I thought today's post should actually be informative rather than my usual rambling.
Aftercare is an important, if not the most important, part of modding. If you're a newbie, it can be a little intimidating to go through all the rituals of care. If you're an old pro, like me, it's always helpful to get a bit of a refresher course. Off we go then.
Soak, soak, soak!
Sea salt soaks are almost universally recommended for piercings. There are several ways to go about it. You can make your own salt soak with a 1/4 teaspoon (not tablespoon) of salt in 8 oz of warm, distilled water. Some piercers may also have H2Ocean, which is a premade salt soak in a spray form. I'm addicted to this stuff. I'm an inherently lazy person, so something that I don't have to make myself is amazing. If you can't get your hands on it, making it yourself is the next best thing.
As for the actual soaking process, shot glasses work well for navels and nipples. For ears, noses, and dermal anchors, you can dip a paper towel into the solution and simply let it rest on the piercing. For oral piercings, use the solution like a mouth wash for the first week or so. Oral piercings don't need quite as much help because the natural bacteria in your mouth will promote healing. Soak for 5-10 minutes at least twice a day. Some piercers will recommend up to 5 times a day for the first few weeks.
Ice, ice baby
Ice is also beneficial to a healing piercing. Your new piercing will probably swell and be sensitive for the first few days. Icing 2-3 times a day for no more than 10 minutes will reduce swelling and pain.
The heat is on
For areas that have low circulation, like cartilege piercings, a hot compress can help healing as well. It's also good for a piercing that might be acting up. The heat increases circulation and brings more antibodies to the area of the piercing. It's best to do this before bed and after you've passed the point where the piercing is painful to the touch.
Ow! That hurts!
Your piercing will be sore for the first few days. You just poked a hole in yourself. It's going to hurt. However, it shouldn't be in serious pain for more than about two days. If you find yourself in pain for more than 5 days, call your piercer. It could be a sign of something more serious.
Does this look infected?
Sometimes piercings get infected. It happens to the best of us. I've had two get infected. Signs of infection include swelling, redness, pain, yellow or green pus, heat, and an unusual smell. White or light yellow discharge is normal. That's lymph and it's there to help healing. However, if it's highlighter yellow or has a bit of a green tinge, that's a red flag. It usually also has a strong smell. If you suspect infection, go to a doctor to confirm. You'll probably get a lecture (I did), but it's better than it spreading.
The top cause of infection in piercings is touching it with dirty hands. If you have to touch your new piercing for any reason, make sure your hands are clean or wear gloves. Wash them thoroughly before you touch it or, at minimum, use hand sanitizer. Make sure to get under your fingernails. That's where germs love to hide.
If you have any questions or concerns, call your piercer. It's not just their job to pierce you. It's their job to help you along healing as well. Don't be afraid of sounding stupid or naive, they've probably heard the same question 100 times before. They're not going to make fun of you for asking. Most piercers I know would much rather have you ask than try to figure it out yourself and end up with an infection, rejection, or migration.
Wanna see my new tattoo?
After your tattoo is complete, you'll be bandaged up in some form. Mark prefers paper towels and masking tape. Dustin used saran wrap and medical tape. Leave the bandage on for as long as they tell you, usually anywhere from 2-4 hours, though I find two is more common. It may be uncomfortable, but don't take it off until you're supposed to. It's protecting your fresh ink from the elements and allowing it to finish oozing on its own time.
Rub a dub dub
After you take the bandage off, it's time to wash your new tattoo. I prefer lukewarm water and a face wash designed for sensitive skin. I just use my hand to wash off any excess A&D, blood, or other fluids that may be on there. DO NOT use anything with an exfoliant in it. Any type of mild, unscented soap is fine. It can be antibacterial, but it's not a necessity. I avoid any kind of scrubbing as well, just gentle circles with my hand. Then rinse and gently pat (not rub) it dry. Don't panic if some ink comes off. That's completely normal and part of the process. It may feel a bit sticky and that's also normal.
Smooth like a baby's butt
Make sure your tattoo is completely dry before applying lotion. If it's not and you apply lotion, that can cause thick, scaly scabbing which is not pleasant at all. The best way to make sure it's dry is allow it to air dry for 15-20 minutes. If you don't have time for that, simply take your lotion with you and apply when you get the chance. For the first few days, it's best to use Aquaphor. It's actually not a lotion per se, but a skin protectant. After your tattoo has begun the healing process, switch to an unscented lotion like cocoa butter.
But now it looks like a lizard
Your tattoo will scab to some degree. Ideally, it will just be light scabbing that feels rough to the touch. Some areas may scab worse than others. Areas of the body that bend like wrists, elbows, ankles, and near the balls of the feet tend to scab worse than other areas. If your clothing rubs on the tattoo, that can also cause more scabbing. Try to make sure that you're wearing loose fitting clothing (or none at all ;) ) during the healing process. If you've accidentally sealed moisture in, it may end up thicker and more scaly. I had this happen to my swallows on my collarbones. It's no big deal, just keep applying lotion and let the scabs fall off on their own. Don't pick! That can cause parts to fall out and require touching up.
No soak for you
Unlike piercings, tattoos should not be soaked. They need to be washed, but no soaking. That means no pools, hot tubs, bubble baths, lakes, oceans, streams, ponds, or any body of water you may be tempted to sit in. Most tattoos are healed over in 10-14 days and then it's safe to soak for a short amount of time. It's best to avoid soaking it for more than that for about a month or so.
As with piercings, don't be afraid to call your tattooist if you have a question.
As you become more experienced, you'll learn what works well for you. Some people need to baby their mods to heal them, others can get away with ignoring them. It's best to follow the rules the first few times and then put together your own routine. Everyone's body is different and everyone's body responds differently to healing. If you listen to your body, and your piercer and/or tattooist, you should be fine.