Because body piercing creates a puncture wound, it is possible for a piercing to become irritated or infected. There's a difference between the two, however. An infected piercing is quite painful, oozes pus, and requires an immediate doctor's visit. Irritation, on the other hand, is to be expected when you bump, pull or overclean a healing piercing. The Association of Professional Piercers recommends daily soaks in warm saline solution to help soothe an irritated piercing.
Wash your hands with unscented, dye-free, antibacterial soap and rinse them. Lather your hands with soap again and wash your piercing with your fingertips. Rinse the suds off thoroughly with warm water. Pat your skin with a fresh, dye-free paper towel.
Heat 1 cup of distilled water in a kettle or saucepan on the stove or a coffee mug in the microwave. The water should be hot, but not boiling. Stir in 1/4 teaspoon of iodine-free sea salt.
Allow the salt to dissolve in the water. Let the water cool until it is comfortably warm to the touch, then pour it into a shot glass.
Place the shot glass under, over or around the piercing and allow your skin to soak for 20 minutes. For example, you can hold a shot glass up to your earlobe, or you can soak your navel by leaning forward and placing the piercing in the glass. If the piercing doesn't lend itself to soaking, as in the case of eyebrows and nostrils, saturate a piece of sterile gauze with the saline solution and lay the wet gauze over the piercing for 20 minutes.
Repeat steps 1 to 4 twice a day for four to six weeks.
Treat the outside of an irritated oral piercing like you would any other facial or body piercing. Wash your face twice a day with unscented, dye-free antibacterial soap and follow each wash by soaking the piercing in a saline solution made of 1/4 teaspoon iodine-free sea salt and 1 cup of warm distilled water.
Change your toothbrush and use a mild, alcohol-free toothpaste. Use a soft toothbrush and floss your teeth after every brushing to remove food particles that can irritate your piercing.
Rinse your mouth with the saline solution mixture or alcohol-free, antimicrobial mouthwash for a full 30 seconds. Spit out the mouthwash.
Repeat steps 1 to 3 for four to six weeks.
- Store leftover saline solution in a clean glass jar in the refrigerator and warm it in the microwave for subsequent soaks. Wash your shot glass after every soak.
- Never use petroleum-based antibiotic ointments, alcohol or hydrogen peroxide on a piercing, as these can lead to further irritation.
- Do not clean your piercing with surgical scrub, as it is far too strong for the skin and can lead to dryness, which can cause irritation.
S.R. Becker is a certified yoga teacher based in Queens, N.Y. She has a Master of Fine Arts in creative writing and has worked as a writer and editor for more than 15 years. Becker often writes for "Yoga in Astoria," a newsletter about studios throughout New York City.