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H2Ocean - Piercing Aftercare Product Guide

When H2Ocean hit the market back in 2001 it was hailed as the end all and ultimate body piercing aftercare product. Developed by surfer and "marine biology enthusiast" Eddie Kolos, it claims to bring the natural healing power of the ocean to your landlocked piercing. Now you might be saying to yourself, "I was unaware of the healing power of the ocean." You are not alone in that one. I mean I remember as a child being told that soaking in a lake or treated pool was "good" for the scab that I had on my knee. However, I think this had more to do with my mother trying to get me to get into the water and stop complaining about the burning the water was creating than any healing quality of the water. 

Sure it wasn't the ocean but I have to point out here that there is no scientific proof that swimming in the ocean will help wounds heal faster. The thing is that it may, in fact, depending on the pollution level and the ecosystem of that body of water. Reality is it could be downright dangerous to submerge an open wound in the water. A healthy or unhealthy body of water is filled with micro-organisms, An open wound is a pathway into the body where these foreign organisms or foreign pathogens can enter the body and cause an infection. So even though there are nutrients and minerals in sea and ocean water that can help the body to heal, there are also countless organisms that will cause an infection. So, this idea that soaking a wound in the ocean is a good idea is misguided.

What it is at its heart is one of the many issues with natural medicines. One study comes out campaigning the benefits of one part of something produced in nature and suddenly everything in that water is good for you. Saying a product is Natural is a marketing. It triggers this idea that if it comes from nature that somehow it is better and safer for you. The reality is that there a great deal of nature that is trying to kill off humanity and only a small percentage is good for you or more healthy than non-natural products. Also, you need to consider that most of what is labeled as "Natural" products are refined to make them safe and effective. This is usually done through some type of manufacturing or chemical process that greatly alters the product from its natural state and the ingredients of H2Ocean are no different.

When I think natural healing, I'm transported back to my childhood at my Grandmother's house. Every time I got a scratch, burn or scrape, she would break off a piece of the aloe vera plant that lived above the skin in her kitchen. Then squeeze out the sap on to the wound. Natural and straight from the source the healing powers of nature. The reality of most natural products this is not the case. Think of it this way, Ham comes on the bone and also in a can. One is natural and the other is extremely processed. H2Ocean is the canned ham.

Now let me make this clear, H2Ocean is not raw ocean water but there are a number of natural ingredients that it claims to have in it. The first being that it is natural unwashed Red Sea Salt yet it claims to "Remain sterile from Start to Finish". Unwashed sea salt contains many organisms that can tolerate the salt. It's why natural sea salt has a slightly different flavor from refined sea salt. This means that the salt or the solution has to go through some process to kill off any organisms. The biggest selling point to unrefined sea salt is that it isn't processed and thus there is less risk of the additional minerals and nutrients being removed from the sea salt. However, since it is unwashed, there is often a number of other things that hitch a ride including clay, algae and marine bacteria. So, my guess is that the salt is refined.

A clear sign that sea salt is unrefined is that the crystals are not white or clear. if you use dissolve unrefined sea salt in water, the water will become a great deal more cloudy and discolored. H2ocean is not and thus it is not unrefined sea salt and more than likely is of the same quality as Mortin's all-purpose sea salt. Many of the "Trace Elements" are added after the refinement and it is unclear what the elements are in the first place and once again it is a manufactured or chemical process that adds these helpful elements and not natural.

Now, understand that as early as the mid-1990s, hot compresses and soaks with sea salt and warm water was in wide use. In fact, they became part of my aftercare instructions around 1995 or 1996. First as a suggestion and then a major part of my instructions. However, a soak or compress and just applying a room temperature product to a piercing are greatly different. The benefit of hot compresses and soaks is the warmth. It increases circulation in the piercing area, increases the flow of oxygen and helps to draw waste and debris from the piercing. The warmth can also help in soothing the piercing area. Spraying saline solution on a cotton-tipped applicator and rubbing it around the piercing area, is not going to have that benefit.

One of the many claims that the product makes is that it reduces inflammation by dehydrating the cell that causes inflammation. Not sure how it would know the difference between the normal cells and new cells from the ones that are causing the inflammation. I'm more than a little skeptical of this claim and have seen the effects of a piercing drying out which can prolong healing and block discharge of waste and debris from the piercing. It is one of the reasons that I highly advise that you rinse off the piercing area after doing soaks or compresses. If this inflammations effect is true, the same can be obtained by using sea salt in hot soaks and compresses.

Another claim that H2Ocean makes is that sea salt is an antiseptic. Which is true in part because salt has been shown to kill off some bacteria but it is also known that some bacteria like Staphylococcus Aureus(which is the leading cause in skin and soft tissue infectioni like abscesses, furuncles, and cellulitis) have been known to thrive. In fact, studies on the effects of uses of saline mixtures alone vs saline mixtures in combination with Triclosan showed a massive increase in wound reduction and infection reduction in wounds where the antibacterial agent was used in combination with saline. 

