Above the Neck Piercing Care

Tips are from Yankee Tattoo in Burlington, Vermont.
(802) 862-3328

Normal Piercings
  • May be tender, swollen, itchy, and/or slightly red for a few weeks.
  • May bleed for a little for the first few days
  • May secrete a whitish-yellow fluid which crusts on the jewelry. This is not pus.
  • May tighten around the jewelry as it heals, making turning somewhat difficult when dry.

How should I clean my piercing?
  • Use gentle antiseptic contining benzalkonium chloride, benzethonium chloride, or saline solution. Special ear piercing
    antiseptic, sometimes called Ear Care or Ear-Septic, is very gentle.
  • If you can't find these, try Bactine or No More Ouchies. Since these products contain fragrance and other irritants,
    dilute them 50% with water.
  • Wash hands well before touching the piercing. Using a fresh cotton swab, remove any crusted matter, then rotate a
    little antiseptic gently into the piercing. Rotate the jewelry severl times. Antisptic doesn't need to be rinsed off, but you
    may choose to soak the piercing after cleaning.
  • Clean the piercing no more than two times a day. Cleaning more frequently may damage the delicate skin cells, and
    cleaning less frequently may invite an infection. When you are not cleaning the piercing, leave it alone!

What else can I do?
  • Many piercees have found that Vitamin C (3000 mg in mineral ascorbate form), multi-vitamins, and a zinc supplement
    (women: 60 mg; men: 120 mg, for about two weeks) speed healing and regeneration of tissue.
  • Hot soaks and compresses, with the optional addition of 1/4 tsp sea salt per cup of clean water, are strongly suggested
    for cartilage and other piercings.
  • To soak, invert a cup of water over the piercing, forming a vacuum, or soak in a well-cleaned bathtub. Make a compress
    with paper towels to insure cleanliness. You can do this once or twice daily for about 10-15 minutes.

When can I remmove or change the jewelry?
Your piercing will not be completely healed for several years. Even after the piercing has healed, reinsertion can be difficult
and sometimes impossible, especially in nipple piercings. A women's nipple may take slightly longer to heal.
  • Jewelry should not be changed during the inital healing period, usually about 6-10 months. Be sure to always wear
    appropriate jewlry in your piercing, even when fully healed. Jewelry desiggned for earlobes is never sppropriate and can
    damage your piercing.
  • If you must remove the jewelry temporarily, call your piercer, or use an insertion taper lubricated with a little antibiotic
    ointment to insert a piece of uncolored monofilament nylon. Weed-eater of fishing line works well. 160 lb test is
    equivalent to 14-12 gauge. This will retain the piercing until you can reinsert the jewelry.
  • It's no problem to permanenly remove the jewelry. In most cases, only a small indentation will remain. We encourage
    you to call your piercer. S/he will be happy to assist you.

Do I have an infection?
Infections are caused by contact with bacteria, fungi, or other living pathogens. Piercing infections can usually be traced to one
of the following activities:
  • Touching the piercing with unwashed hands or letting someone else touch the piercing
  • Oral contact with the piercing, including your own saliva
  • Allowing body fluids to contact the piercing (your urine is sterile to your own body)
  • Contact wtih hair, cosmetics, oils, infrequently washed clothing or bedding or other agents
  • Going into a pool, hot tub, lake, ocean or other body of water (your own clean bathtub is okay)

How can I tell if I have an infection?
While these symptoms may also indicate other problems, look for the following indications of infection:
  • Redness and swelling
  • A sensation of heat at the piercing site
  • Pain, especially throbbing or spreading pain
  • Unusual discharge. It may be yellowish, greenish, or grayish

I think I have an infection. What should I do?
  • While it's never inappropriate to see your piercing-friendly physician, a call to your piercer may save you a trip. If
    possible, visit your piercer and show him/her the piercing. Also tell him/her about any circumstances which may have
    led to an infection.
  • Please don't remove the jewelry! This may aggravate the problem by closing off the drainage for the matter.
  • The effectiveness of an oral antibiotic depends on selecting the right one for the job. This should only be done by a
    physician! If you have used an over the counter topical antibiotic ointment before without adverse effects, it may be
    appropriate to use sparingly, for no more then 3-5 days. Many people are very sensitive to antibiotics, particularly
    neomycin; Bacitracin is the least problematic ointment.

Common problems you can avoid.
  • Overcleaning, vigorous cleaning, or using a cleanser that is too strong can produce symptoms very similar to an infection.
    The skin may be very tender and appear shiny, and there may be a clear discharge.
  • Friction caused by tight or heavy clothing, rough sexual activity, or excessive movement of the area can cause dark redness,
    keloids, discharge, and rejection/migration.
  • Stress, poor diet, or illness can cause longer healing times, or migration of the piercing.
  • Often a cleanser reaction or otehr problems are mistaken for a metal allergy. They may feel hot and sore, like a low-grade
    infection, or the body may attempt to pull away from the metal, resulting in a large growing cavity.
  • Occasionally, the selected jewelry may not be appropriate. This may or may not be due to circumstances that occurred
    after the piercing. If the jewelry is too thin or too heavy, too large or small in diameter, or not the appropriate style
    (a barbell instead of a ring for example), you may experience healing problems. Contact your piercer if you
    suspect that you may need different jewelry.

Estimated inital healing times.
Everyone heals at a different rate. These are the average times for which you shouyld clean your piercing, twice daily and
treat it like new, healing tissue. Remember that even after the initial healing period, your piercing will still need one full year
or longer to completely heal (toughen up). Always treat the piercing with care and gentleness.

  • Earlobe, Eyebrow, Septum: 6-8 weeks
  • Ear Cartilage, Nostril: 2 months - 1 year

Yankee Tattoo, Burlington, Vermont