How to Clean and Care for Your Piercing

woman with pierced septum looking in the mirror
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The months after getting a piercing are key to making sure it heals properly and doesn't get infected. Despite how casual and common it is for people to get pierced, each new piercing is essentially a wound. And like the aftermath of any trauma, aftercare is extremely important. Slacking off on your aftercare or using harmful products will likely prolong your discomfort and the healing process.

Before you leave the piercing or tattoo shop, most piercers will give you aftercare instructions. Since they are the experts, it's best to listen to their advice and follow it closely until the piercing is completely healed. Even if you forget a step or lose the instructions, you can always give them a call for a reminder. But if you're really at a loss, these rules are reliable guidelines to help heal any basic piercing.

How to Clean Your Piercing

  1. First, wash your hands thoroughly. You don't want to introduce any bacteria to the piercing because it's an open wound that is vulnerable to infection. So it's important to never touch your piercing or jewelry with dirty hands.
  2. Saturate a cotton ball with warm water, and gently wipe away any "crusties" that have gathered around the piercing site. If you have a scab, do not pick at it. Then throw the cotton ball away.
  3. Apply a generous amount of unscented liquid soap to your fingertip, and apply it to the piercing site and jewelry. Make sure you get the soap everywhere, but rotating your jewelry is not necessary as long as you work the soap around the piercing and jewelry completely. If you do rotate the piercing, this could introduce bacteria from the jewelry into the wound, causing irritation or even infection. It's best to just clean the piercing and jewelry thoroughly without actually moving it.
  4. Rinse the piercing and jewelry several times with warm water, ensuring that all soap has been removed.
  5. Dry your piercing with a clean paper towel and then dispose of it.

Acceptable Healing Aids and Products

If standard soap and water isn't your thing and you'd rather turn the healing up a notch, these products can help keep your piercing nice and clean.

  • Emu Oil: This oil is full of fatty acids meant to help reduce inflammation and pain. It's relied on by piercers as a universal healing product for new piercings.
  • H2Ocean: This sea salt saline solution is often used by piercers to help clean the piercing area. 
  • Saline Solution: Less expensive and more readily available than most other products, saline solution is often recommended in soothing and healing a new piercing. It's also an acceptable substitute for sea salt soaks which is when you submerge your piercing into salt water to help clean it.
  • Ointments: Ointments are usually the number one most-recommended therapy post-injury and piercing to stimulate wound healing. Just avoid antibacterial products, which are typically unnecessary unless the piercing is infected.

Do Not Use These Products

  • Hydrogen Peroxide - Hydrogen peroxide kills bacteria, but it also kills the white blood cells attempting to heal your piercing. It can cause irritation and lengthen overall healing time.
  • Rubbing Alcohol - Alcohol may dry the skin and irritate the raw piercing.
  • Glyoxide - This is a product that contains hydrogen peroxide, and it might hinder healing rather than aiding it.
  • Ear Care Solution - Solutions that are provided by jewelry boutiques and department store piercers usually contain alcohol, hydrogen peroxide, and other harmful chemicals that might aggravate a new piercing.

New piercings and sometimes irritated piercings might benefit from a sea salt soak. This simple remedy is meant to soothe pain and draw out infection. 

Article Sources
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  1. Jeengar MK, Kumar PS, Thummuri D, et al. Review on emu products for use as complementary and alternative medicineNutrition. 2015;31(1):21-27. doi:10.1016/j.nut.2014.04.004

  2. Cleveland Clinic. What is hydrogen peroxide good for? Updated December 29, 2020.

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