How To Care For Your New Piercing


Most girls past the age of 16 have at least a single hole in each ear (besides the ones they were born with), be it at the hands of a Claire’s clerk, a technician at Piercing Pagoda, from the doctor’s office, or by your long lost twin at summer camp. But the responsibility of ensuring proper healing falls to the pierced and the pierced alone. So what does that include? We turned to the master, our friend J. Colby Smith for some answers:

“There are two ways to clean a new piercing. A lot of piercers will recommend saline solution, which is saltwater. Our bodies are made up of salt and water, so contact solution and things like that are all made of saltwater. If you’re going this route, use a paper towel or something that is non-fibrous—not a Q-tip, not a cotton ball—and saturate that with the saline so it’s nice and wet and then use it like a sloppy compress over the piercing. There are also a lot of sprays out there. Sometimes they’re meant for wound washes, so the spray is a little stronger, but every once in a while you can find one that sprays in a nice mist which is good for the inside of your ear—it’s easier to get in there. I’d just recommend sticking a little something down inside the ear so the spray doesn’t go into your earhole. [Laughs]

But the way that I usually recommend people clean their piercings, that I think is a little more practical because everyone takes a shower—you know, for the most part—is just with soap and water. It doesn’t really matter what brand of soap as long as there's no alcohol and or perfumes in it. Soap and water has worked for thousands of years, and it will still work now. You don’t want to use alcohol or peroxide because, while they both clean, they take moisture out as well which will lead to more scarring. The idea with the soap and water is that it cleans the wound, but it also leaves some moisture in there.

You want to clean your piercing twice a day. Generally, the more you leave it alone the better off it is. And don’t fiddle with it. A lot of people think that their skin is going to fuse to the jewelry, but it won’t. If it’s wet it's OK to rotate it, but if it’s dry that will break the scab and cause it to bleed, which creates another open wound so it will just take longer to heal.

The number one problem I see with piercings is that a lot of people talk about the little bump that they get; out of every 60 that I do, I see at least five that come back with the little bumps on them, which is a result of trauma on the wound. Especially with your ears—it’s from laying on your piercing, or if you snag it with a hairbrush, or if you’re taking your shirt off and you snag it on that, or if you’re making out with someone and they get a hold of it wrong. These things remind your body that there is a foreign object there, which sort of reactivates the healing process.

The most important thing to remember is that you know your body better than I do, and you have to listen to what your body is saying. We’re all different. Your body’s job is to get rid of a foreign object, so if you make a hole and put a foreign object in there, your body will immediately go to work trying to get rid of it. The area swells, which is basically your body's way of trying to force the object out of there. Usually we do piercings thick enough and deep enough to force the body into just accepting the fact that the piercing needs to stay there, and your skin will just heal around it instead of getting rid of it. It’s also important to remember is that there is no miracle cure. A lot of people come in, they get pierced, and they think that that’s it. The healing process involves keeping it clean and time—time being the most important thing. If you’re not a patient person then piercings are not for you.”

—as told to ITG

Photo by J. Colby Smith.

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  • Julie

    I'm considering piercing my helix, but I was wondering how long does it take for the hole to close once you've taken it out (just in case I change my mind) Does any one now? Thanks!!!

  • Jen

    PLEASE ask J. Colby Smith about brands making beautiful body jewelry, even better if they are available online. I want to make some investments in my 7 different ear piercings but can't even find classy pieces.

    • Anya

      I completely agree with this, I never realised how hard it is to get pretty/delicate earrings for my helix piercing, especially in the UK. Even the piercing shop I went to only stocked more "alternative" body jewellery... Titanium barbells were great for everyday & while it healed, but now I'm dying for some pretty gold/rose gold bits. I wish more high street shops sold barbell backed earrings.

  • Julia

    Hey I was thinking about piercing my helix but I would like to know how long does it take for the hole once you've taken it out (just in case I don't wanna wear it anymore) Does anyone know? Xx

    • bahamamama

      I had mine done years ago and the earring fell out when I was in Acapulco for two weeks and it closed by the time I got home. So the answer is fast.

  • Alyssa Gapske

    I've always washed with saline or just soap and water and I've never had a problem! And patience really is key! I always wait way longer than they say to switch them out. Otherwise my ear just gets really irritated!

  • Joy (FRC)

    Great piece. Perfect timing too since I'm considering getting new piercings.

  • therealblonde

    I was one of those people with a little bump that wouldn't go away, even after 4 months - Colby advised me to use some tea tree oil. It was gone within a week.

  • YC

    What if you have really sensitive skin, or problems like eczema? once i pierced my ear and it swelled up so bad, over the stud, and the doctor had to pull the entire thing out from the back.

  • Rida

    I had a case of the bump on my cartilage and my nose piercing for quite a while and nothing would make it go away but I came across mixing sea salt + water so it turns into a paste and putting a clump of it and just leaving it on your piercing overnight or for a couple of hours and honestly can say this was the only thing that healed my piercing bumps! I had tried everything from tea tea oil, the saline solution, and even antibiotics and the sea salt/water mix was the only thing that completely dried up the bump and it healed within a week!