A 2018 survey found that 83% of Americans have at least one piercing. Since the demand for piercings is so high, there are many different places you can go to get a piercing. However, choosing the wrong location and the wrong cleaning tips can hinder the healing process.

In this article, we discuss the aftercare process and healing tips to help you avoid infection after a piercing. Continue reading if you want your piercing to look and feel healthy. 

How to Prepare for Your Piercing

Whether you’re about to get your first piercing or your 10th, preparing for the process ahead of time can improve your experience. Take the time to set your expectations and desires for the appointment ahead of time.

Proper preparation is about more than just a good experience. It’s also about ensuring the best body care possible. While being spontaneous is fun, try to allow time for considering some of the below aspects. 

Choose Attendees Carefully

If you’re nervous, we recommend choosing carefully if you want someone with you or going alone. If you want to bring a friend or family member, try choosing someone who doesn’t give off nervous energy as this can make your nerves worse.

Going alone may seem daunting but it may be the best option for some people. You can even have your friend or family member wait outside while you go in alone.

Eat Before Your Appointment

We also recommend eating a full meal beforehand. The food will give you energy and help keep your blood sugar at a steady level. Steady blood sugar can help prevent you from feeling faint or dizzy.

Eating a healthy meal at least a few hours before your appointment can help you feel balanced but not overly stuffed. You don’t want to be uncomfortable from eating too much. 

Choose the Right Shop

You should never get a piercing at a location that uses piercing guns. These are difficult to sterilize and can be more uncomfortable than a piercing needle. 

Professional body shops take body care and care of their instruments seriously. They ensure everything is sterilized. This significantly reduces the risk of post-piercing complications such as infections.

What to Expect Immediately After the Piercing Appointment

Once you have your new piercing in place, your body piercer will give you verbal and/or written instructions for the aftercare process including cleaning tips. They’ll also explain the healing process and what to expect over the next several weeks or months. 

Healing Timelines 

Healing timelines vary based on the type of piercing you received. The below list is a general guideline.

  • Ear Cartilage: 2 to 4 months
  • Nose: 4 to 6 months
  • Face (earlobes, eyebrows, lips): 6 to 8 weeks
  • Inner Mouth (including tongue): 3 to 6 weeks
  • Nipple: 3 to 6 months
  • Vagina or Penis: 2 to 6 months
  • Belly Button: up to 6 months

However, you should keep in mind that this is just a guideline. While some piercings take several months to complete the healing process, other piercings may heal more quickly. For example, septum piercings can heal as quickly as 8 weeks, which is faster than other nose piercings.

How to Care For Your Piercing

If you want a smoothing healing process, you need a good understanding of body care after a piercing. This includes following the healing tips offered by your body piercer. 

Stay Healthy

Staying healthy is an obvious goal for most people, but it’s especially important for those healing from a piercing. Illness, poor nutrition, and stress can extend the healing process and can even lead to complications. 

You can give your immune system a boost by incorporating certain vitamins into your daily routine. Some of the best options are zinc and vitamin C. 

Keep It Clean but Not Too Clean

Avoiding infection requires dedication to the cleaning process. Always wash your hands before touching your piercing and rinse it after showering. Your body shop will likely recommend a specific cleaner to use.

You also want to be sure not to over-clean your piercing during the aftercare process. Too much cleaning can slow healing and can even lead to complications. 

Don’t Touch It

The only time you should touch your piercing is when you’re cleaning it. Handling it too much increases the risk of infection and slows the healing process. You may even get irritation bumps as a result. 

When infections or irritation bumps occur, you may have to get your piercing removed. If and when it heals properly, you’ll need to start the process from the beginning. 

Prevent Problems

Practicing good body care is important, but it’s not the only part of the aftercare process. Preventing problems is just as important for a quick recovery. 

If you want to prevent complications and infection, then you have to understand what you can and can’t do while your body heals. 

Avoid Swimming

Ideally, you won’t go swimming until your piercing has completely healed. Bodies of water, especially public pools and hot tubs, can be a source of germs and bacteria that lead to infection.

You also want to be careful of streams, lakes, or oceans. You risk exposure to microorganisms and other bacteria that could cause infections in these bodies of water, too. 

If you can’t avoid swimming altogether, try to wait at least two weeks. When you do swim, cover your piercing with a waterproof bandaid and clean it immediately after swimming. 

Use the Right Cleaner

One of the most important cleaning tips for new piercings is using the right cleaner. Cleaning can be done one to three times per day depending on the piercing location and your piercer’s instructions.

Use a saline solution, an anti-bacterial soup, or a piercing-specific solution recommended by your body shop. Other cleaners can cause irritation or derail the healing process. 

