How to Heal Piercings

Three Methods:Help a New Piercing to HealHeal a Problem With an Existing PiercingEncourage an Old Piercing to Close

Because they break the skin on two sides, piercings require special care and attention. Read the steps below to learn how to properly heal a new piercing, how to treat an infected piercing, or how to help an unwanted piercing close itself as smoothly as possible.

Method 1
Help a New Piercing to Heal

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    Get pierced by a pro. In the body modification community, it's an accepted fact that there is a right way and a wrong way to get a piercing done. Rather than getting a piercing at a kiosk or chain store in the mall, invest a few extra dollars to have it done right by a professional. Your piercing will come out cleaner and heal up faster. You'll also have access to as much expert advice as you need from the person who did your piercing.
    • Ask for a hollow needle piercing. The proper way to pierce most parts of the body is by hand with a long, specially designed hollow-point needle. Professional body piercers use these needles because they're hygienic and easy to control, for straight and properly-placed piercings that heal quickly.
    • Avoid piercing guns. A common tool for piercing ears (and sometimes other parts of the body) is the piercing gun, a mechanical tool that quickly strikes a needle through the skin. Piercing guns often have hygiene problems (since the gun itself isn't always properly disinfected, even if a new needle is used each time), and are notorious for creating angles or off-center piercings. Ask to be pierced by hand instead.
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    Leave the post in your piercing. Until the piercing has healed, taking the earring post out of the hole will only expose your raw tissue to infection. For ear piercings, the healing process typically takes 6-8 weeks. During that time, you must wear the earring you put into your new piercing at all times or risk a painful infection.
    • Other parts of the body, such as belly buttons, may take longer to heal. Always ask your piercer about specific healing times before you get pierced.
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    Clean the piercing regularly. Strict adherence to a daily cleaning regimen is essential to avoid infection and allow smooth, even healing. Your piercer will have specific instructions for you, which should always be followed. Generally speaking, these instructions will be similar to the method outlined here:
    • Purchase supplies. You won't need much; some cotton swabs and mild antibacterial liquid soap (such as Dial) should be enough. You should also have a small cup, warm running water, and sea salt.
    • Wash and wipe. Start by washing your hands with warm water and your mild soap. Once your hands are clean and dry, moisten a cotton swab (or a cotton ball, if necessary) with water and gently wipe around the piercing to remove any crusted buildup. Throw away the swab afterward.
    • Clean thoroughly. Get a good amount of your mild soap on a finger or two and gently but thoroughly begin to wash all around your piercing on both sides. Be sure to get underneath the stud (face of the earring) as well. Once you're satisfied that everything is clean, pour a cup of warm water and use it to rinse the soap away.
    • Soak the piercing in saline solution. Mix a few tablespoons of sea salt into several ounces of warm water and soak your piercing in it for a moment or two. This can help draw infected fluids out of an improperly healing piercing, but it serves another important purpose as well: it soothes soreness and irritation. Use a saline soak every time you clean until your piercing is no longer painful or sore.
    • Rinse and repeat. Rinse your piercing with cool or warm water again, and pat the area dry. Repeat this regimen twice per day to encourage proper healing.
      • If your piercing has become infected, you can clean it this way up to four times per day.

Method 2
Heal a Problem With an Existing Piercing

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    Know what to look for. Some piercing injuries and ailments are obvious; others might not be to an untrained eye. Some of the most common signs that your piercing has an infection are:
    • Persistent itchiness and/or redness
    • Soreness and tenderness
    • A hot, burning sensation
    • Seepage of liquid, such as pus or blood, from the hole
    • Bad odor
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    Talk to a professional. As with any medical problem, the best you can do for your sore, infected, or otherwise unwell piercing is to take the details of your problem to a pro. Dermatologists and general-practice physicians are your best choice; however, if you can't afford to visit a doctor's office or clinic, speaking to the person who did your piercing is your next best choice.
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    Check for a metal allergy. Sometimes, the problem with a piercing stems from an allergy to the metal of a recently-worn piece of jewelry. If your piercing seems irritated or tender after wearing a new earring, find out what kind of metal it's made of. You might be allergic to it. Switch to a hypoallergenic metal, such as surgical steel or niobium, instead, and see if the problem clears itself up.
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    Be gentle. Unless directed otherwise by a medical professional, avoid using cleaning or disinfecting agents on your piercing. These may not reach the source of the infection, and in many cases will cause irritation. Instead, soak the piercing in saline solution several times a day to help gently drain it.
    • Most piercing infections are minor and should heal up quickly with proper care. If more than a few days pass by without any sign of improvement, see a doctor immediately.
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    Control your activities. As you encourage your piercing to heal, take steps to avoid unnecessarily irritating it further. Don't go swimming, don't apply any lotions or creams (unless directed to do so by your dermatologist, of course), and don't dye or chemically treat your hair except to wash it with a gentle shampoo.

Method 3
Encourage an Old Piercing to Close

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    Know the limits. A piercing heals by building scar tissue around the hole. As such, only very small piercing holes will ever close completely without expensive professional assistance. Even a small earring hole might never completely heal (so that there's no indication it was ever there); larger-gauge holes such as those commonly seen in tongue and belly button piercings will always be visible even if and when they close.
    • Holes that have been intentionally gauged to a larger size can't be closed without medical procedures involving anesthetic and cutting tools.
    • Don't check your piercing with an earring to see if it's closed. You might inadvertently reopen it.
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    Be sure the piercing has healed. As noted above, never remove the post from a new piercing until the hole has completely healed, typically two months at most. Exposing the tissue to open air before it's healed shut invites infection and can lead to swelling, slower healing times, and even extra scarring in some cases.
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    Remove your piercing. Again, don't do this until the hole has healed. Take out the jewelry from the hole and don't put anything else back into it.
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    Clean the hole every day. Use a routine similar to the one you used to help the piercing heal in the first place. Wash it gently with saline solution twice a day. You can also use mild antibacterial soap, but you must be careful not to get it in the piercing. Gently squeeze around the piercing when you've finished, to push water, and other gunk out of the hole. Rinse around the piercing with a clean, damp cloth or cotton swab afterward.
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    Track your progress. After several weeks, smaller piercings should begin to close up. You can safely check this by observing whether or not any liquid comes out of the piercing when you squeeze it. Once there's no discharge from the hole, it's probably just about closed.
    • You should be able to notice results in less than three months, but it can take much longer than that to heal the hole completely. Expect mild redness and a dip where the piercing was for a long while afterward.
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    Minimize scarring. Once the hole seems to have closed completely, it's time to fight the scarring that will happen as the hole knits itself closed again. Ask your dermatologist to recommend an anti-scarring gel or similar product to help reduce scar tissue and make your old piercing less obvious. Apply it according to their directions, or once per day for 4-6 weeks.


  • If you run into any persistent complications when using the methods described in this article, seek medical attention immediately. There's no substitute for the eyes and knowledge of a dermatologist or similarly trained medical expert.

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Categories: Tattoos and Piercing