Whether you're a man or woman, if you've just gotten a new genital piercing or are considering getting one, it's important to brush up on proper genital piercing aftercare to ensure that your piercing heals well and lasts for as many years as you want to keep it. In this guide, we talk about what you should and shouldn't do during the genital piercing healing process, including how to properly clean your genital piercing, how to identify potential problems, and what to do if you experience an issue with your new genital piercing.
What You Should Know Before Getting a Genital Piercing
Genital Piercing Options - There are quite a few different options when it comes to both male and female genital piercings. Some people are better suited for certain styles of genital piercings than others. To learn about your many genital piercing options and choose the one(s) that are likely to suit you best and provide you with the most sexual stimulation, aesthetic value or both, check out any of these related genital piercing articles:
Genital Piercing Jewelry - The type of genital piercing you decide to get will determine how many different styles of body jewelry you can choose between. In terms of material, the three best options for starter genital piercing jewelry include titanium, surgical stainless steel and BioPlast. BioPlast comes in limited style options currently, so it may not be a good choice for you unless the piercing you want can accommodate a straight BioPlast barbell (for men's dydoe and frenum piercings, for example) or a BioPlast labret stud (for female labia piercings, for example). If you can find BioPlast jewelry in a style that suits the genital piercing you're choosing, it's an ideal option because it's soft, flexible, hypoallergenic, and fully autoclavable. When choosing between the two metal options, go with titanium if you know you have sensitive skin. Titanium is one of the most inert metals and the least likely to trigger an allergic reaction, but surgical stainless steel is a close second that will work for most people.
Genital Piercing Limitations - It's very important to note that you absolutely can not engage in sexual intercourse, oral sex, self-stimulation, or any other kind of sexual play that may irritate your genital piercing during the healing process. Many genital piercings heal quickly (within 4-6 weeks), but there are some that can take many months to heal, like apadravya piercings for men and Christina piercings for women. (Review our "Genital Piercing Healing Times" list to learn how long it may take for the genital piercing you're interested in getting to heal.)
Surface Genital Piercings - Certain types of genital piercings are actually surface piercings that do not have clear entry and exit points. Surface piercings are more prone to migration, so if you choose to get one (e.g. Christina piercings for women or frenum piercings, dydoe piercings, hafada piercings, pubic piercings, and perineum piercings for men), it's important that your piercer pierce you as deeply as possible and that s/he uses the heaviest gauge needle and jewelry appropriate for the type of genital piercing you want. These two things will help minimize the likelihood of your jewelry migrating out before you ever have a chance to enjoy it.
Genital Piercing Aftercare
There are a handful of things you should and shouldn't do while your genital piercing is healing, as detailed below. Use these suggestions as supplements to the genital piercing aftercare instructions your piercer provides you. These tips are not meant to replace your piercer's advice.
What to Do While Your Genital Piercing Is Healing:
- Do Keep Your Piercing Clean. It's important to keep your genital piercing clean by doing full sea salt solution soaks twice a day (see instructions below), and to mist your genital piercing with a quality saline rinse like Recovery Piercing Aftercare Spray 3-6 times per day in between full soaks. You should not wash your genital piercing directly with soap, but if you do at some point, use a gentle, fragrance-free, non-antibacterial soap. It's okay if sudsy water washes over your genital piercing in the shower. It's just better not to soap up your piercing directly, because soap can be drying and delay the healing process.
- Do Take Care of Yourself Overall. It's important to get lots of good quality sleep, eat nutritiously, stay hydrated (with water; alcohol is actually dehydrating, and sugary sodas, iced tea, etc., can compromise your immune system), and practice good hygiene overall, which includes washing your hands thoroughly and often. These things will bolster your immune system, help you stay healthy, and allow your body to focus its full attention on healing your new genital piercing.
- Do Avoid Trauma to Your New Piercing. There are many things that can traumatize a healing genital piercing, like playing with your jewelry, wearing underwear and other clothing that's too tight, changing your jewelry prematurely, and twisting/turning/sliding your jewelry to loosen piercing "crusties". Crusties are just dried lymph, which is typically clear while wet and dries to a whitish crust. It's natural for all wounds, including genital piercings, to excrete lymph during the healing process. To loosen crusties properly, soak them with piercing aftercare spray to soften them, and then gently wipe them away with a clean tissue or cotton swab.
