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Basic Piercing Care

There is no single cleaning solution or aftercare regimen that works for everyone, everywhere, all the time. Different bodies and different lifestyles demand different aftercare. Geography matters, and what works for someone living in Philadelphia may not be the same thing that works for someone elsewhere. Differences in air and water quality, diet, and climate can greatly affect healing; what you use for aftercare and how you clean your piercing is only one part of a much larger picture.

You must find what works for you. The suggestions in this brochure are based upon our experience and the experiences of others who came before us. These are suggestions. If you are familiar with your body and how you heal, the most important thing you can do is pay attention—your body should tell you what to do.

Basic Care

New piercings should typically be cleaned twice daily. (Frequency also depends on your skin type, your daily activities and environment, and what piercing you are trying to heal.) You should continue this cleaning routine for the entire healing period. Do not over-clean your piercing. Cleaning too often with an overly harsh cleaning solution, or with too many different types of cleaning solutions, can irritate your piercing. If cleaning your piercing twice a day is suggested, don’t assume cleaning it ten times a day is better: It isn’t.

Healing piercings discharge lymph, blood and blood plasma, and dead cells. The purpose in cleaning your piercing is to remove this discharge as well as any dirt or bacteria picked up during the day. The products you use on your piercing are not what make it heal— they only keep the piercing clean while your body works to heal it. Do not think of your cleaning solution as medicine, because it isn’t. Salt water and/or saline solutions should be used to irrigate your piercing, but it is the action of flushing out the wound that helps healing, not the saline itself. Likewise, soap should just be treated like soap; lather around your piercing and then rinse thoroughly.

TO CLEAN YOUR PIERCING, USE ONE OF THESE METHODS:

Warm Sea Salt Soaks

The single best thing you can do for your piercing is to keep up a regular regimen of salt water soaks. These flush out the piercing, help to draw out discharge, stimulate blood circulation, and soothe irritations. We strongly suggest soaking your piercing at least twice a day—more often if healing is difficult.

Make a soaking solution by mixing sea salt and distilled water. Use pure sea salt (non-iodized) and not table salt, which contains extra chemicals that can irritate your piercing and dextrose (sugar) that can cause yeast infections. When buying salt, read the label: it should contain only salt (sodium chloride) and possibly an anti-caking agent (often calcium phosphate, calcium silicate, or prussiate of soda). Do not use Epsom salts, as this is a completely different chemical compound. Make sure your salt-to- water ratio is correct. A stronger or weaker solution is not better and may actually harm your piercing.

It’s often easiest to mix it up by the gallon and keep it in the fridge. Cold soaks can be soothing for the first few days; after, heat as needed to make a warm salt-water soak.

Mix according to the table below (use measuring spoons and cups for accuracy).

To use: Fill a small glass with the solution and warm. (You can heat it in the microwave.) Put the solution in a glass, press the glass against your skin to form a seal, and hold it over your piercing for five minutes or until the water cools. For piercings like nostrils, ears, nipples, and some penis piercings, the entire body part should be submerged in the solution.

 

SEA SALT

WATER

1/4 Teaspoon

1 Cup (8 oz.)

1 Teaspoon

1 Quart (32 oz.)

4 Teaspoons

1 Gallon

1/4 Cup (Approx.)

1 Bathtub

Sterile Saline Sprays

Sterile saline solutions are a convenient, portable cleaning options. While rinsing with saline solution doesn’t promote increased blood flow to the area the way that a warm soak does, it does provide a quick cleaning fix if you’re at work, traveling, or someplace where soaking isn’t an option. Popular brands include H2Ocean®, Steri-Wash®, NeilMed® saline solution, and Simply SalineTM Wound Wash. (The saline products sold for contact lenses or ear and nasal irrigation sometimes contain additives that may not be suited to healing piercings. Instead, check the first aid aisle of your drugstore and look for saline specifically formulated for wound care.)

To use, liberally spray the solution, thoroughly saturating the piercing. Your jewelry does not need to be rotated and sterile saline solution does not need to be rinsed off. (Do not simply dip cotton balls or swabs in a saline solution and apply it to the skin; you must irrigate the piercing to clean it effectively.)

Mild Liquid Soap

While sea salt soaks and/or saline rinses are the preferred aftercare for most piercings, soap effectively removes the residue of sweat, dirt, skin oils, cosmetics, cigarette smoke, and natural discharge that can sometimes remain after a salt water soak or saline rinse. Use a natural, fragrance-free and dye-free soap. Stay away from harsh antibacterial soaps, especially those containing triclosan (like Dial®). Remember: It is the action of washing that is most effective in removing bacteria, not the soap itself. Lastly, be sure to use a liquid soap, because bar soaps collect dirt and bacteria that can easily be reapplied to your piercing.

Thoroughly wash your hands, then lather the soap in your fingers before lathering the piercing and surrounding skin. Thoroughly clean the piercing and jewelry, making sure to gently remove any discharge on the jewelry, then rinse. It is not necessary to rotate the jewelry during cleaning. If you find cleaning with soap is too harsh—if the skin around the piercing is becoming dry, red, or irritated—go back to salt water soaks and/or saline rinses.

Do Not Use:

DO NOT USE Rubbing Alcohol or Hydrogen Peroxide

These are both too harsh for long-term use. Alcohol irritates and dries out your skin, and hydrogen peroxide destroys healthy skin surrounding the piercing and can actually slow healing. Witch hazel solutions made with alcohol should also be avoided.

DO NOT USE Antibiotic Ointments

These include Neosporin®, bacitracin, or triple antibiotic ointments. These are not meant to be used for more than two weeks—making them ineffective for healing piercings. They also contain petroleum jelly, which creates the perfect warm, moist environment for bacteria to grow. This also keeps soap and other cleaning solutions from properly irrigating the piercing. Ointments are made for cuts and scrapes, not long-term healing.

DO NOT USE Bactine® and Ear Piercing Solutions with BZK (Benzalkonium chloride)

These can be irritating, and can slow down healing. Bactine® and similar products also have a very short shelf life once opened, so if you have a leftover bottle of one of these in your medicine cabinet do not use it. Throw it out, and stick with saline solution or a mild soap instead.

DO NOT USE Q-tips® or Cotton Balls

When cleaning a piercing, the most important thing you're doing is soaking and/or irrigating the piercing. Dabbing saline solution on your piercing with Q-tips® or cotton balls does little to help. Plus, you can irritate your piercing with cotton fibers that can get trapped around your piercing. Stick with a soak or rinse instead.

Click the image below to download a printable PDF of Infinite's Aftercare Brochure.