I recently found myself sitting in a surgical chair, holding tightly onto my cardigan while a woman peered over me and looked into my ear. After she punctured my forward helix, she explained five simple tips for a new piercing. And although this was my sixth ear piercing, I was surprised by a few of the things she mentioned.
First of all, an ear piercing shouldn't necessarily be an impulse decision, though I would be lying if I didn’t admit to finding myself in that situation before. There are many things to consider before getting punctured, such as the quality of the studio, the person doing the piercing, the location of the piercing, and the instruments used.
Dr. Dosunmu, a board certified physician and founder of Medical Ear Piercings Clinics in New Jersey and New York City, tells Bustle in an interview that every piercing should be treated like an injection or wound. While you may not ask your doctor a million questions about equipment or cleaning care when you get a shot, she encourages asking your piercer those questions to ensure your latest piercing is safe and free of injection. Here are Dosunmu's five tips for a new piercing.
1. Infection Starts At The Point Of The Procedure
Although it may not seem like the procedures you see on Grey’s Anatomy, Dr. Dosunmu says that since something is going through your skin, getting a piercing is a procedure. According Dosunmu, you can also get a piercing from the environment in which it is done.
When you first walk into a piercing salon or shop, she suggests simply looking around to make sure it looks clean, by your own standards.
2. Make Sure The Piercer's Hands Are Clean
Because the human piercing your ears will be touching not only your body but also the metal piece going into your body, her hands need to be clean as well.
"First of all, before the piercer can touch the ear, they have to make sure their hands are clean. Because you can introduce infections with the hand. The proper ear care specialist must wash their hands before they handle the area that is to be pierced," says Dr. Dosunmu.
3. Make Sure The Equipment Is Clean
Since a piercing cuts the skin, Dr. Dosunmu says it must be treated like a cut. And whatever is used to cause the cut must also be inspected. The equipment used to pierce the skin as well as the jewelry that goes into the skin must be sterile.
She stated it is not embarrassing to ask how equipment is cleaned between clients, because cross-contamination is a thing. And ask about the type of jewelry going into your skin as well. The Medical Piercings Clinics use a type of metal that is non-stick, so the client does not have to turn or twist the new piercing, and risking more infection to the area with their hands.
Much to my surprise, my piercer told me not to use peroxide on my latest piercing. Instead, she suggested wound wash or a saltwater saline to clean the injection.
"We always recommend a saline... it's particularly good because the pH is the same as the skin, so it is well balanced. It is not harsh, so it does not damage the tissue further. Peroxide and alcohol and things like that are used to clean infected wounds, but we don’t recommend them because we know that our piercings are already clean. So saline is something to rinse can wipe away everything that may have formed around the skin," Dr. Dosunmu explains.
She recommends her clients clean the piercing for only five days and the new piercing does not have to cause a change in lifestyle.
"You don’t want to introduce any bacteria around the ear. So the kinds of the things where you would get bacteria, we tell people, don’t go swimming in a lake or in a pool of water like the ocean because there’s an increased chance of bacteria in those non-distilled bodies of water," she says.
However, working out and swimming in a chlorinated pool is OK, as long as those activities don't typically upset your skin. Like any other cut, Dr. Dosunmu says it should be kept dry as much as possible, it should be washed, and it should be given stuff to heal.
5. If A Mistake Has Already Been Made, You Need To Treat It Like An Infection
Say it's too late. You got a piercing and because either the environment wasn't clean, your piercer or his or her materials weren't clean, or you did not care for the piercing well and it got infected. Do not panic. At this point, Dr. Dosunmu says you need to treat it like any infected cut and to contact your local health care provider.
"You’ll treat it like any infected wound, depending on severity of infection, you might be able to manage it at home. If it’s anything more severe, like a fever or swelling at the point of piercing, then you’re going to need to see your local health provider," says Dr. Dosunmu.
She also asks that her clients contact her or her staff to inform them the piercing got infected. She, or your piercer, may be able to help as well, based on their knowledge and experience.
A piercing may seem like a simple, fun cosmetic procedure and it can be a great experience, but it's important to do your homework before you say "OK" to letting a stranger stick a needle into your body.
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