A Brief Guide to Body Piercing Safe Practice
This guide is a summary of established best practice, with some sound advice mixed in. It is not intended to be the last word on the subject.
We would strongly recommend anyone who is considering getting a part of their body pierced to research the subject thoroughly before going ahead.
Find a reputable Body Piercer. Learn about the Risks.
Knowledge is Power.
Don’t Try This At Home…
Firstly, and most importantly, DO NOT TRY TO PIERCE YOURSELF!
(See Picture Above)
Amateur Piercings will almost certainly become infected; mainly because of the difficulty in sterilising the jewelry and piercing needles without specialised equipment. This can be a normal bacterial infection or, if you’re really unlucky, a viral infection such as Hepatitis or H.I.V.
You also run the risk of scarring, serious bleeding and permanent nerve damage.
Surprisingly, there is also a high risk of inadvertent injury to surrounding areas – skin is pretty tough and it can take a lot of pressure to pierce it.
All it takes is one slip…
Now, it would be great, at this point, to advise you to always get your piercings done by a qualified and registered Body Piercer.
Unfortunately, there is no National Legislation regulating body piercing and body piercers in the UK and, so far, no nationally recognised Association either.
So…, how do you choose a good Body Piercer?
Well, to trade lawfully, Body Piercers must be registered with their Local Authority or Council. The rules vary from region to region, but registration should guarantee a minimum level of Hygiene and Public Liability Insurance, at the very least. Check the walls for the relevant certificates or check with your local Council.
Other than that, word-of-mouth recommendation is probably your best bet.
Ask around. Talk to people who are already pierced – ask them where to go and, perhaps more importantly, where to avoid.
(If anybody wants to recommend their local Body Piercer, please get in touch
We’ll be happy to give them a mention on the site.)
Wherever you end up going, the shop (and the piercer) should be clean and organised.
Look for disposable gloves and sterile disposable needles.
Avoid anywhere that tries to use a piercing gun on you. They cannot be properly sterilised and they are only meant to be used on earlobes anyway.
Not only that, the blunt force trauma sustained from a gun will increase the likelihood and extent of subsequent swelling.
And no professional body piercer worth her salt would touch one with a barge pole…
Finally, if there’s anything you’re unsure about – ask questions BEFORE you get the piercing.
Trust your instinct on this. If you don’t feel 100% confident about getting your piercing done somewhere – don’t get it done there.
Find somewhere else.
A Note About Our Body Jewelry
Apart from the organic stuff, all of our Body Jewelry is made from implant grade metals or hypo-allergenic man-made materials.
While we make every effort to ensure that it’s sent out to you in perfect condition, you need to remember that it’s NOT sterilised before dispatch.
If you intend to use your purchase for a new piercing, it is YOUR OWN RESPONSIBILITY to ensure that it’s sterilised before it is used.
And the ONLY way to ensure that your Body Jewelry is sterile is to watch it being sterilised in front of you, in an autoclave, at the Body Piercer’s premises.
Body Piercing Aftercare
Your Body Piercer should provide you with detailed instructions on how to care for your new piercing.
The following advice was generously provided by Kim, the Skin Seamstress, a good friend and a great Body Piercer based in Middlesborough, UK. Highly Recommended. Thanks Kim!
“The following is to be followed for ALL piercings. For healing times, other information & tips on specific piercings see overleaf. The jewellery you have been pierced with is sterilized, implant grade titanium (unless stated otherwise by your piercer) and is long enough to allow for swelling. Your jewellery size and type is written above. Changing to a smaller piece of jewellery once the swelling has subsided can aid healing, it is recommended to return to your piercer to have the jewellery changed if you decide to do this before the piercing has fully healed, so that appropriate jewellery can be used and it will be changed in a clean environment. Return to your piercer if you feel your piercing needs some attention or if you are concerned in any way about your piercing.
Always wash your hands thoroughly before and after touching your new piercing. Unless you are cleaning your piercing, you shouldn’t be touching it. Do not remove/change jewellery or allow anyone else to touch your piercing during the healing time.
Soak and clean the piercings on your face/ears/body and the outside end of piercings that go into your mouth (see overleaf for piercings which are partially/fully in your mouth) twice daily with warm water and a suitable cleanser, such as:
*Sea salt dissolved in hot water and allowed to cool (½ tsp salt/1 cup water), apply with a cotton wool bud.
*Saline solution (often used with contact lenses – ready-made salt solution, apply on a cotton bud).
*Antibacterial hand wash (one which is designed for sensitive skin) or feminine hygiene wash and warm water (as this is soap-free/PH balanced, no perfumes, harsh chemicals, etc.)
