Here are 3 things I’ve learned which have come in handy as a piercee, and in life:
Pat, don’t rub
I swear I learned this one as a young girl from Patty Duke, but I can’t find a clip of her washing her face to corroborate: When washing and drying the face, pat–don’t rub! Skin is an amazing organ, but it should be treated delicately. Skin, and piercings, should also be kept dry. Piercings are often placed in folds of skin–in ears, in genitals, in navels, and bacteria just love warm, damp environments. Humid climates can also contribute to the problem, and you don’t want to have to bring out the tea tree oil to combat fungal infections.
Therefore, healing piercings should be washed gently with mild soap, or special antimicrobial wound care soap like Satin or Provon. No need to scrub vigorously, force the jewelry to move, rotate it, or anything like that. You are growing new skin cells in there, and too much or rough movement can damage them. After washing, carefully dry around your piercings with a clean paper towel — by patting.
So, wash behind your ears, but dry there, too! Wash your face delicately, and don’t scrub. In terms of wound care (like piercings) clean and dry is also the way to go. The second-to-last thing my surgeon said to me after my operation was to dry my incision carefully, and “Pat, don’t rub!” Keep your piercing dry, and treat your skin gently.
Knowing how to do deep breathing is a skill I initially learned in school–first as a relaxation exercise, and then for voice lessons. I’m not a yogi, to regale you with how the conscious control of the breath is a link to inner enlightenment, but I will tell you this: Learn how to breathe deeply, through the diaphragm, and you can use this skill to alleviate stress and deal with pain. (Sorry, no nifty hand-drawn graphic for this one, because I can’t draw worth a darn.)
Like the pain of childbirth. Or, like the pain of piercing. You know, when your piercing tells you to “take a deep breath, now let it out . . . ” That’s mostly a distraction technique, but if you have these mad deep-breathing skills, you should have been using them already, during the prep time. Anticipation is the hardest! Here’s how I do my relaxation breathing:
- Lie down on your back in a comfortable position. Let your body feel relaxed, and start to take deep breaths.
- Proper deep breathing expands your diaphragm, which is below your chest. Your tummy and back should both expand outward. If your chest is rising up and down–you’re doing it wrong. Take a deep breath in with your nose, pause a moment, and slowly exhale with your mouth. After you think you have exhaled everything, pause again–there is more air being expelled than you think.
- Now, starting at the feet, with each exhale, think of sending the exhalation and your breath into your body. Feel your feet getting heavy, warm, and relaxed. Imagine the blood flowing, the capillaries expanding with the energy of your breath. Now, move on up the body–the calves, the thighs, the buttocks. Some parts of the body are more stubborn than others, and may need several breaths to relax, or “cover” the entire area. Move up the back part of your body, with your back and neck (big trouble spots!) then do the shoulders, arms, and the front of the torso. Lastly, relax your head (you can get the neck here, too); and — very important! — the face, especially the cheeks and jaw, which hold lots of tension (I learned that in EST!).
- You are now pretty relaxed, and breathing very deeply. Stay that way for a while, enjoying the sensation, then–get up!
There are other methods, many of them, for using breath to relax, in the dentist’s chair, the doctor’s office, after receiving bad news, for singing (okay, I don’t do that anymore). Dr. Andrew Weil talks about breath a lot, and you can find more info on that here: Three Breathing Exercises.
When in Doubt, Salt it!
So, we all know that sea salt soaks have become standard aftercare for piercings. Salt is an essential compound for human life and has many useful properties (good to know if you ever need to cure fish or protect yourself from evil witches). It also has medicinal and antiseptic properties. As a kid, my mother would make me gargle with salt water to sooth a sore throat, and I still do that. As a piercee, I learned to do sea salt soaks, to bring oxygen and healing to the wound, to remove, by osmosis, foreign matter, lymph, and dead skin from the piercing site. The proper proportions, as illustrated above, are of course, important, and a good salt without dirt, or extraneous anti-caking agents, is also recommended. But the basic premise remains, and you can use it for other wounds.
After my abdominal surgery, my 5-inch incision was tricky to heal. It had a bad spot–a green and smelly inch which did not heal as fast as the rest. My doc didn’t seem too concerned, but in these days of runaway evil bacteria, I was pretty freaked. It was ugly. It hurt. And just keeping it clean and dry (patting, not rubbing!) didn’t seem to be improving things. So — out came the salt. I started doing regular sea salt soaks on the bad spot, just as if it were a piercing, and — voila! No more bad spot.
I told this to my doc, and he just looked at me like I was crazy. “Salt? Why?” Because it works! (Don’t take this as medical advice–I’m not a doctor, okay? Use common sense.)
We are all the sum of our experiences. I like how my life experience has prepared me to deal with my body piercings, and how piercings have taught me lessons I can use in the rest of my life. Who knew?
(If you need more info on how to do sea salt soaks for your piercings, look here and here. )