What to Do if the Skin Around Your Piercing Turns Gray

Updated on January 24, 2016
When the skin around the site of a piercing turns gray, this is known as "argyria"
When the skin around the site of a piercing turns gray, this is known as "argyria"

Gray Skin Around Your Piercing

Is there a weird gray skin around your piercing? Here's what this means and what you can do:

  • Low-quality jewelry. The cause of the grey skin is most likely low-quality jewelry that you are wearing, which is common. Most affordable body jewelry that you find online or at places like Claire's are made of sterling silver, which is actually only .925% silver. It mostly contains other metals that can irritate the skin. These metals can also cause the area around the piercing to oxidize when the jewelry comes into contact with body fluids (sweat, natural oils on your face, etc.) This oxidization is what causes the gray stain.
  • Argyria. Argyria is the proper term for this occurrence. It is a condition caused by improper exposure to silver or silver compounds. It causes the skin to become a gray, bluish-gray, orgrayish-black color.
  • Do NOT take out the piercing and let the hole close up. About a year after the site of my cartilage piercing turned gray, I hastily took it out from fear. Then I asked my piercer if there was anything that could be done about the discoloration it left behind. He replied, "Not now there isn't." If I had left it in, on the other hand, steps could have been taken to correct the problem.

Argyria around a piercing can be very unsightly, but the symptoms of it can be reduced with proper care
Argyria around a piercing can be very unsightly, but the symptoms of it can be reduced with proper care

What to Do

1. Replace Your Jewelry

Take out the jewelry that is creating the problem and replace it with a ring made of surgical stainless steel.

  • 316L or 316LVM are the only acceptable grades (this is the type of jewelry piercers use when you first get a body piercing). 316VLM has a slight advantage due to its practically flawless finish, which decreases the chance of minor alloy inclusions that cause irritation.
  • You can order surgical stainless steel jewelry online, or you can go to a nearby tattoo parlor/body piercer and buy it directly from them.

2. Clean Thoroughly

After taking out the bad jewelry, but before putting in the new jewelry, clean the area very thoroughly.

  • I like to use basic saline solution, the kind you can get for $4-$5 at any pharmacy.
  • If it's a nostril piercing, be sure to saturate a Q-tip with the saline solution and clean the site of the piercing on the inside of your nose as well.
  • Once or twice a week, remove the jewelry and clean the site with saline solution again for reinserting the jewelry.

I've been following this regime for about a month and the gray area has shrunk dramatically and nearly disappeared. Hopefully it continues on this track, disappears for good and never comes back!

My Story

I was a teenager when I got my cartilage pierced, and I was horrified when the skin around it started turning a grayish color. I thought it was an infection, but cleaning it with hydrogen peroxide or saline solution did absolutely nothing. Although I wasn't crazy about my skin turning weird colors, I had long hair that could easily hide it so I wasn't too worried. Out of sight, out of mind. Then, a few years later, the same thing started happening to my nostril piercing, and that was very definitely not okay. Your face is the first thing you present to the world, and you never get a second chance to make a first impression. I couldn't be walking around with a gray blob on my nose that just seemed to be getting worse and worse.

I did some research and was told that the discoloration of the skin is irreversible without intervention by a dermatologist and the use of some lasers — neither of which I could afford. I refused to accept this fate, so I did some more research. Through a combination of knowledge and improvisation, I was able to get rid of the gray nearly 90% of the way (so far). I hope this article has helped you!


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    • profile image

      Kim 6 weeks ago

      My grey spot is behind my nose peircing at the base of my nose and up just a bit. How do i get rid of it? I changed the jewlery to surgical steel last night. Its been there a while tho.

    • profile image

      Guest2017 2 months ago

      Q-tips should NEVER be used around a fresh or healed piercing. That's a good way to get an irritation bump.

      Also fresh piercings should never be taken out before they're healed. Shower water and/or saline solution alone are the best ways to clean a piercing.

    • profile image

      Mariela 2 months ago

      I just got my cartilage pierced and the skin around it is a little purple (only on the front not the back side). Do you think it’s just bruising a little. I need advice because I’ve been trying not to freak out too much about it since it’s my first piercing I’ve ever gotten.

    • profile image

      Kim 5 months ago

      My grey spot is not around my piercing it's directly back in the crease where my nose meets my cheek. How do I get rid of it!!!!!????

