Getting a body piercing can be a great way to express yourself, but taking care of it is a big responsibility. If you don't care for your piercing properly, especially while it's healing, it won't be as aesthetically appealing. The area can become infected or ripped and possibly scarred. No matter what part of your body you have pierced, it's important to keep it clean in order to avoid complications.
Complications With Piercings
It's very, very important to make sure that once you have a body piercing, it is properly cleaned and maintained. If not, one of these complications may occur:
- Infection - A piercing is essentially an open wound, so it's very easy for it to become infected. If a piercing of the mouth or lips becomes infected, it can affect chewing, swallowing, speech and may cause swelling. A nipple piercing can scar breast tissue and may make it harder to breastfeed later in life. Certain types of people are more susceptible to infection including those with autoimmune diseases, anemia, cancer, eating disorders, diabetes and heart disease.
- Ripping/Tearing of the Skin - When you have a piercing on your navel or other parts of your body that are typically covered by clothing, it's important to wear loose-fitting clothing that won't snag the piercing. If the piercing does get snagged by clothing or by accident, it can tear the skin, which can lead to the build-up of scar tissue.
- Mouth Damage - If you have a piercing of the mouth or lips, it can crack or chip your teeth, hurt your gums or even be swallowed.
- Genitalia Damage - If you have a piercing of the genitalia, it can damage you or your partner during sex and increase your risk of contracting an STD.
- Allergies - If you don't use nonallergenic jewelry, you can develop an allergy to the metal (see: Can You Really Be Allergic To Jewelry?).
After you get the piercing, it is normal to see some blood and bruises around the area, and it may feel a bit sore or tender to the touch. But if you experience pain, swelling, inflammation or fever symptoms, the piercing is probably infected. Remove the piercing immediately and get the area checked out by a doctor.
Body Piercing Aftercare
According to the Association of Professional Piercers (APP), there are two solutions you can use to clean your piercing: a mild antibacterial soap that's fragrance-free, or a mild, sterilized saline solution. You can use one or both of the solutions if you wish. Here are some other tips on body piercing aftercare:
- Make sure that your hands are clean so you don't spread germs or bacteria to the area.
- If there is any crusty material or any blood, gently wipe it away with warm water.
- If using a saline rinse, apply it with gauze or paper towels or create suction with an inverted cup to keep the solution on the piercing. Soak it for five to 10 minutes.
- If using soap and water, don't clean the piercing more than twice a day. Use only a pearl-sized drop of soap and only leave it on the area for 30 seconds.
- Rinse all of the solution or soap from the piercing. Don't rotate or jiggle the jewelry.
- Completely dry the area with paper towel or a napkin. Cloth towels can harbor bacteria, which can easily infiltrate the hole, and it can also snag the jewelry.
As important as it is to clean your piercing, it's equally important to not over-clean the area. This can slow down the healing process and irritate the area.
While keeping your piercing clean is the first step of body piercing aftercare, it's certainly not the last. You'll also have to make a few lifestyle changes to make sure your piercing heals correctly:
- Take a shower instead of a bath as bathtubs can harbor bacteria.
- You also should avoid submerging the pierced area in lakes, pools and hot tubs as they could also harbor bacteria.
- Don't use any personal care products around the pierced area. That includes makeup, hairspray, perfumes and colognes, and lotion.
- Keep your bedding clean and be sure to change and wash your sheets often.
- Depending on what area of your body you have pierced, it can take anywhere from a few weeks to a few months to heal. It's important to stay healthy during that time so the piercing can heal quickly and easily. That includes staying away from drugs, nicotine, caffeine and alcohol.
Those tips will help you care for your piercing, no matter where it is. But certain piercings have specific care requirements:
- Facial/Ear Piercings - Make sure that you clean everything that comes in contact with your face including sunglasses, eyeglasses, telephones and hats. Keep your pillow clean by covering it in a clean T-shirt and turning it each night so you have a hygenic surface to sleep on. Also be careful not to snag your piercing when styling your hair.
- Nipple Piercings - Wear tight-fitting T-shirts and a sports bra for extra support and protection while it's healing.
- Navel Piercings - If this area is becoming irritated, put an eye patch over the area.
- Genital Piercings - Make sure you clean your piercing after intercourse. After cleaning the piercing, the APP suggests urinating to get rid of any soap residue or saline solution.
If your piercing becomes too uncomfortable or too much to handle, simply remove it and the hole will close in a few weeks. But before you get a body piercing, it's best to know what you're getting yourself into. Whether you want one for fun, fashion or to fit a trend, a body piercing is still a lot of work and can turn into a problem if not cared for in the proper way.