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Suggested Aftercare Guidelines for Body Piercings

Keep it simple! Your body does the healing; you don't have to do much but avoid trauma and clean it with your saline. During healing, your piercing will get crusties, do not move them into your healing wound. Leave the crusties as is until you shower; the warm water in your shower will soften them up, which will be easier to remove. In some cases, an irritation bump can form usually due to access moisture and trauma to a healing wound. The less you mess with your piercing, the better. Let your body do the work. If you have any questions or concerns regarding your healing process, please swing by the studio.


  • Alcohol, hydrogen peroxide, Betadine, Hibiclens, harsh soaps, and/or ointment(s) are not appropriate products for the care of a healing ear or body piercing.

  • Over-cleaning and using strong products can irritate piercings and delay healing.

  • Mild, non-iodized sea-salt or normal saline soaks and/or cleaning with a liquid anti-microbial or germicidal soap once or twice a day is suggested for body piercings.

  • Rinsing with mild non-iodized sea salt and/or antimicrobial or antibacterial alcohol-free mouthwash, 4-5 times a day is suggested for oral piercings.

COMPOUNDED PROBLEMS Any one of the above problems can make additional or secondary problems more likely, i.e., an allergic reaction to a particular jewelry material or care product can make a pierce more vulnerable to secondary infection. Multiple causes are sometimes responsible for complications, i.e., ill-fitting jewelry and poor aftercare. In addition, overall health and stress levels can impact the healing process and should be evaluated and dealt with as a potential cause for piercing complications.

Ear, Belly, Nipple & Nose Piercings

  • Always wash hands thoroughly before contact with piercing.

  • Do not use rubbing alcohol or hydrogen peroxide. (Both slow the healing of pierced area by drying and
    killing new healthy cells.)

  • Do not use bacitracin or other ointments. (Ointments attempt to heal the skin & may slow oxygen
    transport to the tissue).

  • Use salt soaks for best care/cleaning of ring or stud and loosening dry material on the skin.

  • Twice a day saturate a cotton swab or Q-Tip with the cleaning solution, apply to pierced area, let it soak for a few minutes.

  • Remove any dried matter Rotate the jewelry while the area is wet.

Pierced Belly Buttons or Nipples

  • Pierced belly buttons heal in 6-12 months, pierced nipples heal in 7-9 months.

  • Clean the area with salt water-soaked cotton swabs or Q-tips. 

  • Rinse with plain water. Dry the area thoroughly after soaks.

  • Wear loose fitting clothing (Clear, pink, or slightly bloody discharge is normal for several days after

Nose Piercing

  • Do not remove the stud for 8 weeks. Healing may take 7-9 months. Avoid touching the stud unnecessarily.

  • Nose piercings can close within hours, so never leave the piercing without jewelry.


Tongue, Cheek and Lip Piercings

  • Healing time 6-9 months.

  • No oral contact of any kind for 6 weeks (no wet kissing or oral sex).

  • Suck on ice or popsicles the first 24-48 hours to minimize swelling and pain.

  • Reduce intake of warm beverages, hot or spicy foods, tobacco, alcohol and anything irritating to your mouth.

  • Rinse with mouthwash for 30-60 seconds after consumption of anything other than water. If Listerine is too harsh it may be diluted, or use teaspoon sea salt to an 8oz glass of water.


  • The size of the stud is important in the healing process. It is best to use a post ¼ inch longer than the thickness of your tongue. When the swelling has improved, the post can be downsized to a slightly shorter but still roomy length. After 6-8 weeks you can wear a stud the length of the piercing.

Cheek and Lip

  • The outer opening of the piercing is best treated using liquid antibacterial soap. If the liquid soap is too harsh it may be diluted 50/50 with water (avoid perfumed products). Apply saline liberally with a cotton swab or Q-tip. Rotate the jewelry only after the area is moist and dry material has been loosened or removed.

  • Clean 2-3 times daily.

  • Continue the above care regimen for 6-8 weeks.

Genital Piercing

  • Avoid sexual contact until piercing is fully healed, from 6-10 weeks.

  • To clean use warm water with a cleansing agent of antibacterial soap.

  • Remove any dried matter from the surface of the ring and around the opening of the piercing before turning the ring or stud.

  • Rinse under running water or use a peri-cleanse bottle (available over the counter in most drug stores); it has a squirt top which is ideal for rinsing the area.

  • Urine may irritate the area but usually does not cause infection.

  • Keep the new piercing clean.

  • During sexual contact, use barriers (condoms, dams, etc.) to keep saliva and other body fluids out of your piercing (avoid sex for 6 to 10 weeks after piercing).

  • Never touch it with dirty hands.




A single pustule occurs adjacent a piercing—often in a recurrent cycle



  • Small, slightly elevated pustule.

  • Red and inflamed but contained locally.

  • May be tender, itch, or burn, though some are painless.

