Body piercing aftercare: how to avoid infection

Body piercing aftercare: how to avoid infection

Aftercare for Body Piercings

There are three main groups we’ll refer to when it comes to body piercings, oral, genital, and what we’ll call standard. When I say standard I mean piercings such as facial, navel, and others excluding genital and oral piercings. While many of the aftercare procedures are the same genital and oral piercings do need a little extra care.
This article will cover the basic aftercare of your new body piercing. I’ll have the specifics of oral piercings and genital piercings in the below paragraph.

1: Oral piercings aftercare

Tongue and lip piercings are very popular these days. With the right aftercare oral piercings tend to heal very nicely.  You may need to change your eating and drinking habits during the healing process so keep this in mind.

You will still need to clean the exterior area with an approved soap for a lip or cheek piercing.  The cleaning instructions are the same as the basic body piercing aftercare instructions on the previous page.  A saline soak is also needed.  Tongues are different and as you probably know we won’t be using soap.

Special aftercare is needed when taking care of the inside of your mouth.  You will need one or both of the following, a sea salt mixture and/or an antimicrobial mouthwash.  The sea salt is quite cheap and easy to mix.  Here is a basic measurement guide, you may use a little more or less.  Remember more salt doesn’t won’t make the area “cleaner” it can actually hurt the healing process.

Sea SaltWater
1/4 teaspooncup 8oz
1    teaspoonquart 32oz
4    teaspoonsgallon

If you use mouthwash you will need one that is not alcohol-based.  Biotene is a good option.  It is best to limit your use of mouthwash to a maximum of 5 times in one day.

After eating, drinking, or smoking (which should be avoided) rinse your mouth for 30-60 seconds with the salt mix or the mouthwash.  Bottled or distilled water is fine, no need to rinse after that.


What to expect and avoid while your tongue or lip piercing is healing.

Swelling is very normal from an oral piercing.  It may be present for up to two weeks. 

What to Do

  • You may take an anti-inflammatory like an ibuprofen if you would like.  These are brands like Motrin, Advil or you can just get the generics from a grocery or drugstore it’s all the same. 
  • Allow small pieces of ice to dissolve in your mouth.  This can be very soothing the first few days of a new tongue or lip piercing. 
  • Keep your head elevated with some extra pillows for a few nights, it will reduce swelling. 
  • Maintaining good oral hygiene is important.  Buy a new soft bristled brush. Make sure to floss regularly.  The cleaner your mouth the better. 
  • With a tongue piercing you will need to check to make sure the ball is secure occasionally.  Before doing this wash your hands and afterwards do a mouth rinse. 

 What to Avoid

  • Please avoid touching the piercing. 
  • Don’t play with the jewelry.  It is very easy to damage a tooth or your gums. 
  • Stop smoking.  If you can’t or won’t try to cut back as much as you can and rinse after. 
  • Excessive wet kissing or oral sex can very easily lead to infection. Avoid oral sex and if you are wet kissing have the partner brush beforehand.
  • Stay away from gum and anything else you may chew excessively.
  • Don’t share utensils or drinks; it’s very easy to pass germs this way.
  • Stay out of bodies of water that may be unsterile or loaded with chemicals.
  • Most of all use your common sense. Remember it’s an open wound keep it clean.

This list might seem excessive but it really will help your tongue or lip piercing heal.  Many things pass through the mouth so you must be extra careful.

Another word of caution, take the time to really consider your lip or tongue piercing.  Someone close to me had both a labret and tongue piercing and she had them for years.  Both had been out for quite a while before her dentist noticed her gums had been deteriorating.  So she needed several skin grafts to repair the damage and trust me it was not cheap.  Now my point here is not to scare you or turn you off of these piercings but these things do happen. 

So don’t play with the jewelry.

Enough with the tough-luck stories though.  Do what your piercer recommends; different environments can lead to variations in the aftercare.  Remember there is no substitute for a medical opinion, if you feel your piercing is infected or causing a serious problem pay your doctor a visit.  I am not a medical doctor and your piercer probably isn’t either.

2: Genital Piercing Aftercare

Genital piercings usually heal quickly with the proper aftercare.  There are a couple of reasons for this.  One is because the area has a high blood flow.  Another is that the area is generally covered and kept away from outside elements.

All the aftercare you will need for your genital piercings can be found on the body piercing aftercare page.


