Well, it's been about a week now and the healing process has commenced. Since I'm a pretty paranoid person and extremely susceptible to infection, I made sure to ask as many questions as possible about the after care process and what to expect. As with the initial piercing and how it would feel, I posed the aftercare question to any number of already healed persons with their bellies done, as well as all manner of piercing professionals. And well, the rules seem a little stiff, but I think they're fairly reasonable. So, without further ado, that brings us to Comprehensive Users Guide to Belly Piercing Part 2.
Part 2: Aftercare
There's definitely a little bit of debate going on concerning the exact regimen for optimal healing and minimal infection risk, but through my travels I managed to put together a basic list of what to do and what not to do when it comes to healing and infection prevention for a fresh new navel piercing. Here's the facts:
1. Don't wear tight clothing. You need to let air circulate to the piercing because that's what will help it heal. Thin cotton is best from what I've been told (and also most comfortable from what I've personally found.) That means no lycra! Period! Even when you work out!
2. Don't engage in contact sports. This cannot be stressed enough. If you need to play sports or engage is vigorous physical activity of any kind, clean up any sweat immediately following, make every effort not to be tapped, scraped, or rubbed in the belly button region, and wear some type of protection. (My piercer recommended the soft yet sturdy convex medical grade eye patch. Haven't tried it yet, but I've heard it works.)
3. Don't over-clean. Cleaning more than two or three times per day at most will do more harm than good by not allowing the piercing time to heal. Treat this as if it were an open wound, because for all intensive purposes, it is.
4. Don't rotate the jewelry. This is the most debated point in belly piercing aftercare, but all seasoned piercers I talked to agree: rotating just forces any surface bacteria into the piercing, causing irritation. The jewelry will move the perfect amount while safely being cleaned if you do it right. Seems to make sense no?
5. Don't be a party animal. Alcohol, excess caffeine, tanning beds, and pretty much any body of water (especially hot tubs, lakes, and public pools) all spell bad news for your new piercing. Alcohol and caffeine effect circulation and dehydrate your body, tanning beds cause infection by burning your open wound, and the water in lakes and pools is a breeding ground for bacteria. Just don't do it.
6. Don't touch! I definitely understand how tempting it is to touch your belly, the piercing, and especially the jewelry, but as your hands carry more bacteria than any other part of the body, this is the most important thing to avoid to prevent infection.
7. Don't self-medicate. Never use antibiotics, ointment, hydrogen peroxide, scented lotions, or anything containing alcohol on a fresh piercing. Ointments smother it, making healing impossible, hydrogen peroxide dries it out, and alcohol causes irritation and can lead to infection. Certain oils, saline, and gentle antibacterial soap can all be used to clean the area, and when in doubt, your piercer is the best resource for what's safe to use and what isn't.
What to Do to Help Speed Healing and Prevent Infection
1. Just basic good hygiene does wonders. Showering regularly with warm water (not steaming hot which can be drying), and washing your hands several times per day with antibacterial soap are great preventative measures in and of themselves. Also, this may go without saying, but washing hands before cleaning the piercing is to be done all the time, every time.
2. Keep cleanliness across the bar. Don't just stop at hands, bodies, and bellies. Cleaning your sheets at least once a week, using a new towel every time you shower, and making sure your bathroom or the area you do your aftercare regimen in is spotless and disinfected regularly will all help lower your irritation risk too.
3. Use disposable paper products instead. Towels, cloths, and especially fingers can harbor dangerous bacteria, so using cue tips to clean the piercing and paper towels to pat it dry will ensure that your belly area stays bacteria free. Use the paper towels when you dry your hands off before touching the area as well, and never use a cue tip that has been sitting out on the counter or the side of the sink.
4. Soak, soak, soak.
5. Clean the piercing at least once each day. Some piercing professionals say once, some say twice, but the combination of cleaning and soaking seems to be a hit across the board. The commonly accepted cleaning method is cue tips and a lather up with gentle antibacterial soap (the piercer will usually suggest a preferred brand). During the cleaning, you clean the piercing, a large circle around it, and the jewelry itself, and be sure to remove any crust gently with warm water beforehand so it doesn't get inside the piercing.
6. If all else fails, ask your piercer. The piercer has a lot of experience and knows what's normal for a new healing piercing and what isn't. If there's a chance of infection, he or she can teach you how to treat it and assist you with determining the cause. You may be referred to a physician, but never take a piercing out or assume symptoms will go away on their own. It doesn't hurt to ask, right?
Stick around within the coming weeks for part three of this informational series: what to expect.