How to Soothe an Irritated Piercing

A saline soak is the best course of action to treat a mildly irritated body piercing.
... Hemera Technologies/ Images

Even when you follow after-care recommendations to the letter, sometimes a new facial or body piercing will still show signs of irritation. The skin around it may look red and puffy and feel tender to the touch. It may itch a little, too. If there's no discharge or other sign of infection, it may be time for a little tender loving care to ease your discomfort and speed healing.

Prepare a salt water soak by mixing about 1/4 teaspoon of sea salt or other non-iodized salt in a cup of clean warm water. If you find that this concentration is too drying to your skin, cut the amount of salt in half. Stir until the salt is dissolved. Use a mug, cup, shot glass or small bowl to hold your homemade saline solution. Dip your piercing into the solution and soak for five to 10 minutes. Perform this soak once or twice a day until the piercing is healed.

Use a cold compress to relieve inflammation and ease irritation. This treatment is most effective within the first two days after a piercing. Wrap a commercial cold pack in a hand towel, dish towel or washcloth and press it against the irritated piercing. Hold the pack in place for 10 minutes. You may repeat this every 45 minutes as needed. Use a bag of frozen peas or a zip-top plastic bag full of ice cubes if you do not have a cold pack.

Switch to a warm compress to soothe a piercing and promote blood circulation after the initial two days of healing. Hold a warm chamomile tea bag to the area until it no longer feels warm to the touch, then discard the tea bag. Chamomile is known to help reduce inflammation. Or soak a clean washcloth in warm water, wring it out and apply it as a compress. Repeat up to six times a day as needed.

  • Watch for signs of infection while your piercing is healing. If your skin is warm to the touch or especially tender, your piercing may be infected. If it emits any amount of pus, it is definitely infected. Treat a mild infection at home with an antibiotic cream. See a doctor immediately if the piercing is very painful or markedly swollen; you have a fever or nausea; or there are dark red streaks radiating outward from the piercing site.
  • Carefully follow aftercare instructions about how to wash the piercing site and keep it clean. Use a mild, fragrance-free soap; antibiotic soaps or those with heavy perfumes can irritate the skin.
  • Take acetaminophen or ibuprofen to temporarily lessen discomfort from an irritated piercing.

Lori A. Selke has been a professional writer and editor for more than 15 years, touching on topics ranging from LGBT issues to sexuality and sexual health, parenting, alternative health, travel, and food and cooking. Her work has appeared in Curve Magazine, Girlfriends, Libido, The Children's Advocate,, The SF Weekly, and