Belly button piercing has gained rampant popularity over the years. It experienced its “golden age” in the early 1990s when several celebrities like Christina Aguilera gave this type of body piercing mainstream exposure. Now that we’re well into the 21st century, women, men, and non-binary folks alike are sporting this popular piercing.
There are so many varieties of belly button rings available. While some folks just want to emulate their favorite pop stars and divas, just as many people use navel piercing as a form of self expression. Since belly button piercing is certainly here to stay, we’re happy to provide you with this comprehensive overview all about the ever-popular navel piercing. Explore this article to learn what you can expect during the piercing process, how to properly take care of your navel piercing, and what kinds of body jewelry you can wear.
Unless you have an “outie” belly button or are getting a non-standard navel piercing, your piercer will likely insert the needle approximately 1/2″ above your belly button, and then pull it out through the belly button cavity. Most likely, a curved piercing needle will be used and will be followed with a bent barbell or possibly a captive bead ring. Bent barbells make ideal belly button jewelry, because the shape is a good fit for the area being pierced. Also, a bent barbell or traditional belly button ring (i.e. a bent barbell with a decorative end) is less likely to put undue stress on the fistula, which is the hole where you were pierced. Reducing the pressure on the healing fistula will increase your chances of having a successful belly button piercing that doesn’t slowly migrate out.
Belly button piercings, like eyebrow and other surface piercings, are more prone to migration/rejection than other piercings. That makes the placement of a belly button piercing and the gauge of your starter jewelry important to a belly piercing’s success. You need to be pierced just far enough back from the lip of the belly button, and you should start off with at least a 14g belly button ring. The heavier the gauge, the less likely the jewelry will be to migrate.
The Belly Button Piercing Recovery Process
Belly button piercing healing times vary widely from person to person. There’s a lot of movement in this area, since your body essentially hinges at your waist, and that can keep your new navel piercing in a perpetual state of irritation. Additionally, the waistbands of pants and skirts are liable to rub against your piercing throughout the day, further irritating an area that’s already sensitive just from being pierced. Belly buttons also tend to be a trap for lint and dirt, making dedicated navel piercing aftercare extremely important. If you keep your belly button piercing clean and do what you can to reduce friction by wearing low-waisted pants and skirts and generally loose-fitting clothing, your new belly piercing will heal faster and better. It may appear to be fully healed within 4-6 weeks, but it can take 3-6 months and sometimes up to a year for navel piercings to completely heal.
During the belly button piercing healing process, be sure to follow these belly button piercing aftercare guidelines as closely as possible to minimize the chances of your jewelry migrating/rejecting, promote healing and avoid an infection:
- Keep your belly button clean! Allow warm water to run over your piercing when you shower (but don’t scrub your navel piercing with soap; letting sudsy water run over the piercing is fine). Spritz your navel piercing regularly with saline wash, like Recovery Purified Saline Solution. You should also perform sea salt soaks. To make your own soak, boil water for at least 5 minutes to sterilize it, measure out 1 cup into a heat-safe container, stir in 1/4 tsp of sea salt (we recommend Recovery Sea Salt), then let the mixture cool off. Apply this solution to your belly button piercing using clean cotton balls at least 2 times per day.
- Be gentle when removing “crusties.” Your body’s natural reaction to any piercing is to produce lymph, which is a clearish fluid that often dries to a whitish crust. In the past, piercers used to tell people to turn their jewelry a couple times a day to loosen up crusties, but that’s no longer considered a healthy practice. Moving your jewelry around to break up the crusties can invite bacteria into the healing fistula, which can lead to an infected navel piercing. We recommend using cotton balls saturated with sea salt solution or even just warm water to soften the crusties before gently wiping them away.
- Don’t change your jewelry prematurely. With so many belly button rings available, it can be tempting to change out your starter jewelry soon after having your navel pierced. Try to resist! The belly button ring you’re pierced with should be extra long to account for swelling. Even if you have little to no swelling initially, you may have some before your belly button piercing is fully healed. At any time, a little dirt can get trapped in the fistula and cause swelling and irritation, so it’s best to just stick with the longer jewelry for at least the first few months. Also, just the process of changing jewelry can irritate a healing belly piercing, particularly if you’re using externally-threaded belly button jewelry, which isn’t recommended because it can scrape the delicate healing fistula.