Never use Savlon Cream (or any other creams or lotions), as this will stop air getting to your piercing (piercings heal faster when exposed to air) and the chemicals in them could aggravate the piercing. Never use any alcohol/hydrogen peroxide-based products (such as surgical spirit, TCP or hand sanitizer gel) as they remove natural oils from the skin and can hinder healing (even when diluted). Wax based (bars of) soap can leave residue and dry out your skin, so avoid them. Make-up and hair products can irritate the piercing, take extra care when applying either.
After soaking in warm water for a minute or so, gently rub the lather with clean fingers (or apply saline solution on cotton) to the area surrounding (and including) the piercing/jewellery and massage gently to ensure the whole area is cleaned. DO NOT force the jewellery to move through the hole, or twist it, unless it will move freely (at any point during healing – not just when cleaning). Make sure you remove all soap from the piercing and jewellery by rinsing thoroughly with clean, warm water. Remove all ‘crusty bits’ from the area with a clean, dry cotton bud (NEVER pick any ‘crusties’ off with fingernails!) and then gently but thoroughly dry the area using a clean, dry cotton bud or tissue. Keep hair off healing ear piercings and change pillowcases regularly.
Taking zinc tablets whilst healing a piercing can decrease healing time, and anti-inflammatories and painkillers (such as ibuprofen/paracetamol) can help reduce swelling/pain. Read the label on ANY product/medication before using it, do not use it if you allergic to any of the ingredients or if you have previously had a reaction or irritation when using the product/medication. Do not exceed the recommended dose and if irritation occurs from a product or medication, discontinue use. See a pharmacist or doctor if you need information or help with any medication.
Some soreness/on-off bleeding/redness/tenderness/swelling may be experienced initially but should clear up after a week or so. Discharge (clear/white/pale yellow) will be experienced for the duration of the piercing healing; this is normal. Small lumps often appear on ear cartilage and nose piercing, as long as there is no pain or bleeding, these are nothing to worry about and will go in time. They are usually caused by an irritation to the piercing – pulling, twisting or knocking the jewellery is the commonest cause, but makeup, hair products and improper cleaning will also contribute to this.
Signs of infection include: having bright red ring around the piercing and burning pain when touching the piercing or jewellery. If you think you have an infection, DO NOT REMOVE THE JEWELLERY! Return to your piercer for advice. If symptoms are urgent or very painful, see a doctor immediately. Infections CAN be dealt with and there is no reason why you should not be able to heal the piercing. Healing times may increase if you are ill or suffer from medical conditions.
Be aware that ALL piercings CAN migrate (‘grow out’) and there is a chance that any piercing can refuse to heal. The chance of this can be minimised by following aftercare instructions, avoiding knocks and bumps to the piercing and not pulling/fiddling with it or changing the jewellery before the piercing is fully healed. Any piercing can leave scarring if it grows out or if it is taken out, this is usually minimal and can be reduced further by using Bio Oil (available from chemists).
DON’T BE AFRAID TO ASK QUESTIONS!
Lip/Tongue/Cheeks/Other Oral Piercings
Use an alcohol-free mouthwash to clean the piercings on the inside of your mouth. You should rinse out after EVERYTHING you eat/drink/smoke for the 1st 2 weeks of healing, but continue to clean your piercing regularly after this. You will experience some swelling, which may make eating/speaking a little difficult. Once the swelling has settled and the jewellery has been changed for a shorter piece, everything returns to normal. The swelling usually subsides after a week or so. The jewellery you were fitted with is long enough to allow for any swelling, and it is recommended that you change your tongue bar for a shorter one 1-2 weeks after having it pierced. This will make it easier to eat/speak and avoid damage to your teeth. Wearing acrylic jewellery on the inside of your mouth will minimise tooth damage too – ask your piercer for details. Lip and cheek piercings can take longer for the swelling to subside.
Stick to eating soft foods such as soup, ice-cream, yoghurt, Weetabix, porridge, etc. until you feel comfortable eating solid food. Sucking on crushed up ice-cubes can also help reduce swelling. Avoid spicy foods and alcohol for the 1st week of healing as they will irritate the piercing. You may notice a yellow/white furry coating on your tongue, or even some bruising (black/purple/yellow); this is normal. Use your toothbrush to gently brush away the coating. It will stop doing this after having the bar changed for a shorter one. Some discharge may be visible around each side of the piercing, this is normal. It is advised to buy new jewellery every 6 months for any oral piercing (unless changing it regularly) as the jewellery can get scratched and harbour bacteria (causing bad breath). Take care when applying make-up, as this will agitate piercings on the outside of your mouth. Using Bonjela or babies’ teething gel will help ease any soreness or discomfort, and get rid of any ulcers caused by the larger initial jewellery.
