Piercing can and should be a very safe, clean way to enhance your body. For far more detail than I can cover here, check out Elayne Angel’s The Piercing Bible. It is a fun read, and is packed with helpful information on the history of piercing, recognizing a quality studio, aftercare alternatives, troubleshooting, details regarding specific types of piercings – everything you need to know and more. I particularly like the piercee’s bill of rights (also find it here). There’s no need to be uninformed or intimidated when getting a piercing.
I’m going to tell you a bit about my own range of experiences with piercing, and give you my best advice for healing without toxic and irritating chemicals, or risking potentially dangerous infection. Whether you want a simple lobe piercing or something more bold, it’s worth knowing the ropes.
Clean beauty and piercing go together rather naturally for me these days. It wasn’t always so. When I received my first basic lobe piercings over 30 years ago, I was told to clean the piercings daily with alcohol, whilst twisting the jewelry in its hole. This seriously makes me shudder now, and it’s no wonder I had trouble on and off with those piercings for decades. In those days, if you wanted a piercing your options were limited. Like me, you probably went to your local mall and an essentially unskilled salesperson used a piercing gun to shove a cheap piece of jewelry through your earlobes. And then you were given that aforementioned bad advice on how to “care” for your piercings. In college, I made the adventurous choice (for Michigan in the mid-1980s) to get a cartilage piercing in my ear. It was still the gun method. Ouch. My senior year in college, I wanted my nose pierced, and I knew of nowhere to get it done. The concept of the piercing studio did exist then, on the west coast, but I’d never heard of it. So my nursing student friend helped me (a biology student) do it – at least we knew something about sterilization. Please understand, I am in no way advocating for do-it-yourself piercing, but I will say my nose piercings healed better than anything I’ve had done with a gun.
These days, of course, one can find a piercing studio in any decent sized city, and that’s exactly what you should do if you want a piercing. DON’T go to the mall, and certainly DON’T DIY.
My first studio piercing was in my navel, after I’d moved to California and learned such places existed. This was in the early 1990s, and the aftercare advice was better but still involved some intentional wiggling of the jewelry. In the last several years, I’ve had many wonderful piercing experiences at studios, and learned good aftercare techniques from talented and skilled piercers. At 19 total piercings, I think I’ve learned enough to pay it forward. Remember, you are putting a wound in your body that will need to heal. This is deserving of some serious thought and effort.
1. Choose a reputable studio with gold standard safety conditions. If you do your research and choose wisely, the rest of the pieces of the piercing puzzle should fall together easily. There should be an autoclave (sterilizer) on the premises, gloves and sharps (needle disposal) containers within easy reach of your piercer, etc. Check out The Piercing Bible for more detail. The studio’s webpage should have the essential info, and you can ask them for more information about their safety standards. If they don’t want to answer your questions, don’t get pierced there. Likewise, if they are willing to break rules like doing underage piercing, don’t get pierced there. Online reviews may prove insightful as well.
2. Choose a skilled, professional piercer whose asthetic you appreciate. If you chose your studio well, you are likely to get a good piercer. But everyone has a different style, and you should be able to check out a portfolio online. After many years between piercings, I asked a student of mine with many well-placed and beautifully healed facial piercings for advice. She steered me to Lysa Taylor, a lovely gal and excellent professional at Industrial Tattoo and Piercing in Berkeley, CA. I’ve been through several piercings and jewelry changes with Lysa, and I highly recommend her if you are in the Bay Area. My favorite piercer in Vancouver, BC, Canada is the badass teddy bear Rick Gilmour*, owner of Adorned Precision Body Arts. You will walk out of Adorned feeling informed and beautiful.
3. Choose quality jewelry appropriate for your piercing. If you choose a good studio and piercer you will likely end up with proper jewelry. I just really can’t emphasize the jewelry point enough, though. Initial piercings are generally done with surgical steel or titanium and all parts of the jewelry should be very smooth, even microscopically. Internally threaded or press-in ends are both good choices, and sometimes a captive bead ring, depending on your piercing. If you can’t afford good jewelry at a reputable studio, do not get pierced. Save up your money and do it right, with no regrets. With some of my old gun piercings, putting in a quality piece of jewelry and leaving it the heck alone was all that was necessary to put an end to years of issues. Expect to eventually purchase a shorter post or smaller ring – initial jewelry must accommodate swelling. Your piercer will tell you when you’ll need to downsize.
