Guide to piercing care
by Pearl Riley
A tattoo is usually for life, but a piercing is something you can keep or discard - and a piercing should be more about pleasure than pain. Pearl Riley takes you through the process, from choosing piercing studios and jewellery to surviving a piercing and caring for it afterwards. Forget crusty pus and sore red navels - make your piercing healthy and beautiful!
If you fancy getting a body modification, a piercing is a good way to go. It can last a few months, or - if you look after it right - you can keep it for the rest of your life.
They can be something everyone can see, or something secret and hidden away.
Nowadays, piercings are more acceptable and there is a growing community of modified people trading ideas, opinions and tips.
There are also a lot of jobs where you can get away with piercings, and innovative ways to hide piercings.
I got my first piercing the day after my 16th birthday, and now have 10, in my ears, nose, mouth and belly!
Unfortunately, from socialising with other pierced people, chatting to my piercer and observing others, I've noticed lots of people who clearly have no clue how to care for their piercings.
Girls with red crusty belly bars, scabby lip rings, pus-filled nose studs and swollen ear piercings know this isn't a good look at all - uncared-for piercings are painful and can lead to serious infections and other problems. So here's a mini-guide on how to care for your piercing before, after and during healing!
1. Choosing a piercing studio
Before get your piercing, you will want to find a good studio. You can usually find out about local studios by word of mouth, or on the internet (If you live in the UK, click here).
When you find a local studio, you need to check its hygiene standards are up to scratch as, unfortunately, there are far too many piercers who don't worry about their customer's safety.
Check that the piercer has hygiene credentials (their certificates should be displayed, or they should be willing to show you). They should have a sharps bin for used needles, and use new, sterilized needles and jewellery.
Of course, you will have to use your judgement a bit; if they have health and hygiene certificates, but the place looks grimy or dirty, it's best to take your business elsewhere!
Although it's not essential, it helps to find a piercer you are comfortable with. This is even more essential if you're after a gential or nipple piercing, as you dont wanna be whipping your bits out for a piercer who makes you feel uncomfortable!
Finding a piercing parlour you feel comfortable in will also help you relax during your piercing, not worry about asking the piercer if a problem occurs, and you won't have to shop around for another studio if you'd like another piercing in the future.
2. Choosing jewellery for your piercing
Most piercers will do an initial piercing with surgical steel, as this is widely accepted as the safest metal for fresh piercings. However, it's not the only metal, and may not be the best for you. Here is a quick guide to the materials you can choose from and their benefits.
* Surgical Stainless Steel
This is the most common material used for piercing. It is usually used in fresh piercings, although there is a chance you could have an allergy to one of the materials mixed with the steel, like nickel.
Titanium is hypoallergenic, and is good for people who have allergies to nickel. Some piercers may not stock titanum jewellery, so make sure you ask in case you have to buy and bring your own. It can also be coloured in many different colours.
PTFE is a kind of plastic. It is flexible so it won't put pressure on your piercing, and it's resistent to your body's chemicals. It can be used in fresh piercings, but also in piercings which are having problems healing,and can be used during operations (where some metals may interfere with machinery.
You can also use rings made from materials like acrylic and bars with balls made from all sorts of materials once your piercing has healed. If you use these more unusual materials for your initial piercing (rather than waiting till it's healed) you may irritate it, making the piercing red and sore and delaying healing.
3. What to expect from the piercing
It's not worth asking others if your piercing will hurt, because everyone has different tolerances and different piercers.
One piercer will be able to push the needle through quickly, whereas another may push the needle through more slowly. Likewise, some piercers may choose to use numbing spray and others will choose not to. However, no piercer should numb above the neck.
Sometimes a fresh piercing can make you feel faint or dizzy so you should eat a good meal before you are pierced, but not drink alcohol, as this thins your blood and makes the piercing bleed more.
I like to buy a chocolate bar or sugary sweet to eat afterwards, as this can stop you getting dizzy from low blood sugar levels.
4. Piercing aftercare
Your piercer should tell you how to care for your specific piercing until it's healed, but here are some general aftercare tips which apply for all piercings.
* Clean the piercing twice a day with a mixture of 1/4 teaspoon of salt mixed into a mug of boiling water. Do this for at least the first six months to ensure a well-healed piercing.
* Don't touch the piercing with dirty hands.
* If the piercing gets infected, don't remove the jewellery. If the hole closes, the infection will be trapped inside. Instead, speak to your piercer as soon as possible and follow their advice.
* For oral piercings, rinse your mouth out with antibacterial, non-alcoholic mouthwash after eating, and in mornings and evenings.