Aftercare: How to look after a new piercing
Aftercare, healing, and safety:- Well, to make my life easier and when writing out my guides, I thought that a single reference page would be a lot easier to link and refer to. Within this page, I’ll be exploring every little inch of piercing healing, and aftercare!
So, I’ve just got a new piercing, how should I look after it?
Well, the first, and most important thing to remember is that you want to help your piercing to heal, not hinder it! This involves steering clear of harsh chemicals and unnatural ingredients, when it comes to cleaning, natural is always better!
Saline, and the importance of sea salt and small quantities.
1) When you go to a hospital with a wound, it’ll be washed with what’s known as a saline solution. This is a simple mix of salt (NaCl) and distilled water. This has powerful healing qualities, and is the only thing that you should be cleaning a piercing with.
2) So, you need salt, not just any salt, but SEA SALT. Why sea salt, I hear you ask? Well, other salts, such as table salt have other chemicals such as potassium and carbon added to add desirable properties. They might be ‘desirable’ for your cooking, but not for your piercing! A prime example of rough sea salt is Maldon Sea Salt, which is found in virtually all supermarkets.
3) You’ve got your sea salt. Now what to do? Fill a mug with HOT water that has been boiled. Obviously, you don’t want to scold the piercing with boiling water, but hot water will help draw out the nasties. Add 1/4th of a teaspoon of sea salt. Any more than this, and you’ll dry out the skin around the piercing.
Why will it dry out the piercing? Here’s the biology bit.
- As we’ve all been taught in school, people are made of A LOT of water. We’re looking at about 80% here!
- In our cells, there’s a substance called cytoplasm. Cytoplasm is made primarily of water, and swells when there’s a lot of water around, which explains why our skin gets happier when we drink a lot of water!
- Here’s the harder bit: When you expose your skin (around a piercing in this case) to water, the skin takes up water through a process called osmosis.
- Osmosis is where water moves from a high concentration to a lowconcentration. So, the water and the salt in the saline solution will move into the cells surrounding the piercing. This brings the salt in with it.
- Now, we have a different problem, the salts like to move from a highconcentration to a low concentration, much like water. Now all the salt’s inside the cell, it’s in a high concentration. It wants to move to a lower concentration.
- The salt diffuses out of the cell, but, also brings water with it. Obviously, this is all happening on a molecular level, so we can’t see it.
- So, the water has moved out of the cell, with the salt. If too much water leaves with the salt, the skin becomes dry and irritated.
So, that’s why we use 1/4th of a teaspoon of salt! We don’t want to ruin our lobes!
Help! I’ve got a bump on my piercing! What is it?
People often get bumps on healing piercings. They are medically known as hypertrophic scars. This can be for any number of reasons, such as a too strong salt solution, incorrect placement or incorrect jewellery. So, how do you get rid of the bump? There are a number of options.
- Do a Sea Salt Soak, as described above, except this time, add a chamomile tea bag, you can buy this in the tea section of a large supermarket. Make sure that it’s only chamomile, you don’t want anything else in there. NOTE: If you have a ragweed allergy, do a test first, the chamomile might aggravate the bump! Swirl the teabag in the mug, and remove it. Soak, and then rinse your ear as described above. Chamomile is a natural anti-inflammatory and has many soothing properties. It helps to calm the area, and reduce the bump. Do this three times a day.
- HEALED PIERCINGS: Dilute tea-tree oil and dab over the bump, it has very many natural anti-septic properties, but it can be rather harsh unless it’s diluted. It’ll help to calm the bump and help it go. Do SSS’s at this time as well.
- Massage the bump with Vitamin E or Jojoba oil, this breaks down the tissue and helps the bump to go.
Help! My piercing’s infected! What do I do?
Piercings actually rarely get infected, believe it or not! What many people think is infection, is mild irritation or the actual healing process. Your piercing may well be infected if it exhibits all of there symptoms:
- VERY hot to touch, does it burn and sting when you touch it? More than it did when you had it pierced?
- Is it very swollen? More than when you had it pierced?
- It the jewellery being ‘swallowed’ by the skin?
- Is there a very foul odour emitted from the piercing site?
- Is there a discharge? Note: All piercings have a normal, whiteish-yellow discharge called lymph. It crusts to form a yellow substance. This is totally normal. BUT: Is the discharge thick, gloopy, smelly, with a dark yellow, green or brown colour, streaked with red?
Three or more of those listed above can be the result of an infection. What do you do? Well, go straight to your doctor and ask for a broad spectrum antibiotic, this will stop the infection. If the doctor asks you to remove the jewellery, DO NOT!Removing the jewellery allows infectious abscesses to form, which are a lot worse than an infection.
What to expect from a healing piercing:-
Obviously, each healing time differs from piercing to piercing, but you can expect the same general healing symptoms:
- Itching. This is a sign of new cells forming round the piercing bar
- A yellow crust. This is dried lymph, which you need to soak off using an SSS. Lymph is made by the body’s immune system to combat a foreign invader, and is a good sign of healing.
- The piercing hurts less to touch (only touch a piercing with clean hands mind!)
- Normal skin colour returning around the exit/entry holes.
Redness around the exit and entry holes, however is usual for a long time after piercing.
How else can I clean my piercing? The soaks look like a lot of effort?
Soaks are the best and, in my opinion, the only way to be cleaning a piercing. Below is a list of harmful chemicals that you should NEVER use to cleana piercing, healed or not.
- Hydrogen Peroxide. This is, essentially, bleach. You clean toilets with bleach, not piercings! It causes the cells to burst and die, which is quite the opposite of what you want to do when healing a piercing. STAY WELL AWAY!
- Benzoalkiumchloride. This is found within those dodgy little cleaning solutions that you get after a gunned piercing. Once again, it’s too harsh in high concentrations, and in low concentrations that’s in the little blue bottle, it’s pointless, you may as well be washing with water.
- Antibacterial Soaps and sprays: Whilst a microbe free environment is important, anti bacterial soaps are far too harsh for piercings. It strips away the good and the bad bacteria, which is what your body actually needs (being the good bacteria) to heal the piercing, afterall only 1 in 10 cells in our body are actually ours!
If you have any questions at all, just ASK! In the ask box, I’m here to answer your qualms, questions and queries.
(C) Emily May Armstrong.