What to Avoid While Your Genital Piercing Heals:
- Don't Thin Your Blood. Sometimes healing piercings bleed due to things like crusties (dried lymph) freezing jewelry in place and suddenly breaking away from the edge of the healing fistula (piercing hole). That's why it's best to avoid things like aspirin, alcohol and excess caffeine, which will all thin your blood and make it harder for your body to form clots.
- Don't Smoke. If you're a smoker, it's best to try to quit before getting a genital piercing, because nicotine has a systemic effect on the body that slows down the immune system's ability to heal a wound. If you're unable to quit, consider trying an e-cigarette with a lower nicotine level juice in it, a low-dose nicotine patch, and/or nicotine gum or lozenges.
- Don't Let Bacteria Cause a Piercing Problem. There are a few things you need to avoid during the genital piercing healing process to minimize the amount of bacteria that comes in contact with your healing fistula. Do not engage in oral sex, intercourse or any form of sexual play while your genital piercing heals. You'll also need to avoid baths, hot tubs, pools, and other communal water. Keep your healing genital piercing clean and avoid other people's bacteria, and your piercing is much more likely to heal well and without issues.
- Don't Mess With Your Jewelry. It may be tempting to play with your new genital piercing ring, but it's better to keep your hands off while your piercing heals. If crusties form around your genital piercing, don't twist, turn or slide your jewelry to break them up. Use sea salt solution and a tissue to remove them, as suggested above. It's also important that you don't try to change your jewelry prematurely. Even after your piercing is technically fully healed, your fistula will continue to reinforce and strengthen over time. If you want to change your jewelry as soon as your genital piercing is healed and your fistula is still tender, ask your piercer for help. It will be easier to change your jewelry yourself once you've had your piercing longer. The only reason you should change your jewelry before you're fully healed is if you're experiencing a piercing problem that would be helped by a jewelry change, like severe swelling or hypergranulation caused by tight jewelry. If you find yourself in a situation like that, have your piercer make the switch for you. (To see the ideal time to wait before changing your jewelry for the first time, read the "Genital Piercing Healing Times" section of our article The Basics of Male & Female Genital Piercings.)
- Don't Soap up Your Genital Piercing. Soap can dry out the skin around a healing piercing and irritate it. Science has proven that sea salt solution is the best cleanser for a healing piercing, so avoid soap as much as possible. If you feel you need a stronger cleanser at some point, either due to malodor or a piercing problem, consider using an antiseptic piercing solution once or twice a day in a day in between your full sea salt solution soaks.
- Don't Use Creams, Oils, Balms, or Ointments. These things can clog your healing genital piercing fistula, potentially trapping in bacteria and causing an infection. If the skin around your genital piercing becomes dry or irritated, try adding 2-3 drops of tea tree oil to each cup of sea salt solution you prepare to take advantage of the oil's moisturizing and antiseptic properties without clogging your fistula. If you want to use tea tree oil with a piercing aftercare spray, just saturate a cotton ball with solution and add a drop of tea tree oil to it before applying it to your genital piercing.
Sea salt solution should be made with a quality sea salt, like our Recovery Sea Salt From the Dead Sea, not table salt. Table salt contains iodine, which isn't as ideal for a healing piercing. For each 1 cup batch of homemade sea salt solution you prepare, you'll need 1 cup of sterile water (which you can make by boiling tap water for 5 minutes), 1/4 tsp. of sea salt, and 2-3 drops of tea tree oil, if desired, stirred until the salt fully dissolves. If you plan to enhance your sea salt solution with tea tree oil, check out our Recovery Tea Tree Oil & Sea Salt Combo Pack to save on both ingredients. You can make a batch of solution and store it in a clean plastic container filled with cotton balls so they're prepped and ready to apply to your genital piercing as soon as you need them, making it more convenient to do the recommended two full 5-minute soaks per day.
Note: If you'd rather not make your own sea salt solution for your full soaks, you can use a store-bought piercing aftercare rinse instead. Just saturate a series of clean cotton balls with solution, and apply them one-at-a-time until you've soaked your genital piercing for 5 minutes.
There are a variety of different piercing problems that can occur while a genital piercing is healing or even once it's fully healed, if something irritates it. It's important to familiarize yourself with potential genital piercing problems so that you can address them quickly if you encounter any of them. Read the sections below to see symptoms to watch out for and what to do if you experience any of them.
