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What to Do When Something Goes Wrong With A New Piercing

I've had my nostril, tongue, belly button, multiple ear cartilage, & a few unmentionables pierced.

Standard tongue piercing

Standard tongue piercing

So, You Got a Cool New Piercing

Modifying your body with a piercing is a little trickier than modifying it with a tattoo. Although a piercing is a quick pinch that's over in an instant, the pain and discomfort afterward lasts much longer than the pain inflicted by a tattoo. Tattoos heal initially in 5–10 days and will be healed completely after 45 (that's the length of time it takes for the skin to regenerate after being damaged.)

Piercings take a minimum of 4–6 weeks, depending on the location of the piercing—belly button piercings take up to 9–12 months to completely heal. Because of their extended healing times, and because piercings are essentially open wounds on the body, proper care is highly important. Your piercer will instruct you on the basics of caring for and cleaning your new piercing. With the exception of oral piercings, for which you would use mouthwash, most piercings require that you wash the area twice a day with anti-bacterial liquid soap (no fragrances or scented soaps), preferably while in the shower. Certain piercings, like a navel ring, require sea salt soaks after cleansing. We're socially programmed to apply Neosporin or Bacitracin when a wound hurts, but in the case of piercings, these products will hinder, not help, healing. Never touch the piercing itself unless you have washed your hands with antibacterial liquid soap first.

What if My Piercing Is Secreting Fluid?

Since a piercing is a wound, you should expect to see slight tenderness, swelling, redness, or itching. Sometimes, new piercings will secrete a whitish-yellowish fluid during the healing process. This is okay, and once the fluid dries and forms a crust, you can remove it gently with a Q-tip while cleaning the piercing in the shower. (If the discharge is bloody, green, or gray, however, contact your piercer or health provider immediately). But even with optimum aftercare, there are still several things that could go wrong with your new piercing.

Labret piercing

Labret piercing

You May Have an Adverse Reaction

You may have an adverse reaction to the jewelry metal. Most people don't know that they're allergic to certain metals (most often nickel, which is present in gold, silver, and platinum jewelry) until they experience "contact sensitivity". Symptoms of an allergic reaction to metal include severe itching, swelling, pain, redness, inflammation, and localized heat. Your first instinct may be to remove the jewelry, but while that will alleviate the symptoms, when the hole closes, it could prevent the pus from draining and might form an unsightly abscess. If this happens to you, contact your piercer right away. If you are currently wearing a 316 lvm surgical stainless steel piece of jewelry, he will probably have you come in to have it replaced with a barbell made of niobium, titanium, or 14/18 karat gold.

When a piercing isn't healing properly, it will be red, bruised and inflamed

When a piercing isn't healing properly, it will be red, bruised and inflamed

What Do I Do About Excessive Crusting?

Excessive crusting, usually caused by over-discharge of clear fluid, typically indicates that your body is having a negative reaction to the cleaning agent you're using. You may also notice that your skin is trying to pull away from the piercing, creating an enlarged hole. If this happens, make sure you are using only a liquid antibacterial soap, like Dial, to clean your piercing. Contrary to popular belief, you should absolutely not be using hydrogen peroxide, bactine, or betadine on or anywhere near the piercing wound. Another option is to try switching to a different product brand, from Dial to Soft Soap (for example), or contact your piercer, who may be able to supply you with a bottle of professional-grade cleaner.

The most important thing to remember is to stay calm, and only consider removing the piercing as a last resort. Keep in mind, however, that most doctors aren't familiar with piercing solutions and techniques, and may offer poor advice. The best thing for you to do if you experience an adverse reaction to one of your piercings is to contact the shop that did your work and ask for their expert advice. If you were unimpressed or uncomfortable with the shop's employees or procedures, seek the advice of a more reputable establishment or contact one of the many sites offering free online consultations.

Anti-eyebrows piercing

Anti-eyebrows piercing

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2007 Jaclyn Popola


Liyah on November 06, 2019:

I just got an industrial a week ago and I’m very clumsy so I keep hitting it by mistake and today it got hit by a basketball and I’m scared what will happen because of this can someone tell me if I’m overreacting or not

DuttyD1145 on October 21, 2017:

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My girlfriend has had her bellybutton pierced for about two months now she still having problems with the pass and the irritation we have tried See salt water and H2 ocean nothing seems to be working and she is getting really frustrated if somebody could please give me some kind of answer to help her I would greatly appreciate it

Steve on May 05, 2013:

The pic of the labret piercing is not a labret,it's a lip or pixie piercing,this web page is giving everybody the wrong's best if YOU have a problem,talk to a piercer that's been doing piercing for at least 15 or . More years,don't count on web sites like this

