Piercings take about one full year to heal. At first the skin inside the piercing is very thin and delicate. The longer you have your piercing the thicker and stronger the skin inside becomes ... as long as you care for it well. It's important to understand how your piercing heals so you know how to care for your piercing throughout the healing process and once it's healed.
Factors to consider ...
1. How hard of a piercing it is to heal?
Some piercings are easier to heal or have less complications than others.
2. How well do you heal as a person?
Every person heals differently.
3. What jewelry did you choose to heal with?
It's not a one jewelry style fits all. Those who choose higher quality jewelry seem to heal a bit faster and experience less complications.
4. How accurately you are following the aftercare?
Many people who have complications with their piercings often stop following their aftercare too soon, pick and choose what parts of the aftercare to follow, and wait too long to get help. If you let your piercing stay irritated for weeks and months at a time you are prolonging your healing. This increases your odds of experiencing other piercing problems or not successfully healing it at all. Common mistakes include skipping small details like not measuring your salt to water ratio with a measuring cup and spoon. Perfectly ... Every time. If you don't you can dry out your piercing and that can lead to other healing complications.
5. Consider what in your life could be interfere with healing?
Bumping your piercing at work, changing it for sports, sleeping on it, slouching on it, changing it etc. are examples of what you're doing in your life that could cause healing issues.Too much pressure on your piercing, snagging it, bumping it, changing your jewelry too soon, too frequently, or wearing poor quality, heavy, or ill fitted jewelry hinders your healing process and often leads to other healing complications.
Your piercing will take longer to heal than an average wound because you have metal moving around in it. The most common issues that occur on and off during the first year include soreness, redness, swelling, jewelry that's too tight because of swelling, excess dryness, excess goo, excess crust, and bumps.
There is a difference between irritation and infection. Irritation usually occurs from bumping, pressure, ill fitting jewelry, or changing jewelry too soon etc. You can clear this up on your own or with help from your piercer. Infection occurs when too many microorganisms invade and take over generally due to improper aftercare implementation. This requires a trip to the doctor and antibiotics.
Know that there is always an irritant and that the irritant varies from person to person. Know that there is a solution but that solution also varies form person to person.
Swelling is common on and off during healing. Calm the irritated skin by following the irritated piercing aftercare. If jewelry balls are sinking in you may need longer jewelry. Jewelry that is too tight causes more swelling, if you relieve pressure with longer jewelry and give your piercing extra care the swelling should subside. This isn't a piercing I did but this person really needed longer jewelry! If your jewelry stays too tight your skin may grow around it which means your jewelry becomes embedded inside your piercing.
Embedding occurs when your jewelry is too tight and you don't get longer jewelry soon enough. It's important to keep swelling under control. If your jewelry is too tight it's important you get longer jewelry so your skin doesn't grow around your jewelry! This is why many piercers start you with longer jewelry to accommodate for the fluctuations of swelling during healing. This isn't a piercing I did but she definitely needed longer jewelry to accommodate her swelling, but she waited to long to get help and now it's embedded.
Goo & Crust
You may see a goo coming out of your piercing ... it's normal. It hardens like a crust on your skin and jewelry during healing. It is a combination of lymph secretions and dead cells. The more irritated your piercing is the more gooey and crusty it tends to be. It is unsightly and irritating to your piercing so be sure to gently remove it all from your skin and jewelry 2-3 times daily!
You may experience dry skin around your piercing. I suggest using emu oil to moisturize the area, make sure you are measuring your salt to water ratio perfectly, and use purified or distilled water. This person is also experiencing inflammation as well and needed longer jewelry temporarily to accommodate for the swelling.
It's not abnormal for a fresh piercing to bleed on and off for the first week or so. The skin in your piercing tunnel is very thin and delicate. If you are too rough in any way with your piercing you can break open that skin and bleed. To help your piercing stop bleeding I suggest using gauze or a folded paper towel to put pressure on either side of your piercing for 15 minutes straight, no peeking. This pressure will help you blood clot. Although this would be very rare please seek medical assistance if you cannot get your piercing to clot. You may also experience bleeding if your piercing is irritated. If you have had your piercing for more than a few months and you still have bleeding on and off then the skin in your piercing tunnel is still very thin and consulting with a piercer can help you figure out why you're healing slower and how to speed things up!
Broken blood vessels during your piercing is more common in certain piercings than others. Be sure to do your saline soaks to flush your piercing. Know that the bruise will fade just like any bruise you've had before.
