Nipple Piercings and the Long Haul

September 6, 2009

nipple copper 365445888_adc31ad146_m

As I said in the last post, nipple piercings are great all around body piercings.  (Note:  this is “part 2”– see previous post for more general info.) True to the old piercing adage, “If It Protrudes, Pierce It,” they stick out, are conveniently located for admiration and play, enhance sensuality and sensation–what’s not to like? But:

  • Nipples are slow and fussy healers. They take a long time to heal, and are prone to flare ups and crusties,even years after being pierced.

Nipples, navels, and cartilage piercings are probably the ones that take longest to heal.  Out of these, nipple piercings  seem to be the ones that really act up for the longest time.  Nipples are constantly changing shape; swelling, erecting, and relaxing with changes in temperature and arousal. This puts stress on a fresh wound with a foreign object in it.   Nipples reflect what is going on in the body and react to hormones, menstrual cycles, and health.  So perhaps it’s no wonder that the healing process can seem to go on forever.

With nipple piercings, you may experience:

–Healing to take a year or more; with the third stage of healing (toughening) to take a few more years.  (Review the stages of healing here.)

–Crusties possibly throughout the life of your piercing, apparently healed or not.  (“Crusties” are dried lymph and dead skill cells exuded by a healing piercing, which dry sharp and crusty on your jewelry.)

–Regular flare ups with menstrual cycles; and flare ups related to stress or illness.

–Frustration because they shouldn’t be played with during healing; or even relationship problems.  (Whose boobs are they?)  Healing nipple piercings should not come into contact with bodily fluids, lest they become infected.  Review how to have safer sex with piercings here.

The Bling Problem

Here’s another tip:  Nipple piercings don’t really like jewelry changes. The flesh tube in a nipple seems to be especially delicate in comparison with some other piercings, and reacts negatively to rough handling, excessive movement, and removal and insertion of jewelry.  Externally threaded jewelry (which has sharp threads being pushed through the piercing) is never a good idea in nipples.  Furthermore, jewelry tends to sit tightly in the flesh tube, which can shrink rapidly upon removal.  If you are planning to change your own jewelry, an appropriate taper and lube are advised.

I cannot tell you how many sob stories I have heard about nipples rejecting, migrating, or simply being too sore and fussy for comfort.  It’s really a shame, because healed nipple piercings are a treasure.  An abandoned nipple piercing is a sad, sad thing! In my opinion, most of these problems can be traced to improper jewelry considerations:  Wrong size, wrong material, or simply changing too often or too soon.

I hear stories about guys who take jewelry out of their fresh nipple piercings daily for soccer practice, and then they wonder why they won’t heal.  I recently saw a post about  pretty new nipple jewelry, with a picture of some very small diameter rings with gems.  Pretty indeed, but these were only 6-week old piercings, the diameter of the ring looked too small to me for comfort, and the jewelry itself did not look like good quality.  I predict an unhappy experience for this lady who may have sacrificed her lovely piercings to impatience.  Therefore:

Clouds #1 tip for happy nipple piercings is:

Make sure you have a well-fitting, premium quality piece of body jewelry in your new nipple piercing, preferably a straight titanium barbell, and leave it there for at least a year!

ti barbell 19-TBB-TB_400

Although I wear premium stainless steel barbells in mine, many of my friends report that switching to titanium has eliminated crusties and helped calm their piercings down overall.   By well-fitting, I mean that a ring’s diameter should be large enough for the part that passes through the nipple to be almost straight; or that a barbell should fit with just a little bit clearance on either side of the nipple, and the balls should not be pushed into the flesh tunnel or otherwise create a problem.  Sometimes adjustments need to be made after being pierced, so a visit back to your piercer may be in order.  As always in piercing, one size does NOT fit all, so a good piercer can order individual bars or balls to suit your anatomy.  But once you have a nice piece in there, leave it alone!

Patience with this piercing is critical.  This does present a problem for those of us eyeing those cool nipple shields or  pretty dangly/sparkly  nipple jewelry.  As always we are tempted, but we must resist!  Do not change jewelry for at least one year, and maybe more if you continue to experience unhappy nipples.  Realize that most of this type of jewelry is not meant for long-term wear, only “special occasion” wear.  And refer to the above “nipples don’t like jewelry changes.”

shield 38-NPTR5_400

Some more details to consider:

Male nipples are smaller, and may take less time to heal than female nipples. Male nipples are usually pierced into the areola.

–There are a lot of variables in size and shape, particularly in female breasts (for which there are a lot of thankful people out there); but this needs to be considered.  There’s no reason that really big breasts or big nipples; or conversely, really small nipples can’t be pierced, as long as, as Elayne Angel says, they are pliable and can be pinched up.

–You can breastfeed with pierced nipples, although for safety’s sake, usually the jewelry must be removed. You must also remove all jewelry for a mammogram.

Sea salt soaks can be a boon to pissy nipples–long flesh tunnels can trap hair, dead skin, and other debris that can be drawn out with salt soaks.  Frequent crusties must be soaked and cleaned off–frequently!

–One of the more serious consequences of a piercing gone wrong is an infection in the tissue of the female breast.  If you suspect an infection which is not responding to soaks or lasts more than a week or two, see a medical professional immediately.

