Aftercare - How to look after your piercing
So you've got your piercing. The procedure was clean and infection-free. Now you have to look after it. Properly!
THE GOLDEN RULE
NEVER touch your piercing with dirty hands. That doesn't mean giving them a quick rinse under the tap, you need to clean your hands thoroughly. Have a look at the handy drawing to remind you (!) how to wash your hands properly ; it should take more than 20 seconds.
Clean the surrounding area of the jewellery, especially the entry and exit points, three times a day with saline solution (1/2 a teaspoon of rock/sea salt dissolved in 500ml of pre-boiled water). Remove any body fluids from the area and jewellery but DO NOT turn or rotate.
For tongue and oral piercings, gargle 3 times a day with saline solution (as above). After eating or smoking it is recommended that you gargle with a 50/50 mixture of pre-boiled water and alcohol-free antimicrobial or antibacterial mouth rinse.
You should check the tightness of the threaded balls on your jewelry every day. They can become loose from rubbing against clothes, skin etc so make it part of your daily cleaning routine to make sure the balls are secure.
A piercing is a fresh wound. If kept clean and dry at all times it will heal quickly and completely. If however it gets dirty or is not cleaned regularly it may become infected. In the event that your piercing gets itchy, you may use 5% Tea Tree oil, which is a natural product which can tackle minor infections, within your cleaning schedule. After you have cleaned the area with saline solution, lightly pat it dry and then apply 2 or 3 drops of Tea Tree oil. Leave it for 2 minutes then rinse with saline solution again. You should only need to do this once a day but if the infection isn't clearing, increase it to 2 or 3 times a day. If your piercing gets hot, red, swollen, or very tender to the touch, you have probably developed a more serious infection. GO TO YOUR DOCTOR!
Your body doesn't like this foreign object you have just inserted and its first instinct is to get rid of it. (This is why having initial jewellery of the correct size, shape and material is so important.) Some piercings will migrate (move through the skin) to some degree and in some cases this can lead to jewellery 'growing out' of the body altogether. Eyebrow, navel and surface piercings are more prone to migration than others. It is not dangerous or painful but may leave a small scar. If you notice any migration it is usually recommended to remove the jewellery before it has a chance to fully reject.
Most piercings will swell to some extent and I always allow some space on your jewellery to compensate for this. Occasionally however, a piercing may swell more than usual and can become painful. If your piercing swells more than 2 or 3 mm, or if there seems a possibility that your jewellery is too short to accommodate the swelling, come straight back so that I can fit longer jewellery and avoid any complication. If it is beginning to embed into your skin it should definitely be removed and if possible, replaced with a longer piece. For tongue piercings, a long bar is always used for the int ital piercing because the tongue can double in thickness after the procedure. This can be changed for a shorter one after approximately 6 weeks. you may find it helpful to to suck on ice lollies to reduce the swelling but avoid dairy products.
Trauma is caused by pulling, catching or sleeping on your piercing during the healing process and also by chaffing of clothes by movement etc. It is best if you wear loose fitting clothes in the early stages of healing; try to avoid tight waistbands and heavy belts in the case of navel piercings, and hair gel, spray or bleach in the case of ear or eyebrow piercings. Do not apply makeup to the surrounding area and be aware that navel and nipple piercings usually leak for up to 12 months so will look crusty; this is NOT a sign of infection.
Cartilage has a prolonged healing time and bumps can form (and disappear) as part of the healing process.
Change your towels and bedding every week. If you have an above-the-neck piercing, try the T-shirt trick: put a clean T-shirt over your pillow, turn the pillow over on the second night; turn the T-shirt inside out for the third night and turn it for the fourth night.
If you have an ear piercing, think about the infection risk your PHONE poses. Wipe it clean regularly with an antibacterial wipe.
DON'T fiddle with your jewellery. If you twist it, all you will do is tear away the skin that is forming a channel in the piercing. And there is more chance that you will transfer infection into the site. LEAVE IT ALONE.
DON'T replace the jewellery until the piercing has healed. (See the aftercare sheets below for an indication of how long your chosen piercing will take to heal.) Come back and see me for help and advice if you need to.
Have a look at the Aftercare sheets below, courtesy of Public Health England.