We made this little section as we like to reassure our clients that every piercing is not without its complications! Relax, we got you covered!
Is it infected!?
- Often, what is believed to be an infection is actually a build up of perfectly healthy lymph or fluid – this is absolutely to be expected following a piercing. If you suspect that your piercing might be infected, please pop into the studio or give us a call and we will do our best to advise you on the best course of action. Please don’t ignore a build up of any kind!
- The symptoms of a localised infection include:
- Red skin that’s swollen and tender and quite warm to the touch
- Swollen lymph nodes
- Pus that is green in colour and smelly
Infections do happen – at the end of the day, your piercing is a wound and the jewellery in it keeps the wound open for a long time, meaning infection is always a possibility (just touch a surface containing bacteria and then touch the piercing – its that easy!) The body will usually get rid of a minor infection all on its own. IF you are able to take anti-inflammatories such as ibuprofen or arnica, do so according to the manufacturers instructions and continue with hot chamomile compresses (described overleaf) twice daily.
Nip to see your GP right away if your symptoms last for a week or more
If you do decide to visit a walk-in clinic, pharmacy or your doctor, please bear in mind that not all doctors are understanding of body modification and you’d be surprised how many nurses/pharmacists etc advise for you to immediately remove the jewellery without thinking about the consequences.
DO NOT REMOVE YOUR JEWELLERY – ESPECIALLY IF YOU HAVE AN INFECTION!
The jewellery provides a drainage point for the infection to exit the body. If you remove the jewellery before the infection has cleared up, you could well trap the infection inside the body leading to excess scarring and taking much longer to heal.
Could it reject!? Is it rejecting!?
Unfortunately this is a possibility with all piercings. If the body decides that it wants the foreign object (i.e. your jewellery) out – it will do its best to produce scar tissue behind the offending object and push it out through the surface of your skin.
Some piercings are very unlikely to reject (ear piercings for example), whereas some are more prone to rejection (such as navels, eyebrows, or surface piercings). If you see a red line connecting the entry/exit points on any of your piercings, it could well be a sign that it is rejecting. Please pop in and see us for advice.
Often piercings are just irritated and not rejecting, but if you are concerned that there is even a small possibility that it may be rejecting please pop into the studio and let us take a look for you – we may be able to save it by changing the jewellery!
Surface piercings often shrink as they heal, this is totally normal but they may need to be downsized – if you experience one ‘leg’ of your surface bar sticking up more than it used to please pop into the studio ASAP so we can downsize it for you. Failure to do so could lead to rejection.
There’s a Bump! What is it & what can I do?
Almost all piercing related bumps that we see are NOT keloid or hyphertrophic scars. They are almost
always fluid build-ups and are most commonly seen in cartilage piercings but can occur anywhere. They often secrete fluid that looks like pus if knocked – this does not mean they are infected – they often flare up and go down of their own accord and eventually will go away but you can s
peed the process up by two methods.
Firstly, ensure the jewellery is not too long and irritating the piercing – if it is, you can try adding a silicone disc to the jewellery to help compress the piercing site and reduce the fluid build up.
Secondly, you can speed up fluid draining by using hot chamomile compresses. Get some pure chamomile tea bags (make sure there is no real tea or caffeine in the teabags), steep the teabag in boiling water for a few minutes then fish it out and let it cool ever so slightly just to a point where you do not burn yourself, but you still want it to be as hot as you can stand. Wrap it around the piercing and hold it there under gentle compress until the teabag has gone stone cold. Repeat. Do this instead of both of your daily cleans and within a few weeks the fluid build-up should have gone. Note it may look worse before it looks better as the fluid starts to drain it may look like a spot – do not pick it – you will just increase scarring and delay healing – it will drain of its own accord as doing the compresses opens up tiny blood vessels in the area and just increases the speed in which the fluid will drain away back into the body.
Scarring – what can I do?
Jewellery in a wound means the body has a lot more work to do to heal. It takes much longer to heal a piercing with jewellery in it than it would a normal wound, and the area will likely swell regularly throughout the healing period. Both of these factors can increase the risk of your body producing excess scarring. This is most common in darker skin types but can affect anyone, anywhere on the body.
Hyphertrophic scarring is a lump of scar that sits above the flat surface of the skin, they are far more common than ‘keloids’ and the two are often mixed up (even by doctors) as they do look very similar, though hyphertrophic scars are smaller and tend to be much easier to treat. Hyphertrophic scars often reduce on their own over time as long as correctly fitting jewellery is worn, and can often also be reduced by massaging the piercing site with vitamin E oil such as bio-oil.
