The aftercare process for body piercing has evolved gradually through practice, and many myths and harmful recommendations persist. A reputable piercing studio should provide clients with written and verbal aftercare instructions, as is in some areas mandated by law.
The healing process of piercings is broken down into three stages:
The inflammatory phase, during which the wound is open and bleeding, inflammation and tenderness are all to be expected;
The growth or proliferative phase, during which the body produces cells and protein to heal the puncture and the edges contract around the piercing, forming a tunnel of scar tissue called a fistula. This phase may last weeks, months, or longer than a year.
The maturation or remodeling phase, as the cells lining the piercing strengthen and stabilize. This stage takes months or years to complete.
It is normal for a white or slightly yellow discharge to be noticeable on the jewellery, as the sebaceous glands produce an oily substance meant to protect and moisturize the wound. While these sebum deposits may be expected for some time, only a small amount of pus, which is a sign of inflammation or infection, should be expected, and only within the initial phase. While sometimes difficult to distinguish, sebum is "more solid and cheeselike and has a distinctive rotten odour", according to The Piercing Bible.
The amount of time it typically takes a piercing to heal varies widely according to the placement of the piercing. Genital piercings can be among the quicker to heal, with piercings of the clitoral hood and Prince Albert piercings healing in as little as a month, though some may take longer. Navel piercings can be the slowest to heal, with one source reporting a range of six months to two full years. The prolonged healing of navel piercings may be connected to clothing friction.