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A Long List of Belly Button Piercing Problems

Updated on May 18, 2017
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Whitney is an expert on piercings and tattoos with experience in the body modification world.

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Navel piercings are very popular, especially among young girls, teenagers, and young adults. They are generally pretty easy to heal, but that doesn't mean that they will always heal without complications.

Some people experience infections, and others may experience migration (when the piercing slowly moves from its first location) or even rejection (when the body forces the jewelry out). Although navel piercings typically heal quickly, it is common for them to migrate or reject. Infection, metal allergies, scarring, tearing, and stretching are also common. Some people's bodies simply cannot heal successfully, no matter what. You just don't know how your body will react until you give it a try.

The important thing is to make sure that you keep up with proper aftercare and wear proper jewelry, as this will help improve the odds of avoiding complications.

A Short List of Things That Could Go Wrong With a Navel Piercing

  1. migration
  2. rejection
  3. infection
  4. scarring
  5. metal allergy
  6. excessive bleeding
  7. overcleaning
  8. tearing
  9. stretching

Each of these issues is described fully below.

Migration: What If My Piercing Moves?

When a piercing migrates, it doesn't fully reject out of the body, but it changes from its original position. It may move just a little, or it may move completely away from the navel.

Common causes of migration include:

  • If the body doesn't like the metal that was used for the jewelry. (Surgical grade steel and titanium are the best to prevent migration.)
  • If the the jewelry is not the right type. (CBRs and other rings are more prone to complications than a curved, banana barbell.)
  • If there is tissue damage around the piercing area.
  • If there isn't enough tissue strength to hold and support the jewelry.
  • If there was incorrect placement, such as if it was pierced too shallow or not absolutely perpendicular.
  • If there is any friction, such as that caused by pants, belts, or shirts.
  • If there is aggravated damage or trauma caused by hitting or pulling at the jewelry.
  • If there is pressure, such as caused by another piece of jewelry from another piercing moving or putting pressure on the one in question.
  • If your body grows: If you got the piercing when you were young and your body was not fully developed, or if you gain weight or become pregnant, as your body changes and alters, the piercing will, too, potentially causing migration.

There's nothing that you can really do to stop migration, but you can impede it by avoiding the potential causes listed above. If you see signs of migration, you'll want to remove the jewelry, let it heal, and then try to get re-pierced.

Heavy, thin-gauge jewelry made of the wrong material can cause rejection or migration.

Rejection: What If My Body Rejects the Jewelry?

If it continues to migrate, it may actually be rejecting, which is when your body pushes the jewelry out in an attempt to heal itself. Just like the body would force out a splinter, it will force out jewelry, which is a foreign material, and the body doesn't like foreign objects to be inserted into it.

Some people just can't heal navel piercings. Some repeatedly try, but each time, it rejects or starts to migrate.

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Scar on top hole and keloid on the bottom hole.Scar left behind from migration/rejection.
Scar on top hole and keloid on the bottom hole.
Scar on top hole and keloid on the bottom hole.
Scar left behind from migration/rejection.
Scar left behind from migration/rejection.

When rejection occurs, you may notice the following signs:

  • The barbell will appear longer.
  • The fistula will become shallower.
  • The holes of the piercing will move.
  • There will typically be a trail from where the holes were originally placed to where they are now.
  • There may be redness or scarring around the holes.
  • The jewelry may start to hang differently.
  • There may be some sensitivity in the area, but it typically will not hurt.
  • The hole may appear larger than before.
  • The skin between the two holes may start to appear thin and see-through.

Unfortunately, there's nothing that can be done to stop rejection. The best thing to do is to just remove the jewelry, let it heal, and try to have it re-pierced again. If you do not remove the jewelry, you will be left with a nice scar. In some cases, the body will completely reject the jewelry and force the barbell out completely.

The good thing is that rejection doesn't hurt. And no, your piercing doesn't have to be infected to be migrating or rejecting.

Infection: What Are the Signs?