4. Use best practices in aftercare. There are slight variations on what that means, and if you’ve picked your studio and piercer wisely, listen to what they tell you. If you are a novice piercee, they should talk you through aftercare. You’ll be sent home with a pamphlet and/or access instructions on their website. The one conflict I’ve experienced with my two fave studios is the use of sea salt (or not). I’ve done just fine using sea salt soaks/sprays, though it’s not my top choice (see below). Basically, keep harsh or scented products away from your piercing and don’t touch it except while caring for it, and then only with clean hands. Make sure all clothing and bed linens are clean and not irritating your piercing. To avoid pressure on my ear piercings, I like to sleep on a curved travel pillow, with my ear resting in the empty spot where the neck would typically be. Note that genital and oral piercings will have their own set of aftercare instructions, but the following covers most piercings. Different piercing locations have different healing times. Your piercer will tell you how long you need to keep it up. There are no short cuts. If you don’t heal properly it will only take longer.
- Once a day, and best in the shower, lather some unscented Dr. Bronner’s (or similar) in your hands. Gently lather both sides of the piercing site to remove any secretions, and rinse well. Don’t move the jewelry. If you move the jewelry before it’s darn good and ready (that is, well on its way to healing), you are probably ripping off the brand new layers of cells that were healing the site. Then you are just starting all over again. Remember, you are not trying to get the soap inside the piercing, just keep the outside area clean.
- Once out of the shower, spray a good rinsing product and pat the excess dry with a paper towel (keep reusable towels away from fresh piercings, they can harbor bacteria). My favorite rinse is SimpleCare, which is soothing, anti-inflammatory, and easy to spray on. Saline solution works too. Salt water or tea soaks are often recommended, but I find the spray more practical.
- Soak chamomile** teabags in hot water (as hot as you can take but not too hot). Squeeze out the excess liquid and hold the bag, gently, against the piercing. This step makes a huge difference and really relieves pain from inflammation. As healing begins, the piercing may become crazy itchy, and the tea relieves this as well. I hold the bag on until it cools, and do a few cycles of this each night. Keep some tea around even after you think you don’t need it. If you should accidentally bump or injure the piercing, this will help.
- For the first few days after a new piercing, and especially with cartilage piercings, I’ll take a couple of Aleve (or your anti-inflammatory of choice). This is not essential, and I’m not a fan of overmedicating, but do what you need to to feel comfortable.
If you strictly follow the steps of clean and natural aftercare, you should have little to no trouble with your new piercing. If you do have a problem, see your piercer.
Do you have a positive, or perhaps instructive, piercing story? Any recommendations for studios or piercers in your area?
*Rick was actually my inspiration to write a post about piercing. He is a consummate professional and a strong advocate for natural aftercare.
**Make sure it’s just straight chamomile tea with no fillers, preferrably organic. Traditional Medicinals makes my fave.
I’ll be playing with my dream collection, and spill the details once I’ve given everything a thorough try. I’m figuring out what products I like where, how best to apply, in what order, etc. A few points that stand out right off:
- Even with lots of brushstrokes to apply product, my sensitive skin remains calm and feels wonderful throughout the day. It doesn’t take much to flip me to irritation mode, and I’m always wary with new products. Haut passes my sensitivity test.
- The Haut experience is almost entirely without scent – a major plus in my book and another sensitivity test passed. Note that some of the skin care products do have scent.
- This makeup works for the barely-out-of-high-school Chantelle, and for “mature” me. Impressive. The cream products and dry minerals can be used in various combinations to suit any skin. Results can be natural or dramatic.
- The brighteners are stunning. Pick the right combo for your skin tone, and you get to glow without the sparklies of many brightening/highlighting products.
- Brushes. Are. Superior.
- Wildflower is the prettiest shade of makeup ever made (or at least the best suited to me). Love it for cheeks and lips. Like all the aloe cream tints, it can be used anywhere.
- If you were bummed that RMS Buriti Bronzer is not vegan, you’ll love the Aloe Cream Tint in Illuminating. Use it as a bronzer, contour, eyeshadow, blush, lipstick – perfectly versatile.
Have you tried Haut? What are your dream products?
Travel stresses me out. Maybe more than the average person (it’s an OCD thang). I can’t tell you how comforting it is to be able to bring along beloved products and know that, at least, my skin will be well cared for. But I tend to use a lot of steps in my routine, mixing this and that and trying new things. Not conducive to traveling light. So, this trip, rather than trying to figure out how to fit every product, I’m paring down. A little.
These are two of my new faves that are making packing light as a concept, and process, a pleasure for me.
