Cold winter weather can be harsh on the skin in general, and it can be especially cruel to piercings. How can you keep the skin around your piercings hydrated and smooth during the winter months? We have the answers!
Tips for Keeping Your Piercings Happy Throughout the Winter
When it comes to maintaining soft, smooth, well-hydrated skin around your piercings during the winter months, proper aftercare is key. Even if you've had your piercings for years and haven't done a sea salt solution soak since the early days after getting pierced, you should start using sea salt solution again if the winter weather begins to dry out the skin around your piercings.
You have a couple options when it comes to sea salt solutions. You can either buy a quality pre-mixed saline wash like Recovery Piercing Aftercare Spray, or you can make a homemade sea salt solution. The benefit of making a homemade sea salt solution is the ability to mix in tea tree oil, which is an all-natural enhancer with magical moisturizing and antiseptic properties. If the skin around your piercing has begun to crack and bleed, adding tea tree oil to your aftercare regime will help your body fight infection that could otherwise easily take root in the cracks in your skin. Tea tree oil cannot be applied directly to the skin, though; it has to be mixed with a proper carrier solution, like sea salt-enriched sterile water. Here's how to make your own tea tree oil-enhanced sea salt solution:
Homemade Sea Salt Solution Recipe
- 1 Cup of Sterile Water (You can either boil tap water for 5 minutes to sterilize it or buy sterile water.)
- 1/4 Teaspoon of Sea Salt (Our Recovery Aftercare Sea Salt From the Dead Sea is ideal.)
- 2-3 Drops of Tea Tree Oil (Note that we offer a Recovery Aftercare Sea Salt & Tea Tree Oil Combo Pack that will save you money.)
- Cotton Balls to Apply the Solution to Your Piercing
How to Prepare Your Sea Salt Solution:
- If you're using tap water, put it in a pot on the stove, bring it to a boil, and let it boil hard for at least 5 minutes to sterilize it.
- Measure out 1 cup of sterile water in a heat-safe container.
- Stir in 1/4 teaspoon sea salt while the water is still warm so the salt will dissolve thoroughly.
- Add 2-3 drops of tea tree oil to the solution, and let it cool to a comfortable temperature.
Applying Your Sea Salt Solution:
- Soak cotton balls in the tea tree oil-enhanced sea salt solution.
- Apply a cotton ball to your piercing for a few moments, discard it, apply a fresh one, and so on until you've applied solution to your piercing for a total of 5 minutes.
- If your piercing is a double-sided external piercing, like an earlobe piercing, make sure to apply fresh sea salt solution-soaked cotton balls to both sides. If one side of your piercing exits into your mouth, as with cheek piercings and lip piercings, only apply your homemade solution externally. You can swish your mouth with a saline oral rinse like Recovery Mouth Rinse if you want to treat the oral side of a facial piercing, too. Alternatively, you can make another batch of homemade sea salt solution, but leave out the tea tree oil for oral use.
- Repeat this routine 2 to 3 times a day until the skin around your piercing is soft and smooth again. Once it's healed, you can apply sea salt solution just once daily for maintenance during the rest of the winter.
If you'd rather use store-bought saline wash, but you want to enhance it with tea tree oil, you can saturate a cotton ball with Recovery Piercing Aftercare Solution and then add a single drop of tea tree oil to the cotton ball before applying it to your piercing. Whether you use homemade or store-bought sea salt solution, you should apply it to your piercing 2 to 3 times a day until your skin has recovered, and at least once a day thereafter.
Alternative Piercing Moisturizers
Sea salt solution enhanced with tea tree oil is by far the best way to hydrate and moisturize both new and established piercings. Those with new piercings should absolutely not apply any balms or cream-based moisturizers in addition to using sea salt solution, because balms, creams and most oils can clog a healing fistula (piercing hole), trapping in bacteria and potentially leading to an infection. The only exception is emu oil, which doesn't clog the pores and allows the skin to breathe during the healing process. You should use it sparingly, though, and be careful to rub it only into the skin around your piercings rather than slathering it over top of your piercings, just to be safe. Emu oil is a deeply-penetrating, highly-moisturizing nutritional supplement for the skin. It's rich in essential fatty acids that feed the skin, aiding in new cell development and promoting faster healing. It's also helpful in reducing the appearance of piercing scars and enhancing the skin's natural elasticity, which is a bonus if you plan on stretching any of your piercings.
Those with well-established piercings have a third alternative for moisturizing the skin around their piercings. You can apply jojoba oil once or twice a day, massaging it gently into the skin around your piercings to take advantage of its natural moisturizing properties without clogging your fistulas. You should avoid using jojoba oil around healing piercings, though.
What Not to Do for Winter-Damaged Skin
During the harsh winter months, if the skin around your piercings gets so dry that it begins to crack and bleed, you may be tempted to apply a triple antibiotic ointment like Neosporin. This is not a good idea, because it can clog your fistulas and trap in bacteria. Other than the natural moisturizers listed above, there are really no good creams, oils or balms for piercings that have been irritated by winter weather.
You should also avoid washing your piercings directly with soap during the winter. Soap can dry out piercings at any time of year, but it's an especially bad idea to wash your piercings with soap during the coldest months. It's okay if soapy water runs over your piercings in the shower, but you should clean them directly exclusively with sea salt solution and enhance it with tea tree oil when you need a moisturizing boost.
Although warm compresses may seem like a good way to soothe your irritated skin, it's not a great idea to use them during the winter. Warm water alone can dry out your skin even more, whereas warm sea salt solution will hydrate and heal it, especially if you've enhanced it with tea tree oil.
It's best not to try stretching your piercings in the winter, because the stretching process can cause minor tears in the skin even when it's super-hydrated and moisturized. If you're determined to keep stretching during the winter months, do it gradually using stretching tape (add a single layer to your jewelry every couple weeks) and stop immediately if the skin around your piercings becomes too dry or the fistulas start to crack and bleed. You should also massage emu oil into the skin around your piercings daily for at least a week before each stretch, to enhance your skin's natural elasticity and make the transition to a new jewelry size gentler on your skin.
If your piercings begin to ooze lymph again (a clear substance that dries to a whitish crust) because the skin around them is irritated, do not twist, turn or slide your jewelry around to loosen the crusties. Simply apply a sea salt solution-saturated cotton ball to each of your piercings to soften the crusties, and then gently wipe them away with a clean tissue.
What to Do if You Suspect You Have an Infection
If the skin around your piercings stays dry and irritated long enough, infection can sometimes take root in the cracks in your skin. Signs of infection include skin that's hot to the touch, red streaks that radiate out from your piercings, fever (in some cases), and discharge of thick, yellow pus. If you begin to notice any of these symptoms, ramp up your aftercare regime. Do full sea salt solution soaks 2 to 3 times a day, and mist your piercings with Recovery Piercing Aftercare Spray in between to keep your skin hydrated. If your symptoms of infection persist or get worse over the next couple days, see your family physician right away and ask if you need an antibiotic. Your doctor may encourage you to remove your jewelry if s/he believes you have an infection, but it's actually best to leave your jewelry in until the infection clears up. Removing it prematurely can trap bacteria inside and potentially cause an abscess. It's better to just take your antibiotic on schedule and keep up with your sea salt solution soaks until the infection clears up.
If you have any questions about caring for your piercings during the winter months that we haven't answered here, please visit our forum. Once you've logged into your Painful Pleasures account (sign up for one here), you can post questions in the forum. Our knowledgeable moderators and online community members will be happy to respond to any questions you post.