What is This Bump on My Piercing?
There are three basic types of “bumps” that may form on or near a piercing: localized piercing pimples, keloids, and abscesses. They are all caused by different things. If you can determine what kind of bump it is and what caused it to appear, then you can make a plan to get rid of it. Try one method at a time for about a week to see if it’s working, starting with the gentlest, and if that doesn’t work then try the next strongest method.
Localized Piercing Pimple- occurs when the body reacts to the jewelry by forming a liquid-filled bump. It can be because of dead cells or something in the wound that needs to be “drawn out”. It can also be because the body is rejecting trace elements in metal of the jewelry or the gem itself. Sometimes it is the way the metal is sitting or pressing against the surface of the skin that causes this hyper-reaction so it forms extra collagen where the jewelry touches the surface of the skin. The area may be red and tender, and may bleed/leak a little bit. These “pimples” are most common in nostril, cartilage, industrial, and tragus piercings, and can harden over time if not treated. Once hardened, they are more difficult to treat, and they can become a hypertrophic scar.
To get rid of them, try changing the jewelry to a longer piece or a different shape of jewelry. We recommend upgrading to a pure metal like titanium. Consult your piercer so that you can choose an appropriate piece of jewelry to help speed up the healing process. Hot sea salt soaks may help draw out any offensive material in the piercing that may be causing the bump, and will soothe the area and help break open the surface of the bump and drain the fluid in it. Hydrogen peroxide can help remove dead tissue and fluids from pimples.
Keloids- Excess scar tissue growths formed as a callous by the body to protect the piercing from
uncomfortable friction. People with darker complexions are at a higher risk of developing keloids.
Keloids are often caused by tight, restrictive, or rough clothing or accessories such as eyeglasses that rub
against the piercing. They can be caused by hypersensitivity to trace impurities in the metal or in the
gem itself. Inappropriate jewelry shape, material, or poor placement of the piercing ( making it rub,
compete for space, or be irritated by movement) can also cause a keloid - if the problem is left
untreated. To get rid of keloids, watch out for bedding, eyeglasses, clothing, uniforms, towels, helmets,
hairbrushes, and other sources of friction; placement and jewelry should be well-matched. Upgrade your
jewelry to titanium (If you haven’t already). Have your piercer change the jewelry length or shape or re-
pierce it if is rubbing on the skin or competing for space. The aspirin method is especially effective for
removing keloids, especially in oral piercings (see instructions below). Remember that keloids are usually
a symptom rather than the source of the problem. They won’t go away unless you solve the original
Abscesses- Caused by an infection in the piercing wound, pus has become trapped in or under the
piercing in a pocket that needs to be drained and cleaned out with an antibacterial preparation. True
infections and abscesses are very rare in routine small gauge body piercing. If you suspect your bump is
an abscess, or your piercing is infected, and you are not able to immediately drain and clean the piercing
wound and abscess, then you should seek help. Your Body Piercer may be able to put a smaller gauge
jewelry in place to help with the cleaning and draining. If you do not get immediate relief you should
seek medical attention.
Bump Removal Methods
(from gentlest to strongest)
In addition to the following methods of bump removal, your jewelry should first be changed to a
high quality Titanium.
Hydration- Soaking the area in clean, warm water, or applying a warm compress (with gauze, a
cotton ball or paper towel) for 15 minutes at a time, twice daily, can help soothe and soften the skin
and draw out impurities. Add sea salt for an additional effect. This is called a Sea Salt Soak :
Combine ¼ teaspoon of sea salt (NOT Epsom or table salt) with 1 cup of clean warm water. Soak the
affected piercing in the solution for 5-10 minutes twice a day. Using too much salt or the wrong
type of salt can dry out and irritate the skin.
Herbal Compress-(for those Not Allergic to ragweed): Mix equal parts Echinacea, Goldenseal, and
Comfrey (which can be found at vitamin stores) with Chamomile tea and 1 teaspoon of sea salt and
brew a strong hot tea (infusion). Using a clean cloth, apply the strained infusion gently but firmly
against the area. Between applications, turn the jewelry to coax out fluids. Do this for 10-15
minutes twice daily.
Hydrogen Peroxide- Using a Q-tip, apply a small amount of liquid or gel hydrogen peroxide to the
bump and turn the jewelry just slightly to get the peroxide to the base. This may help dissolve the
dead cells and wash away fluids. Depending on your skin sensitivity, this treatment may be used
anywhere from twice weekly to twice daily. Do not use on a normal healing piercing as the
hydrogen peroxide can kill healthy skin cells.
Tea Tree Oil/Grapefruit Seed Extract- These can be an effective natural alternative, but can be very
strong and very drying, even when diluted in oil (like almond oil or vitamin E oil). Apply small
amounts to the area, rotating the jewelry to bring some oil into the piercing. Do not rinse. Apply no
more than twice daily, less if you are sensitive.
Hydrocortisone Cream- Apply a small amount of cream to the area, rotating the jewelry to bring
some of the cream into the piercing. Do not rinse. Do not apply more than twice daily, or a few
times a week. Non-prescription strength hydrocortisone cream can be very effective in reducing
bumps. If you are immune suppressed/have a weak immune system, be sure to consult a physician
before using this steroid. Very sensitive people should avoid this product altogether, as reactions
Aspirin- This method is most commonly and effectively used on keloids or hardened Piercing
Pimples. If you are allergic to aspirin, do not use this method. Mix a piece of aspirin with a drop of
warm boiled water to make a paste. Apply directly to the bump for 5-30 minutes depending on your
skin’s sensitivity, then rinse off. This method will literally burn the bump off. As this method is so
strong, do not use more than once a day, 3 times a week. If your skin begins to chap or feel sore,
discontinue use and return to a gentler method.
In addition to these methods of dealing with bumps on piercings, please visit www.nopullpiercing.com
and check out the medical grade silicone disks they sell that can help reduce piercing bumps!
Body Piercing Issues
Are you having a problem with a piercing that is not healing?
Long term piercing problems can be caused by 4 reasons
1. The jewelry is too short in length or diameter, and is therefore causing a pressure sore at one or both ends of the piercing. This can happen during the time of swelling in the lip, tongue, or when a person lies down with an undersized piece of belly button jewelry
2. The jewelry may be too long or just not "sitting right" in such a way that it is causing a pressure sore or is otherwise "competing for space". This is common with poorly thought out and poorly executed nostril piercings, industrial or other type of ear and cartilage piercings, and can result in keloid formation.
3. An infection becomes present. True infections in body piercings are rarely seen, but can possibly occur if a person just does not clean it or take care of it.
4. Local allergic response to impurities in Surgical Steel or other non-pure metals. This is the most common problem we see in belly button an nipple jewelry "rejection". The initial wound heals but then becomes sore on and off and eventually the body decides it will not be happy with the surgical steel in it, and decides to push it out. In these case we strongly recommend switching the jewelry to a Titanium metal. The attached picture on the left is of a belly button that rejected the surgical steel jewelry that it was pierced with. This was the third time this client had been pierced with Surgical Steel. We removed the Surgical Steel and replaced it with a piece of Titanium Jewelry ( the client put the plastic balls on it later). The picture on the right is the same bellybutton 4 weeks later. The client returned to get her lower Belly button pierced with Titanium. Although there was still noticeable scarring on the top piercing, the redness, swelling and rejection had gone.