Regular and proper use of ear-piercing solutions plays a critical role in the healing process. These products are specially formulated to help ward off bacteria, heal the skin, and keep your piercing clean and healthy. While aftercare products are easily accessible in most stores, you might be wondering if there are any viable substitutions you can make yourself and/or use in a pinch.
The safest and most effective substitutes for ear piercing solution include a saline solution or fragrance-free antimicrobial soap. Before using either product to clean an ear piercing, confirm that you have the proper ratio and follow all essential steps for preparation, application, and cleansing.
In this article, we will detail how to best create and use these two ear piercing solution substitutes that are recommended by medical professionals as well as certified and licensed body piercers.
Primary Ear-Piercing Solution Substitute: Saline Solution
If you run out of solution at home or want to a budget-friendly alternative, the most highly recommended substitute is a saline solution.
A Saline solution is a natural antiseptic that has proven to effectively cleanse a piercing and its surrounding area, draw out any harmful or uncomfortable discharge, and promote circulation for quick healing.
The simple mixture only contains two ingredients: salt and water. This means that it is devoid of any harsh chemicals that could irritate the sensitive skin around your piercing and cause complications like:
- Extensive scarring
- Prolonged healing
Additionally, the absence of these chemicals makes saline solutions safe to apply multiple times a day.
How to Use a Saline Solution
While saline solutions are inherently safe to use, they can do more harm than good if created and/or used improperly.
The best way to avoid the first mistake would be to purchase a saline wound wash. This easily portable option contains a gentle formula carefully measured by experts for thorough sterilization.
If you’d prefer to make your own mixture at home, you can do so by dissolving 1/8th to 1/4th teaspoon of non-iodized (iodine-free) sea salt into one cup of warm, distilled water or bottled water. Do not use table salt or Epsom salts.
Take extreme care when measuring your sea salt, as too much could dry out the skin and tissue around your piercing, but too little might not disinfect the area enough.
Once you have your homemade saline solution ready, follow the steps listed below:
- Wash your hands thoroughly with hand soap and warm water.
- Soak your piercing in the saline for five to ten minutes. (Do not use cotton balls or swabs; use a paper towel, if necessary.)
- Rinse thoroughly with clean water.
- Dry using a paper towel or a hair dryer on low heat.
If you are using a store-bought saline solution, follow the instructions listed on the product. Apply this solution to your ear piercing twice a day (unless otherwise instructed by your body piercer).
Secondary Ear-Piercing Solution Substitute: Fragrance-Free Antimicrobial Soap
Most experts will recommend that you stick to a saline solution in the event that you don’t have, or prefer not to use, a standard piercing solution. However, there is one more viable option.
A fragrance-free antimicrobial soap can help remove any excess residue from an ear-piercing site and reduce the risk of any dirt or bacteria entering the wound.
While antibacterial soaps are often the go-to choice, they are limited to destroying bacteria. Comparatively, an antimicrobial soap can kill a wider spectrum of microorganisms(ex. bacteria, mold, and fungi) and simultaneously inhibit their growth. This will result in a broader scope of protection for your piercing as it heals.
Why Antimicrobial Soaps Are Tricky for Piercings
The predominant reason why this substitute isn’t recommended as frequently as a saline solution or standard ear-piercing solution is because it can be extremely challenging to find a product that is safe and effective.
The ideal antimicrobial soap will not contain:
- Benzalkonium chloride (BZK)
- Benzethonium chloride (BZT)
- Triclosan (often found in Dial products)
- Tea tree oil
These components have been known to dry out and irritate the skin, while creating environments that promote infection in and around piercings.
It is also wise to refrain from using brands like Hibiclens for its harshness and Betadine for its ability to discolor gold jewelry. Additionally, only use a liquid soap, as bar soap can accumulate bacteria.
As you can see, after taking all these criteria into account, your options are extremely limited.
I recommend using Olivella’s Raw Fragrance-Free Liquid Face and Body Soap. This product is dermatologically tested, 100% natural, and contains a basic formula that is free of additives, artificial coloring, and other synthetics. The result is an extremely gentle cleanser ideal for sensitive and delicate skin, like a healing piercing.
How to Use an Antimicrobial Soap
The process of using an antimicrobial soap to cleanse your ear piercing is similar to using a saline solution. If your product comes with instructions for use, it might be best follow them, but otherwise, you can follow the steps listed below.
- Wash your hands thoroughly with separate hand soap and warm water.
- Lather a minimal amount of the antimicrobial soap in your hands.
- Gently lather the piercing and surrounding area with your soap lathered hand. Refrain from twisting or over-handling the piercing.
- Rinse thoroughly with clean water.
- Dry with a paper towel or a hair dryer on low heat.
When using one of these soaps, it is ideal to clean your ear piercing once (early in the morning is best) and wait several hours to see how the affected area reacts. If everything appears healthy and normal, you can start applying it twice a day, once in the morning and once in the evening.
You might have heard that some of the best substitutes for a standard piercing solution include liquid hydrogen peroxide, isopropyl/rubbing alcohol, antibiotic ointments (ex. Neosporin) but, in reality, these all contain harsh chemicals that are more likely to cause harm and impede the healing process.
Instead, we highly recommend using a properly mixed saline solution or, in emergencies, an antimicrobial soap when a specialized piercing solution isn’t available.
For more, check out 11 Effective Substitutes for Soap in the Shower (Or Bath).
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