Bacterial infections most often occur soon after the piercing, but can happen any time. It could be the result of poor aftercare, unsanitary conditions, a reaction to the jewelry, or an untended rip or tear.

  • Usually you'll see swelling and redness in the area and it will feel painful and perhaps hot to the touch. The swelling may become a boil or an abscess.
  • You may see a discharge of pus (clear, white, yellow, brown, or green) that might dry to a crust.
  • If left untreated, you might even have a fever, chills, and other flu-like symptoms.
  • Red lines radiating from your belly button.

A thorough cleaning regime and antibiotic treatment will be necessary. If it's exacerbated by a reaction to the jewelry, you may need to change it out to something made of titanium or implant-grade surgical steel, but it's best to not remove the jewelry (or to touch or fiddle with the piercing with your fingers, which may be dirty).

Scarring: Can I Avoid It?

Some scarring is unavoidable, since the skin around any piercing rarely heals to look exactly as it did before. The piercing itself is a scar, after all. But sometimes—depending on the location, the person, and other factors—scarring is more dramatic than others.

Hypertrophic scarring is a common risk, and keloid scars can happen to anyone, but those with darker skin pigmentation are more susceptible. Keloid scars look like overgrown red-and-purple mounds of fibrous scar tissue that feel hard and smooth to the touch and can appear at either end of the fistula. They are often itchy and can sometimes be tender and slow to heal.

Metal Reaction: What If My Body Is Allergic to the Jewelry?

Many people experience sensitivities or allergies to various metals. Of course, there is some cool, cheap, good-looking jewelry out there, but it's not worth the risk. A reaction to jewelry can be the thing that triggers an infection which, in turn, triggers rejection or migration and eventually losing the piercing. If you're just a little allergic, you might experience some itching, redness, and irritation, but a major sensitivity will lead to a painfully itchy, bright red, swollen, throbbing, pus-filled mess. Your skin may pull back from the irritation, causing the piercing hole to gape.

Hypoallergenic metals (which are more biocompatible):

  • titanium G23 (of any color) (the best choice!)
  • niobium (pure)
  • nickel-free, surgical, implant-grade stainless steel (316L or 316LVM)
  • solid yellow gold of 14 karats or more (but only after the piercing has fully healed)
  • platinum (but it's heavy, so may cause more tears or strain)

Problematic materials:

  • nickel
  • plastics (some acrylics are biocompatible BUT they can break down over time and are more likely to adhere to germs and bacteria)
  • lower grades of gold; anything plated, rolled, or filled with gold
  • rose gold (contains copper) or white gold (if it contains nickel)
  • silver; even sterling silver (it may have copper or nickel and it will tarnish)
  • poor quality stainless steel (even if it claims to be "surgical")
  • anything plated in any kind of metal (the plating will flake off)
  • rough or unpolished metals
  • costume jewelry or any kind of unidentified metal

If you think you might be sensitive to the jewelry, immediately take it out and replace it with something more biocompatible.

Wearing a curved barbell (instead of a ring) until you've completely healed might reduce the risks.

What Else Could Go Wrong? Tearing, Stretching, Etc.

  • Excessive bleeding and nerve damage. This can be caused by an inexperienced body piercer that pierces too close to a nerve.
  • Overcleaning. It is possible to hurt the tissue with too much cleaning. Don't overdo it! Follow your piercer's instructions.
  • Changing the jewelry too soon. Another common no-no. It can take eight weeks to six months before you are healed enough to fiddle with jewelry. Again, follow your piercer's instructions.
  • Frictional irritation. Sometimes the friction from your clothing or waistband may irritate and delay healing.
  • Tearing. Navel piercings are less likely to tear than those in other spots (like the ears), but it is possible for jewelry to get caught and tear.
  • Stretching. If a piercing is too shallow or close to the edge, a stretch may enlarge it too much. Heavy jewelry, tears, rejection, and migration can alter the shape of the fistula. Some people have to have the doctor fix the hole by sewing it smaller.
  • Bacterial endocarditis or infective endocarditis (IE). If you suffer from congenital heart disease and you're exposed to bacteria via piercing, you're at risk, and it could even be fatal. This is why reputable, professional piercers ask you about your heart before they do anything.

