Piercing Aftercare Guide.
TL; DR – Too Much Information? For just the facts try reading our quick reference guide here!
It is recommended that you don’t change, twist or fiddle with the jewellery for 12 months.
Twisting and fiddling with the jewellery within the piercing breaks the healing tissue trying to form around the bar and grinds dirt and other unpleasant things into the wound causing infection, irritation and prolonging the healing time.
It used to be thought that the skin forming around the bar would cause the jewellery to stick to the inside of the wound but we now know that this is how your body forms a fistula (a tunnel of tissue) and that breaking the new tissue damages this process so it’s best to leave things alone!
The jewellery you have been pierced with should also be made from a good quality metal or hypoallergenic medical plastic (like PTFE) and changing to something else may cause irritation and reactions that can be detrimental to your healing.
Mix ¼ teaspoon of sea salt into 1 coffee mug of boiling water and leave to cool until bearable. It is important to stick to this measurement and to use sea salt as other salts have chemicals added to them to stop them clumping which will irritate your piercing. Also, where possible, boil your water in a microwave to avoid the bacteria that lurk in the bottom of your kettle.
Make sure your hands are clean and then take the cup and completely immerse your piercing in the water for 5-10mins – or until the water feels cool on your skin. Sometimes filling a shot or wine glass with the mixture and bringing it to your piercing is easier than leaning over the cup itself.
Next take a cotton bud and soak it in the solution. Clean thoroughly around the front and back of the piercing, removing any “crusties.” Crusties caused by a light yellow / white discharge are perfectly normal to see throughout your healing time.
When you have finished rinse with clean warm water and dry the piercing thoroughly on a clean piece of kitchen roll or paper towel as moist piercings attract bacteria! Avoid using cotton wool or cheap toilet roll as they can leave behind fibres and don’t use towels because they can harbour a lot of bacteria, dirt and dead skin.
Now is a good time to ensure the balls on your jewellery are on nice and tight while the piercing is crust-free and your hands are clean! Remember: Lefty Loosy, Righty Tighty.
It is best to clean your piercing twice a day for the first two weeks. After this simply soak whenever the piercing feels sore or has crusties. Don’t clean more than twice a day as over cleaning won’t help your piercing heal any faster – in fact it’s likely to do the opposite!
It is important not to use any kind of alcohol or peroxide agents on the piercing (including hydrogen peroxide and rubbing alcohol) as these harm the fistula and weaken the tissue around the piercing making it more likely to reject. Also avoid antibacterial, antimicrobial and antiseptic agents (like TCP, Bactine, Dial, Savlon and solutions containing Benzalkonium Chloride) as they remove all the natural bacteria your body needs to heal with, repeatedly making your body restart the healing process. As well as this it is strongly advised not to use any kind of cream on the piercing as creams are petroleum based and cannot be absorbed by the body – meaning that it will form a seal and linger inside the piercing, trapping dirt and encouraging bacteria.
If your piercing gets sore, swollen or irritated consider using chamomile tea. It is a natural anti-inflammatory, soothing and an analgesic and can be easily found in the herbal tea section of most supermarkets. Simply add the tea to your soaks or use the hot tea bag itself as a compress. People who have a ragweed allergy should be sure to do a skin test first before using the tea.
When you’re in the shower wash the piercing with a natural, gentle, soap (that doesn’t contain perfume). Chemicals, antibacterial agents and perfumes found in some soaps delay healing and can over-dry and damage the delicate skin inside the piercing. Soap is important for removing surface dirt and microbes which can cause infections but it doesn’t need to be overkill!
Cartilage piercings can take up to 18 months to fully heal so after initial healing it is advised to keep jewellery changes to an absolute minimum and only wear high quality materials.
Cartilage piercings also really hate to be slept on as your head is the heaviest part of the body. The weight puts a lot of pressure on the piercing and often causes healing problems. Therefore it’s best to sleep with the piercing cradled in your arm or in the centre of a doughnut shaped / travel pillow instead.
Take care of your general health! Drink plenty of water, sleep well and eat properly. For the first few weeks try to avoid smoking, or drinking alcohol as they are immune system suppressants. Alcohol also thins the blood which can cause additional bleeding.
If you want to do a little extra to help healing try taking a multivitamin that contains zinc, iron and vitamin C as these help support your immune system and aid tissue repair. The healthier you are the better you will heal!
It is also important to keep areas that come into contact with your piercing as clean as possible so regularly changing your bedding and washing any hats, phone receivers, earphones or glasses that may get near the piercing site is a good routine to get into.
Avoid swimming and bathing. Your bathtub, the sea, lakes and pools contain a lot of bacteria which should be avoided for at least the first few weeks of healing. Swimming pools have the added complication of being full of chemicals which are not good for your healing. After this time ensure you sea salt soak your piercing thoroughly after any swimming.