Updated: Jul 24, 2021
If you have any questions or concerns about this guide or your piercing, please contact your piercer. For any urgent matters that fall outside of regular business hours, dial 811 to reach Healthlink, or 911 for emergencies.
Now that you’re freshly adorned, it's up to you to ensure your new piercing is given the best possible opportunity to heal! Here you'll find our evidence-informed best practice guidelines on piercing care, maintenance, and troubleshooting; all based on recommendations from the Association of Professional Piercers (APP).
“You should NEVER twist or rotate your jewelry in a fresh or healing piercing as this causes trauma to the delicate new tissue, introduces bacteria/contaminants, and can lead to an increase in scar tissue formation; all of which contribute to the likelihood of infection or rejection."
As long as you're providing it with everything it needs, your body is well able to heal a new piercing on its own. In fact, the goal of piercing aftercare should actually be to prevent bacteria/contaminants from coming into contact with the area in the first place and to gently cleanse away any buildup that accumulates before it becomes a problem.
All you need is an isotonic saline solution that can be purchased in studio (Neilmed), or found at any drug store/pharmacy. Look for names like "Wound Wash", 0.9% Sodium Chloride", or "Normal Saline"; and check the label to ensure that no medications or preservatives have been added. If you're unable to find it near you, a carefully measured solution of 1/8 to 1/4 tsp of non-iodized sea salt per cup of (post-boiled) distilled water can be used instead. If purchasing a sterile saline spray, choose a 'fine mist' while healing (as pressure from a 'full stream' can irritate the delicate new tissue).
Avoid repeated use of unnecessary harsh chemicals (such as isopropyl alcohol, hydrogen peroxide, or Bactine), soaps containing triclosan, and ointments. These can (in order): damage and irritate the delicate new tissues attempting to form, contribute to antibiotic resistance, and prevent vital oxygen from reaching site (essentially 'suffocating' the piercing).
Saline for CONTACT LENSES and/or NASAL saline sprays should NEVER be used to clean your piercing.
Although a sterile saline spray (available for purchase in studio) is a wonderfully convenient method of performing piercing care on-the-go, the most effective and thorough way to clean a new piercing is by soaking it.
Remember, use only 1/8 to 1/4 tsp non-iodized sea salt per cup of (boiled) distilled water if making your own solution. Pour your boiled distilled water into a sanitized glass or ceramic measuring container, add the non-iodized sea salt and stir until dissolved.
*Allow the mixture to cool to body temperature before using.
WASH YOUR HANDS (as always, before touching your piercing)
Pour your solution into the sanitized container best suited to the area you're about to clean. Hint: a deep dish or shallow bowl works well for ear piercings, and a shot glass is perfectly suited for nipples/dermals/and navels.
Perform the soak by submerging the entire piercing for approximately 5-10 minutes. If positioning turns out to be an issue, a non-woven gauze pad saturated in the saline solution can be held gently against the piercing for the same amount of time.
GENTLY remove any softened buildup using the corners of a gauze pad. Avoid cloth or cotton buds as cloth can harbour bacteria and cotton buds can shed those tiny fibres that love to build up inside a piercing.
Pat dry using a clean piece of paper towel or non-woven gauze pad
Discard any used solution. *Ensure that your container is re-sanitized and that you're using a new batch of solution for each new body part being soaked to avoid cross contamination (this includes paired lobe piercings).
Using clean hands, check daily to ensure threaded ends are tightly fastened ("righty-tighty, lefty'loosey"). Hint: make a habit of also checking your ends regularly in the morning (with clean hands, of course) to ensure nothing has come loose or fallen out during the night! Avoid trying to tighten ends while looking in the mirror, as this can cause confusion about which direction is correct; and avoid tightening ends in the shower or while leaning over a sink in case they are accidentally spun the wrong way and come loose. We guarantee our jewelry against manufacturer defects, but not loss.
Continue to perform these soaks twice per day during the first couple of weeks and then as necessary following any trauma (or if signs of irritation are present).
Let's talk inflammation!