It's normal to experience some degree of swelling after getting any piercing, which is why your piercer will outfit you with extra-long/wider-diameter starter genital piercing jewelry. However, if you experience extreme swelling and your jewelry begins to cut into your skin or swallow the balls on your barbells, it's important to do something to address the swelling and to then see your piercer right away. Prolonged pressure can cause necrosis (tissue death), which can lead to infection, so don't let a swelling issue linger unattended. If you can tolerate a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug like acetaminophen (e.g. Tylenol), that's your best bet to reduce the swelling while you get your jewelry replaced. Ibuprofen (e.g. Advil) can cause bruising and aspirin can thin your blood, but if one of these options becomes necessary, ibuprofen is always a better choice than aspirin. You could also apply a cold pack wrapped with a clean cloth to your genitals for 10-15 minutes at a time to reduce swelling without excess exposure to cold. A clean washcloth soaked in cold water and rung out may also help, but you should only use a washcloth once on a healing genital piercing.
Allergic Reaction to Jewelry Material
If you know before you get pierced that you tend to have contact dermatitis when certain materials are against your skin for any period of time, avoid having jewelry made of those materials inserted into your new genital piercing at the time you get it. If you haven't previously had a problem with jewelry irritating your skin and you develop a piercing problem, it's unlikely to be due to a material allergy. However, if you have red, itchy skin around your piercing, possibly combined with swelling, you may be allergic to the material composition of your jewelry. Have it swapped out by your piercer and replaced with hypoallergenic jewelry made of either BioPlast or titanium, as discussed in the "Genital Piercing Jewelry" section above.
Genital Piercing Infections
Sometimes no matter how many sea salt solution soaks you do, no matter how frequently you rinse with piercing aftercare spray, and no matter what else you do to avoid a genital piercing infection, you get one anyway. The signs to watch out for are red streaks radiating from your genital piercing site, discharge of thick, yellow pus instead of clear lymph that dries to a white crust, skin that's extra hot to the touch, or fever, with or without swelling of the tissue around the piercing. If you experience any of these symptoms, you may be developing a genital piercing infection. You can try to nip it in the bud by ramping up your genital piercing aftercare regime. Instead of 2 full sea salt solution soaks each day, do 3. Add tea tree oil to the solution for its antiseptic properties. You can also incorporate an antiseptic piercing solution or a product like X-Pressions Antiseptic Piercing Swabs into your daily cleaning routine, either once or twice a day as you feel necessary based on the severity of your symptoms. If you don't see an improvement after a few days or if your symptoms get worse, see your family physician right away. S/he will be able to prescribe an antibiotic if one is needed.
It's best not to remove your jewelry if you develop a genital piercing infection, because you could risk trapping the bacteria inside and causing an abscess to form. Just keep up with your ramped-up genital piercing aftercare routine and take the full course of antibiotics, if your doctor prescribes one, and your infection should clear up. If you really want to remove your jewelry, make sure you continue doing 2-3 full sea salt solution soaks, 3-6 spritzes with piercing aftercare spray, and at least one antiseptic rinse per day until the fistula fully closes to keep it properly flushed as it heals.
Hypergranulation presents as either a red bump that appears pus-filled alongside a genital piercing or as a ring of angry red, puffy skin all around one side of a fistula. The dark coloring of hypergranulations and their taut, typically smooth surfaces often cause people to think they're developing keloid scars when that's rarely the case. A very small percentage of the population is prone to keloids, which are hereditary, and you'd likely know well before you ever attempted to get a genital piercing if you were prone to them. Those who get keloids usually get them over top of any wound, so they shouldn't get piercings at all.
If you experience a hypergranulation issue, it's likely due to a combination of excess moisture and/or jewelry that's too tight. If your jewelry is cutting into your skin, get your piercer to replace it with larger genital piercing jewelry. To address excess moisture, blot your skin gently with a clean tissue a minute or two after finishing your sea salt solution soaks, and give your skin time to fully dry after all soaks, spritzes and showers before putting on underwear. If you have a severe moisture issue on an ongoing basis, try applying a non-medicated, fragrance-free powder like baby powder in moderation to your genitals to help stay dry during the day; just don't apply it too close to your genital piercing. Within a week or two, your hypergranulation issue should subside as long as you keep up with your aftercare regime, get your jewelry replaced, and work to reduce recurring excess moisture.