To make up for this lack of antiseptic qualities, the enzyme Lysozyme is added to the solution. Lysozyme is an interesting enzyme that basically attacks the cell walls of pathogens. To follow the theme of "Natural", it occurs in your own body in saliva, human milk, tears, and mucus and is part of the body's immune system. There really hasn't been a great deal of research on just how effective it would be as an antiseptic or antibacterial agent. Though it has been used as a food preserver in meats, dairy productions, wines and fruit, and vegetables. However, after a few google searches, I couldn't find any medical or pharmacology widespread applications. Nor did I find any long-term research of the effects and effectiveness of Lysozyme used as an antiseptic, antibacterial or antimicrobic uses on humans. 

The other issue with Lysozyme is where it comes from. The main source comes from egg whites obtained from factory egg farms. The fresh eggs are processed to isolate the Lysozyme to a concentrate. I was completely unaware of the source until I had a young lady come into the studio for a consultation on a lip piercing. She had had the piercing done before and was insistent that she was allergic to implant titanium because of the reaction she had. In the photo she showed me, her lower lip had swelled up to the size of a grapefruit and was clearly not normal swelling but an allergic reaction.  I informed her that this was very rare and that it may be a case that the titanium alloyed was of a lower grade. She was unsure of the manufacture of the jewelry but the studio that she went to had a good reputation of stocking high-grade jewelry, so, I began to explore other possible causes of the reaction. 

My first question was what she was told to do for aftercare? I'm first thought was that she had had a reaction to possibly the soap that she used. I was surprised when she said H2Ocean. As far as I had known up to that point it was just a saline spray and wasn't aware that Lysozyme was in the solution or what the hell Lysozyme was. I asked her if she had any allergies and she said eggs and poultry. A quick google search and the cause of the reaction was found, Egg Whites. Now other than it being listed as an active ingredient, there is no listing or wronging that egg whites or poultry products are in H2Ocean. It seems that it should be listed on the label but it isn't. We re-pierced her lip and she easily healed it with my aftercare program of antimicrobic soap, Biotene, and rinses and compresses with sea salt and warm water.

That brings us to the next active ingredient, Sodium Benzoate. Yet another food preserver but it is often used in the cosmetic and medicine as a preservative. It is effective as a bacteriostatic and fungistatic meaning that it doesn't kill bacteria or fungi but doesn't allow them from reproducing. Basically, it's birth control or population control. However, once the product is removed from the environment, it's effect halts. So, while it is in the can, if any bacteria or fungi gets in, it will keep it from reproducing and spreading. However, this is not going to be effective for a long period with a piercing unless it is in contact with the piercing area at all times. So, yes it would be helpful if you submerged the piercing in H2Ocean for the whole healing time but outside of that it is mainly helping to keep the solution from becoming contaminated.

The final issue that I have with the product is that it isn't suggested that the area is rinsed after applying the spray. This can cause the jewelry and the piercing to become caked with salt. This creates two main issues, the piercing will dry out which could lead to a longer healing time and affect the body's ability to discharge waste and debris from the piercing. The dehydration of the piercing could lead to a slower development of the fistula around the jewelry. The blockage of the piercing holes could block the flow of oxygen to the piercing could impede skin growth. Also if an infection occurs this could greatly affect how the body pushes the infected tissue and fluids to the surface. It is why I suggest that if you use the product that you rinse shortly after using the product.

Pro and Cons:

Pros:

  1. Easy to find. Often sold as an up-sale with a heavy markup at piercing studios. However, it has spread into many larger department stores as an alternative to Ear Care Solution.
  2. Easy to use. Don't have to mix it up or do anything, just spray and apply
  3. Doesn't need to be diluted. 
  4. The healing benefits of Sea Salt
  5. Long shelf life. It is in a pressurized aerosol can and packed with "natural" and well-tested preservatives.
  6. Though heavily processed, doesn't contain harsh chemicals and comes from natural scores.
  7. Not as harsh as more aggressive antibacterial agents and may reduce the likelihood of destroying probiotics and healthy "good" bacteria.

Cons:

  1. limited antiseptic qualities
  2. Expensive, retailing for between $10 and $15 a can.
  3. Contains a Poultry Product from Egg Whites and could cause an allergic reaction in those that are allergic to Eggs, Egg Whites, Poultry, Fowl or Chickens. 
  4. Not Vegan or Vegetarian
  5. Some ingredients have only been tested as food additives and not for prolonged wound care.
  6. Salt can cake on piercings and jewelry and cause issues.
  7. The environmental effects of using aerosol products and products sourced from factory farms.
  8. Claims to be "Natural" but though the ingredients come from natural sources they are heavily processed before being added to the final product.
  9. Not as effective as Soaks and Compresses with warm distilled water and Sea Salt.
  10. Ingredients are listed as Purified Water, Sea Salt, Lysozyme and Sodium Benzoate. However, they state that the product is enriched with additional