Localized Piercing Pimple
Localized piercing pimples are like a pimple. They seem to be most common on cartilage piercings and navel piercings. They are caused by pressure and/or bumping with too many microorganisms present. Localized piercing pimples may occur on and off the first year of healing, once the skin in the tunnel is fully formed and thick this stops happening. You can prevent them by soaking your piercing 3x/day, 5 minutes each time until the bump is gone.
This issue is most common on cartilage piercings. It is generally caused by bumping and pressure. Your body needs to seal off your piercing tunnel to protect your system. The skin is most delicate during the first year. Too much pressure disturbs the skin formation process by putting slight tears in the tunnel. When this happens your body has to seal your piercing up again. Some people produce too much collagen resulting in excess skin around the piercing. The bumps are generally not permanent but can be and require you to be diligent with your aftercare. A different jewelry style or material may also help. This issue may occur on and off during the first year, once the skin in the tunnel is fully formed and thick this stops happening.
Hypergranulation Tissue "Granuloma"
Are types of growths that form on piercings.These bumps are overgrown cells. They come from getting the piercing and are usually caused by excessive bumping/trauma. An inconsistent aftercare routine often exacerbates the issue.
In my experience keloids are not as common as other healing issues but most people think every bump is a keloid which is not correct. People with more melanin in their skin are more prone to keloiding.
Migration is the process of your body pushing your jewelry out. A little migration during healing is common but too much migration can lead to rejection. Common causes of migration include letting your piercing stay irritated too long, drying your piercing out, changing jewelry too soon or too often during healing, wearing heavy jewelry, or plated metals.
Rejection occurs when your piercing has migrated so far that your jewelry has been completely pushed out. This is the result of migration that was not dealt with properly.
Silver jewelry may cause argyria. It is a condition caused by improper exposure to silver. It causes the skin to become a greenish, blue, or black color. It is caused by low-quality sterling silver jewelry that is mixed with other metals that rritate your piercing. The metals also cause the area around the piercing to oxidize when in contact with your body, the oxidization is what causes the gray stain.
Irritated Piercing Aftercare
The ups and downs of healing can be helped by giving your piercing extra TLC when it needs it. The longer you wait to start the longer and harder it can be to clear up. It's also important to follow it exactly. When steps are skipped it's not nearly as effective or may not work at all.
Your piercing will tell you when it needs extra care when it gets more red, sore, swollen, gooey, crusty, overly dry, or a bump may form by it. I suggest following the irritated piercing suggestions below at the first sign of these symptoms. You should see a little improvement each day. If it is not improving after a couple days please come into Fraidy Cats' during regular piercing hours. If your jewelry balls/gems are "sinking in" please come in right away because you need longer jewelry until your swelling goes down.
Get help from a medical professional If you suspect infection.
- Submerge piercing in a warm non-iodized sea salt solution 3x/daily for 5 minutes each time (15 minutes max). Saline sprays and compresses aren't suggested when your piercing is irritated as they aren't as effective as soaking.
- Measure perfect! 1/4 teaspoon of non-iodized sea salt to 8 ounces of purified or distilled water. Use 1/8 teaspoon if the skin around your piercing is too dry.
- Use warmer/hot water for your saline soaks. Not too hot now don't burn yourself now.
- Saline soaks help your piercing by flushing out microorganisms and dead skin cells. The warm water helps increase blood circulation to speed up healing. The minerals in the sea salt aide in new skin formation. Use purified or distilled water instead of tap water because more contaminants have been removed from it. Also tap water may dry out your piercing.
- I use Alessi brand sea salt because it is all natural and there are no chemical anti-caking agents added. It is available at Target.
- Wash your piercing 2x/daily with Provon Antimicrobial Lotion Soap. Lather, wash, & rinse thoroughly but gently. An alternative is Dr. Bronner's "baby mild" Castile Soap.
- I suggest Provon because it kills a much broader range of microorganisms than a basic antibacterial soap and isn't as drying as antibacterial soap.
- Provon is available through Amazon only because it is a medical grade soap.
- Gently remove crust from skin and jewelry 3x/daily, it's easier to remove after a soak or shower.
- Any crust on your skin and jewelry irritates the delicate skin forming in your piercing and slows down healing.
Apply Emu Oil
- With clean finger or gloved finger apply a dab of 100% emu oil around piercing entrance and exit 3x/daily.