The Basics of Healing a Belly Button Piercing

There are many methods that you may hear about, and methods that work for you may not for someone else. Below is the most common method of aftercare:

  • Use saline solution or non-iodized sea salt (not table salt). If you opt for sea salt, mix about 6 ounces of water with about 1/2 teaspoon of sea salt.
  • Pour enough saline or sea salt mix into a cup (the disposable bathroom dixie cups work great).
  • Gently place the cup over the navel, lay back, and let it soak for about 10-15 minutes.

You want to do this about twice a day for the first several weeks. After that, once a day until the piercing is healed. You want to avoid using strong products such as rubbing alcohol and hydrogen peroxide. Also, try to avoid using any creams or ointments.

How Long Does Healing Take?

It may seem to be healed in 4 to 6 weeks, but it can take 3 to 6 months and sometimes even up to a year for a navel piercing to heal completely.

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    • profile image

      Hailey. 8 days ago

      I got my naval pierced (top part) and its a little red (people say that's normal), a little crusty (people also say that's normal), VERY little puss every once in a while, and I see a little yellow colored piece of crusty in the top whole next to the jewelry, and occasionally its itchy but like an inch away from the piercing (doesn't itching mean that its healing?)... is all this normal? is it rejecting? Am I allergic? is it infected? is it normal?

    • Whitney05 profile image
      Author

      Whitney 10 days ago from Georgia

      If you did them yourself with a sewing needle, you used a smaller gauge than what is typically used. That's about a 20 gauge needle. Generally, lobes are pierced at 16 gauge.

    • profile image

      Destiny . 11 days ago

      I did my peircing and every time I take it off, the whole is really small whys that ? I'm only 13 my friends also have them but I don't honk there wholes small as mine

    • profile image

      Beekaaaa 4 weeks ago

      I did my piercing myself and my skin is trying to heal on top of the, not bar or the ball on top, but the jewelry piece. Right now I'm cleaning it and caring for it with an anti bacterial soap bar of Dial and it's helped a lot, but the skin is still trying to heal on the jewelry piece. Is this bad or no?

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      Macy 4 weeks ago

      I had a belly button piercing before and there's a scar kinda like now, is it okay to get it re-pierced ?

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      Hailey 5 weeks ago

      I just got my bottom belly button done in January and it was fine until now there puss coming out of the hole and it's very sore I just took the belly buttom out last night to clean it because it was hurting so bad I have a like a big bubble at the top hole of the piercing. Does this mean it rejected the piercing or is it infected? I can't put it back in because it's hurts too much to.

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      Jenny 2 months ago

      I've had my belly button done for about a year now and it's been fine so I decided to change it. The first time I change it everything was all good until it started hurting being tender pussing so I decided to put my original jewelry back in and it felt better and it went back to being fine so I thought ohhh maybe that jewelry was fake or not good quality so I left it alone for months and I bought some other jewelry a better kind the one I thought I was pierced with so I changed it and it was fine it didn't hurt me or nothing I've had that jewelry in for about a week until now it started being tender and pussing so I changed it back to my original jewelry but I don't know what's happening can anyone help me??

    • profile image

      Tessa 4 months ago

      I had my navel pierced about a month ago. It dries up at first without any infection. But now I'm staring to feel tenderness only on my right side of my belly button. And yellow puss are coming out from my navel piercing now. Besides that there is no pain or redness at the piercing side seen. Is it serious? I've been cleaning it with saline twice a day. But the puss is just getting more than before. What should I do? I need help as I'm freaking out

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      diane 4 months ago

      how can i tell if it's rejecting ? i snagged it and it kinda tore but it is only red at the top and ian very sensitive anymore ?

