My last blog post addressed an introduction to piercing aftercare and healing concepts! Today we are going to be discussing general aftercare- this means methods and tips for cleaning for most piercings. The advice here is just general care and cleaning advice. In the coming weeks we are going to look specifically at oral piercings, genital piercings, and surface piercings, so stay tuned for more specific information for those! In the first post we already discussed how piercings heal and saline as the best product for healing piercings. We also talked about what products you want to avoid on healing piercings, so we won’t be reviewing these things here. If you haven’t already, read that blog first!
As we know from the first blog in this series, our bodies really do the work of healing piercings. We are just here to clean up after them. What that means is removing the crust and debris that naturally forms around our piercings. And, as we know, saline is the best product to use to do so! You can either spray it directly on the piercing to irrigate away crust or debris, or use it on a q-tip to clean away debris. What method will work best for you will depend on your body, your piercing, and your healing needs. If you find just saline spray works, awesome! But if it’s not getting things clean enough, you may find q-tips more precise. And you can learn more about using q-tips for cleaning and some pros and cons in this blog post.
As far as how often to clean, that really depends on your body! A good rule of thumb is to check your piercing 2-3 times a day. If you notice there’s crust and debris, clean it away. If there’s nothing there, then you don’t need to clean! Remember your body is healing this piercing, not the saline you use. So the saline isn’t going to magically heal your piercings, its just there to remove that crust and debris. If there’s no debris there, there’s nothing to clean! Everyone heals differently and some people produce a lot of crust and debris and need to clean more often. Some one produce very little and can get away with cleaning less often. Pay attention to your body and clean it as it needs it.
What If I don’t have saline?
If you’ve run out of saline, misplaced a bottle, or may be traveling, honestly clean water works just as well. Let the shower water run over the piercing a little longer, take some bottled water on a q-tip to clean things off. Remember the saline is not medicine, it’s just there to be something mild enough to clean away the debris without hurting the healing skin around it. Many of us feel like we need something, some product to feel like we are really cleaning our piercings. So in the absence of saline may turn to things like alcohol or peroxide. But the products we use aren’t what’s healing our piercings, our bodies are. And harsh chemicals like that can actually damage the fragile healing tissue of the piercing and cause more harm than good. So if you somehow run out of saline, just use water.
LITHA- Leave It The Heck Alone
Thanks to this there’s a common school of aftercare known as LITHA or leave it the heck alone. That means, literally, just leave it be. Don’t mess with it, don’t touch it, don’t clean it. Let some shower water run over it and other then that just leave the piercing alone to heal. And this method honestly works wonders for many people. Remember that your body is healing this, not any products you are using. So you can just let your body do it’s thing.
However, for some people and some piercings LITHA won’t be enough. For example, I have psoriasis and produce too much crust not to manually remove it from my piercings daily. If I didn’t, it would build up so much it would cause issues. Someone else may have a piercing in an area where they have to clean away the debris because other wise it builds up. So listen to your body. If LITHA is enough for you and works, awesome! But if you need to clean it more often or more regularly, that’s ok too.
If you need to touch or move a piercing to clean it that’s one thing, but try to avoid picking at, playing with, or fidgeting with your piercings while they heal. Imagine the inside of the piercing like scab on a wound. When you play with or spin your piercings it’s the equivalent of picking that scab off and can break and damage the healing skin inside a piercing. And we all know when we pick our scabs our wounds reopen and take longer to heal. The same goes for our piercings- twisting and rotating them often damages the fragile internal skin and prolongs healing.
So where does the advice to twist our piercings come from? Well back in the day we used to pierce with a needle and thread, and leave the thread in the wound for a bit till we could get metal earrings. But the thread was porous and could stick to the healing wound, so you’d rotate and twist it to prevent that. These days however we pierce with metal jewelry and metal can’t get stuck to your wound like that. Otherwise you’d have to spin your braces and grandma would have to rotate her hip replacement! But that advice still got handed down without the logics behind it, and led to millions of people twisting and turning their healing piercings causing more damage and irritation to them as they healed.
If you need to gently move or adjust things to clean that’s totally fine, but don’t sit there picking at or playing with it randomly! That’s going to do more harm then good.
Obviously we can’t be perfect- and we will accidentally catch or snag our piercings despite our best efforts to be cautious. We can minimize this happening by being more aware during small tasks like taking glasses on and off, removing masks, taking shirts on and off. But even so, we will likely still accidentally snag things sometimes. If that happens don’t panic, take a few deep breaths and then clean your piercing. A good snag may cause bleeding and if that happens, take a few photos and contact your piercer. If it doesn’t, just monitor the piercing closely for a few days and watch for an irritation from the snag.
Now, let’s get to my favorite tips and tricks for aftercare with specific piercings-
-With ear piercings it’s very important to try to avoid sleeping on them while they are healing. If possible, sleep on the other side. I even have a whole blog post about why I suggest only healing one side at a time thanks to the issues sleeping can cause. If you are a side sleeper however this can be hard. So try the travel pillow trick! Get a travel pillow and put your ear in the hole, that way you can sleep on that side without smushing your ear piercings all night long. It’s a game changer for side sleepers! You can even put it inside your pillowcase and such it into your pillow to make a super pillow that’s comfy and protects your ears.
-Avoid headphones until a piercing is fully healed. Headphones can put pressure and irritation on healing piercings. Beyond that, they often harbor bacteria and debris that aren’t awesome around your healing piercings.
-Consider wearing masks with ear savers, to prevent masks from catching or rubbing on healing piercings. This also takes the pressure of the mask off your ear.
-For rook, forward helix, and daith piercings, those pointy makeup tips are a game changer to clean around those tight folds in your ears, and make a huge difference cleaning away crust. Full size q-tips can often be too large to comfortably use in those areas.
-All piercings usually need a downsize (and you can learn more about that here) but flats, forward helixes, and mid helixes are extra prone to migration and downsizing should be extra prioritized here.
-When using hair products cover your ear to avoid them getting on your ear piercings.
-This may sound silly but be aware when giving hugs! Few things hurt more than absolutely bashing your fresh ear piercing on your friends head during a hug, or tangling in their hair. Try to hug on the side without healing piercings, and angle your head away.
-Remove your finger rings before you wash your face. Rings are a huge way to catch and snag on piercings and yeet your jewelry across the room. Many a client has mourned the loss of their jewelry to a ring while washing their face.
-In the same vein, pat your face dry after cleaning. Don’t wipe- the towel will snag and you will regret it instantly.
-For nostril piercings- if you are sick or have allergies and a runny nose your piercing is going to get grumpy too. Baby it and be extra gentle with it, and focus on feeling better! Theres sadly not too much you can do aside from recover- as long as you are sick and stuffy your piercing will be grumpy too.
-For eyebrow piercings, refrain from hair removal till they are fully healed. It’s simply asking for a very bad catch or snag if you try to tweeze, wax, or sugar while these are healing!
-avoid high wasted clothing while these heal. It can rub and press on the piercing causing irritation and even migration/rejection. And be aware when you sit how your waistband rides up- you don’t want it pressing into the piercing the entire time.
-If you you must wear something high wasted for work or school, use a hard vented eyepatch under your clothing. This can cover the piercing and prevent the clothes from rubbing and irritating as much. Ot’s still not ideal, so you’ll want to avoid wearing high wasted things if possible.
This is a great general rundown of the care and cleaning of piercings and all of my best tips and tricks! Hopefully this helps many of you with your healing piercings. Stay tuned because we’ll be discussing oral, genital, and surface piercing aftercare next!