Everything You Need to Know about Piercing Care

How to treat your new ear party with TLC.

By: Samantha Alexander

Remember the arm party trend of 2011? Yeah, neither do we—and we have an inkling that it has to do with the fact that our Instagram feeds are now populated with everyone from your coworker to Kylie Jenner showing off their latest ear piercings. As one of the earliest forms of body modification, dating as far back as the biblical age, pierced ears have always been popular, but the gotta catch em all mentality certainly applies now.

Enviable displays of studs and hoops make for excellent social media fodder; it’s easy to forget that piercing aftercare is a long-term commitment that can be painful and sometimes unsightly (the horror!). To get the lowdown on how best to take care of your freshly pierced lobes, we quizzed expert Ben Tauber from Manhattan jewelry and piercing studio Maria Tash. If his celebrity clients are any indication (Abigail Breslin, Abbey Lee Kershaw, Ilana Glazer, and Zoë Kravitz, to name a few), we’re pretty sure he knows what he’s doing.

 

What’s the biggest mistake people make after they get piercings?

“Listening to their friends when it comes to how to take care of piercings, and touching fresh ones with dirty hands.”

What does a normal reaction look like after you get pierced?

“After the first few days, it’s completely normal to have a little bit of redness, soreness, and swelling. The swelling can last upwards of 10-14 days, and you’ll get a little bit of clear or white discharge, which will turn into what we call ‘crusties.’ [Ed note: Ew.] This is just your body’s standard reaction to the piercing and how it starts its heal cycle. Do not pick those off—you’ll just aggravate the piercing. They will fall off on their own.”

 

What kind of reaction to a piercing isn’t normal?

“If you’re still experiencing redness and soreness after 10 days, pay a visit to your piercer and have them look at it. If it’s warm to the touch, the skin around the area is shiny, or if you have green discharge or a slight odor emitting from the piercing, all of those signs are considered bad—it’s the onset of an infection.”

What’s the deal with piercing infections, anyway?

“Infections in piercings are honestly not very common. A lot of people think they have an infection, when really it’s just a little irritated from sleeping or snagging your piercing.”

What are the basics of aftercare?

“Before you go anywhere near your fresh piercing, always wash your hands.

“Use a sterile saline wash to do a soft compress twice a day: Soak or spray a clean piece of gauze or cotton pad in sterile solution, and hold it to your piercing for a few minutes. You can buy the saline solution at piercing studios in pre-saturated wipes, or in a bottle at the pharmacy, or the first aid section of corner stores.

“One trick I tell clients is to warm the compress first. Put the sterile wash bottle into a sink filled with hot water for a couple minutes. The higher temperature will encourage blood flow and pull out fluid from any swelling.”

 

What about the piercing reaction that looks like a bump?

“The dreaded ‘bump’ is usually scar tissue and not actually an infection. When that does happen, I tell people to try the following:

1. “Use warm compresses [a warm water-soaked cotton pad or piece of gauze with the excess squeezed out, then held to the piercing for a couple minutes].

2. “Try a little drop of vitamin E oil dabbed on with a Q-tip, which will help reduce scarring.

3. “Use a chamomile tea compress, which can also reduce scarring quite significantly. To do this at-home remedy, let the chamomile tea steep for 10 minutes in boiled water. Once it’s cooled down, dab a clean cotton pad or piece of gauze in the tea and squeeze out the excess liquid. Like with the warm compress, hold the gauze onto your piercing for a few minutes.”

What are common healing periods for piercings?

“It varies. For soft tissue piercings like on your earlobe, the healing period is typically two to three months. Cartilage piercings can take longer due to the density of the tissue—six to 12 months on average, and you should wait four to six months before changing your earring. On the slower side, they can take up to 15 months.”

What do you predict the next big trend in piercing to be?

“I’ve been noticing a lot more people coming in wanting daith piercings [the inner cartilage] recently. I used to do one or two a week, but now I do three to four a day. With regards to the general aesthetic, I think we’re moving towards more ornate, but simple statements, like lots of little simple pieces of jewelry in large quantities. Nipple piercings have also become quite popular as of late—we have Kendall Jenner to thank for that!”

 

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