From navel to nipple (and beyond) a new—or first!—body piercing is pretty exciting. But of course, aftercare should not be an afterthought. Your piercer should send you home with some instructions, and most likely, they involve gently cleaning the piercing with mild, non-antibacterial soap and warm water every day. (That's what one of our fave celebrity piercers, Brian Keith Thompson of Body Electric, suggests.)
For extra care, a warm sea salt soak once or twice a day may also be beneficial. Sea salt has long been revered for its potential cleansing and healing properties. A sea salt soak may relieve inflammation, remove crust, and flush out the wound as a piercing heals.
Keep scrolling to learn exactly how to clean and do a salt soak on a fresh body piercing.
Cleaning Your Body Piercing
Cleaning your piercing should be relatively easy—you can do it right in your daily shower. Keep it simple and gentle. Thompson recommends Dr. Bronner's Baby Unscented Pure Castile-Soap ($18). Just use a small amount to cleanse the area, and rinse.
How to Do a Sea Salt Soak
No fancy solutions needed—a DIY sea salt soak is very easy to make.
First of all, always start with clean hands to care for your piercing; wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water. In a small bowl, combine a pinch of non-iodized fine-grain sea salt (about 1/8 teaspoon) and about 1/4 to 1/2 cup of very warm water. Soak the piercing in the mixture for five minutes.
For piercings that are difficult to submerge, such as a belly button piercing, you can do a hot compress by simply soaking a clean towel or paper towel in the solution. Then hold the compress against the piercing for five to 10 minutes. (As it cools, you can soak the compress again in the warm water and reapply.
What Not to Do
Proper care is crucial to preventing infection and ensuring a speedy recovery. Here are a few don'ts to always keep in mind.
- Do not use harsh cleansers, antibacterials, alcohol, or hydrogen peroxide to clean your piercing, as these may be irritating and can dry it out. (Moisture is essential for proper healing.)
- Do not use table salt, kosher salt, Epsom salts, or iodized sea salts. Non-iodized fine-grain sea salt is best for avoiding additives, as well as its ability to dissolve into a solution.
- Do not make the solution too salty, as that can be irritating to the piercing and to the skin. To test it, put a dab on your finger and taste it with the tip of your tongue; it should be no saltier than a potato chip.
- Do not do a sea salt soak more than twice a day.
- Do not play with your piercing. This increases the likelihood of bacteria getting introduced into the area, which could lead to infection.
- Do not think swimming in the ocean is the same as a salt soak. Even though the sea is salty, it can still harbor bacteria that may infect your piercing.
Do not wear tight clothing around your piercing. If you have a navel piercing and need to wear tights or stockings, temporarily cover the piercing with a breathable bandage.
The average healing time for body piercings varies from person to person; they can take at least three to six months to heal, and sometimes up to a full year. Even when the piercing appears healed on the outside, it can still take time for the tissue to heal on the inside. Reach out to your piercer if you need to remove the jewelry or if you feel it's time to change it out.
Be sure to consult a medical professional if you experience any complications, such as infection or unusual odors or secretions. As long as you stay consistent with cleansing and sea salt soaks, you should be able to keep your piercing healthy and looking awesome.
American Academy of Dermatology Association. Proper wound care: how to minimize a scar.