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      mattie galde 5 months ago

      My belly button ring is stuck on the bottom hole and will not come out please help me

    • profile image

      pallavi 9 months ago

      Hey, I had my navel pierced six years ago, the piercing was rejected and I was left with a nasty scar. I love navel piercings, couldn't resist and got another one done two years after that. This time again , it began showing signs of rejecting and I had to remove it. Scarring again. its been three years now, I want to try again. Dont know if I should... really want it though. this will be my last attempt. Any tips anyone??

    • profile image

      Jasmine 10 months ago

      Hi I have a question about my belly piercing, I haven't had it long and now it has I think an abscess on it, how do I get rid of of it, it has me worried

    • profile image

      Nikkii1998 14 months ago

      I saw someone stated "no table salt" Omg imma go nuts now cause that's what I've been using twice each day. Please tell me it's not going to end horribly.

      And why can I feel the ring between the two ends of the piercing?

    • profile image

      Danielle 20 months ago

      If i have had the top done for two years and i just got the bottom one done is it likely to reject ?

    • profile image

      Sharon 2 years ago

      I have had mine done since December and it was fine at first and then I put in a new piercing in it was sore and the guy said it would go away and it was fine a couple weeks went by and I didn't watch it and a scab started to grow around the ring itself I tried cleaning it but it hurt to much and so I went to him he took the one I had out and since I'm allergic to certain medals I have a gold one now the other one left behind a small bump and he said if I clean it with antibacterial soap I have been and its been 3 days since I got it checked on and the bump has gone away but it's still sore and oozing yellow puss should I take it out or see if it will heal and is it rejecting it?

    • profile image

      Molly 2 years ago

      i had my belly button pierced 2 wks ago and it got really red 2 or 3 days ago. I didn't think it looked right so I called my piercer and emailed him my pic of it and he said to get in right away. When he saw it in person he said that has to come out. Was that the right thing to do? I don't know if i was allergic to the jewelry or if he took to much skin out but he said he has never seen this before. The top of the barbell had a diamond and it was going into my skin kind of making a hole.

    • profile image

      Ashley 2 years ago

      I am not sure if mine is migrating or rejection. I've had my belly pierced twice. The first time I had to take it out because it would turn completely to the side (to the left) and it was irritating my skin to the point it would bleed. I have so much scar tissue now because of that. I waited 3 years to re pierce it. There is a horizontal scar in the middle of both holes that appeared after I had a minor infection when it first was peirced. the peircing does not seem to be any closer to the surface than it was before.

      I've had it for over a year with no problems but now the top hole looks like it is stretched a bit (not sure about the bottom) so its pointing to the left again and I can feel it putting pressure on my skin some times. I usually take it out for a little so the top hole goes back to normal.

      Does anyone else have this problem? and is it migrating or rejecting?

    • profile image

      susana 4 years ago

      hi i had my belly piercing for the first time and i notice that the piercing was hanging but i though it was ok because was my first time so about two days i had just a thin layer os skin in the middle and it came right out so i waited and went to another place ill be a month now lets see what happens ill let you posted wish me luck.

    • profile image

      Talia 4 years ago

      hi, my belly ring is currently rejecting. my skin is realllllyy thin. but i want to keep it in for 2 more weeks just to go on vacation, is that bad if i do?!

    • profile image

      Liv 5 years ago

      Hello =] Had my belly button pierced about 4 months ago and everything has gone really well so far =] its my seventh piercing and, lucky me, nothing has ever gotten infected, migrated or rejected. However my advice would be to do plenty of research about your intended piercing beforehand. Make sure you go to a reputable place. And stick to the aftercare routine! The advice on this page is really helpful too. I'd also suggest that the youger generation wait until you're 18+ for any piercings other than ears. I came home when I was 14 with a nose ring and my mum went spare =/ also, you're body is still changing etc and it'll save stressing out your parents =] Other than that enjoy having a piercing, look after it properly and you should have no problems.