- Emu oil keeps your piercing moisturized, restricts the growth of bacteria, and helps with swelling. It's an amazing product!
- Emu oil is available at the Vitamin Shoppe and on Amazon.
For non-oral body piercings follow the body piercing aftercare suggestions. For Tongue piercings follow the oral aftercare. For body and oral piercings please follow both body and oral aftercare.
Body Piercing Aftercare
Submerge your piercing daily in a warm saline solution.
- Measure 1/8-1/4 teaspoon of non-iodized sea salt into 8 ounces (1 cup) of warm/hot purified or distilled water. Measuring accurately is extremely important!
- Submerge your piercing for 5 minutes 2 times daily. Preferably morning and evening. Do not exceed 15 minutes daily.
- Alessi brand Non-iodized sea salt has no chemical anti-caking agents added and is available at Target.
Wash your piercing daily.
- 1-2 times daily gently cleanse the piercing area with lathered soap.
- I suggest medical grade Provon Antimicrobial Lotion soap through Amazon.
Remove crust off of your jewelry daily.
- Use moistened cotton swab to remove crust off of you jewelry and skin. Be certain not to leave cotton fibers behind.
- The crust is softer and easier to remove after soaking or showering.
Apply emu oil to your piercing daily.
- 1-2 times daily apply a drop of emu oil around the piercing holes with a clean finger and gently rub in.
- Emu oil is a great moisturizer, has anti-inflammatory properties, and restricts the growth of microorganisms.
- Emu oil is available through Amazon.
- You may take an over the counter an anti-inflammatory as needed and directed.(Ibuprofen/Advil or Naproxen Sodium/Aleve; if not medically contraindicated).
Do not put harsh products in or on your piercing.
- Peroxide, rubbing alochol, bactine, hibiclens, iodine, ointments, cosmetics, face wash, lotion, hair dyes, sprays, etc.
Do not bump, pick, poke, prod, or fondle your piercing or jewelry.
- Touch your piercing minimally and only after washing your hands first.
- Constant trauma and irritation may cause shifting, migration, rejection, and unsightly scar tissue.
Check with your piercer before taking others advice.
- Make sure it's accurate advice for your piercing. Please don't listen to Dr. Google, it will give you bad advice and scare you.
Do not change your jewelry very often during the first year.
- When changing your jewelry too frequently the first year you risk irritation, migration, and rejection because you are dragging metal in and out of your healing wound.
Do not submerge piercing in hot tubs, pools, rivers, and lakes while healing.
- Nexcare waterproof Band-aids seal out water on some piercings.
Do not take your jewelry out.
- You risk your piercing closing fast!
Avoid rotating your jewelry.
- Don’t be too rough in moving your jewelry during the healing process.
Avoid over cleaning.
- Measure your salt to water ratio perfectly
- Only do sea salt soaks a max of 15 minutes daily.
Do not touch your piercing or jewelry with unwashed hands.
- Just think of what others touch, then you touch, and then put into your piercing when you touch it.
Avoid others bodily fluids.
- On or near your piercing.
Oral Piercing Aftercare
- Take an over the counter an anti-inflammatory medication as needed and directed (Ibuprofen/Advil or Naproxen Sodium/Aleve; if not medically contraindicated).
Rinse with an alcohol free anti-microbial mouthwash
Rinse your piercing with a sea-salt solution.
- Mix 1/2 teaspoon of non-iodized sea salt to 16 oz. purified bottled water. Rinse for 30-60 seconds 3-5x/daily while piercing is sore. Measure perfectly!
Replace your long jewelry after 4 weeks.
- Once your swelling has subsided switch jewelry to a shorter post so you don’t damage your teeth and gums.
Do not use harsh products on your piercing.
- Mouthwash with alcohol, glyoxide, peroxide, alcohol, iodine, hibiclens, bactine, ointments, etc. These products slow your healing.
Avoid smoking and chewing tobacco.
- This may irritate your piercing, possibly prolonging and complicating healing.
Avoid drinking alcohol while your piercing is swollen and sore.
- This may cause excessive swelling, possibly prolonging and complicating healing.
aftercare suggestions are based on training, research, and years of professional
experience. These suggestions should not be a substitute for medical
advice from a physician. If you suspect an infection, make an
appointment with your doctor. Please note that it is important that you
see a physician who is piercing educated, accepting, and experienced.