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Sunburn and Piercings

Ah, the beginnings of summer, warm weather, fun in the sun, and banishing those winter blues. I am at heart a warm-weather person and a sun worshipper. I love being out on the water or in nature, driving with the windows down the moment it’s warm enough, and just soaking up every ray before winter hits again. But the start of the warmer months also means it’s the start of sunburn season. And without fail, I will have clients come through my doors every summer who are redder than a lobster looking to get a new piercing or needing help with an existing one- and I will have to break their hearts. So let’s talk about it- Sunburn and your Piercings!

What is Sunburn?

Sunburn is actually a radiation burn from overexposure of UV rays, typically from the sun. Our cell's DNA is damaged by UV radiation which causes apoptosis- a form of cell death. An inflammatory response is then triggered in our body as these cells are replaced. Sunburn can present with the obvious red, hot-to-the-touch skin, but can also include blisters, peeling skin, swelling, fatigue, and dizziness. Most of us will experience sunburn at some point in our lives, fortunately with good sun protection it’s often fairly mild. Sunscreen and sun-protective clothing are two of the best ways we can protect our skin from sunburn.

Can I get pierced if I have a Sunburn?


I know I’m being the big bad guy again- but we can’t in good conscious pierce through damaged and injured skin! And sunburn is literally that- it’s a burn! Because sunburns can be so common and many folks get them a few times in their life (or even a few times a summer if you aren’t careful) we often write them off as no big deal. So what if I’m a little pink, it’ll be fine in a few days! But remember what we discussed above, when you’ve gotten a sunburn your skin cells are literally dying from radiation damage. And when we consider some common locations for a sunburn- nose, cheeks, face, and ears- these are all also the areas you probably are looking to be pierced.

I know it can seem like “no big deal” to get a piercing if you are just a little burnt, but the skin in the area is undergoing major inflammation and healing. If we were to pierce through that the best-case scenario is impacting the bodies healing and making the healing of both the burn and the piercing more difficult. The worst case is causing serious problems to either the burned skin or the new piercing- which can include irritation, excessive inflammation, blisters, scarring, migration, and rejection.

If you’ve gotten burned, even just a mild one, please let your body fully heal from the burn before coming in to get a piercing. Even if it means needing to reschedule an appointment- I promise your piercer would rather have you be safe with your body.

What if I get sunburned on an Existing Piercing?

This can easily happen and it’s not a great experience. If the burn is milder, you may have some tenderness, warmth, and mild swelling around the piercing. Using the usual aloe and topicals to soothe the skin should be enough. But if the piercing is newer, or the burn is more severe, you may experience excessive swelling, blistering around the piercing site, and irritation bumps. If this happens, you should get a checkup asap with your piercer. They can swap jewelry for something simple with room to allow for the swelling or irritation or remove jewelry entirely if that’s what’s necessary. Listen to your body and monitor your piercing, and if anything seems unusual or out of the ordinary don’t hesitate to follow up with your piercer.

How should I apply Sunscreen with my Piercings?

If your piercing is well healed you can apply sunscreen directly around, on, and under it! I use a cream facial sunscreen that I rub around all of my facial piercings, ensuring to get under large tops like my cheek piercings and all around my nostril piercings. I like using a spray sunscreen for everything else and I spray my ears well. Because my stretched lobes are more delicate tissue I cover them entirely in cream sunscreen and give them a spray with plugs in for good measure! After a day in the sun, I make sure to clean my piercings and jewelry thoroughly in the shower to ensure no sunscreen residue is left behind that could cause irritation over time. Always patch-test products to ensure your skin will be ok with them, and remember that your piercings may find certain brands and formulas of sunscreen irritating.

If your piercing is still healing however you don’t want to get sunscreen directly on or in it. You can apply sunscreen to the area around the piercing with care, being cautious not to get it directly on the piercing. Using protective clothing in combination with sunscreen around the piercing is a great idea- a sun hat or wide-brimmed hat is perfect for keeping your fresh facial and ear piercings out of the sun. If you absolutely MUST put sunscreen on around a fresher piercing I suggest using a pointed makeup tip to very gently apply it to the area around the piercing. And rinse the piercing well once you are done to remove any leftover sunscreen from the skin and the jewelry. Understand that doing this may cause some irritation to occur, and follow up with your piercer if this happens.

I love summer and I love being out in the sun. But it’s very important we use proper sun protection and take care of our skin! Sunburn is not a joke and can lead to skin cancer and severe skin damage. Please remember to use sunscreen (and reapply), wear protective clothing, and remember to sunscreen your ears and nose!! I hope these tips help you enjoy your summer fun all season long. Happy healing!

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