When you remove any piercing, it's likely to leave a small scar--typically an atrophic scar that's more of a flesh-tone divot in your skin where your piercing used to be. Some people may develop hypertrophic scars instead, which are typically also flesh-tone scars that are slightly raised and form immediately over top of a closed fistula. Sometimes hypertrophic scars form around a genital piercing even while the jewelry is still inserted. You'll be able to differentiate them from hypergranulation issues and keloid scars because the latter two are usually a dark reddish color, and keloids will continue to grow well beyond the piercing site, whereas hypertrophic scars will form closely around your piercing and be lighter in color, if not entirely skin-colored.
If you develop an atrophic scar or a hypertrophic scar over top of or around a healed piercing, you can massage a small amount of silicone scar therapy gel into the scar tissue twice a day until the scar is eliminated or sufficiently minimized. Jojoba oil is a more natural option that can help you achieve the same type of results over time. If you do develop a keloid scar, you'll need to see a dermatologist to discuss having it removed cryogenically (freezing it off), with a laser, surgically, with corticosteroid treatments to shrink it, or using a combination of treatments that may also include applying a silicone scar gel.
Changing Your Jewelry
As mentioned earlier, it's best to wait until your piercing is fully healed to change your jewelry unless you experience a piercing problem at any point. When you switch it the first time, it's best to have your genital piercing jewelry replaced by your piercer. Your fistula will still be new and tender, and it can be hard to change genital piercing jewelry by yourself anyway due to the location. The longer you have your piercing, though, the easier it will be to change your jewelry by yourself. The first time you do, be prepared with helpful tools like a threaded taper, if you're inserting threaded jewelry like a bent barbell or straight barbell, and a little bit of water-based lubricant. Put the tiniest drop of lubricant on the end of your jewelry or massage it into the skin around your fistula, and then use a taper to thread the new jewelry through. Alternatively, you can use your new jewelry to push your old jewelry out slowly; this is often the best option with unthreaded jewelry like captive rings.
If you're a man with a healed Prince Albert piercing who's interested in trying a PA wand or sounding, definitely wait until your fistula is fully healed, if not longer, before inserting a PA or sounding wand. Both can be very pleasurable, but you'll enjoy sounding and PA wands even more when you try them after your PA piercing is well-healed.
Stretching Your Genital Piercing
Some men and women like to stretch their genital piercings so they can wear larger, more stimulating genital piercing jewelry. If you want to go up a size, always do it a single size at a time at most. Otherwise you could traumatize your fistula and trigger a piercing problem to occur. Better yet, gradually increase the size of your jewelry by applying a single layer of stretching tape to it every week or two until you've increased an entire size. At that point you can insert the next gauge jewelry and begin the process again within two weeks, if desired. If you go up a whole size at a time, you should always wait one-and-a-half times as long as it took for your genital piercing to heal initially before attempting to increase to the next largest gauge. If you want to increase your skin's elasticity before a stretch, massage a small amount of emu oil into the tissue around it daily for a week before stretching. Always avoid sexual play, oral sex, intercourse, and manual stimulation while a stretched piercing is healing again.
If you enjoy gently pulling your jewelry, you might like the feel of weights attached to your genital piercing jewelry. We offer S-hooks and small weights that you can hang from your genital piercing rings for enhanced sexual stimulation.
More Genital Piercing Information
If you'd like to learn more about male or female genital piercings, we offer a wealth of information on our website. Check out the articles, blog posts, forum links, and genital piercing photo links below to further your genital piercing education and see what different piercing options look like. If you want to take full advantage of the forum and photo gallery, you'll need to sign up for an account. Once you're logged in, you can post questions in the forum that our knowledgeable moderators and community members will answer, like other posts, share photos of your own mods anonymously in our photo gallery, view mature content, and more. If you need help navigating either our forum or gallery, check out our helpful How to Use the Forum and How to Use the Gallery articles.
- The Basics of Male & Female Genital Piercings Article
- Male Piercings Article
- Female Piercings Article
- Piercings Exclusively for Men Blog Post
- Piercings Exclusively for Women Blog Post
- What Is a Prince Albert Piercing & How Does It Work? Blog Post
- Needle Play Tips Blog Post
- Genital Piercings Forum Section
- Female Genital Piercing Pictures in the Gallery
- Male Genital Piercing Pictures in the Gallery