Nipple piercings tend to heal faster on males, as they rarely wear clothing directly over the piercing (bras for example). Many women find that wearing breast pads (designed for breastfeeding) inside their bra will make the healing process much more comfy. Navel piercings in particular can be very hard to heal due to movement in that area from sitting/standing/etc. In some cases, it can take over a year to fully heal them. Be patient, clean the piercing regularly and return to your piercer if there are any problems, or if you are worried about your piercing. Avoid wearing tight clothing or belts/waistbands/tights over the piercing and let air to it whenever possible. Be sure to clean the inside of your navel as well as the outside. Be aware that all piercings can migrate (grow out). The chances of this can be minimised by avoiding knocks and bumps to the piercing and not pulling at it. Avoid wearing dangly jewellery constantly in navel/nipple piercings as it can be easily snagged. Nipple and navel piercings can be kept in during pregnancy, using flexible plastic bars (available from your piercer) can help this. Always remove nipple jewellery while breastfeeding and replace once feeding is done.
Genital Piercings (Male & Female)
In the case of genital piercing, there may be some bleeding for up to 24 hours after getting the piercing. For males, wearing jockey-type shorts and padding around the area with tissue will hold everything still and minimise movement. Females can wear liners in their underwear. If you are worried about the bleeding, please come back and see your piercer about it, contact a doctor/hospital if you need help urgently. Always wear clean underwear during healing. Clothing/underwear which is too tight can irritate the piercing and increase the healing time. Avoid contact with other people’s body fluids (saliva, sweat. semen, etc.) during healing. Avoid sexual intercourse for 1-3 weeks after having a genital piercing done. When the piercing has healed, take extra care to make sure that condoms aren’t torn or weakened by the jewellery, using a water-based lubricant such as KY Jelly will minimise the risk of a condom tearing. If you plan on stretching the piercing, make sure it is fully healed before doing so. Pregnant women are often advised to remove jewellery in the early stages of the pregnancy so that the area has fully healed and will not cause any complications while giving birth.
Surface Piercing/Microdermals/Skin Divers
For divers/dermals your piercer will (when possible) cover it with a waterproof plaster once it is done, this should be changed daily, and the piercing cleaned. Keep a plaster over the piercing for at least 10days after it is first done. Continue to clean the piercing (as overleaf) after the plaster-time is over. If the piercing has to be removed, or if you are concerned that it is migrating, return to your piercer for advice. Avoid tight clothing over the piercing and don’t fiddle with it. Most people find the LITHA method works best (Leave It The Hell Alone!) for surface piercings/microdermals/skin divers. The jewellery which is under your skin (the implant or staple bar) should NOT be removed, but the balls/disc can be changed after a couple of months, once any swelling has subsided. Skin divers are a fixed piece of jewellery and cannot be changed unless fully removed, allowed to heal and re-done. Microdermals and skin divers heal much faster than surface piercings, but they can be pulled or knocked out more easily then surface piercings, wear a waterproof plaster over the microdermal/skin diver if you’re concerned about this (especially if you are in an environment where the piercing could be pulled at), but allowing air to the piercing is vital so let it breathe regularly. Surface piercings, microdermals and skin divers are tricky to heal fully and there is a higher risk or rejection or a refusal to heal than with other piercings. If planning on more than one of this type of piercing, it is sensible to get one done as a ‘test’ to see how you cope with it, this will minimise any scarring.
Healing Times & Tips
The times below are given as a ROUGH guide, anything up to a year is normal for basic piercing. Experience is key, so if you’ve had a longer healing period with previous piercings, you can expect a longer healing period than those shown. Just because a piercing is no longer red, swollen, crusty or sore does NOT necessarily mean it is a healed piercing. If in doubt, leave the jewellery in and return to your piercer for a check-up. You must not donate blood or other body tissue for at least 6 months after getting a piercing. If planning on stretching a piercing, wait for it to heal fully and then give it a least another month before starting to stretch. Ask your piercer for advice on stretching and how best to prepare for it.
Eyebrow/Ear (lobe or cartilage)/Nose/Lip……………….…….…. 3 – 6 months
Tongue/Smiley/Frowny/Tongue Frenum/Septum……………… 1 – 4 months
Genital…………………………………………….…………………..……. 1 – 6 months
Navel/Nipple………………………………………………..…………..… 6 –12 months
Surface Piercing/Microdermals/Skin Divers/Cheek/Dahlia…… 6 –18 months”
More in-depth advice and information about all aspects of Body Piercing can be found on the NHS Choices website .
Includes videos of people talking about their piercing experiences – good and bad – and some very informative comments left by members of the public. Recommended.
The Association of Professional Piercers’ website has a series of downloadable guides available for free. These guides are in PDF format and cover all aspects of Health and Safety, Aftercare etc. Highly Recommended.