One Love Organics Vitamin C Facial Serum: While nursing an obsession with vitamin C, I got a bee in my bonnet about this product and had to try it. Ingredients like green tea, baobab and sea buckthorn oils provide antioxidants, vitamins, and fatty acids to the skin in a wonderful balance. The scent is extremely light and hard to pinpoint, a bit citrusy to me. It is rich and highly moisturizing, and it spreads well and sinks in beautifully when applied over a thorough spritzing of hydrosol (plain water will work, too). I originally thought this would be best suited to winter months, but I’m incredibly happy with it in warmer weather as well. I’m packing it to use both day and night. If bright, radiant skin is your goal, give this a try. ($68/.8 oz)
Lina Hanson Global Baby Serum: Where to start with this one. It’s an unscented do-everything dream. The primary ingredient is watermelon seed oil, which has intrigued me for some time. It is supposed to be suitable for all skin types, light yet highly moisturizing, and dissolve excess oil. I’ll have some of that. It’s superb for my drier face and still light enough for my body and hair. It leaves a beautiful finish without excess shine. And it’s $35 for a 2 oz bottle – I’m honestly astonished at the quality for the price. It performs like a much more expensive oil. It’s the perfect solution for packing light, and I will fight off any babies to keep this for myself. Side note: this find came from the newish Pemberley Jones shop (love her!), and PJ cleverly included a sample of the Global Body Serum with my purchase, which sent me scurrying back for the full size.
What are you bringing on your end of summer get away? What other day-to-night and multi-tasking products should I be checking out for future trips?
Recently I wrote about palo santo, and how much I adore that scent. When I learned that May Lindstrom incorporates it into a limited edition fragrance, I had to try it. May is one of green beauty’s goddess-geniuses of scent, and I would happily dip myself in a vat of anything she’s made so far. NMDL readers loved her morning skin and hair routine, and I bet you’ll love this scent.
Not that her line is just about scent – she makes high performing skin care products that also smell amazing. But I’m hoping she’ll keep creating these special treats, too.
Jupiter combines organic essential oils of cocoa, coffee, palo santo, sandalwood, vetiver, nutmeg and valerian into a base of macadamia nut oil. It’s appropriate for any gender. Right now, May has a few left as part of a limited edition collection that includes classic favorites The Problem Solver, The Clean Dirt, and The Treatment Brush (read the NMDL love here and here). It’s billed as “For Him,” but trust me ladies, there’s a high probability you’ll want it for yourself. Maybe you can share. A little. Oh, and if you note the $180 cost of the package, you are getting Jupiter for free, lucky you.
The Scent Experience: The first thing I notice with Jupiter is the coffee, then the chocolate. After several minutes on the skin it evolves into a deep, creamy coalescence of EOs. I am a huge fan of vetiver and sandalwood, and while they don’t stand out individually in this scent, they really make it stick the landing. The palo santo lightens it up a bit. I’ve been keeping the perfect little black glass roller bottle next to my workspace, and it’s my energizing and spirit-lifting reward after a morning of work. Ahhhhhhh.
The LE collection is an amazing deal, no code required. And, the new May L website is lauching today (July 4th)! I can’t wait to see what it holds for us. The lady has a gift for visual treats as well.
Have you had a sniff of Jupiter yet? What do you think?
Despite my sensitive skin and nose, or maybe because of them, I am a lover of essential oils. I’ve been playing around with my own blends for years, so I can’t believe that I didn’t know about Palo Santo until recently. Also known as Holy Wood, it has quite a unique scent. It’s somewhat comparable to a high quality frankincense, with the addition of an ever-so-soft woody edge. Palo Santo is considered purifying, calming, and physically grounding, yet spiritually uplifting. It’s good for meditation, creativity, and anything that requires sustained concentration.
I’ve been trying out ways to bring this wonderful scent into my life. Here’s what I love…
R.L. Linden & Co. Ironwood Signature Perfume Oil: Susannah has been loving this company for its skincare and tea. I love a roll-on perfume oil! I can’t tolerate alcohol-based scents at all, so I’m always happy to see companies making fragrance in this form. On the website it’s characterized as a warm, unisex scent with woody, balsam, vanilla and anise notes. It’s sweeter out of the bottle than what I’d normally choose for a fragrance, but it develops into a scent I really enjoy after several minutes on the skin. ($38/.33 oz, $3 sample)
Rahua Hair Wax: This vegan, gluten free, creamy styling wax is very lightly scented with Palo Santo. The scent is so light that it will layer well with any of your other scented products and not create conflict. The texture is much softer than I was expecting for something called a wax, and very easy to work with on wet or dry hair. A teensy bit will give control, and more can be used for sculpting. I use it to give a little hold and a modern matte finish to my messy, chin-length curls. NuboNau is up and running again (yay!), and you can find Rahua there any day, but I think Fridays are particularly good shopping days, don’t you? ($32/3 oz)
DIY sugar scrub: A sugar scrub is such an easy DIY, even non-DIYers will enjoy this. I choose my container, fill with sugar, add several drops of my EOs, cover with oil, and mix. My favorite sugar is coconut palm, as it has a really nice scrubby texture and its own molasses-like scent. I use these mainly for hand scrubs, so you may want a finer sugar if you will use it on more delicate skin. My oil of choice is meadowfoam, but anything you like will do. I just mixed a batch I absolutely love, with Palo Santo and Moroccan Blue Chamomile EOs.
Have you met Palo Santo yet? How have you used it?