The Cleaning Process
A new piercing will be sore, tender or red for several days up to three weeks. Complete healing normally takes several weeks or more. Below are more specific healing time estimates. During this period, care must be taken to avoid infection. Touching--or, for genital and oral piercings, sexual activity--is usually discouraged.
Primary healing usually takes about as long as is listed below; the jewelry should not be removed during this period. The healing time should not be rushed. Very often a piercing that seemed to be healed will start to have problems when it is handled roughly, or exposed to mouth contact or unwashed hands before fully healed.
Full healing starts after primary healing is complete and usually takes about as long as primary healing, during this period the skin thickens and starts to gain elasticity. An additional "toughening up" period takes place after full healing is complete, this "toughening up" period also takes about as long as the primary healing time. During "toughening up" the skin remodels itself developing an internal texture in the fistula tube that replaces the shiny scar like internal surface.
Over time, after the piercing, the resulting wound is allowed to heal, forming a tunnel of scar tissue called a fistula. When the piercing has fully healed, the initial jewelry may be changed or removed for short periods.
Cleaning Process - Oral piercings
For tongue, lip, cheek, and labret piercings, it is recommended to rinse the mouth after smoking, eating and drinking (except water). Some piercers recommend using Listerine, while others, claiming that Listerine is too harsh on the piercing thereby hindering the healing process, recommend a non-alcoholic mouthwash such as Oral-B Non-Alcoholic or Biotene, or a diluted saline solution. Kissing and oral sex are advised against for 4-6 weeks after the piercing, as are excessively hot or spicy foods. Some recommend cold foods such as ice cream bars, slushies, and the like. Blended foods are a great alternative - anything soft.
Cleaning Process - Body piercings
It is generally advised by piercers to use a sea salt rinse (1/8 teaspoon per 8oz of distilled or boiled water); proportionate mixes are marketed and sold by companies such as H2Ocean) or a medical saline rinse, which could be placed in a shot glass and held to the piercing for about 10 minutes, no more than 2 times a day. The solution could also be soaked into a cotton ball and used to gently cleanse the piercing morning and night. Overcleaning is a common cause of irritation and redness in a piercing, as well as inappropriate cleansing agents. Table salt Sodium Chloride is considered to be less natural than sea salt but in equal concentrations table salt may be less irritating than sea salt because table salt may be purer than sea salt. Another technique is sometimes practiced in which a new piercing is left to heal completely on its own without any cleansing, under the philosophy that the body will treat it as any other minor wound. This is commonly called the KIS method, which stands for "Keep It Simple." Piercers who use this method compare the healing process to getting stitches to heal up surgical wounds. Since one wants the body to accept the jewelry and create a clean, firm fistula, piercers who use this method advise that any solution or chemical could irritate the piercing and cause rejection and promote scarring and keloids.
Companies and stores such as Hot Topic and Claire's market rinses used in ear and body piercing aftercare; some piercers consider these suitable, however, others feel that they have excess chemicals that only hinder the process. For the most part, piercers agree that hydrogen peroxide and isopropyl alcohol are effective in sanitation but too strong for fresh piercings and often result in irritated piercings or excess scar tissue.
The debate over what constitutes proper aftercare is belied by the simple fact that a healthy clean piercing that isn’t made to become irritated through harsh treatment (of any kind) will almost always heal perfectly; but personal preferences will vary.
Changing of initial jewelry to allow for swelling
For some piercings (in particular tongue piercings) changing the initial jewelry is an essential step. In the case of tongue piercing this is because the initial jewelry is significantly longer than the jewelry for a healed piercing, to allow for swelling.