Still, nipple tissue is more delicate and prone to severe infection than other skin. That means proper nipple piercing aftercare takes time and attention.
Fortunately, as long as you’re consistent and hygienic, nip care doesn’t have to be daunting. Here’s what you need to know about nipple piercing aftercare, including which side effects call for medical care.
How to properly care for your new nipple piercing
To get all the essential post-piercing nip tips, we spoke with Audri Siple, a professional body piercer at Get Stabbed Piercing in Orem, Utah. She says proper aftercare is the best way to ward off post-piercing complications.
Here are her essential nipple piercing aftercare do’s and don’t’s.
- Wash your hands before touching: Dirty hands introduce potentially infection-causing microbes to the wound. Wash your hands every time you plan to handle your new piercing.
- Clean 3x daily: Spray or use a cotton ball to apply sterile saline — which won’t sting or irritate, according to Siple — to your piercing 3 times daily. Her instructions: “Make sure you cover any ‘crusties’ (the blood and plasma that dries out around the piercing) completely. Wait for these crusties to become soft, and then gently wipe them away.” Once that’s done, reapply saline and pat the area dry.
- Monitor for signs of infection: Watch your piercing closely for changes that may indicate infection or healing probs. (Psst, more on that below.) “If you’re unsure if something is normal,” says Siple, “you should seek advice from your doctor or reputable piercer right away.”
- Don’t disturb the jewelry: “It’s important not to play with or move the jewelry around,” says Siple. “Movement can cause unwanted irritation bumps and cause bacteria to enter the piercing.”
- Don’t submerge the piercing: Keep those nipples high and dry to minimize your risk of infection. Siple specifically recommends avoiding bathtubs and swimming pools, which harbor bacteria.
- Don’t use drying products: Avoid using products that could dry or irritate skin. That includes harsh soaps, rubbing alcohol, hydrogen peroxide, antibacterial soap, iodine, or soaps that contain dyes, fragrances, or triclosan. Sterile saline solution is the best choice for nipple piercing aftercare, says Siple.
- Don’t hit any snags: Be extra careful not to catch the piercing on your clothing or jewelry. Snags can be painful and potentially catastrophic for a still-healing piercing.
- Don’t get lazy with your aftercare protocol: Piercing infections are fairly common, so it’s important to stay vigilant about hygiene and cleaning — especially while the piercing is still healing.
What about healing time?
Siple says that the complete healing process typically takes 1-2 years. That’s right: years! But it’s extremely unlikely that your piercing will bleed or produce discharge for that long.
While the skin and tissue around nipple piercings will heal and look completely normal within months, the issue is that some folks swap out jewelry too soon.
“However, if jewelry is taken out before it’s fully healed, the piercing can close up quickly,” Siple explains. “If changed too soon, it can cause infections or irritation bumps.”
And pain management?
You’ll probably experience pain and inflammation at the piercing site for at least a couple of days. Over-the-counter pain relievers and R&R can help with those issues.
Avoid using pain-relieving creams, patches, or serums on the new piercing as these may be irritating. Let the nip breathe.
Any side effects?
Of course. These common side effects are totally normal during the healing process:
- light bleeding or bruising
“After about two weeks, clients may have some itching and secretion of a whitish-yellow fluid — but this is NOT an infection, and it will go away on its own,” Siple says.
When to call a doc
Siple says any of the following symptoms of infection warrant a call to your doctor:
- greenish-gray secretion
- an “off” smell
- skin that is hot to the touch
- an otherwise unexplained fever
Keep jewelry in place unless your doc tells you to remove it. If there is an infection, you don’t want the site to heal around the infection, trapping germs and infected tissue inside the piercing wound. Yikes.
Frequently asked questions
What should I do immediately after a nipple piercing?
Wear loose-fitting clothing, avoid submerging your nip, and start to gently clean the piercing 3x a day with sterile saline solution.
Do nipple piercings make the nipple more sensitive?
Some say yes, some say no.
Nipple sensitivity post-piercing isn’t exactly a question that keeps scientific researchers up at night, so we don’t have a data-backed answer. Essentially, your mileage may vary. 🤷♀️
How long does it take for nipples to heal after piercing?
You may feel soreness and see “crusties” around a new nipple piercing for up to a month after piercing.
Complete healing — to the extent that it won’t close back up if you remove the jewelry — can take up to 2 years.
How long after nipple piercings can you shower?
“Showers are fine, and the warm water can help remove buildup,” Siple explains. However, it’s important to avoid fully submerging your nip. Swimming and sinking into the bathtub are out for a while.
Nipple piercing care may seem intimidating, but it’s fairly straightforward. All you need are clean hands and saline solution.
Just remember that a piercing can take many months to fully heal — and some piercers don’t consider them fully healed for a year or more.
In the meantime, be gentle with your nips. And don’t be afraid to reach out to your doctor or a piercing pro with any concerns about what’s normal (or not) during the healing process.