Piercing Aftercare in Detail: Salt of Life

January 24, 2009

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Salt is, of course, necessary for human survival.  The search for and trading of salt has impacted trade and the rising and falling of nations.  It seasons and preserves food, and as we know, it also has therapeutic uses.  Salt is great stuff–you can eat it, gargle with it, and bathe with it.

Of course, it’s also one of the main components of basic body piercing aftercare. In case you missed my obsessive cross-linking, here’s my post on how to do sea salt soaks for your piercings:  Like Chicken Soup for your Piercings.

The APP’s standard aftercare recommends a “non-iodized sea salt solution.”  That’s all very well, but what exactly is sea salt, where can you find it, and why can’t you just use Morton’s off the shelf?

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Salt comes either from mines or from the sea, and the nutritional value of each is the same. The chemical composition of salt is NaCl, or sodium chloride.  Regular table salt is refined, then anti-caking agents are added for pourability.  Iodine is also added as a nutritional supplement.  You do not want these additives in your piercing!

There are many varieties of salt. Look for salt which has no additives.

Some people recommend kosher salt, which you can find in your grocery store.  Kosher salt is raked during the mining process to produce a fluffy texture which melts well.  But look! The box I have, which I use for cooking, has “yellow prussiate of soda” in it added as an anti-caking agent.  So, read the labels for any type of salt you are considering purchasing for your sea salt soaks.

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Another type of salt you may find in your grocery store is Celtic Sea Salt, or another brand of gourmet sea salt.  This type of salt is off white, almost gray, due to the trace minerals which haven’t been refined out.  I use this stuff in food, to brush my teeth for gum therapy, and for therapeutic baths.  I personally don’t know what effect these trace minerals have on piercings, so I prefer to use plain, refined NaCl without any additives if I can get it.

Not Epsom salts! Epsom salts (magnesium sulfate) may have therapeutic benefits, but they are not what is recommended for your piercing.  Food grade rock salt may be okay (not the crap stuff they sell to put on roads), but remember you want this stuff to dissolve in hot water.

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Where to Find Salt for your Aftercare:

Your piercer.  The best studios will have salt available, either for purchase, or given as a freebie with your aftercare instructions.  If they don’t have it for sale ask them–why not?

Your grocery store or health food store.  A health food store is often a good bet.  I found the individual packets of pure NaCl pictured above sold for use in neti pots (jalneti).  Avoid products with anti-caking agents or iodine added.

Online.  Many body jewelry retailers carry salt for aftercare. Here are a couple of sources from my favorite sites:

Sea Salt from Tribalectic

Jala Neti Pot Salt from Yoga & Life  (Neti pots are fabulous health aides too–check them out!)

Sea Salt from BodyArtForms

Note:  You can also use pre-packaged sterile solution for your piercing aftercare, which you can buy at a drugstore.  Not contact lens solution! Contact lens solution has added stuff!

You can also buy proprietary aftercare solutions, like H2Ocean, containing salt.  Let me just say here:  I don’t like them! You don’t know exactly what you are getting, and most of them are much more expensive than plain salt.   In addition, sprays, while they might be good convenience products for aftercare when you’re on the road or running around, don’t allow for the beneficial effects on your piercing of immersion in hot salt water. All this stuff smacks to me of people just wanting to cash in on the popularity of body piercing, and I can’t see any of it is better than plain, cheap, natural salt therapy. Again, read the labels and know what you are buying.

Some further links to info about salt and salt therapy:

Salt Works

Celtic Sea Salt

Geology of Salt from About.com

Too much salt is bad for you, but I love it!

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Body Piercing Aftercare in Detail-Pt. 1

January 15, 2009

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Good health + good hygiene + sea salt soaks + time. That’s pretty much it when it comes to caring for your body piercings.

Gone are the days when vigorous washing with harsh chemicals was recommended.  Trial and error have proved that gentleness, the simplest of care, and Leaving It The Hell Alone are best, assuming there are no issues with jewelry placement, allergies, etc.   I’m going to do a series which explains aftercare in detail, including posts on soap and salt.     If you’ve forgotten the aftercare your piercer (was supposed) to give you, here’s the least you need to know.

Step 1: Your body does the healing, so be healthy!  Support your immune system and whole body, which is trying to heal a wound and build new skin, by resting, eating nutritiously, taking vitamins, and avoiding excess drugs, alcohol, and especially for oral piercings, smoking.

Step 2: Protect your piercing.  By  “protect” I mean protecting it from the environment, from germs, and from trauma.  Keep it covered and out of the way if possible, don’t let clothes rub or put pressure on it, and be aware of your surroundings and things like babies, towels, and seat belts.  Protect your piercing from germs, by being scrupulous about your personal hygiene and the cleanliness of your piercing. Which leads me to the following step:

Step 3: Try a little hydrotherapy.  Hot soaks with sea salt and/or herbs, hot and cold wet compresses, and simply letting water run over it in the shower will do wonders for your piercing.  (Here’s how to do sea salt soaks.)

Step 4: Apply time and patience.  See Step #1 above.  Don’t panic!  Piercings typically go through ups and downs during the healing process.  If you have an issue with your piercing, seek expert help for troubleshooting.  Your issue may go away with a simple change of jewelry.

See how easy it is?   I’m going to discuss bare bones aftercare, and also a few extras that I do, like herbs and oil.

Keep in mind that views on proper aftercare procedure vary, and this is just my opinion.  Your piercer is your first resource when it comes to piercing advice, and you should listen to your body, trust your instincts, and work out what is best for you.

Do you like my mermaid? She’s supposed to represent cleansing, hydrotherapy and sea salt soaks.  And in color, just for my friend, Bob!