Ear piercings are one of the most common types of piercings. The locations of these piercings can range from the earlobe to the curve of cartilage at the top of the ear, to the folds just outside the ear canal.
Although they’re extremely popular and relatively safe, you still need to treat your piercing with care and attention to avoid any complications.
This article will focus on top tips for cleaning an ear piercing, and signs to watch out for that may indicate an infection. And if you’re not sure if you’re ready for a piercing (or exactly where to get it), we’ll help you with that, too.
The first thing you should consider is where to place your piercing.
Here are some popular options:
- Earlobe. This is the go-to ear piercing spot at the bottom of your ear. This piercing is easy to clean and take care of, and it heals much faster than other ear piercings.
- Helix. This is the curvy tissue at the very top of the ear. It falls into second place after the lobe piercing in popularity. It heals a little more slowly than a lobe piercing but is still easy to keep clean.
- Tragus. Right above your earlobe, this harder section of your ear is on the edge of your face and right in front of your ear canal. It’s not as common as the lobe or helix for piercing, and is a little more difficult to take care of. There is some anecdotal evidence that a tragus piercing may have benefits for anxiety and migraines.
Once you figure out what kind of piercing you want, do some research on piercing studios. Here’s a brief checklist of what to look for:
- Are there licensed piercers on staff? They should be certified by the Association of Professional Piercers.
- Is the shop reputable? Do they have good reviews on Yelp or other sites? Do they specialize in piercings? Avoid retail stores that offer piercings, as they may not be clean, safe, or even licensed. You may want to look at tattoo shops, too. Many of them have licensed piercers and are highly regulated by state and local health agencies.
- Do the piercers take proper safety precautions? Do they wash their hands, wear a new pair of medical-grade gloves for each piercing, and use new, sterile needles for each piercing?
Now that you’ve gotten your piercing, it’s important to take care of it. The first few weeks are crucial to making sure it heals properly. Here are our top 10 tips for cleaning an ear piercing to avoid infection.
Top 10 tips for cleaning an ear piercing
- Clean your piercing when you do other regular hygiene habits. Clean it when you brush your teeth or take a shower to give yourself a gentle reminder every day.
- Wash your hands. Wash with warm water and gentle soap before you touch your piercing to avoid introducing bacteria to the area.
- Clean with a clean cotton pad or swab, dipped in rubbing alcohol. Use this around the pierced area a few times a day to remove any bacteria.
- Dab (don’t wipe) the piercing. Dry with a clean towel or tissue so you don’t damage the tissue while it’s healing.
- Apply a small layer of petroleum jelly. Using this around the pierced area will reduce scabs and protect from bacteria.
- Clean the pierced area whenever you take the piercing out. This includes when you put it back in, too. Bacteria can quickly get on jewelry when you expose it to the air or set it on a surface like a counter or table.
- Don’t clean your piercing in the bathroom. This is especially true of public ones. Even the cleanest home bathrooms usually have high concentrations of bacteria.
- Don’t lie on the pierced area for long periods of time. Sleeping or lying down on your piercing can trap moisture or bacteria in the area, increasing your risk of infection.
- Don’t get any hair or body products in the piercing area. Be careful when you use shampoo, soap, gel, pomade, hairspray, or other products that can get near the piercing and irritate the tissue.
- Watch out for any abnormal or discolored discharge. See your piercer or doctor right away if you notice any unusual discharge as it might be a sign of an infection.
Earlobe piercings are the quickest to heal. They typically take about one to two months to fully heal.
Cartilage piercings elsewhere on your ear will take longer to heal. It may take up to six months or even a year before a helix or tragus piercing is fully healed.
While your piercing is still healing, don’t take your jewelry out for an extended period. Doing so may cause the hole to close.
The answer to this question is different for everyone. It all depends on how fast you heal and what kind of piercing you got.
If you’re unsure if you’re ready to change out your jewelry, ask your piercer about a month or two after you got your piercing. They can examine the area and give you a definitive answer.
The typical symptoms of an infected piercing include the following:
- aching or throbbing pain in and around the piercing
- abnormal yellowish or whitish discharge
See your doctor right away if you think your piercing is infected.
Ear piercings are a very common piercing. You still need to take good and consistent care of them to make sure you avoid infection, tissue damage, or losing the piercing altogether.