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How to care for your piercings: Best ways to avoid infection after getting your ears or body pierced

How to care for your piercings: Best ways to avoid infection after getting your ears or body pierced

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Text: Emily Heng


Image: Instagram | @regalrose

It is hardly surprising that pain is the best deterrent to most things. We don't put our hands on lit stoves for fear of debilitating burns; are known to handle sharp, pointy objects with utmost care; and have the sense to respect traffic laws to prevent any kind of maiming from mammoth-sized, non-sentient beings (read: cars). And yet, it seems pain is inevitable at times — particularly if you're the type who's into body modifications.

Still, that's not to say you should expect all-consuming agony from all such procedures. Rather, it boils down to your ability to tolerate discomfort and to the type of piercing you've selected; the latter of which being a crucial factor in determining the amount of distress (likely) incurred. To ensure you don't head in blind, we spoke to our favourite piercing pundits to get them to rank how unbearable the various procedures are. Their valuable insights, below.

#1. Genital piercings

How much does it hurt?
"Imagine if someone decided to poke at your privates with a particularly sharp pair of chopsticks, grind their fist in the wound, and leave a sprinkling of salt after. That's how it felt to get a barbell through my, uh, male bits. And I have an elevated bar for pain, if I have to say so myself. I have a full sleeve of tattoos, and this hurt more than any of the ink I got. I'd advise interested parties to do some thorough research on the specific placement of their piercing, and to look into the variety of jewellery available before making any impulsive decisions. Please don't get it done at a shady parlour either — check the Google reviews section before booking an appointment."


What is the best way to take care of this type of piercing?
"The most important point to note is to keep the area clean after the procedure. I rinsed my piercing twice a day for a full three weeks, and used a really gentle, non-fragranced soap. Beyond that, I also avoided tight clothing and underwear for obvious reasons. It should heal within three weeks if you're looking after it right."

 

#2. Nipple piercings

How much does it hurt?
"It was pretty bad. I cried immediately. The good thing is that it goes by really quickly, and the pain doesn't linger. I heard that it depends on the jewellery you get, too, where hoops tend to get caught in hair and fabric a lot more easily, which could impede the healing process. Make sure to splurge on good-quality metal so there's a lesser chance of skin irritation. According to my technician, titanium and platinum is a safe choice."


What is the best way to take care of this type of piercing?
"First things first: it's normal for your nipples to bleed in the days after the procedure. They'll be really sore, too, and you have to constantly clean them with a cotton tip because it might get crusty or inflamed. Go see a doctor if the bleeding persists after a week."

 

#3. Nose piercings

How much does it hurt?
"Not much, actually. It did feel a tad sensitive after, but that's because we have a lot of the nerves along the nose area. The weirdest part for me was having the needle be right in my face, but I got over that pretty quickly."


What is the best way to take care of this type of piercing?
"I was told to pour a bit of saline solution in a cup, and then put my nose in the cup a few times a day. Each time, I made sure to keep my nose submerged for about 60 seconds and breathed through my mouth. This was really effective in keeping the wound clean, though it was a hassle to remind myself not to suck in air through my nose. I kept choking the first few times. It healed really well though, so it's worth it."

 

#4. Cartilage piercings

How much does it hurt?
"Quite a bit! To be fair, though, I can't even handle the slight stinging that comes with IPL procedures. According to my technician, it's because your cartilage is a bit tougher than your earlobe, so it's harder to push the needle through. Another thing you should know is that it's not safe to get a cartilage piercing with a piercing gun — they're typically not designed to punch through hard skin tissue. It's a good way to tell if the establishment is legit, though! Always ask what tools they use beforehand to get a good gauge."


What is the best way to take care of this type of piercing?
"Just clean it with saline solution twice a day. The only thing remotely problematic about this piercing is that you can't sleep on your side, so you have to remind yourself to stay on your back or even turn on your stomach."

 

#5. Navel piercings

How much does it hurt?
"I barely felt anything, it was over so quickly. Honestly, I think I've had ant bites that hurt worse than this."


What is the best way to take care of this type of piercing?
"Don't touch or fiddle with it! Avoid going to pools, spas, or the beach, either, and try to keep it clean whenever you can. I experienced an infection — complete with foul-smelling discharge, mind — because I'd forget to clean my hands before touching the area. I had to get the stud removed and let the hole close up before attempting the procedure again a second time."