General Question

Mariah's avatar

I'm allergic to isopropyl alcohol. Do you think I can still get my ears pierced?

Asked by Mariah (19074 points ) December 26th, 2012

It’s not, like, a deathly allergy, but it gives me a rash. I’m concerned about A) the initial piercing, how they’ll do it without alcohol and B) keeping them clean in the future without being able to use alcohol.

Any ideas?

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24 Answers

augustlan's avatar

I wonder if you could use peroxide or betadine (though that would stain) instead of alcohol when you get the piercing. Maybe have it done at a doctor’s office? Afterward, you actually aren’t supposed to use alcohol to clean the piercings. According to this site

Use one or both of the following solutions for healing piercings:

• Packaged sterile saline solution with no additives (read the label), or a non-iodized sea salt mixture: Dissolve ¼ teaspoon of non-iodized (iodine-free) sea salt into one cup (8 oz.) of warm distilled or bottled water. A stronger mixture is not better; a saline solution that is too strong can irritate the piercing.

• A mild, fragrance-free liquid soap—preferably anti-microbial or germicidal.

silky1's avatar

Yes their are other germicidal options for both piercing and cleansing.

Fly's avatar

Are you thinking about getting just a regular lobe piercing? I would think that there would be other options such as peroxide, but I don’t think you’ll be able to just walk into a Claire’s or Piercing Pagoda at the local mall to get it. As @augustlan suggests, I would ask your doctor’s office, or even a reputable tattoo parlor to see if they have alternatives. It will most likely be more expensive to have it done at a doctor’s office or tattoo parlor, though, so keep that in mind. Either way, I recommend stainless steel or gold earrings, especially if you have sensitive skin, because you may be allergic to the nickel in the other options.

Aftercare, however, is a whole different story. Rubbing alcohol, as @augustlan says, is not used for aftercare. Most piercing places will sell a saline cleaning solution that does not contain rubbing alcohol. I have used these cleaning solutions from several piercing places, and they have always been very gentle and work well. One that I really liked was H2Ocean Piercing Aftercare Spray. It’s a little more expensive than most cleaning solutions, but it is well worth it, in my opinion. I used it for my tragus piercing, which is an area of the ear that has very thick cartilage- it was extremely gentle and soothing, and my piercing healed perfectly.

JLeslie's avatar

Yes, they can use other antimicrobials. Make sure to check ingredients, some antimicrobials have alcohol as part of the ingredient list, but you cannot tell by the name. Iodine and peroxide are probably options. In fact, you will need to clean the newly peirced ears for a week or two, and peroxide is usually recommended for that or what @Fly suggested sounds good. If you feel very unsure you can ask your doctor what you should use. They likely painted you with some sort of solution before they did your surgery. What do they use when you get blood drawn?

FYI: Make sure you turn your earings frequently when you first get them pierced.

Lightlyseared's avatar

The use of antiseptics before piercing the skin (either for a pirecing or drawing blood, putting in a line etc..) is a rather interesting topic. Unlike pretty much every other drug that is approved for human use where rigorous trials are needed to prove the drug is better than doing nothing topical antiseptics got their licences pretty much on the basis that the medical profession had always used them. (New England Journal of Medicine)

There have been a number of cases where the cause for infection was in fact due to faulty manufacturer of the antiseptic solution
Children developed serious infections from alcohol wipes contaminated with Bacillus cereus
patinets at allergy clinic developed abcesses caused by contaminated skin prep
28 babies were made seriously ill as a result of contaminated formaldehyde disinfectant
(if anyone’s interested I have a small pile of other cases but you get the point).

The FDA had a hearing on the 12th to discuss this but I haven’t had time to catch up with what the outcome was.

