No Holes Barred

By Anna Sachse

Posted May 7, 2009 in Mind Body Spirit

Sure, that new nipple/navel /genital/face piercing you just got may look super sexy right now, but failing to keep the area properly clean could lead to infection. At its best, this means pain, swelling and smelly secretions; at its worst it could mean ugly scarring or possibly even illness. The first few weeks are crucial for preventing against infection (as your body adjusts to the “wound” and foreign object), but it is also important to continue sanitary piercing practices. My sister didn’t take care of her navel ring and ended up having to cover up all the scar tissue with a tattoo.


To help prevent you from ending up like her, here is some piercing aftercare advice from the Association of Professional Piercers (APP). For more thorough instructions and other fantastic piercing-related info, check out their website at




1. WASH your hands thoroughly prior to cleaning or touching your piercing for any reason.


2. SALINE soak for five to 10 minutes at least once a day. Do this by inverting a cup of warm saline solution over the area to form a vacuum, or use clean gauze or paper towels. The APP recommends packaged sterile saline solution with no additives, or make your own by dissolving only a quarter teaspoon of iodine-free sea salt into eight ounces of warm distilled or bottled water. Making it stronger could irritate your piercing.


3. SOAP no more than once or twice a day with a mild, fragrance-free liquid soap, preferably anti-microbial. Lather up a pearl-size drop of the soap, leave it on for no more than 30 seconds and then rinse thoroughly. It is not necessary to rotate the jewelry through the piercing.


4. DRY by gently patting with clean, disposable paper products. Cloth towels can harbor bacteria and snag on jewelry.




1. Avoid cleaning with Betadine, Hibiclens, alcohol, hydrogen peroxide, Dial or other harsh soaps, as these can damage cells. Also avoid ointments as they prevent necessary air circulation.


2. Avoid Bactine and other piercing products containing Benzalkonium Chloride (BZK) and Benzethonium Chloride (BZT). These can be irritating and are not intended for long-term wound care.


3. Avoid unnecessary trauma such as friction from clothing, playing with the jewelry and vigorous or over-cleaning. These activities can lead to scar tissue, migration, prolonged healing and other complications.


4. Avoid contact with others’ bodily fluids (including saliva) on or near your piercing during healing.


5. Avoid unhygienic bodies of water such as lakes, pools and hot tubs, or protect your piercing using a waterproof wound-sealant bandage such as Tegaderm, available at most drugstores.


6. Avoid all personal care products on or around the piercing including cosmetics, lotions and sprays.


7. Don’t hang charms or any object from your jewelry until the piercing is fully healed.




1. Leave jewelry in at all times. Even old or well-healed piercings can shrink or close in minutes. If removed, re-insertion can be difficult or impossible.


2. With clean hands or paper product, be sure to regularly check threaded ends on your jewelry for tightness. (Righty-tighty, lefty-loosey.) Carry a clean spare ball in case of loss or breakage.


3. Should you decide you no longer want the piercing, remove the jewelry (or have a professional piercer do it) and continue cleaning the piercing until the hole closes. In most cases only a small mark will remain.


Disclaimer: Keep in mind that I am not a doctor, nor are the folks at the APP. All bodies are different and not all after-care methods work for everyone. If you suspect infection, seek medical attention. Your piercer may be able to recommend a doctor who is knowledgeable about piercings.





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