So you went out drinking and woke up with a shiny new hunk of metal in your ear/nose/eyebrow/frenulum, huh? On the bright side, you kinda like how it looks! But if you want to keep it, you need to take care of it, or else you could end up with a serious infection. To help you out with that, I asked Roger Rabb!t, owner of Ancient Adornments, and Brian Keith Thompson, owner of Body Electric, all about piercing aftercare.
How can I make sure this new hole heals?
Above all else, make sure to wash your hands before touching your new piercing. Despite the popular medical advice, avoid rubbing alcohol, hydrogen peroxide and other over-the-counter wound care products, as these harsh chemicals can actually prolong the healing process. “The most important thing is, leave [the piercing] alone,” Rabb!t emphasizes.
You should, however, clean the piercing with mild soap and warm water whenever you take a shower. Just remember that over-cleaning your piercing can cause more harm than good. “It’s really only necessary to clean it once a day,” Thompson says. “You’re just using your fingertips — apply the soap to the palm of your hand, and use your fingertips to create a lather. It’s funny: People are always asking me, what do they mix the soap with? I’m like, ‘Um, water.’ So you mix [the soap] with water, of course, to create that lather, and then you gently use the suds to clean the piercing. You don’t need to aggressively clean it.”
For the first month, Rabb!t also recommends avoiding open bodies of water, like pools, jacuzzis and lakes, which often contain dangerous bacteria (from people treating the pool as a bath or from peeing in it, and possibly both) that can contaminate the new piercing.
Oral piercings, meanwhile, require a different kind of care — namely, swishing with a diluted alcohol-free mouth rinse (two parts clean water to one part mouth rinse) after meals and avoiding alcohol and cigarettes for at least the first week. Hey, you’re committed, right?
There are some gross yellow crusties on my new piercing. Is that normal?
Yes! This means your piercing is healing properly. While unsightly, picking at those crusties can cause irritation, prolong the healing period and leave a more pronounced scar when your piercing is healed. You can, however, gently wash them away using the aforementioned soap and warm water.
I heard you’re supposed to regularly rotate the stud/ring/jewelry in the hole. Is that true?
No! This can lead to inflammation and irritation. “You want to leave the jewelry in place,” Thompson explains. “The body is going to build what’s called a fistula. That’s scar tissue rebuilding the skin around the jewelry, and if you’re moving it — twisting and turning it — you’re prolonging that healing process. It’s similar to picking off a scab.”
There’s a weird bump on my piercing. Help?
This happens from time to time, especially if you bump your piercing or snag it on your clothes. It can be a pustule or possibly hypertrophic scarring. Whatever the case, Rabb!t recommends checking in with your piercer before messing around with it: “The most important thing, if you see a problem, you should contact your studio or [another] reputable studio.” They can either hook you up with some better fitting jewelry to help that inflammation calm down, or they can guide you through how to make it go away. In most cases, Thompson says, “The way to get rid of it is to stop touching it, stop injuring it and leave it alone.”
I saw online that tea tree oil will make the bump go away. Can I just use that?
Bad idea. “Tea tree oil can actually cause a first degree burn,” Rabb!t says. “Putting that on a fresh wound or a wound that’s having issues can overdry the skin, irritate the skin or cause the body to react to that chemical. There’s really very little any consumer can do at home without contacting a studio first.”
What if it’s infected?
“If you think the piercing is infected — if it has green or brown discharge, you’re running a fever, you feel like you’re getting sick, it looks very irritated and it’s warm to the touch — I would say go visit your doctor,” Thompson says.
Alright, so how long until my hole is healed?
Soft tissue, like earlobes and oral piercings, usually take about two to three months to heal, whereas cartilage and nipples can take up to six months to heal. Once your piercing is fully healed, then you can change out the jewelry if you so choose. Good luck with that hole, bro.