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      Samantha 5 years ago

      Revrave if your worried about your daughter getting her belly pierced take it from a 19yr old girl who rebeled against her mothers wishes and got one. I.regret. It. I had mine pierced in nov.2011 and the piercing rejected itself in feb. I have a huge red bump of scar tissue that i may end up either getting a dermatologist to "punch out" or laser surgery. For you girls wondering about your piercing and arent sure. If its red after.. Lets say 2 weeks go get it checked. If it hurts after having it to where it hurts to move or touch it go get it checked. If the hole looks like its getting bigger and the skin is thinning its rejection. If there is puss probably rejection too. Do not think rejection wont happen because i thought that. And lo and behold it rejects itself. Not everyone is left with the same scar. Not everyone rejects a piercing. But in some way shape or form u will eventually regret getting it done and if u plan on kids the thing has to come out anyway! Just my two cents for concerned parents and teens:)

    • profile image

      chelsea 5 years ago

      hi guys. so i got my belly button pierced about 3 or 4 weeks ago and it never bled until the other day after my boyfriend had rubbed my belly kind of agressively and the next morning there was some dried blood on the top ball and there was like some blood seeping out still. then it started to get red around the top ball about 2cm around it along wth yellowish green sticky fluid every now and then. I woke up this morning and the skin had enveloped the top ball. the piercer used a titanium barbell and ive been using all sorts of products on it. not sure if its irritated or infected or if its rejecting it. p.s. i went to a different piercer to ask them to look at it but they just sold me another product. help? purplenorwahl@yahoo.com

    • profile image

      heather 5 years ago

      Feeling self destructive so I get the navel pierced. Now I have this nasty pussing hole to look at. nice. very attractive.

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      Melissa 5 years ago

      I've gotten mine pierced & its red with a little drainage. Is this normal ?? I've been doing the saline solution with sea salt 2-3 times a day I just want to make sure I'm taking care of it properly. I have a little light colored pus coming out when I'm cleaning it I would like some honest answers to help me. Thanks

    • profile image

      Bre 5 years ago

      Okay so my belly button ripped a little. I don't know what to do! i really don't want it too be crooked!

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      care 5 years ago

      I had mine done by a professional, but in the end it rejected. It healed nicely over 3 months, no pain or any problems, so I thought I was healing great. But then it got slightly painful a few days out of the week, and I randomly checked it and it was only being held in by a tiny bit of skin. Luckily, I don't have a scar, just a little red bumb that is healing.. I don't think my piercing was done deep enough/long enough from the beginning.

    • profile image

      shahinda 5 years ago

      FMl why didn't I read this b4 I did the belly piercing, I mean it oki its just fine no pain no redness but still wtf it could jst fire bk anytime it wants T.T ama go c a doctor

    • profile image

      Courtney 5 years ago

      So. I need help. I got my belly peirced back in March of this year, and it started to scab. So I picked off the scab and now the skin in the middle of the peircing looks very smaller than it did. I don't know what to do.

    • profile image

      KekoB 5 years ago

      I have had my belly button pierced twice and both times it rejected. I'm about to take it out hut I'm still kinda bummed that my body keeps rejecting my piercing... It really sucks

    • profile image

      Leslie 5 years ago

      hi..im 15 is there anyway i can take my belly ring out and soak it in sea salt n put it back in after a weak but keep soaking it in sea salt??? help!

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      Linda 5 years ago

      How long should one wait before getting their belly button re-pierced? It healed well the first time, it just wasn't peirced deep enough.

    • profile image

      Saibhe 5 years ago

      I got my belly button pierced yesterday and after reading this i'm slightly worried... if i clean it properly and look after it properley can this still happen ? I'm afraid it's going to migrate because i'm only 14...

    • profile image

      tailor 5 years ago

      My mistake was that I didn't go to a professional.. my friend did mine. She's very very sterile and has done hundreds of others piercings. Its extremely infected tthough :( I think its rejecting. Just got it done last week. Hole on top is pusing and its almost as big as the ball. It's a ring.. I should've done a barbell that way I could move it and there wouldn't be a huge knot. Can I change the ring to a barbell?

    • profile image

      ruth 6 years ago

      mY daughter had her stomach pierced and her body has just rejected it.