- Do switch your jewelry if you’re having an allergic reaction. Some people are more sensitive to certain body jewelry materials. A lot of cheap body jewelry has a high percentage of nickel in it, which is a metal that often causes allergic reactions. For that reason, we highly recommend getting pierced with either a surgical steel belly ring or titanium navel jewelry. Titanium is the most inert metal that body jewelry can be made from, and therefore the material least likely to cause an allergic reaction. Opt for solid titanium jewelry for the best outcome. If you don’t start out with a titanium or stainless steel belly button ring and you start having an allergic reaction with redness and itching, then you should switch out your jewelry even if you’ve only had your piercing for a few days to a week. You may want to get your piercer to help you change your jewelry, since it can be difficult with a fresh piercing and since a new navel piercing is likely to heal up quickly if the jewelry isn’t re-inserted quickly enough.
- Avoid oils, balms, and creams! These things can clog the healing fistula, potentially trapping in bacteria and leading to infection. If your skin is dry around your piercing, add a drop or two of tea tree oil to your sea salt solutions. Tea tree oil has natural antiseptic qualities and will help moisturize your skin. Just don’t apply the oil directly to your piercing; always dilute it in sea salt solution (no more than 2 to 3 drops per cup of warm sea salt solution).
How Do I Know if I Have an Infected Navel Piercing?
If at any point you start seeing streaky red lines or general redness around your belly piercing, you start running a fever, and/or the fistula starts oozing a thicker, yellowish, pus-like discharge, you likely have an infection and need to see a doctor for an antibiotic. Piercings can be irritated without being infected, so if you aren’t sure, you can visit your piercer first to get his or her opinion. You can also post in the PainfulPleasures forum (preferably with belly button piercing pictures attached) to receive feedback and opinions from other pierced forum members.
If you do go to the doctor for an antibiotic, don’t be persuaded into removing your navel jewelry. If you keep up with your belly button piercing aftercare routine while taking the antibiotics, you should be able to keep your piercing. If you decide to take your jewelry out because of a navel piercing infection, continue performing sea salt solution soaks with a product like Recovery Piercing Aftercare Spray or a homemade sea salt solution 2 times per day until the fistula is fully closed.
My Belly Button Piercing Is Healed & I Want New Jewelry! Where Should I Start?
With the number of belly button rings we have, ranging from titanium and stainless steel starter jewelry to more unique belly button rings, you’re sure to find the navel jewelry you want. Check out just a few of our options below:
- Acrylic Belly Button Rings
- Bali Belly Rings from Indonesia
- Belly Chain Jewelry
- Crystal Explosion Belly Button Rings and Jeweled Belly Button Rings
- Fimo Belly Rings, featuring clay-made decorations
- Gold Belly Button Rings in 14kt yellow gold, white gold, and more.
- Rep your favorite team with an NFL Belly Button Ring.
- Dangle Belly Button Rings.
- Navel Shields
- Opal & Vintage Belly Button Rings
- Pregnancy Belly Rings with extra-long shafts
- PTFE or BioFlex Flexible Belly Rings allow you to cut the shaft to the perfect length for you.
- Top Down/Reverse Belly Button Rings
- Unique Belly Button Rings
- Navel Clicker Rings
- Venus Hoops are attractive belly button rings that fill the belly button and extend a bit beyond it. Each has a ball surrounded by a hoop that nestles into the belly button, as well as several dangling beads for added ornamentation
- What’s your sign? Browse our selection of Zodiac Belly Ring!
- Titanium Belly Button Rings and Surgical Steel Belly Button Rings
As an additional resource, check out our Tips for Choosing Belly Rings article.
If you have questions not answered here, be sure to check out the Navel Piercings section of the PainfulPleasures forum, where you can read about other people’s experiences and post your own questions and stories. You can also see belly button piercing pictures in our photo gallery.