Getting your piercing done by a professional in a sterile studio is only the first step in having a belly ring you are proud to show off. Ironically, this very popular piercing site takes the longest to heal, so it's important to maintain your dedication to hygiene over the long haul.
Your piercer is the best source for instructions on caring for the new piercing. He or she can tell you which products are best, which to avoid, and may even stock some of the supplies you'll need right in the studio. Here are a few universally helpful hints:
- The most important hygiene rule is to always wash your hands before touching your piercing. Also, it's tempting to want to play with your new piercing because it's, well, new. But only touch it when necessary.
- Avoid harsh soaps and liquids like alcohol to clean your piercing. In the early days of body piercing, these were the gold standard. Now we know that a good old saline solution is the best cleansing tool. You can buy solutions made specifically for this purpose or you can make your own with distilled water and sea salt (not table salt). For navel piercings, fill a shot glass with warm saline solution and turn it upside down over your piercing for about 15 minutes at least a couple of times a day. For nose piercings, dip the pierced side of your nose into the shot glass. Your piercer can advise you on when you can cut down to daily and then weekly saline soaks.
- Keep the things that touch your piercing as clean and gentle as possible. That means changing your towels and bed linens at least once a week so bacteria doesn't build up, using gentle laundry detergent, and avoiding lotion and similar products in the area around your piercing.
- You'll want to adapt your wardrobe to your new piercing for quite some time. For your comfort and also for the health of a navel piercing site, wear low-rise jeans and pants and loose-fitting shirts. The more air that gets to the site and the fewer things that rub against it the better.
- For navel piercings, sleep on your back or side, rather than your stomach, and be careful to avoid bumping or jostling your jewelry when you engage in athletics.
- Try to use disposable products to clean and dry your piercing. Employ paper towels for drying, for example, and clean cotton gauze pads or Q-tips to remove the normal "crusties" around the piercing.
- Unless you get an infection later on, don't use the popular antibiotic creams on your piercing. They aren't made for puncture wounds.
It can take nine months or longer for a belly or nostril piercing to heal, and these piercings tend to get infected more frequently than other sites simply because the longer healing time provides more opportunity. It's also true that irritation, rather than infection, is quite common. It can be normal for the piercing to turn colors (brown, light or dark purple) and weep fluid. Doctors with little knowledge of body piercings may prescribe antibiotics and tell you to take the piercing out and let it close up. It's not usually wise to disregard a doctor's orders, but if you don't have other signs of infection (fever, red streaks radiating from the site), ask your professional piercer for a second opinion.
Granulomas sound and look scary, but these red growths that can sprout up at the end of your piercing aren't necessarily a death knell for the piercing. Go back to your immediate post-procedure care techniques and see if that makes a difference. If sea salt soaks don't help, try tea tree oil. However, if you experience traditional signs of severe infection at any time - lots of pain, swelling, heat, fever - see a physician immediately.
You shouldn't change your initial piercing jewelry until you are well along on the healing path, about six months or even longer. Make sure you love it because you'll be wearing it a while! If you're nervous about changing your jewelry the first time, ask your piercer to help you. And then it's time to have some serious fun with navel jewelry &/or nose studs.