Inflammation is a normal and expected part of your body's immune response. Signs and symptoms of inflammation can include redness, swelling, localized pain, and often the presence of a clear-ish fluid. You may also experience some mild bleeding or bruising. As long as you're taking good care of your piercing, this should all subside within the first couple of weeks.
What's NOT normal:
Worsening redness, warmth, or swelling that continually spreads outward from the piercing or engulfs the jewelry.
The presence of foul-smelling discharge (pus) that is yellow or greenish in colour
These can all indicate the presence of ongoing trauma and/or infection and must be addressed as soon as possible. If you suspect that your piercing is infected, contact your piercer immediately and leave clean, quality jewelry in place to allow for drainage of any infectious material. Removal of jewelry too soon can lead to painful abscesses (as bacteria becomes trapped beneath the skin surface) that may require surgical intervention. Oftentimes, ongoing or intermittent signs of inflammation are the result of irritation that can be easily avoided. However, if an issue is left unaddressed this can lead to unsightly scar formation, jewelry embedding, or rejection of the piercing altogether.
Common causes of irritation and/or infection
Touching, twisting, or playing with your jewelry. Touching your jewelry is the most effective way to introduce bacteria into your piercing. You should also NEVER twist or rotate your jewelry in a fresh or healing piercing as this will repeatedly rip open the delicate new tissue and can lead to an increase in scar tissue formation.
Pressure from sleeping. Avoid this at all costs (especially with cartilage piercings with initial jewelry that has yet to be downsized) as this often leads to major swelling and can also permanently alter the angle at which the piercing rests. Hint: A travel pillow can help to offset pressure.
Exposing the piercing to contaminants (i.e. dirty home or work environments, public bodies of water, makeup, lotions, bodily fluids, etc.).
Allowing pets to touch your piercing. It's especially important to keep them out of your bed until fully healed! ALWAYS wash your hands after touching your pets; cats, reptiles, and livestock are common carriers of especially nasty bacteria (campylobacter, salmonella, etc) that can cause horrifying infections.
Wearing poor quality jewelry. Choose solid, quality materials with a mirror finish supplied by reputable manufactures. Avoid platings or coatings as these often have a poor wear surface and are commonly used to cover materials not approved for long-term wear or safe for use in a healing piercing. Hint: Reputable manufacturers of quality body jewelry will often sell only to licensed professionals. Ask to see mill certificates and inquire about ASTM ratings/country of origin. If in doubt, connect with the manufacturer specifically and ask them to verify their retailers.
Swapping out your initial jewelry too soon, or wearing jewelry that is ill-fitting or ill-suited to a particular part of the body. Certain sizes and styles of jewelry are better supported by healing tissue which is why it's so important to trust your piercer! Leave your initial jewelry in place until completely healed OR until it can be safely downsized using a sterile replacement and gentle taper method. We recommend downsizing certain piercings (i.e. helix, conch, lobe) after approx. 6-8 weeks of healing to prevent undue trauma that may be caused by excess bar length required to accommodate initial swelling.
Cleaning too vigorously, or adding too much salt to your saline solution.
Allowing debris to buildup, and/or picking it off with your fingernails. If you're unsure if a part of the piercing is clean because you can't see it, have someone check it out for you! A good daily hygienic routine should keep buildup at bay. However, if you do find hardened buildup use the clean gauze method (mentioned earlier) to remove it GENTLY after a long warm saline soak or hot shower.
Keep Your Piercing Happy & Healthy
Piercing aftercare doesn't end once your piercing is fully healed. Even a well-healed piercing can 'flare-up' or reject if neglected. Here are some useful tips to help you keep your piercings happy & healthy:
Wear comfortable jewelry that is made from quality materials and supplied by reputable manufacturers.
Hydrate, Hydrate, Hydrate!
Eat a healthy diet rich in proteins (the building blocks of healing) that is low in sugar and free from processed foods
Avoid stressors and other causes of inflammation
Avoid excessive alcohol and drug use
Avoid smoking. When you smoke, oxygen molecules in your hemoglobin are replaced with toxic carbon monoxide. This reduces the concentration of available oxygen (a vital component of healing) that your body can use to heal new injuries (i.e. a fresh piercing). Thus, smoking can prolong your healing time therefore making you more susceptible to infection.