How to safely get body piercings (Photo: iStock)

Are you considering getting a new body piercing? Chances are that you're excited but at the same time a little scared.

While some body piercings such as ear lobe piercings are fairly simple, others are more complex and daunting.

Body piercing is a great way of expressing your unique personality and sense of beauty, but it can quickly turn into a health problem if your piercing develops an infection.

This is what you need to know before getting a body piercing:


Before heading to the piercing studio, go to a doctor for tetanus and hepatitis B vaccines. Many piercing studios might not mention the importance of getting vaccinated, so it's up to you to protect yourself from these deadly infections. If you have a medical condition, such as heart disease, diabetes, bleeding disorder, skin disorder, allergies, or are pregnant, consult a doctor before getting any new body piercing.


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Choose a licensed piercing studio with a professional piercer. No, you can't do it yourself... unless you're a trained piercer. Don't ask your equally clueless friends to pierce you either. You can ask your friends to recommend a piercing studio or professional. Even though initially expensive, a great piercing studio will save you the worry of infections and undue damage to your body. Don't take alcohol or caffeinated drinks for at least 48 hours before your piercing appointment. Also, keep away from blood-thinning medications like aspirin.


During your piercing appointment, your skin will be cleansed before a needle and sterilised jewellery are inserted. Make sure that your piercer follows the required safety procedures such as washing their hands, wearing gloves, sterilising their instruments, using a fresh needle for each client, and disposing of used needles and bandages properly.

Don't let them use a piercing gun; it's harder to sterilize and causes more damage to the area being pierced. If you're concerned about allergic reactions, ask for jewellery made from non-toxic metals such as surgical steel, niobium, titanium, platinum, or solid 14-18 karat gold.


Afterwards, your piercer will advise you on how to care for your new piercing to help it heal faster. These instructions will include:

Always wash your hands with soap before touching your new piercing. Keep your hands off the pierced area as much as possible. Clean the pierced area with antibacterial soap and clean water twice a day. Soak the piercing in saline solution for 10 minutes daily. Keep the pierced area dry. In the case of a mouth or tongue piercing, use an antibacterial mouthwash. Keep jewellery in the piercing and do not remove it until it's fully healed, (6-12 weeks). Consider taking multivitamin supplements to help with the healing process.

In case of trouble

Despite taking all precautions, your piercing might not heal as soon as expected. An infection might develop at the piercing site, causing it to swell and hurt. If your piercing isn't healing properly, has yellow or green smelly pus, or gives you a fever, it is time to consult a doctor. You will probably be given antibiotic pills and a topical cream. In case of swelling, don't remove the jewellery yourself, go to a doctor or your piercer for advice first.

The healing process will take time, so be patient. Healing time is different for each body part. While ear lobe piercings take about 6-12 weeks to heal, healing for navel or cartilage piercings can take up to a year. Although tongue and other oral piercings swell a lot at first, they heal pretty quickly (4-6 weeks), unless infected. However, dentists caution that oral jewellery can damage gums and chip enamel from your teeth.

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