Your body does the healing. It’s your job, as a new piercee, to support your body in its efforts.
A basic aftercare routine is to soak your piercings in a mild saltwater solution (or rinse, for oral piercings) and to keep the area clean by washing with soap.
A word about “standard” aftercare. The APP has promulgated standard aftercare which you can read here for body piercings and here for oral piercings. But your body may not be “standard,” or your piercer may have other ideas for aftercare. The key is to use your common sense and be aware of how your own body reacts.
CLOUD’S AFTERCARE ROUTINE FOR BODY PIERCINGS
Rather than repeating the party line, I’m going to go over my own aftercare routine, which I’ve developed over the years based on piercers’ suggestions and trial and error. (Note: this is for body piercings only, not oral piercings.)
For the first couple of weeks (or however long I can stand it), I soak with salt or herbs, and shower with soap, twice a day, or every 12 hours. I also use oil as a healing aid. Here’s how:
1. I clean and prepare. First, I make sure everything is clean and I have all my supplies (salt, herbs, oil). I make sure the surfaces in my kitchen or bathroom have been cleaned and disinfected, and that I have paper towels, clean sheets and pillowcases, and clean towels.
2. I wash my hands. I wash my hands before touching my piercing or doing anything aftercare related. And I mean WASH! With hot water! and soap! and friction!– not just a quick rinse under the faucet.
3. I prepare my herbs. In the beginning, I like to soak with herbs, rather than, or in addition to, salt water solution, for the antibacterial, anti-bruising, and healing effects. Since the herbal mixture takes several hours to steep, I make my herbal infusion, using lavender, or a mixture of lavender, arnica, and red clover (more details on this here).
4. I soak. I tend to do more salt soaks a little later in the healing process, when the crusties show up, because the action of the salt water draws out the material inside the piercing. If I want to do a sea salt soak, I mix my sea salt solution. I heat my salt solution (or herbs) in the microwave until it’s as hot as my skin can stand. Then I soak, for 5-10 minutes. Using a cup, I bring the cup to my piercing and (hopefully) make a vacuum seal. This works great for things like nipples and navels. For things like ears and genitals, I use a bowl on the floor. On a towel! I describe doing sea salt soaks in detail here: Like Chicken Soup for Your Piercings!
5. I shower. Showering is an important part of daily piercing aftercare. Even if you don’t do sea salt (or herbal) soaks, just letting hot water over your piercing is going to help keep it clean and remove the crusties. Since it’s important to rinse any salt off, if I do sea salt soaks I shower afterwards. (If I do herbal soaks, I usually soak after the shower because there’s no need to rinse off).
–Turn the water on hot and let the steam build up. I take my time and let the steam and water soften my skin, the piercing and any crusties still on there. I let the water run over my piercing for a while. This is a good argument for getting pierced in winter when a long, hot, steamy shower will feel great.
—I use Provon antimicrobial soap. First, I wash my entire body with it, head to toe. There are a lot of microorganisms that live on your skin, and they can migrate, or travel, so the idea here is to cleanse your skin both of ordinary surface dirt and to kill any bad germies so they don’t get to your piercing. I use a tiny bit at a time, working up lather, and rinse well.
–Then, and only then, after a long steam and soak, and after cleansing the rest of my body, do I wash my piercing. Again, I take a tiny bit of Provon, and lather it up, and place it gently on and around the piercing. I let it sit there for 30 seconds, then rinse off.
—It is not necessary to rotate your jewelry, scrub it, move it back and forth vigorously to get soap in there, or any of that! I might choose to gently manipulate the piercing during this soaping and rinsing stage, when the skin is soft and pliable, and the jewelry is lubricated, if I think it needs it, for positioning purposes, or for cleaning any remaining crusties. But only move your jewelry if it wants to go, and never force it! Overcleaning and rough treatment will harm your piercing!
6. I dry off. I dry off with paper towels. (Okay, I use a clean towel for most of my body, and paper towels for the area around my piercing.) Not only do towels harbor germs, but those terry loops can catch painfully on the jewelry. Ouch! It’s important to dry your piercings thoroughly.
7. I apply oil. For the final touch, I apply a little bit of oil (emu, almond, jojoba, etc.) on and around the piercing exit holes. (NOT in the piercing holes.) This helps keep the skin from drying out and gives a little “ease” to the jewelry, and helps keep crusties from sticking so bad on the jewelry, too. More on oil later.
Then, I wait. Again, keeping in mind the general principles I discussed in Part 1, you want to protect your piercing, keep it clean, and give your body time to heal. Disclaimer: This is only one person’s opinion and routine. Remember, your piercer is your first resource for piercing advice.
Thanks to Krikit’s photostream and Flickr.