I received this message from a woman who was concerned about secretions on her jewelry in a healed VCH piercing:
Hi Elayne, I have had my vch pierced for almost a year. While cleaning in the shower I noticed a small amount of white stuff around the shaft of the bar. It is in between the bar and skin. With some research I found that it is a small amount of smegma. I've gone to my gyno and I don't have an infection or STD.
How can I clean under the piercing and the skin that covers the bar? The smegma makes me very self conscious. Thank u tons & bunches, J.
It may actually be sebum, which collects in healed piercing channels. See this brief excerpt from my book, The Piercing Bible--The Definitive Guide to Safe Body Piercing:
Sebum is a substance from your oil glands that collects in healed piercing channels. It is a naturally occurring product of the body, containing fat, keratin (a fibrous protein), and cellular material. The purpose of sebum is to protect your skin and hair, keep it moisturized, and to inhibit the growth of microorganisms on the skin. People sometimes mistake it for pus, but it is more solid and cheeselike and has a distinctive rotten odor that reflects the dead cellular debris it contains.
Your piercings and jewelry should be included in your daily personal hygiene routine. When you bathe, simply wash your jewelry and piercing with soap and water, rotate, and rinse well. This keeps the area clean and free of matter and removes the normal (and smelly) secretions that can coat jewelry and lodge in a healed piercing.
Check regularly to make sure hair does not become tangled around earrings or body jewelry. Just a single coiled strand that remains next to your tissue can cause an accumulation of secretions and lead to irritation and even infection.
Body jewelry does not necessarily need to be removed for regular upkeep. It can often be left in place for maintenance and worn for years on end. However, once you are healed, if your jewelry looks or feels dirty and you’ve done everything you can while wearing it, your adornment will need to be taken out for more scrupulous attention. Bar posts, nostril screws, and other snug-fitting styles will require at least brief removal for thorough cleaning.
If you don’t have a spare ring or bar to wear during cleanings, buy a retainer to keep the channel open or a taper to facilitate the reinsertion. Some piercings shrink so quickly that it can be difficult to put your jewelry back after it has been out for cleaning only briefly.
So, soap and water does the trick for a lot of pierces. If that isn't doing it for you, I strongly suggest you try this product, which is a piercing deodorant:
I've been using it on a conch piercing that tends to get smelly because the jewelry is hard to remove. And it works like a charm!
Let me know if you use it, and how you like it.
Elayne Angel, Author
The Piercing Bible--The Definitive Guide to Safe Body Piercing
President, Association of Professional Piercers