How to Take Care of Your Belly Button Piercing (Navel Piercing)

Belly Button Piercing (Navel Piercing)

Belly button piercings may appear totally cool and effortless from an outside perspective, but they actually require serious commitment if you want them to look good in the long run. They heal slower than many other types of body piercings, and they require a significant amount of aftercare.

Caring for Your Belly Button Piercing

First off, DON’T ever touch or clean the piercing without washing your hands first! If you ignore this rule, you’re asking for an infection. Just leave it alone and let it heal except for when you need to move it around a little bit to clean it. Similarly, you should wear loose clothing that won’t irritate the piercing area in the healing process. Try to sleep on your back and avoid tanning beds at least for the first couple of months of healing. The concentrated UV rays can set back your body's natural healing process.

It’s also not a good idea to go in public pools or hot tubs because the piercing could get infected from whatever gross types of bacteria may be lurking in the water. If you really feel the need to go in a pool or hot tub while your piercing is still young, you should clean it immediately afterward.

You can still do sit-ups and other exercises when your piercing is healing as long as you don’t experience too much discomfort from the movement.

The best way to care for the piercing is to wash it with saline solution two times a day for at least the first month of healing. You can make your own saline solution by mixing a teaspoon of sea salt with five ounces of water, or you can buy the plain saline solution that is sold at pharmacies.

Put the saline solution in a little cup. Then, press the rim of the cup against your stomach around the piercing, and lean back to completely submerge the piercing for two minutes. Afterward, take a q-tip, dip it in the solution, and gently rub it around the areas where the piercing goes through your skin.

You may see your piercing oozing clear fluid that forms a crust around the hole. This is normal early in the healing process. There may also be some swelling, redness, and discoloration, but these issues should dissipate fairly soon after you get the piercing. Don’t clean your piercing more than the recommended two to three times a day. Excessive cleaning can cause skin irritation and dry out the area.

If it's been at least a month since the piercing and everything looks good, you can stop doing these daily cleanings. You may clean the piercing sporadically after this point if you continue to see evidence that it isn't fully healed. You should still minimize the activities listed at the beginning of this section until you reach at least the six-month mark.

Potential Problems (and What to Do About Them)

In this section, I'll talk about how to spot signs of trouble with your piercing. It's important to take action on these issues immediately so you can avoid serious health consequences and permanent scarring down the road.

It's important to know what's normal and what's not. We'll cover the most important issues below.

Allergic Reaction

Sometimes, if you get the wrong type of jewelry, you can end up with a nasty allergic reaction around your piercing. Signs of an allergic reaction include:
  • An itchy rash around the piercing area
  • Intermittent tenderness around the piercing
If you think you may have an allergic reaction, go back to the piercer, and ask to switch your jewelry out for a different type of material. I list some suggestions for people with sensitive skin in the “choosing your jewelry” advice in the previous section.

Bacterial Infection

Infections are very common with belly button piercings because they’re in such a vulnerable area. Signs of infection include:
  • Yellowish-green discharge with a foul odor
  • Prolonged redness around the piercing, especially if it gets worse over time
  • The skin around the piercing is hot to the touch
  • You feel a burning sensation in the area
  • Prolonged swelling around the piercing
  • Abdominal pain (in really serious cases, the infection can become internal)
  • Red lines radiating from the piercing
  • Consistent acute pain (although slight bruising and occasional sharp pain from the movement are normal)
See how the area around the piercing is red and swollen? This will probably also be hot and painful to the touch.

It can even look worse than this, with leaking pus around the piercing.

If you think you have an infection, first of all, contrary to what you might think, you should leave the jewelry in your belly button. Taking it out could cause further complications, including the formation of abscesses in the area. Use the same cleaning procedure detailed in the previous section, but soak the piercing for ten minutes in the saline solution. You may be able to rub a small bit of antibacterial cream around the piercing to soothe the infection but use it sparingly.

If the infection doesn’t go away within a week or two, go to a doctor to check if you need to take more drastic measures to prevent it from developing further (i.e. taking oral antibiotics). You may need to return to the piercer to get the jewelry taken out if the infection has become too severe.

Lean on the side of cautious - it's always better to get something checked out and have nothing wrong than to try to tough it out and make a problem worse.

Migration and Rejection

Another issue that is common with belly button piercings is migration and rejection of the jewelry. Signs of migration and rejection include:
  • You can see way more of the barbell than you could when it was initially pierced (because it’s getting pushed out of your body)
  • Noticeable movement of the holes of the piercing marked by a trail of redness
  • Redness and scarring in the area
  • A hole appears larger than it was initially
  • The skin between the holes is translucent and thin
If you notice this happening to your piercing, you will have to go to your piercer to get the jewelry removed, let everything heal, and eventually try piercing it again. There’s no way to fix the issue without taking out the piercing and starting over.

Migration and rejection don’t mean the piercing is infected, so they aren’t overall health risks, but they come with more aesthetic problems when they’re not addressed. Piercings that the body rejects but that are not removed promptly often cause serious scarring.

How Do You Know When You’re Done Healing?

As mentioned above, it takes around six months to a year for a belly button piercing to heal to the point where you can take it out and change it. If you reach the six to nine-month mark and aren’t experiencing any of the issues detailed in the previous section, you can check the piercing to see if it’s fully healed.

Wash your hands, and try sliding it back and forth a bit to make sure it moves freely without pain. If everything feels and looks good, I’d recommend going back to your piercer so they can verify that you’re completely healed. They will be able to take out the piercing and replace the jewelry for you.

If you change your piercing on your own, be sure to sanitize both the new jewelry and the piercing site before insertion. Infections are a risk even in piercings that are essentially completely healed, so don’t lose all respect for hygiene after months of vigilance
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