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High Quality? Part 10 – Aftercare

How you care for your piercing as it is healing it just as important as getting the piercing done well in the first place. A good aftercare regime will keep your piercing clean and healthy and set it up to last a lifetime. Head to our aftercare page for advice on how to care for a fresh piercing. There are a lot of urban myths and legends about the best way to care for a piercing and sadly most of them actually damage the piercing. This weeks blog is here to help clear away the bad information and give you good information.

Aftercare information is taken from the medical worlds studies into Wound Healing Dynamics. This means looking at the way that wounds heal and what we can do to help the process. Modern medicine has learnt that there is very little we can do to speed up the healing process so now we aim to just not slow down the process. The body is a magical thing that can repair itself so now we focus on letting the body do just that.

Sterile Saline Solution

Stericlens Sterile Saline Solution
Stericlens Sterile Saline Solution is a perfect example of a good aftercare product

Saline solution is a form of salt water that is very carefully made under sterile conditions. It contains 0.9% Sodium Chloride (NaCl) and distilled water. There should be nothing else added for wound care. The mixture is important to ensure that the salinity (saltiness) matches that of the human body. If it doesn’t match then the solution will draw moisture in or out of the healing cells through osmosis and this will cause them to slow down growth or even die altogether. Overly salty solutions can also cause ‘salt burn’ where the healthy skin is damaged too.

Contact lens solution is a type of saline solution but it contains other chemicals and preservatives that are designed to extend the life of contact lenses. These chemicals can be bad for an open wound and can cause reactions in some clients. Contact Lens solution is NOT appropriate aftercare for a piercing.

Saline solution that is being placed onto an open wound should be sterilised and be provided in a container that doesn’t contaminate the solution once it has been used once. The main way around this is to use an aerosol can where the saline cannot be accessed. Screw or pump top bottles contaminate the saline as air is pushed into the bottle and there will be bacteria and fungus in the air. Saline is a perfect breeding environment for pathogens so it is imperative to prevent this type of contamination. Aerosol cans keep the saline inside a plastic bag and the air is ‘pumped’ in around this bag.

Table Salt and Rock salt are far from pure salt. They both contain other chemicals from the way they are formed, sourced and refined. These other chemicals are fine for us to consume when they are going into our stomach where strong acids can deal with them but when they enter the body through an open wound there isn’t the protection of our stomach and they can damage our cells. Sodium Chloride (Pure Salt) is made in a lab and this is what it used to make saline wound care.

This video is based more around food but shows some of the chemicals involved in Sea Salt and table Salt

Homemade salt water has been recommended for a long time but the medical world has taught us that this is no longer appropriate. There are several reasons for this:

– The mix cannot be made accurately – incorrect salinity damages healing piercings
– Home made solutions are not sterile – potentially spraying pathogens onto an open wound and causing infection
– Table Salt and Rock Salt are not pure – there are other chemicals such as iodine found within these salts that can cause damage to our cells

Twisting and Removal

Image from Jef Saunders Blog courtesy of Dannielle Greenwood

At Rogue we hear this advice every single day, “So I twist it daily and remove for cleaning”. Please do NOT twist or remove jewellery until it is fully healed. This advice is very old and comes from the days when body jewellery surface finish was rough. The bodies secretion during healing would dry on the jewellery and bind it to the skin. Modern body jewellery is super smooth so that the secretion can’t bind. Twisting jewellery in a fresh piercing will just damage the cells that are healing and lead to scar tissue growth. Removing jewellery when it is healing runs a very high risk that you will not be able to reinsert it.

As well as physical damage caused by moving jewellery during healing, there is also the risk of introducing pathogens into the body from touching. Fingers are dirty and should be kept away from open wounds. The best thing to do is to minimise touching and just clean away any secretion gently using gauze. If you are worried about anything you can always pop back to your piercer and get them to take a look for you.

Gauze Vs. Cotton Buds

Cotton Buds might seem like the perfect tool for the job when it comes to cleaning a piercing but they aren’t as good as they appear. Cotton buds are strands of cotton wrapped around a stick. These strands of cotton can be left behind during cleaning and can irritate a piercing if they get trapped between the jewellery and the body. These strands can also get wrapped around the jewellery and detract from the beauty of a well made piece and the gems set into it.

Dental Floss Picks are perfect for cleaning behind snug fitting flat jewellery

Non-Woven gauze is the recommended product for cleaning away secretion build up on jewellery. Non-woven gauze is made so that it doesn’t leave any fibres behind. Be careful when buying gauze as there is woven gauze too. Woven gauze is made of cotton fibres that are loose and can cause the same problems as using cotton buds. Non-Woven Gauze can be obtained from any pharmacy.

For those tricky spots where you can’t get gauze in to clean then we recommend using unscented dental floss or even better a dental floss pick. These are single use, sterile and can be purchased easily all over the world.

Whichever product is used to remove secretion and debris, just remember to be gentle and try not to disturb the healing piercing.

Antibacterial Products

Antibacterial products are WAY too harsh for a healing piercing. These products are meant to be used to first clean a wound and should not be used daily. If you remember skinning your knee as a child you will remember the sting as you are cleaned up but then afterwards it is recommended to just have good hygiene. When your piercer cleans your skin before your piercing they will use antibacterial products. During aftercare you only need to keep a piercing clean. The body will close the wound using secretion to form a natural plaster and this will keep bacteria out. Using harsh chemicals daily can lead to chemical burns as well as killing the good bacteria found on our skin. The good bacteria will fight bad bacteria to keep us safe so it is important we allow them to do their job.

Tea Tree and Other Oils

Tea tree Oil has been used for skin healing for as long as we have known about tea tree oil. Tea tree has it’s place in the skincare world but it is not recommended for piercing aftercare. Tea tree is an astringent which will remove moisture from a wound. The removal of that moisture will damage healing cells by drying them out.

Oils are not recommended for any wound healing because they will block Oxygen from the wound and create an anaerobic (without Oxygen) environment. This change in environment affects how the bodies bacteria operate and how the bodies cells form. It is recommended to keep piercings dry (where appropriate) and allow them to breathe for the smoothest healing process.

Conclusion

The simplest advice we can give when it comes to aftercare is to follow the golden rules:

  1. Keep it clean
  2. Keep it dry (where appropriate)
  3. Don’t touch it

If you follow this the rest will fall into place. If you have any problems along the way then tell your piercer. The sooner you get in touch with your piercer the better. Don’t let small problems turn into big problems.

Next week’s blog will be all about rings and bars, when to use them and when not to use them. Have a good week everyone!

1 thought on “High Quality? Part 10 – Aftercare

  1. […] More important than all of the above is the aftercare advice often distributed by shops that use piercing guns. You may be familiar with this. Twist the jewellery twice a day, clean with aggressive chemicals such as surgical spirits, TCP, and/or tea tree oil. The aftercare advice is incredibly harsh and outdated. It causes more harm than good. Good aftercare should be gentle and not disturb the natural healing process. This can be read up on here, and a more in depth discussion is found here. […]

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