Many people complain of bumps on their piercings. While proper care usually keeps these from forming, sometimes even the best care doesn’t stop them from cropping up. Identifying the bump and treating it can reduce pain and help your piercing heal faster.


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Types of Piercing Bumps

The most common bump on a healing piercing is a boil, which occurs when trauma causes a small tear, and microbes enter the wound. Boils are often painful and red and may secrete pus or blood.

Another common bump is hypotrophic scarring—a bump surrounding the exit hole, the same color as your skin. It may feel hard, but often isn’t painful. This is usually caused by jewelry putting pressure on the piercing, and the body responding by scarring. Cartilage piercings, especially all types of industrial piercings, are prone to this type of scar.

The most serious bump is a keloid—scar tissue that grows beyond the boundary of a piercing. Dark-skinned people have a higher risk of keloid scars.

How to Treat Piercing Bumps

Boils are the most common and easiest to treat. Sea-salt soaks should be done daily on any healing piercing. Mix 1/8 teaspoon sea salt with warm water and soak the piercing for 5 to 15 minutes a day. This helps treat and prevent bumps by drawing pus and foreign particles out of the wound. Rinse your piercing after soaking to remove excess salt.

If sea-salt soaks don’t reduce your bumps, try using a chamomile tea bag as a hot compress. Dip the bag into warm water, shake off any excess water, and hold the bag against the piercing. (Make sure the bag isn’t too hot to hold against your skin, or else you might get burned.) Dip the bag again in warm water when it loses heat. Do this once or twice a day for 10 minutes. You can alternate between sea-salt soaks and tea bags.

If sea salt and chamomile don’t reduce bumps, try tea tree oil. It’s a strong antiseptic and will kill most germs. It’s also very strong and can dry skin, so use sparingly. Dilute one drop of aromatherapy-grade tea tree essential oil in a shot glass of water or melted coconut oil. Dab this on the bump twice a day with a cotton bud.

Since hypotrophic scarring is often due to pressure on a piercing, changing your jewelry is usually the best move. If the scar is around a ring or other curved jewelry, switch to something straight, like a barbell. If it’s on an industrial piercing, put individual earrings in each piercing. Consult your piercer for jewelry changes in unhealed piercings. Time and oil massages often improve scarring. If hypotrophic scars don’t get better, steroid injections and certain topical creams may help. Consult a doctor to see if this is an option.

If the bump looks like scar tissue, doesn’t respond to the above treatments, and is getting bigger or goes beyond the piercing itself, it may be a keloid. These are large and often a darker color than the surrounding skin. See a doctor or dermatologist to determine this. This type of scar may require surgical removal or steroid treatments. However, keloid removal sometimes results in more scar tissue. If you know you’re prone to keloids, you may want to rethink getting pierced.

Tips

  • Some body parts are hard to reach for sea-salt soaks. Depending on the body part, use cotton balls to apply, or submerge an area in a large bowl filled with the mixture.
  • Make sure your salt solution is no saltier than tears. Too much salt will do more harm than good.
  • A saline spray for piercings is a good idea for on-the-go treatment. They should not replace soaks, since the warm water helps draw impurities out of the piercing.
  • You can add a drop of tea tree oil into a salt soak for more germ-fighting power.
  • Always wash your hands before touching your piercings. Wash piercings once a day, and keep residue from hair products, soap, and lotions away from them.
  • Antibacterial soap is a matter of personal choice. Many piercers prefer it, some advise against it. It’s often best to use any gentle soap that your body is used to.