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Climate and Piercings

There are many factors that go into your piercing healing correctly. Placement, jewelry, aftercare. These are often things that most folks consider. Something you often don’t is climate. Ever travel and notice your previously happy healing piercing is all grumpy? Or, conversely ever have a problematic piercing that magically becomes happy while traveling? And on a larger scale, ever notice a difference in how you heal after you move? Maybe healing is suddenly harder or easier. That’s because the climate of the area you are in absolutely plays a role in how piercings heal. How humid, dry, and temperate a place is, and the types of temperatures and weather experienced there can all effect how you heal. Let’s take a closer look!

While there are no specific studies on climate and body piercing healing, there is the observed phenomenons that many professional piercers have experienced over their career. Particularly those who have done quite a bit of traveling and guesting as they pierce. There’s some climate factors that are easy to observe- for example severe winters often cause dry skin, chapped lips, and even frostbite. Therefore healing a lip piercing in December in Alaska is going to look very different then healing the same piercing in December in Florida. The client in Alaska may experience severely chapped lips, extra swelling, irritation, and trouble healing. The client in Florida won’t have to deal with any of that. The same applies conversely- a healing earlobe in Florida in august may struggle with moisture irritations thanks to the humidity. Something our Alaskan client won’t struggle with nearly as much.

The effect of full seasons is fairly straight forward and the impact can be considered with some common sense. Winters often come with dry skin and chapped lips- this time of year can make healing a lip or oral piercing much harder. And if you are prone to very dry skin on your ears, you may want to wait out the worst of winter. Summer can bring humid days and lots of time in the pool and ocean- neither of which is great for many healing piercings. Desert heat can lead to both dry or oily skin depending on your body and how your skin reacts, and excessive sweat can also contribute to irritation.

But it’s often more nuanced than that. Seasons can effect healing, but the general climate of an area can as well. Any piercer who has done their fair share of traveling and piercing can tell you that general healing responses, particularly initial swelling, is very variable based off the climate where you live. In general humid, hot climates seem to tend to have a stronger initial inflammation response and dryer climates have a milder one, although after that humid climates often see a smoother healing process. Humid climates see moisture irritations far more often, and drier climates can deal with excess buildup of dead dry skin. And this tracks! After all there’s a lot of medical research about the difference in healing in moist, wet, and dry environments that points to moist environments being ideal for wound healing and promoting faster epithelialization and result in reduced scar formation, as compared to treatment in a dry environment. (1) Now these studies are often done focused on the immediate environment around the wound, but given how vastly climate can vary from place to place it stands to reason that also effects our healing.

But more than how climate effects our wounds is how it effects our skin. Be it dry and cold or humid and hot, the climate you live in greatly impacts your skin. Climate can cause dry patches, acne, flareups of existing skin conditions or even new skin conditions to arise (2). There’s even indications that warmer climates can sometimes cause higher cases of certain skin infections, and colder climates can be associated with skin condition issues. And don’t just take it from me, there’s plenty of dermatological studies about climate and skin, and even lists of the worst cities to live in for your skin health. With climate effecting your skin so much, it stands to reason it would impact our piercings as well! Many clients have experiences moving to a new area and either dealing with new skin issues or problems, or noticing their skin suddenly feeling and looking better.

Because we see these differences, this can often change how we approach certain piercings. For example when I worked in Florida I found I often needed longer initial posts for certain piercings to accommodate for swelling. While working in Michigan I found I didn’t need nearly so much extra length. This can also apply to styles we opt to use. I would not start a nostril with a hoop in Florida, the amount of swelling and issues we see make it not at all worth taking the risk of using. However, if I were working in Boston, I would be more comfortable doing so for the right client. It would still be much more difficult to heal than a stud, but not nearly as likely to see severe issue just from the climate where we live. This is why you may notice one set of rules and experiences being pierced in one area and a different one elsewhere. For example I have colleagues in Canada who don’t do certain oral piercings in winter. You probably won’t encounter those restrictions or concerns living in California where winter is more mild and temperate.

I personally would love to see more official studies about the effects of climate on skincare and wound healing, obviously with a focus on body piercing. In the absence of these studies I refer to the experiences of my colleagues, and I love having conversations about the different experiences we have with healing, irritation, and piercing and how it relates to the area we work in. For piercers who are unaware of these effects climate has I encourage you to seek out educational forums where you can communicate with and learn from other piercers. And for clients, keep climate in mind! Going on vacation? Traveling for school or work? Moving across the country? Keep in mind that your skin and your piercings may be effected from the change! I hope this helps, and happy healing!

(1) Clinical Impact Upon Wound Healing and Inflammation in Moist, Wet, and Dry Environments

Johan P.E. Junker,* Rami A. Kamel, E.J. Caterson, and Elof Eriksson

(2) Balato N, Ayala F, Megna M, Balato A, Patruno C. Climate change and skin. J Ital Dermatol Venereol; 148: 135–46.

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