Avoid Irritants 

One of the most common healing tips is to avoid irritants. If you have a new ear piercing, this includes avoiding headphones that cover your ears, sleeping on the piercing, and using harsh chemicals such as hairspray. 

Keep the Backing Loose

One of our important healing tips is to be careful how much you tighten the backing of your piercing. Since you don’t want the jewelry to fall out, you’re likely to tighten it as much as possible. However, this can affect the aftercare process.

The first problem is that it doesn’t allow enough airflow to the piercing site to promote healing. The second problem is that it traps blood, dirt, hair, and discharge. As these materials accumulate, you are more likely to develop an infection. 

You can avoid these problems by limiting how much you tighten the backing. Keep it as loose as possible while ensuring it won’t fall off. If you feel pressure from the ends of the jewelry, the backing is likely too tight. 

Don’t Remove It 

It can be difficult to adequately care for a piercing site with the jewelry in place. However, you should never remove a piercing that’s in the middle of the healing process. 

Piercings start healing once they’re removed. Some piercings close up within a few minutes. A good rule of thumb is that the newer the piercing is, the faster it will close up without jewelry. 

We also recommend keeping your jewelry in place even if you believe your piercing is infected. Continue cleaning it as normal over 24 hours. If the signs of infection don’t improve, seek medical attention but leave your piercing in place.

Signs of Healing

Navigating the aftercare process is tricky if you don’t understand the difference between signs of healing and signs of infection. There are some similarities between the two, but they’re ultimately very different.

Mistaking signs of healing for signs of infection can cause you unnecessary stress. It may even lead you to rash actions such as removing your jewelry. 

Initial Bleeding and Swelling

Bleeding and swelling are often a cause for concern for those new to piercings. However, this is a normal part of the healing process. A small bit of swelling immediately following a piercing is normal as your body tries to heal itself.

Bleeding will likely occur immediately after insertion of the piercing needle but should resolve quickly after the jewelry is in place. 

Mild Pain and Sensitivity

Most people expect pain from the initial piercing. However, pain and sensitivity can continue over the next several days or weeks. Your tissue went through a traumatic experience and it takes time to adjust to it.

The area may also be red, irritated, and itchy for the first several days as well. This is due to the same reason and is completely normal. 

Fluid Secretion

One of our top aftercare tips is not to panic if you notice a small amount of secretion (or oozing) from your piercing site. When people notice oozing and crusting around their piercing site, they worry it’s getting infected.

However, there’s a difference between infection (pus) and normal discharge from the healing process. The main difference is appearance. Normal discharge is mostly clear but can be tinted yellow or white.

This discharge can dry and leave a crust around your piercing jewelry. This is normal. You should avoid peeling the crust off and instead try to rinse it away with the recommended cleaning solution. 

Signs of Infection

Infection can be caused by several factors such as poor body care, exposure to bacteria, and non-sterile piercing conditions. In other cases, there might not be an obvious cause of infection at all. 

It’s important to pay close attention to the healing process of your piercing. Take a good look at it after it’s first done and monitor it for any changes. Catching infection early can help get rid of it faster and minimize any damage caused by it. 

Swelling and Heat

While swelling and heat are a normal part of the initial aftercare process, they should continue to get better. If you notice ongoing or worsening swelling and warmth from the piercing location, you may have an infection.

The swelling and heat can also lead to discoloration of the skin. Some redness is normal but extreme redness or red streaks are not. 

Pain or Discomfort

Even if you’ve followed all of your piercer’s cleaning tips perfectly, an infection can still occur. One common sign of infection is ongoing or worsening pain, especially when the piercing site is touched. 

If you’re having trouble distinguishing normal pain from pain related to infection, closely monitor for other symptoms of infection. 

Bleeding or Discharge

Bleeding and abnormal discharge can be a sign of infection from poor body care. Bleeding occurs right after piercing, but if your piercing site starts bleeding unexpectedly, you may need to see a doctor. 

Unlike normal oozing, infections produce discolored discharge called pus. Pus is typically white, green, or yellow and is often thicker than normal discharge. Avoid squeezing the piercing to remove the discharge unless directed by a doctor to do so. 

Feeling Unwell

Feeling unwell is sometimes a sign of infection. Symptoms can include fever, chills, nausea, and swollen lymph nodes. These are all signs that your body is trying to fight off an illness. 

You shouldn’t delay a doctor’s visit if you experience any of these symptoms, especially if they’re accompanied by other signs of infection. The sooner you seek medical attention, the sooner you can start to feel better. 

Take Your Time With the Healing Process

Take the time to understand the healing process before diving into your first piercing. Even if you have other piercings, we still recommend preparing for your appointment and the aftercare process. This can help avoid complications later on.

For more helpful guides and tips, visit more of our blog.