      Personally, I think anyone who gets piercings is plain stupid. No other word for it, not to mention highly insecure and too much money to waste

    • profile image

      tara 6 years ago

      Melissa i have the same problem its been pierced now for 3months and its starting to reject it again.

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      Jess 6 years ago

      Hey melissa! I had the exact same situation as u with my piercing growing out and being left wif a massive scar. I got my belly button re-pierced after it fully healed, this was 3 weeks ago. I told my pircer bout my history and she said it should b fine. She pierced it deeper than my last, under my scar tissue. So far so good, its healing fine! I'll keep u undated and let u know if it start to grow out :-D

    • profile image

      Melissa 6 years ago

      I had my belly button pierced a few years ago. For two years I fought the infection and it eventually pushed itself out to the point of a thin layer of skin holding the jewelry in. I took it out and let it heal. Now I have a thick scar in place of the piercing. I want to get it pierced again and was wondering if the scar would keep the next one from pushing out, being that the skin is thicker now.

    • profile image

      kristin 6 years ago

      hi i just pierced my belly button 2 days ago. ive been following the after care steps and have been washing it 2 times a day with antibacterial soap. ive also been doing the salt water step twice a day too. its very red and raw and its dark arounf the holes. there is also bruising around the holes too. i don't know wheather its an infection or its just from me playing with it too much. please help me because i don't know what to to! : (

    • profile image

      jadelyn 6 years ago

      .hi,I've had my belly pierced 2 times && I'm on my third. I follow all aftercare instructions,and nomatter what I do every time without fail my body rejectes my piercing. :( I don't know what to do, if you have any ideas please let me know. Thax xx

    • profile image

      Ashley 6 years ago

      A lot of times if a piercing rejects, putting a real gold barbell in it will allow it to heal. I've had a few friends who's rejected, but healed whenever they used a gold bar.

    • Whitney05 profile image
      Author

      Whitney 6 years ago from Georgia

      It's called rejection. I have one just fine. My first migrated, but the replacement has been fine. I got mine initially when I had my upper navel pierced, which is what caused the migration. I haven't had the upper one repierced, which is why I believe the lower has stayed this time. I've had mine for years.

      Some people are just prone to rejection.

    • profile image

      ellesar 6 years ago

      I had a lower belly piercing and it rejected - the skin just got thinner and thinner until I could see the ring and then one day just split in the bath! It didn't hurt a bit and healed just fine.

      Another piercer told me that very few women can keep a lower piercing - you have to have a really tight and flat belly - I guess Gwen Stefani could do it! But us mere ordinary women cannot.

    • beansprout123 profile image

      beansprout123 6 years ago

      I have been tempted to have a belly button piercing but I have heard of some problems that put me off. Maybe one day I will do it. Nice hub.

    • profile image

      lady bug 6 years ago

      hi whitney ive had my belly button pierced for almost 8 months now, but its starting to hurt and its sore in the middle of it, is it infected or is it rejecting the piercing please help?

    • omcj1234 profile image

      omcj1234 6 years ago

      Tongue -- the only way to go.

    • la2010 profile image

      la2010 6 years ago from Alaska

      Wonderful work! I used to have a navel piercing years ago but my body rejected it in a month.then i had it re-pierced after it healed all the way,i had the same problem again. i guess im one of those people who are not meant to have a navel piercing.

    • profile image

      NICOLE 6 years ago

      Yeah I wish the piercer would have alerted me the signs of rejection. Mine rejected two months ago it healed okay for something forcing its self out. I got it re-pierced by a better place and they made the piercing much deeper. I don't experience any issues as I used to with the last piercing =]

    • profile image

      revrave 6 years ago

      Hi Whitney05 i popped onto your hub and i am going to send it my daughter. Why? because i get to let her see the cons of all this belly button piercing stuff. Great hub and nice profile pic "pitbull" from new hubber revrave

    • Granny's House profile image

      Granny's House 6 years ago from Older and Hopefully Wiser Time

      I know this will be useful. Maybe people should read this before they get it a peircing. Great hub

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