–Although not as prominent as you may think, the jewelry can show through clothing, especially with thin, light colored clothing and large jewelry.  If this is a concern, minimize the profile of your jewelry as much as you can without compromising fit or healing (e.g., choose smaller balls),  pad your clothing with layers or padded bras/inserts, and break up the effect by wearing dark clothing/patterns.  And if your boss is staring at your nipples at work, you need to get a new job anyway!

–Nipple piercings may not be compatible with active sports or some lifestyles.  We  piercees couldn’t much help the guy who had to wear body armor for work, for example.  Some women swear by tight-fitting sports bras for support during the healing period (although I prefer no bras and no pressure on the piercing).

–Pierced nipples can “develop,” that is, grow larger in response to being pierced.  Not only does the insertion of the jewelry raise the profile, but the nipple can actually grow.  Although it’s not true that pierced nipples are always erect, they can become more prominent permanently, but how much is impossible to predict.  This seems to be a concern especially for men.

–For technical details on placement and sizing of jewelry, consult a good piercer or the The Piercing Bible, by Elayne Angel, as always (and all this stuff is in there anyway, so where’s your copy?)

So, is all this worth it?

Oh, Yes!  Yes,  yes!,  . . . well, you get the idea.  A well healed, perfectly placed nipple piercing is a thing of beauty, a joy to touch, and a source of potentially life-long pleasure. Pierced in a suitably sturdy gauge and well-toughened, they can withstand a good deal of rough play.  It is discrete and a perfect piercing for older or professional piercees.  It is well worth the extra care and patience to heal!

If you are interested, my 8-month old  nipple piercing (described here) is still in the second stage of healing, I think.  Although it is doing well, it is still sore occasionally, and benefits from intermittent soaking. My vertical nipple piercing, which is about (thinks) 5 years old has never given me any problem, has toughened up nicely, and has made my nipple very happy!

What are  you waiting for? Find a good piercer and do it!

fin

The copper nipple pictured above is from Ctd 2005’s photostream at Flickr.

Stock jewelry pics are from Steel Navel, with permission.

Advertisements

Tough love: The stages of healing

January 10, 2009

Just how long is the healing period for a piercing, anyway?

Well, you often hear ranges for specific piercings, say, 6-9 months for a navel piercing, or 4-6 weeks for a tongue piercing.  But these numbers really mean very little–different piercers or websites will have different figures; and they don’t tell the whole story, anyway.   Understanding how your piercing heals will help you customize your aftercare and know when it’s healed enough to change the jewelry.

Remember that piercings heal from the outside in: that is, new skin cells form at the outside of the flesh tunnel, where the piercing holes are, and slowly creep down the tunnel until it’s covered. A piercing is healed when it’s not red, sore, bleeding, or exuding lymph, and has generally calmed down after the recommended healing time. Piercing holes should have a smooth, donut-hole-like rim.

There are three stages of healing a body piercing:  The relatively short “open wound” stage; the longer secondary healing stage; and finally, the healed piercing.

Stage 1

Stage 1

Stage 1: For the first week, or few weeks depending upon the piercing, your piercing is a fresh wound, so treat it as such.  Bleeding, redness, soreness, and discharge are all common.  It may itch at this stage, or it may just be sore.  Be extra careful to guard against infection at this stage.   Regular soaking and showering are suggested.

Stage 2

Stage 2

Stage 2: This is where the main healing takes place, and represents a time period of anywhere from a few weeks to several months, depending on your piercing, your health, and other variables.  (Sorry for the crappy drawing–I hope that’s clear.)

It’s also the stage at which “crusties” tend to occur.  Your healing wound (i.e., your piercing) will exude and expel dead skin cells and lymph cells or plasma.  If left in place, it will dry to a whitish, crusty, or crystalline substance on your jewelry, where it may attract bacteria or get dragged through your piercing.   Sea salt soaks are the best thing to draw out this exudate and keep your piercing free of foreign matter.  Itching and soreness are common, especially at first, and flare-ups or irritation are also likely as it continues to heal.  Still, you should see overall improvement until it looks healed by the end of the period, and it’s possible to change the jewelry at this point if you’re gentle.

But stop! Just because it looks healed from the outside, does that mean it’s really healed all the way?

Stage 3

Stage 3

Probably not–remember, skin cells may still be forming on the inside, where you can’t see them.  Even when your flesh tunnel is covered with new skin cells, or epithelials, they are still new and weak, easily damaged with jewelry changes (especially with externally threaded jewelry) or rough treatment.

Stage 3: There’s a final stage, the toughening stage, which often gets short shrift in the initial concern (okay, fine:  paranoia) over our piercings.  This is the stage where the skin cells become smooth and tough,the inside of the channel is sealed, the jewelry moves easily through the piercing (usually), and changes of jewelry don’t bother it (usually).  This takes time!

If you want to use your piercings for rough body play, hang weights from them, wear nipple shields or dangly jewelry–wait until they are fully healed and toughened up.  And I’m talking possibly a year or two, maybe, depending on the body part.

Be gentle with them and give them the time they need with your jewelry in place.  Go sloooowly with stretches! The rule of thumb that I’ve heard is to wait three times as long as the initial healing period between each stretch.  Let your piercing toughen up between so there are no rips or tears.

Some piercings will continue to get crusty through their lives and still be well-healed (notably, nipples); others may just exude sebum, a smelly skin wax.  All piercings, when healed, still need regular cleaning with soap and water as part of a piercee’s routine.

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]