Audrey on January 15, 2013:

I just had my tragus pierced about 3 weeks ago and i had been using a saline solution to clean it and neosporin. theres a small blister looking bump near the opening im not sure what it is.

lexis on May 23, 2012:

My belly button was fine but now pink tissues hanging out what should I do

Docg on May 20, 2012:

Non-iodized sea salt soaks are a must (especially for all those infected/inflamed piercings you've all described). 1 teaspoon to one cut warm water..soak 10-15 minutes.

liz on March 09, 2012:

hey i got the bottom of my lip peirced a few weeks ago with a hoop and well i changed it with a stud yesterday and well i went to bed and the flat part of the lip ring went throught my lip did it pull through or is that just swelling

niki on March 03, 2012:

i got my belly pierced about 3 months ago and it got infected , i have an open wound on the bottom part of the piering where my belly button is .. i don't want to take it out either , what's the best thing to do ! please help

Rye on February 19, 2012:

i got my monroe pierced a week and half ago and it hurts a little bitt but not that bad but the redness around the piercing will not go away at all .... i don't understand why this is happening i got my labret done a couple yrs ago and it never happened to that piercing so i am trying to figure out why my monroe is doing this... i really love it and don't want to take it out, just wish i knew why the redness wont go away?? can someone help me please?

Jkl on February 17, 2012:

I got my anti-helix snug pierced about a month ago. It was almost completely healed and then I accidentally slept on it. This caused it to swell up and swell over the ball on the end. This had happened before, so I wasn't concerned about the swelling going down. But about three days ago someone hit me on my ear really hard and it started bleeding. Now my ear is scabbing over where the ball is supposed to be. I'm nervous that my ear is going to heal over the hole thus having the ball stuck in my ear. Any suggestions? It's getting to the point where I can't sleep because it's throbbing so much.

Lizet on February 13, 2012:

I got my belly peirced three days ago, i was laying down in my bed on my phone, next thing you know my little brother jump across me but kickes me on his way. My belly hurts and its very red i think its about to turn purple :/ what should i do???

Bambam on February 02, 2012:

Last week I got my bottom lip pierced and it was fine the 1st two days but then it started to get scabs around the piercing and the area sort of like a grazed skin all around the piercing I want to take it put coz it really hurts but its too swollen for me to get a good grip. What do I do?

Abz on January 24, 2012:

I'm getting my lip pierced tomorrow does it hurt cuz I'm really scared of needles :S

alikay on November 10, 2011:

I have a monroe and an anti eyebrow piercing... the problem is my anti looks like it has a blister where the bar goes through? anyone else have that problem? its been pierced for weeks..

Zoe on November 06, 2011:

I got my belly done 2 days a go and it's kinda red and it's abit painful ... Is this normal ? Will it feel better over time ???

Electra on November 03, 2011:

I got a madusa

Piercing and it wasn't I had to take it out and I have tl get it redone..sad

chloe on October 23, 2011:

i have had my belly done and it has gone all red up the top and i think its gone infected because theres all red stuff coming out of it and i want to change my bar because its time to but im sceard that it wont go back in :/ wat to dooo hellppp!:/:/:/

liz on May 17, 2010:

well i got my uper lip pierced and it got infected bat is ok naw

leila on January 27, 2010:

you have to remember that everyones body is different and heals different. i used peroxide and neosporin on all my piercings and they healed up in half the time and ive got 28 of them so far. that includes a compleately healed set of 16 corsets, two in my tounge (no peroxide on thoseones....biotine) snakebites and a labret, eyebrow, and a few in my ears. just remember what works for you may not work for others and visa-versa

body on January 07, 2010:


baby doll on October 13, 2009:

well i got my lip pierced and it looks so hot :) and i want to get one in my belly and my back neck :)

tay on September 08, 2009:

Went and got my monroe done .. first day was fine second day my lip was a lil bit swollen the third day omg.. my lip was so huge I was told that it was normal for that to happen . Woke up this morn the ball is now in the hole am scared and don't know what to do !!!

spunky chic on March 31, 2009:

my belly button rinng is all red at the bolb .. n it really hurts 2 ... what do i do?

shawty gal on March 26, 2009:

:(well i got my lip pierced & it got infected so i had to take it out i was so sad but my bf said tha it looked like it hurt n it did so :(

gwen on December 18, 2008:

The surface piercing pictured is not just 'not healing well', it's rejecting and getting pushed out of the body, and will probably leave a scar behind if it's not removed before the skin breaks over the length of the bar.

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