    • profile image

      conejo maya 8 months ago

      this was so helpful, THANK YOU!

    • profile image

      Rebz 9 months ago

      Very helpful! Just noticed this issue a moment ago before going to bed and I made sure to clean my pierced area! Thanks :)

    • profile image

      Guest 13 months ago

      Hi. My name Is Aahlyssia & I Wanted To Ask What Type Of Saline Solution Did U Use?

    • profile image

      same problem 19 months ago

      I have tried everything, A week or 2 ago i got a sample of this charcoal detoxifying cleanser, and i used it on my face, and noticed that the grey ring lightened. I have used it once a day for about a week and ring is completely gone. Freaking amazed! The product is made by michael todd.

    • profile image

      Dani 20 months ago

      I've stilled got my nose pierced and I have the grayish mark, will it still work and eventually fade?

    • profile image

      Kate 21 months ago

      I just got mine removed using laser treatment (same as removing a tattoo) not painful and only cost 15$ per piercing and is now completely gone!!

    • profile image

      Rach 23 months ago

      I have this exact problem! Had my nose ring out for 2 years and the grey mark is as visible as ever... Do you think I should get it re-pierced and wear proper jewelry to fix it?

    • profile image

      simple mind 2 years ago

      This problem isn't with just piercings. I've had to wear reading glasses since my early 30s. Well, those dollar store cheap-o glasses with the metal to soft pad nose holders leach impurities onto the skin too. As of today, I have to dark black/gray markings on each side of my nose. :( I've searched the web to various degrees to rule out skin cancer and lichen planus. There are home remedies to brighten the skin in the areas or to slowly extract the metal resides out of the skin over long periods of time. Doing laser may work or may cause further ugliness later. It depends on your nose and the black/gray patch.

    • profile image

      En 2 years ago

      I took out my piercing a month ago. Is it too late to get re-pierced to remove the stain?

    • profile image

      3 years ago

      If you did let it close up, go to a skin care professional and ask for glycolic acid peels. I have had 3 done so far and the indentation is nearly gone, the black has faded to gray and the gray area around the former hole is shrinking steadily.

    • mismazda profile image

      mismazda 5 years ago from a southern georgia peach

      Useful hub..I will be getting me some saline solution to use..thanks for the informative article...

    • profile image

      DT1592796 5 years ago

      Oxidized silver is black; oxidized copper is green. The metal in some body jewelries essentially reacts with sweat (the salts in your sweat promote oxidation) giving you a free tattoo with metal oxide pigments. Laser treatment, also used for tattoo removal would be your best bet.

      316 stainless steel alloys are known for their hardness and wear resistance due to the presence of molybdenum. They are used in applications requiring high level of corrosion resistance. 316L and 316VLM are high-grade 316s which differ mainly in the amount of molybdenum used. As English has pointed out, cheaper jeweleries from the far East should be purchased with caution as too often corners are cut in order to maintain a low price (you only get what you pay for).

      While I do not have any body pearcings myself, I would imagine that you can reduce metal oxidation, hence the chance of argyria, by insulating the metal contacts through application of petroleum gel (i.e. vaseline)on the jewelry and the pearcing prior to insertion and the pearcing should be washed with alcohol (with jewelry taken out) at least once per week.

    • profile image

      English 6 years ago

      "316VLM has a slight advantage due to it's practically flawless finish"

      The difference between 316L & 316 VLM isn't anything to do with the finish (you can get wonderful results with L just as you can with VLM if you have a good supplier).

      In the UK we can no longer use surgical steel when we pierce clients, we mostly use titanium.

    • profile image

      English 6 years ago

      The best jewellery to use is made from titanium (or niobium if you can find it). Buy the best you can afford, and try to avoid if made in the far east.

    • becauseilive profile image

      becauseilive 6 years ago from N.J.

      @TransferAmerica - Unfortunately, this probably will not work if the piercing is already closed up. My cartilage piercing closed up long before I knew about taking these steps to correct it, and now ten years later it still has a gray scar :(

    • Ardie profile image

      Sondra 6 years ago from Neverland

      Oh, this is very important information with so many people getting facial piercings now. Thanks for sharing!

    • bodymodist profile image

      bodymodist 6 years ago from Kansas City

      Good hub.

    • zzron profile image

      zzron 6 years ago from Houston, TX.

      This was very helpful and very interesting.