In this aftercare series so far we have reviews how piercings heal, and what role aftercare plays in healing. We’ve also looked a how to correctly do aftercare in general, and specifically what aftercare for oral piercings is like. Today, I want to look at what aftercare is best for surface piercings! Before reading this blog please check out aftercare basics, and general care, as both will be referenced here! And if you’ve ever wondered about caring for surface piercings, this is for you!
First in understanding how to care for surface piercings is understanding why they are different from other piercings. Now surface piercings is a broad term for any piercing that passes along the surface of the skin. This often includes bridge, eyebrow, and some navel piercings. For todays blog I am specifically only referring to surface bars and surface anchors when I say surface piercings.
Surface bars and surface anchors are both considered “long term temporary” piercings. This means they likely won’t last you forever- they will eventually migrate or reject and need to be removed. This is simply an inherent nature of these piercings- they are placed in pockets along the surface of the skin that are far more fragile then piercings we do all the way through something (like an earlobe or a lip.) Surface piercings are fragile even healed, and one wrong catch or snag can cause them to begin to migrate. Also, simply given the nature of how they are pierced, they are more prone to issues with buildup, fluid pockets, and other irritations unique to surface piercings. This means we need to approach them uniquely with care as well.
Care for surface piercings is largely the same as general aftercare. Saline to keep things clean, no harsh chemicals like alcohol or peroxide. But the difference is how we clean. Surface bars and anchors are gently anchored in the skin with their bases- either a microdermal base or a surface bar. But yanking or lifting up the tops can encourage migration. With many ear and facial piercings clients are used to lifting and moving jewelry to clean away debris. But with surface piercings, attempting to lift and clean under the tops could cause issues and even migration.
For surface piercings, I love a hot compress. Spray saline on clean non woven gauze till it’s soaked, and then warm in the microwave on a clean plate. Most folks only need a few seconds- we want it warmer then our body temperature but not hot enough to burn us. You can hold that warm wet gauze unto your surface piercing for a few minutes. Alternatively, a hot shower and letting the water run over the piercing for a few minutes works wonders as well. This allows the water or saline to naturally irrigate the piercing without us using q-tips or gauze to push up and irritate. Hot compresses and extra irrigation in the shower are the two best ways to keep surface piercings happy and healthy. I suggest doing this not only when healing but even once healed. This will keep these piercings happy and healthy and help you have them for longer!
This works great for the first few weeks-months of healing. But if you have surface piercings longer, they are going to get crust and debris built up under the tops. So how do we clean that without lifting the top and irritating it? The answer is gently.
The two main tools I like for really cleaning under surface piercings are tooth piks, and unscented dental floss. Both of these need to be used with caution to not damage the piercing. Whenever I’m using either, I take one hand and hold my finger on the top of the anchor or bar with gentle pressure. I’m mostly just trying to stabilize things. Then, with a toothpick, I’ll go parallel to the skin and gently scrape under the top, coming from every side. I don’t use much force, I’m just trying to gently remove and debris. Likewise, you can take some unscented dental floss and gently “floss” under the top.
Remember that the bar or anchor has a rise that the top is threaded into. Imagine it like the letter T. That bar is in the middle of the top, and you want to clean around it. Cleaning after a hot compress or shower is great because the debris is softened up and easy to remove. I only suggest these more through cleanings after the piercing is well healed and established, as trying to do this too early in healing could shift or unsettle the base.
Surface piercings sometimes struggle with moisture buildup under the tops, so hitting the area with a blow dryer on a low setting after showering, swimming, or compresses can help keep things dry if you are struggling with moisture irritations.
Given the nature of surface piercings migration and rejection are often our biggest concern. And this effects how we approach care and cleaning as well. A good catch or snag can absolutely cause migration to start so we want to minimize that in our care and cleaning. This often happens with towels and rings as part of our regular washing routine. I suggest to pat dry with towels (not wipe) to avoid fibers catching or snagging on surface work. Remove rings before washing your face or showering, to prevent catching and snagging.
Also incorporate this awareness into your day to day life. Be careful when taking shirts on and off, with blankets that may catch or snag, and while styling hair. In general, one of the best ways you can help a surface piercing last longer is to not catch it on stuff.
A note on Directional Ends
Many folks love the cute heart shaped ends I wear on my cheekbone anchors, or admire cute moons and stars in surface piercings. But it’s important to remember once your base is in your skin, it’s in. We can’t just swap it for a different one. This means if you want to wear something that has to face a specific direction (hearts facing upright or a crescent moon facing left) it has to be pierced with that piece, or the threading needs to be checked and confirmed ahead of time. Personally, I prefer to pierce with the directional piece so I know for sure it will align correctly. Fresh surface piercings, anchors in particular, can shift a small bit in the first week or two. With a directional end, some piercers do suggest using tegaderm bandages to help ensure everything heals in the position we want it in. I do like these bandages for initial directional anchors, as long as they are used correctly and gently.
Further, some piercer suggest bandaging surface piercings at night initially to prevent snagging. I personally don’t suggest this, but wanted to mention it here as some piercers do. If your piercer does, or if you plan to bandage, please please please be gentle. It is very easy to get adhesive stuck on a fresh surface piercing and cause serious damage getting it off. If you are going to bandage, I suggest using something to protect the piercing from adhesive. Some piercers cut a small piece of gauze to place over the piercing, some suggest wetting the area with saline so it only adheres on the edges. Just be very very careful when applying and removing any bandaging from the piercing. I would not use bandages for more than the first week, as adhesive irritations are common.
Now that we know the general care, I’ll discuss my tips for specific placements!
-avoid necklaces till fully healed, and be cautious with them after healing. Start gently and monitor how things sit and feel. Many necklaces will not be compatible with nape piercings.
-I suggest regular followups with your piercer during healing since this piercing can be very difficult to heal and clean on your own, as you can’t see it.
Forehead / Anti Eyebrow Piercings
-be careful with eye and brow makeup. This includes eyeshadow, liner, brow fill, etc. Makeup irritations are very common in placements around the eyes, and makeup can get clogged around and in the bases and cause these to have very short lifespans.
-untangle hair gently. Forehead surface work in particular loves to tangle in your har. Don’t just yank at it as this can damage the piercing, gently untangle to avoid irritation.
Chest surface piercings
-seatbelts are not your friend. In fact, they are your enemy. You’ve been warned.
-If you have breasts and are a side sleeper, be mindful of any pressure this puts on healing and healed piercings.
-be mindful of shirt collars, bag straps, bra straps, and necklaces. Some of these may not be compatible with this placement piercing.
Surface piercings are super cool, super fun piercings that allow us choices in placement never before possible. Despite being long term temporary they are still so so fun for the time they do last. I hope this guide helps you with healing and caring for your surface piercings. And stay tuned, cause my next blog will be discussing the healing and care of genital piercings! Happy healing <3