  • Secretes pus and/or blood when drained or popped.



  • Treat as a minor localized infection.

  • Over-the-counter antihistamines can diminish itching and inflammation.

  • Warm saline soaks or hot compresses daily; these should be continued daily for two weeks after the problem seems resolved.

  • Light localized massage may help break up the pocket and prevent it from refilling.

  • If recurrences continue, a culture may be needed to identify the invading microorganism so you can prescribe medication to target the problem.



Excess granulation tissue is most common on piercings of navels, nostrils, outer labia, and the mucosal surface of lips--though it may also occur on other piercings.


  • The same treatments used on infants’ umbilical granulomas may be used for piercing-related hypergranulation tissue: silver nitrate, electrocautery, or liquid nitrogen; a ligature technique can be used if the lesion is pedunculated.

  • Some affected piercings do heal successfully, but if the problem proves intractable after treatment, the piercing should be abandoned.


  • Metal body jewelry will result in an opaque density on MRI and x-ray but will not otherwise affect visibility on film.

  • Metal body jewelry causes visible interference and should be removed for CAT scans if in the area of examination.

  • Nipple piercings are unlikely to obstruct visibility of pathology on thoracic x-rays if both AP (or PA) and lateral views are taken.

  • Appropriate body jewelry is non-magnetic, and as such does not need to be removed for MRI procedures unless it is located in the region being examined (use a strong hand-magnet to test).

  • Even momentary removal of jewelry from a piercing can result in amazingly rapid closure of the channel and make reinsertion difficult or impossible.

  • Non-metallic retainers can often be used to safeguard the patency of a piercing; sterile tubing from a catheter needle can be used as an emergency retainer * Please refer to the APP brochures: Aftercare Guidelines for Body Piercings (or Oral Piercings) for detailed information on the suggested care of healing piercings.



  • Discoloration: reddish, brownish, pinkish, or purplish; can remain for many months on navel, surface, and other piercings.

  • Swelling/Induration: localized; may be significant with oral piercings such as the lip or tongue, and usually lasts for several days following the initial piercing.

  • Excretion: exudate of interstitial fluid, dead cells, etc. that forms a small amount of crystalline-appearing crust at the openings of the piercing; should not be copious, malodorous, or green.


  • They are occlusive and limit oxygen circulation to the area, which can delay healing of this type of wound.

  • They leave a sticky residue that makes cleaning the healing tissue more difficult.

  • If necessary, gels, creams, or other water-soluble products are preferred for topical application.


  • If the jewelry moves closer to the surface or the tissue gets narrower between the openings of a piercing, this is termed “migration.” If the piercing migrates past a point of remaining viable or comes all the way to the surface, this is termed “rejection.” For safety and longevity, a piercing should have at least 5/16” inch (almost 8 mm) of tissue between the entrance and exit holes.

  • A body piercing should be abandoned if the tissue between the entry and exit progressively gets smaller or thinner over time plus any of the following:

  • The skin between the openings is flaking or peeling, red or inflamed, and/or hard and calloused looking.

  • There is 1/4” of tissue or less between the openings.

  • Just a thin filament of nearly transparent tissue is left, and the jewelry can be seen through the skin.


  • When piercings are properly performed and cared for, complications such as irritation or allergy are far more common than infection.

  • Even momentary removal of jewelry from a piercing can result in rapid closure of the channel and make reinsertion difficult or impossible.

  • Simply taking out the jewelry may not resolve the problem, and if an infection is present, removal can lead to a more serious problem--the formation of an abscess.

  • Most piercing complications can be handled without the piercing being lost.

  • Changing aftercare and/or jewelry size, style, or material often resolves problems.


​A piercing is a unique type of wound because it is intentional, and healing must take place around a foreign object. This information is intended to familiarize you with piercing complications you might encounter, and the treatments found to be most efficacious.


  • Important: removing jewelry in the presence of an infection may result in an abscess. Quality body jewelry or a retainer of an appropriate size, style, and material should be left in place so the infection can drain.

  • Isotonic saline soaks and/or hot compresses can encourage drainage.

  • Bactroban (Mupirocin) cream or gel (not ointment) has been found to be effective for topical treatment of bacterial infections.


A skin sensitivity or allergy can be induced by a cleaning product or inferior jewelry that contains too much nickel or other irritating alloy.


  • Red, itchy rash surrounds the piercing or covers a large area (up to several inches away).

  • The opening to the piercing may appear significantly larger than the size of the jewelry.

  • Tenderness, though sometimes there is no discomfort.

  • Skin eruptions below the piercing (where soap suds run during bathing) clearly demonstrate contact dermatitis caused by a cleaning product.


  • Topical or oral Benadryl or other antihistamine

  • Advise a change to a different jewelry material such as titanium, if nickel sensitivity is suspected, or an approved inert plastic.

  • Discontinue current care regimen in favor of a milder cleaning product.

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