Belly Button Piercing and Your Health

If you want to get a belly button piercing, keep in mind that it only takes a few minutes to get it done, but it can take up to a year to heal. During that time -- as well as after -- you'll need to take extra care of this area.

What to Expect

If you go to a salon to get your piercing, a trained piercer will pass a sterile, hollow needle through the loose skin of your navel.

You'll feel a sharp pinch and can expect a small amount of blood. Then, the jewelry you choose will go through this new opening.

Expect to pay for both the piercing and the jewelry you pick.

You shouldn't get this done with a piercing gun since it can damage your tissue and raise the chances of infection.

Aftercare

You'll go home with tips on how to keep your new piercing clean and prevent infection.

For instance, you'll need to:

Wash your hands before you touch your piercing. Also, don't let anyone else touch the area until it has healed.

Swab with saline solution. At least once a day, dab the area with clean gauze or a paper towel soaked with saline solution. You can use a ready-made brand or dissolve 1/8 teaspoon of salt in 1 cup of warm, distilled, or bottled water. If your piercer suggests that you use soap, choose a mild, scent-free one. Rinse well so you don't leave any soap behind.

Dry your belly button with a paper towel. Cloth towels can carry bacteria or snag your jewelry.

Leave any crust alone. It's normal for a white or yellow-colored fluid (not pus) to ooze from your new piercing. This may form a crust that can itch or feel tight. Try not to pick at it, since that will cause the area to bleed. This crust will come off on its own as your piercing heals.

Don't put anything on your belly button unless a doctor tells you otherwise. That includes lotions, oil, and perfume. Even antibacterial cream and hydrogen peroxide may slow healing or trap bacteria inside your new opening.

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Wear clean, loose, and soft clothes. Tight clothing and rough fabric will rub against your piercing, which can make it take longer to heal. You may want to use a stretchy, elastic bandage to hold an eye patch over your belly button and protect the area.

Watch for signs of infection. These include redness, swelling, yellow or green discharge, or pain when you touch the site. You could also have a fever. If you have any of these symptoms, call your doctor right away.

Unlike pierced ears, which take 4 to 6 weeks to heal, your belly button may not fully heal for up to 1 year.

What Are the Risks?

Although many people don't have any problems after they get a body piercing, you could have:

Infection. A piercing on your belly button is more likely to get infected than other body parts because of its shape. It's easy for bacteria to hole up inside it. If the piercing needle wasn't sterile, there's a chance you could get serious infections like hepatitis or tetanus.

Allergic reaction. This is often due to nickel in the jewelry.

Scarring. Thick, lumpy scars called keloids may form around the site of your piercing.

Who Should Not Get a Belly Button Piercing

Some health issues can make it harder for your body to heal or cause you to have a reaction after you get a piercing. Talk to your doctor first if you have:

If you are pregnant or overweight, a belly button ring could move around under your skin, which can lead to scarring.

What You Can Do to Stay Safe

To prevent problems with your piercing:

Go to a salon you trust. Look for a clean, sanitary shop that has a license from the Association of Professional Piercers. You should see a sign on the wall. The lighting should be good so your piercer can see what they're doing.

Make sure the needle is sanitary. Instruments should be in sealed pouches, which shows they are sterile. If your piercer uses a disposable, one-use needle, you should watch them open a new package.

Choose your jewelry carefully. Medical-grade stainless steel is the least likely to cause an allergic reaction. Other safe choices include gold (14 karat or higher), titanium, and niobium. The ring or stud you choose should have a shiny finish and be free of nicks, scratches, or rough edges.

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Can My Belly Button Piercing Close Up?

Fresh ones tend to close quickly. If you've had one for years, it can close in a few weeks, but for some people it can take longer.

If you decide you don't like yours, simply take out your ring or stud. Make sure you clean the area until it's fully healed. If you like your piercing and want to keep it for the long term, put jewelry in it all the time.

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Carol DerSarkissian on September 17, 2019

Sources

SOURCES:

Center for Young Women's Health: "Body Piercing."

Association of Professional Piercers: "Aftercare: Suggested Aftercare for Body Piercing."

HealthyChildren.org: "Body Piercings, Teens & Potential Health Risks: AAP Report Explained."

NHS: "Body Piercing."

American Family Physician: "Complications of Body Piercing."

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