A keloid scar is a very large and usually thick lump of scar tissue that can become several times larger than the original wound. Keloid scars are difficult to treat and cannot be simply ‘cut off’ as the body usually grows another keloid, even bigger than the original.
If you are worried that you may have a hyphertrophic or true keloid scar that isn’t improving in time, visit a dermatologist who may be able to help.
My stretched ear is suddenly SORE and looks weird and lumpy!
If you recently stretched up or have worn a new piece of jewellery or experienced trauma to the ear, it sounds like you may have a blow out – DOWNSIZE IMMEDIATELY (perhaps several sizes!) to a piece of jewellery you’ve worn in the past or something that you know you are not allergic to. If in doubt, something single flared and inert such as borosilicate glass is your best bet.
Clean the area twice daily using Stericlens or H2Ocean as described overleaf. Make sure your hands are clean before doing so!
Once the lobes are no longer sore (it may take a few days or longer for this to happen) start massaging them twice daily with a vitamin E oil such as Bio-oil to improve elasticity and reduce scarring.
Wait AT LEAST 4 weeks before attempting to stretch again and stretch no more than 1mm every 4 weeks. If you believe it was a reaction to the jewellery you wore that caused your blow out, do not attempt to wear that type of jewellery again. Do not wear porous jewellery (such as wood, bone or horn) until the lobes are very well healed.
I’m worried I might be having an allergic reaction to a new piece of jewellery…
An allergic reaction is where your immune system over-reacts when your skin touches a particular material. This can happen with any material. Sometimes the material may not be harmful at all (in the case of titanium, for example) – allergic reactions to metals like this are very rare.
Allergic reactions to more harmful materials such as Nickel (which is present in silver) are much more common as most people’s bodies will be trying to “fight” the material. Remember you can be allergic to ANYTHING – silicone, metals, organics etc. so always pay attention to how your skin reacts to any new piece of jewellery.
Usually within 24 hours an allergy will become apparent.
Contact dermatitis is the main symptom – the skin around the piercing will become red, swollen and unbearably itchy. In more severe cases, the skin can blister, crack and break leaving you open to infection.
If the material causing the allergy is removed, the reaction should cease and the skin should heal in time. Be sure to wear jewellery you know you are not allergic to in the piercing to ensure it doesn’t close down whilst its recovering from the reaction.
Problems with jewellery choices / Does it really matter what material I wear in my body?
Yes! It is vital that you understand the differences in piercing jewellery materials and quality to make sure you are not risking your long-term health, and also risking your appearance (some materials can permanently discolour the skin or cause a nasty reaction which can lead to extensive scarring). Be sure to buy quality jewellery form a reputable supplier and take a read of our Materials Guide for more information about what materials jewellery can be made from and which choices are good and bad for various reasons and stages of healing.
If you have ANY concerns, questions or queries PLEASE get in touch.
If you are ever in any doubt in regards to you stretch (regardless of where it was done or what advice you have been given) please pop in and see us! We will always help as much as we can.
Stretching and Large Gauge Piercing
Stretching involves enlarging a piercing over time to allow gradually larger and larger pieces of jewellery to be worn until the desired size is achieved. Once the piercing is healed, larger gauge jewellery can be fitted with the aid of an insertion taper and some lubricant. Stretching is most common in the earlobes but many people also stretch the lip, septum, tongue, navel, cheek etc. Cartilage piercings are more complicated to stretch as they are more prone to scarring – dermal punching yields a better result if large gauge piercings are desired in cartilage – please chat to us about this if it something you are interested in.
Stretching a piercing is more time demanding than most other body modification and requires dedication to the way of life. Do not stretch any part of your body unless you are certain you will be happy with it forever (or want to undergo our reconstruction service!) Some people can stretch their ears to 8mm-10mm and still have enough tissue elasticity to go back to normal if the jewellery is removed, but there are no guarantees that this could happen thus this should be seen as a permanent modification.
How to stretch safely:
The very safest method of stretching is to stretch naturally – this is where you wear a piece of inert jewellery such as borosilicate glass for a few weeks/months until it feels ‘loose’, then you can put the next size up in without feeling any discomfort whatsoever.
Assuming you do not want to naturally stretch, existing jewellery should be removed and the area cleaned and dried. Water-based lubricant should then be applied onto the tip of the taper, inserted skinny-end-first into the fistula and gently pushed through in a twisting motion. Once the thickest end of the taper is flush with the surface of the lobe, the jewellery can be aligned and guided through (resulting in the taper being removed and the jewellery sitting in the stretched area). Clean the area thoroughly to remove any traces of lubricant. Treat the stretch like a fresh piercing for the next 2-4 weeks and then massage daily with a vitamin E oil such as Bio Oil to increase moisture and suppleness in the area. Do not use petroleum based lubricants such as Vaseline to stretch your lobes.
