over the piercing, or you can pour some solution in a small container such as a shot glass and invert it over the piercing. We recommend mixing 1/4 teaspoon of sea salt with 8 oz. of warm water.

It is important to note that mixing more sea salt into the solution is not recommended and may have an adverse effect on your piercing. More is not better. When mixing the solution, use warmish water, as it makes it easier for the salt to fully dissolve. You may mix up a batch at a time, but it is recommended that you keep it in a glass or plastic container and store it out of direct light.

Sea salt is basically sterilized, dehydrated sea water with nothing added. Do not use table salt, as it contains iodine and anti-caking agents. You can find sea salt at the grocery store and at the pharmacy (chemist). You can also order sea salt online from Tribalectic. If you do not see it, ask- it is more common than you think and is not expensive at all.

 

4 - What are the signs of infection?

In the initial healing phase, piercings will excrete lymph, which is a clearish to very light yellowish fluid. This is just a sign that your piercing is healing, although some healed piercings may excrete lymph if they have been disturbed, knocked around or slept on wrong. When this dries, it becomes what is known colloquially as "crusties". Crusties may be removed gently after soaking in sea salt solution or after taking a shower. It is important not to rotate the jewelry, as that can drag the hard crusties into the piercing leading it to become more irritated.

If you do in fact have an infection, you will need to see a doctor, who should prescribe you antibiotics to help clear the infection from the inside out. It is generally recommended that you do not remove the jewelry if you have an infection, even if your doctor tells you to. Removing the jewelry will trap the bacteria inside of the piercing which can then form an abscess. The following are general signs of infection. If you experience any of these, please go and see your doctor.

  • Redness around the piercing coupled with one or more of the following
  • Pus, which is whitish to whitish yellow and usually smells bad
  • Swelling beyond the normal initial swelling of the piercing and when seen with other symptoms in this list.
  • A "hot" feeling near the piercing

Also see The Idiot's Guide to Troubleshooting a Piercing Problem.

 

5 - I have a bump next to my piercing. Will it scar? How can I make it go away?

Bumps are fairly common next to piercings, especially cartilage piercings, and they are notorious for occurring next to new nostril piercings. While certainly not desirable, there is no infection or risk to your health, it is purely cosmetic. Some people find that applying tea tree oil to the bump (being careful not to get it in the piercing) is effective. Some people find that sea salt soaks are beneficial. And some bumps only resolve themselves with time- some in a matter of weeks, some months, but for the most part, they all go away without scarring.

Some people with healed piercings get "The Bump" when the piercing is disturbed, as when it gets changed too frequently, slept on wrong, or knocked around. Care is the same as above.

The most important thing to remember is not to try and pop it. You may be tempted, but all that most people will get is some clear fluid, and it will return. Popping "The Bump" will also only leave the area surrounding your piercing open to infection. Patience, Grasshopper.

Also see The Idiot's Guide to Troubleshooting a Piercing Problem.


 

6 - If I get a piercing and decide later on that I need to take it out, will it show a scar?

This depends on how long you have had it, where it is and what gauge it was at. I've taken a 20g nostril screw out 5 days after being pierced and cannot tell a thing. Other parts of your body will be more noticeable. Most people who have had to retire piercings report minimal scarring where you can only tell that it was pierced if you knew where to look. Stretched ears are another topic and will be covered in detail in a separate section. 

 

7 - Is there anything that I should absolutely NOT do with my new piercing?

Absolutely! Try to avoid the following

  • Swimming in any water. Stay away from pools, hot tubs, lakes and streams. All of these contain large amounts of bacteria which may harm a new piercing
  • Do not twist or turn your jewelry in an attempt to get soap or cleansing solution into it