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If you’ve read our previous articles, you know that the LITHA method is the best way to heal a piercing. But some people get confused on what to do about “crusties”. If merely on your skin, crusties pose no issue, but if stuck to your piercing like glue, they may irritate and cut into your healing piercing. So, keeping the LITHA method in mind, what is the best way to deal with crusties?
What are Crusties?
Crusties are the white/yellow hard/flaky gunk that appears around new piercings. Just like when you get a splinter and it oozes white blood cells and plasma, your piercings ooze the same material. When this plasma and dead blood cells dry, they get really hard and form crusties.
Crusties are completely natural and are not a sign of infection. Nearly every piercing gets crusties for the entire duration of the healing period.
When you Should Leave Crusties Alone
When healing a piercing, obviously at all times you should keep in mind “leave it the hell alone!” So ideally, you should leave your crusties alone as well. A good rule of thumb is to run your piercing directly under the shower. If the pressure of the water does not remove the crust, it is not ready to be removed.
If you have a piercing that is unable to be run under direct water (a daith piercing for example), you can gently poke the crust (after washing your hands of course). A crustie should basically fall off at the slightest bit of pressure. If you find yourself poking and scraping at your crustie, it is not ready to come off. Think of crusties as scabs. If you remove a scab before it is ready, it will just be replaced by another scab because your flesh is still raw underneath and the scab hasn’t completed its work yet. Crusties are the same way.
How to Safely Remove Crusties
While in general, you should leave your crusties alone, they can sometimes cause more damage. Because they are made of a very sticky liquid, before they dry, they may fuse to your jewelry like glue. If your piercing gets frequently knocked around, the jewelry with the crust on it could get pushed through your piercing. This is dangerous because, as mentioned, crusties are sharp and can tear into your piercing, prolonging the healing process.
There are several ways to safely remove crusties:
- Run your piercing under high water pressure. This is the best method as there is no way you can hurt your piercing in the process. If the crust does not come off after holding it under the direct water during your shower, it is not ready to come off.
- Gently poke with your fingertip. This is likely the most dangerous method and it should only be used when you have a piercing in an area that cannot be directly run under water or soaked. Take care not to push, simply gently prod at the crust to see if it is ready to come off. Never use nails as nails are incredibly dirty and difficult to clean. Removing a crustie with nails can lead to infection.
- Salt water soaks. It is common that piercers recommend spraying your piercing with a salt water solution once or twice a day. This is completely safe and can be used together with the LITHA method. The only problem that can come from this is if salt water soaks are used too often, it could dry out and irritate the piercing. Never try to create your own salt water solution – there is no way for you to sterilize it. Instead, spray your wound wash into a clean bowl and soak your piercing in that. Remember that your wound wash should only have two ingredients: water and sodium chloride. We recommend Neilmed Piercing Aftercare.
Why you Should Never Use Q-Tips
We’ve seen people recommend pushing on crusties with Q-Tips instead of fingertips. Usually the recommendation is that the Q-Tip should first be dipped in a saline solution, as if that somehow removes the danger of Q-Tips. The fact is: nothing made of weaved cotton should get anywhere near your piercing (this includes cotton balls!). This is because fibers of the cotton can be pulled off and into your piercing. This causes a whole slew of problems including irritation bumps that won’t go away until the sole fiber is somehow found and removed and even infection. If you need something that can be soaked and touched against your piercing, medical gauze is completely safe and will not leak fibers into your piercing.
It can be hard to leave crust alone, but for the most part, this is the safest course of action. Simply running your piercing under the water in your daily shower is all you need to do to remove crusties. Any crust that does not fall off easily, simply isn’t ready to come off. Remember that crust is natural and safe for the entire healing period.