When I was a student the fashion at the time was to not disinfect the skin prior to blood taking after a not insignificant amount of research demonstrated it made little difference to infection rates. It seems to have come back into fashion of late but I wouldn’t be surprised if that were partly due to the fact it makes patients feel a little better and management can kid themselves they’re making a difference…

Anyhoo the point of all this is that you’re probably just as safe (probably even safer) if you just clean the ear with soap and water prior to piercing it. (no idea if you’ll be able to find someone who’ll do it for you without the skin prep… but there we go)

gasman's avatar

Have you tried ethyl alcohol? I think they still sell it in pints as “rubbing alcohol” (e.g.) though it’s harder to find than isopropyl. Ethyl was used for decades before the domination of isopropyl began in the 1980s. Betadine is a good antiseptic, though it must dry to have maximum antimicrobial effect. Chlorhexidine is another common option. I suppose in any case you’ll have to bring your own prep solution with you.

Btw, your sensitivity to isopropanol might be contact dermatitis.

Fly's avatar

@JLeslie and @Mariah Do not use hydrogen peroxide to clean a piercing. Like rubbing alcohol, it kills the healing tissue of the piercing as well as the bacteria. This page has a great how-to for caring for new piercings.

josie's avatar

Scrub area with soap and water. Scrubbing is the fundamental element, not the cleansing agent.

Mariah's avatar

Thanks all. There are plenty of antimicrobials that I am not allergic to. When I get blood drawn I always ask for betadine because that doesn’t bother me. I just have the feeling that won’t be on hand at a piercing place, haha. I could try and get some to bring with me though, and hopefully that won’t be so far from their protocol that they won’t allow it. It’s also good to know that alcohol shouldn’t even be used after the fact, so that’s a non-issue. Thanks again!

Rarebear's avatar

Two words. Cheap vodka.

susanc's avatar

Another idea: expensive vodka.

Response moderated (Spam)
Rarebear's avatar

@susanc You want her to put expensive vodka on her ear? Perish the thought. I use cheap vodka to sterilize bottlecaps when I’m brewing beer. I’ve never had a problem with it.

Rarebear's avatar

@Mariah Alternatively, you can use chlorhexidine-based soap, which is what is used in surgery. Or betadyne, but that stains.

Lightlyseared's avatar

Well if you’re going to use vodka then I’ve got some Polish rectified vodka that’s 95% ethanol and there’s no way I’m gonna drink it (well not again anyway).

Mariah's avatar

I can’t legally obtain vodka quite yet, haha.

Chlorhexidine, is that like chloroprep? I’ve had a nurse try that on me and I got a rash. I think it contains a little alcohol.

Lightlyseared's avatar

Chloraprep is chlorhexidine 2% in 70% isopropyl alcohol (usually in a fancy little applicator). You can get chlorhexidine in a soap based wash (often dyed pink for some reason) as well in mouth washes.

Mariah's avatar

Yep that’d explain it. Thanks @Lightlyseared and @Rarebear.

Rarebear's avatar

Just wash it clean with soap and water. You’ll be fine.

Lightlyseared's avatar

@Rarebear yes but then how would big pharma make any money out of that?

JLeslie's avatar

When I had my car accident the ER did not clean any of my wounds. Cuts, scrapes, road rash everywhere. I had to ask for the nurse on the floor to do it, she just rinsed everything with saline. My girlfriend in the same accident, who was treated by the same hospital, also never cleaned her wounds at all. Nothing. She never asked them too, so literally they were never cleaned or treated in any way. Basic cleaning techniques should be adequate, it doesn’t need to be sterile.

Mariah's avatar

Nah I’m not really worried about the sterilization myself. Just concerned the piercing place won’t be allowed to do it without following some protocol. Guess I won’t know till I look into it. Thanks all.

petey's avatar

Betadine does NOT stain. I have used it for years—washes right out in the laundry or with a simple H20 rinse.

Rarebear's avatar

@petey Sure it does. Put Betadine on anything that has starch on it reacts to turn purple. I would just use antibiotic soap such as chlorhexidine. Works better than betadine anyway.

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