The jewellery you choose to wear in a fresh stretch is really important! Ideally you want it to be single flared and inert such as borosilicate glass or titanium or PTFE. As long as you do not have any nickel allergies implant grade surgical steel is an acceptable alternative. Do not wear any double flared or porous or organic jewellery such as wood, horn or bone in a fresh stretch.
Please try to ensure a piece of jewellery is worn in the stretch at all times, if jewellery needs to be removed for any reason, it is advisable to wear a flesh coloured retainer to ensure your stretch does not heal up or shrink down.
Please always follow the rule of thumb – stretch no more than 1mm every 4 weeks. Thus if you want to achieve a 2mm stretch, ensure it is at least 8 weeks since you last stretched the area (though please note we really do recommend you stretch no more than 1mm each time). If you plan to stretch a fresh piercing, ensure it has been healed for at least 8 weeks before you start to stretch, then follow the rule of thumb.
Stretching an area to quickly or prematurely can result in tearing of the fistula or a ‘blow out’. This leads to a build up of scar tissue (usually at the back of the fistula). If you stretch improperly and get a blowout or very thin lobes, downsize your jewellery immediately (perhaps several sizes) to reduce pressure on the area and massage daily with oil and allow to fully heal for at least 8 weeks before attempting to stretch again. Hopefully by doing this the body will reabsorb the scar tissue. If you are concerned a blowout may occur again, or if your lobes are too thin, but you want to upsize, please speak with us about ear scalpelling as this could be an option for you.
How to care for and things to expect from your stretch:
- Soon after the stretch, it may bleed a little if knocked. This is common and perfectly normal! Just apply some sterile gauze and pressure for a couple of minutes until the blood clots.
- For the first week, expect the area to be red, swollen, tender, puffy, and sometimes bruised.
- Expect the piercing to secrete clear/white/pale yellow fluid throughout the healing process. Many people mistake this fluid as a sign of infection – please don’t worry. A green smelly fluid indicates infection. Stretches can smell if they are not kept clean – this does not mean they are infected! Ensure they are cleaned twice daily with an antibacterial handwash and flushed with clean water. Alternatively use H2Ocean or Stericlens twice daily.
Things to avoid:
- Soap, shampoo, and chemical residues from showering/bathing. Be sure to rinse the piercing with clean water following a shower or a bath!
- Antiseptic preparations such as Savlon cream or spray, TCP, Hydrogen Peroxide, Dettol, Surgical Spirit etc –DO NOT USE THESE to clean your piercing! These are very harsh and will cause irritation and delay healing.
- Playing or fiddling with the piercing using dirty fingers. This will likely increase healing time, cause it to swell, and/or cause an infection.
- Moving or twisting the piercing whilst dry. If any secreted discharge has hardened on
- the jewellery, turning it may tear the fistula or surrounding tissue and prolong the healing process.
- Knocking the piercing or causing any trauma.
- Swimming pools for the first week following a stretch.
If stretching is too labour intensive, and you would like a large hole right off the bat, we will be happy to pierce at large gauge (up to 6mm) for you. This option is a safe way to achieve a large gauge piercing much faster than stretching. Large gauge piercing does not remove tissue in the way a dermal punch would (see modifications) but as with a stretched piercing – there is no guarantee the tissue would shrink down to how it was originally.
*We can stretch for you!* It’s free! Just ask
These following photos were taken of piercings performed with a piercing gun – these were NOT performed at Holier Than Thou but are intended as a visual guide to show the real problems associated with piercing guns:
Awful piercing placement, performed much too shallow. If these were left and the client
attempted to heal them, they would almost certainly have rejected leaving atrocious scarring.
Last image is a tragus pierced with a gun. Guns cause massive trauma and the jewellery is not sufficient to allow for swelling. This client also suffered an infection and extreme scarring (the piercing was performed at a terrible angle and could not be saved).
Cartilage collapse caused by a gun piercing. There is nothing aside from plastic surgery that could improve this appearance.
A pair of ordinary lobes that were pierced with a gun. This client
experienced too much pain and swelling from the gun piercing, so removed the jewellery after just one week of being pierced. These photos were taken by our artists 6 months after the jewellery was removed, when the client came to Holier Than Thou to have her ears re-pierced. There is still far too much scarring present to re-pierce the exact same area, and this client was unfortunately advised to wait to see if the scarring could improve with time. This could take months or years, or could never be possible.
Never, ever, let anyone pierce you with a gun!
Any problems you are not sure about please contact the studio