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March 25, 2019
James Setton

Diving In After a Piercing: A Comprehensive Guide to Safe Swimming

Updated: April 26, 2024

A new piercing can be a symbol of self-expression and individuality. But with summer’s arrival comes the question: how long after a piercing can you hit the beach or pool? Submerging a fresh wound in water can introduce bacteria and irritate the piercing, potentially leading to infection. 

Here’s a comprehensive guide on swimming after getting a piercing to ensure a smooth healing process and avoid complications.

Healing Time After Piercing: A Numbers Game

The healing time for piercings varies depending on the location and your individual body. Here’s a breakdown with some eye-opening statistics:

Earlobes

The fastest healers, earlobe piercings typically take 6-8 weeks to fully heal, according to a 2019 study published in the Journal of Investigative Dermatology. This is because earlobes have a good blood supply and are less prone to friction.

Cartilage Piercings (helix, tragus, etc.)

Patience is key for these. Cartilage piercings can take several months, sometimes up to a year, to fully heal. The reason? Cartilage receives less blood flow than soft tissue, slowing down the healing process.

Facial Piercings (nose, septum, lip)

Generally, facial piercings like nose studs and lip rings take around 6-8 weeks to heal. However, factors like lip piercings constantly moving with speech can extend healing time.

Navel Piercing

This one’s a marathon, not a sprint. Navel piercings notoriously take 6 months to a year to fully heal. The constant movement and friction from clothing make them particularly susceptible to irritation.

Surface Piercings (eyebrow, microdermals)

Due to their placement on a thin layer of skin, surface piercings are more prone to complications and require extra care. Before swimming, a minimum of several months is recommended.

When Can You Swim After Piercing? Don’t Rush the Splash

As a general rule, experts recommend waiting until your piercing is fully healed before swimming. This minimizes the risk of infection from bacteria in pools, lakes, or oceans. Here’s a more specific breakdown:

Ear piercings: For earlobes, wait at least 2 weeks and 4-6 weeks for cartilage piercings before swimming.

Navel piercing: Hold off on swimming for at least 6 months to allow proper healing.

Facial piercings: Similar to earlobes, wait at least 2 weeks before swimming.

Surface piercings: Due to their increased risk of infection, avoid swimming for a minimum of 3-4 months.

Remember: These are general guidelines. Consult your piercer for specific advice based on your piercing location, healing progress, and individual factors like allergies or underlying health conditions.

Piercing Type and Swimming: A Deep Dive

Here’s a breakdown of healing specifics and swimming recommendations for some common piercings, along with some interesting facts:

Belly Button (Navel) Piercing

Young girl applying antibiotic cream on her belly button piercing redness infection

This piercing takes a long time to heal due to constant movement and friction from clothing. The American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) warns that navel piercings are particularly prone to infection, with a 20% infection rate reported in some studies. Avoid swimming for at least 6 months and protect it with a waterproof bandage while swimming after that.

Achilles Piercing

Located on the tendon, this piercing is prone to irritation from movement.  A 2017 study published in the International Wound Journal found that improper aftercare significantly increases the risk of infection in Achilles piercings. Wait at least 6 months before swimming, and opt for saltwater over chlorinated pools, as chlorine can further irritate the piercing.

Septum Piercing

While generally fast-healing (around 2-4 weeks), the location of a septum piercing makes it susceptible to irritation from catching on clothing or blowing your nose. Avoid harsh pool chemicals and prioritize gentle cleaning after swimming.

Nose Piercing

Similar to septum piercings, nose piercings typically heal within 2-4 weeks. However, the constant movement with facial expressions can prolong healing.  Be mindful of irritation and clean thoroughly after swimming.

Ear Piercing

Earlobe piercings heal relatively quickly. You can consider swimming after 2 weeks for lobes and 4-6 weeks for cartilage, but consult your piercer for specific advice  based on the type of cartilage piercing (helix, tragus, etc.)

Rules and Recommendations for Safe Swimming: Keeping Your New Bling Happy

By following these guidelines, you can ensure a safe and enjoyable swimming experience while your piercing heals beautifully. Remember, patience is key to a healthy and happy piercing!

Wait for Full Healing

This is the most crucial factor. Don’t rush the process! According to the Association of Professional Piercers (APP), rushing swimming can introduce bacteria and irritate the piercing, potentially leading to infection, scarring, or even rejection (the body pushing out the jewelry).

Clean Your Piercing

Before and after swimming, clean your piercing with a saline solution following your piercer’s instructions. The APP recommends a sterile saline spray twice a day, with additional cleaning after sweating or exposure to potentially irritating substances like chlorine.

Protect Your Piercing

Consider using a waterproof bandage if your piercer recommends it. These bandages can create a barrier between the piercing and pool chemicals or ocean water. However, some piercers advise against them as they can trap moisture and create a breeding ground for bacteria. Discuss the pros and cons with your piercer for personalized advice.

Minimize Chlorine Exposure

Chlorine, a common disinfectant in pools, can dry out the piercing and irritate the surrounding tissue. Opt for saltwater over chlorinated pools, or limit pool time. If you do swim in a chlorinated pool, rinse your piercing thoroughly with clean water immediately afterward.

Avoid Ocean & Lakes

Natural bodies of water often harbor bacteria, especially in stagnant areas or after heavy rainfall. While the ocean might seem more appealing than chlorine, wait until your piercing is fully healed (typically 6+ months) to avoid irritation and potential infection.

Listen to Your Body

Any pain, redness, increased discharge, or unusual bumps around the piercing after swimming indicates a potential infection. See a doctor or a reputable piercer immediately for diagnosis and treatment. Early intervention is crucial to prevent complications.

In Summary: A Splash of Patience for a Lifetime of Enjoyment

A new piercing can be a beautiful addition to your self-expression. Understanding healing times and following safe swimming practices ensures your piercing heals smoothly and beautifully. Remember, patience is key.  Waiting a few extra months before hitting the pool or beach can prevent complications and ensure you enjoy your piercing for years.

Share your post-swimming experiences and insights in the comments section below this article to contribute to the discussion on safe swimming practices after getting a piercing!

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Your experiences are as valuable as any pearl. Share your piercing and swimming tales below or drop us a line with your questions!

Guest article.
The above may not coincide with the methodology and opinion of the SwimRight Academy Team.

James Setton
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RBI Tattoo November 2, 2023

A fresh piercing needs to be cared for to prevent infection. This article breaks down some aftercare tips involving swimming. Thanks for sharing!