Care for women

  • Bruising is to be expected, and some bleeding may occur in the first week. 
  • Soap can be too harsh for everyday aftercare.  You will probably want to stick with a sea salt soak.  If you are soaking in the tub use about 1/4 cup sea salt in the bath tub. 

Care for men

  • If the piercing passes through your urethra, urinate after cleaning it.  This will clear out any remaining cleaning substances that may cause irritation. 
  • The piercing may bleed for a few days or up to a week after the initial genital piercing.  You will want to keep the piercing wrapped in gauze for the first day and change it at least once a day. 

Care for both sexes

  • It is best to take a break from sex for the first few weeks of the healing process.  In this time genital piercings will be very tender.  If you do engage in sexual activity, be gentle and be sure to clean the piercing afterwards.  A sea salt soak afterwards is also a good idea. 
  • If you do have intercourse during this time frame be sure to use protection.  Exchanging fluids can easily cause infection.  Please avoid oral sex because the mouth can very quickly cause an infection in new genital piercings. 

It is best to not push your limits for the first few weeks.  Take it easy and listen to what your body is telling you. 

If you think you may have an infection go to a medical professional.

Basic Piercing Aftercare

There are two types of products that can be used in your body piercing aftercare, liquid antimicrobial soap, and a sterile saline solution.

Antimicrobial Soap and Saline Solution Cleaning Instructions

  • It is best to clean your new piercing with antimicrobial soap once or twice a day.  If you fall into a mud pit or otherwise foul up the area go ahead and clean it.  Otherwise once or twice a day should be fine.  Cleaning the area too often will actually irritate the piercing area and slow the healing process. 
  • Be sure to wash your hands before cleaning or touching your piercing.  A good rule to follow is to just not touch the piercing unless you are cleaning it, many infections start with dirty hands.  I know it can be difficult but keep your hands off. 
  • To clean the piercing you will need a good liquid antimicrobial soap.  Satin and Provon are two very effective medicated soaps.  You can also use a liquid antimicrobial soap or germicidal soap purchased from a drug store.  Make sure they are additive and fragrance free because these ingredients will cause irritation.  
  • Lather up the soap in your hands before applying it to the jewelry and piercing.  Gently clean the area and remove any discharge from the jewelry.  Rinse the area and make sure the soap is removed. 
  • When you are finished cleaning, pat dry the area with a disposable tissue or gauze.  Cloth items can hold in germs and moisture. 
  • Another option that can really help in the cleaning process is a sterile saline solution such as H2Ocean.  This saline spray is very convenient and I’ve seen some really good results with it.  Spray the solution around the pierced area and thoroughly irrigate and rinse the piercing.  You won’t need to rinse the solution off itself, and it generally causes less irritation than soap. 

Warm Saline Soaking Instructions

  • It is very beneficial to the healing process if you soak your new piercing in a warm saline solution two or three times a day.  This in addition to the rest of your aftercare will help your body piercing heal with the best results. 
  • To make the solution you will need to purchase sea salt and distilled water if possible.  If you were soaking in your tub I doubt it will really be reasonable to heat and fill it with distilled water.  It is important that you buy sea salt.  The ingredients should be sodium chloride and possibly calcium silicate or calcium phosphate.  Any other ingredients or added minerals will not do so please double check before your purchase. 
  • Once you have the ingredients you will need to heat the water with the proper amount of salt (I have a table below) heat the water as hot as you can without causing injury or discomfort. 
Sea SaltWater
1/4 teaspooncup 8oz
1    teaspoonquart 32oz
4    teaspoonsgallon
  • Place the cup with the solution over the piercing and make a vacuum if possible.  If the placement doesn’t allow this try to submerge the area.  Still no luck?  As a last resort soak a sterile piece of gauze or paper towel and use it as a compact, apply pressure carefully you don’t want to irritate the new piercing. 
  • Let it soak until the water starts to cool.  About 5 to 10 minutes. 
  • This is very helpful to the healing process so please don’t skip this. 

This should provide you with a good amount of knowledge on the aftercare of your new body piercing.  Do the things your piercer recommends; different environments can lead to variations in the aftercare.  Remember there is no substitute for a medical opinion, if you feel your piercing is infected or causing a serious problem pay your doctor a visit.  I am not a medical doctor and your piercer probably isn’t either.