What are Piercing Bumps? Causes, Treatment, and Prevention May 19, 2021 – Posted in: Piercing Advice – Tags: , ,

Piercings are no stranger to complications. Like a cut or scrape, a healing piercing is a wound inflicted on the body, and as such, it can see infection, scarring, and other healing mishaps.

Among these complications are piercing bumps.

Piercing bumps often appear in ear and nose cartilage—cartilage takes longer to heal, leading to an increased susceptibility to complications—but they can develop in any piercing.

It can be a little scary when you see a bump or bubble forming around your new piercing, but the good news is that it’s treatable, and it will likely go away on its own over time. However, you should know what is happening to your piercing.

Here’s what you need to know about piercing bumps.

What are piercing bumps?

Piercing bumps are as the name implies: small bumps or bubbles that form around your piercing.

There are different types of bumps, some more common than others. While this guide can help you determine the type of bump you’re experiencing, you should visit your local professional piercer. If you’re concerned that it may be more than just irritation, always seek help from a medical professional. At-home treatments are available, but it’s always best to seek guidance over self-diagnosis.

Developing a piercing bump might be worrisome, but piercing bumps are almost never permanent.

Hypertrophic scarring is the most common type of piercing bump. It occurs when too much collagen—foundational tissue—is produced during healing. Manifesting as a small bump or raised line on or around the piercing site, it can appear on either the front or back of the piercing. These bumps are typically painless, and they are usually red or pink in color. As they age, they will turn white, like other types of scar tissue.

The good news about hypertrophic scarring is that they are unstable scars—they’re not permanent. As it heals, you’ll likely see a change in size. Eventually, it should go away on its own.

Hypertrophic scarring can be a natural side effect of healing, but more often than not, hypertrophic scarring is triggered by something.

  • Trauma (whether accidental or intentional)
    • This includes snagging the jewelry on clothing, rolling onto your piercing while sleeping, twisting the jewelry, picking at crusties, using improper products, or overcleaning your piercing.
  • Choosing the wrong jewelry
    • If your jewelry is the wrong size or made from the wrong materials, it can contribute to hypertrophic scarring. Make sure that your initial jewelry adheres to APP standards, and talk to your piercer about downsizing to a smaller piece after your swelling has gone down.
  •  Changes in personal health or environment
    • When your body is healing a wound, its immune system kicks into action. If you develop a cold or start experiencing high levels of stress or hormone changes, it will affect your body’s ability to heal. Additionally, changing climates and altitudes can affect your body, including the skin around your piercing.
  • Piercing placement
    • Piercings that are perpendicular to the tissue that it is going through generally heal best. If your piercing was done at an incorrect angle, it increases your risk of complications. For this reason, be sure to find a reputable piercer who will pierce you correctly and who will also tell you if your anatomy is not suitable for a particular piercing.

A pustule can happen when dirt and debris get stuck beneath the skin. This causes a small, pimple-like blister next to the piercing site. You might be tempted to pop it, but it’s best to let it drain on its own; popping it could cause trauma to your healing piercing.

Keloids are highly misunderstood stable scars that are incorrectly listed as a common piercing bump. Although keloids can appear in piercings, they’re actually a genetic condition that cause large bumps in any injury. Keloids are also quite massive, rare, and only appear on fully healed wounds, so if you have only a small bump next to your healing piercing, it’s more than likely not a keloid. If the bump fluctuates in health or size, this is another sign you are not experiencing a keloid, but rather hypertrophic scarring (which is not permanent).

By itself, a bump on your piercing doesn’t mean your piercing is infected. True infections in body piercings occur infrequently. Many times, the piercing is just irritated and requires changes in jewelry or adjustments in care. If you’re unsure, visit your doctor. They will be able to tell you what is happening and the best treatment options.

How to prevent piercing bumps

After you’ve spent months healing your adorable new piercing, the last thing that you want is a massive, unsightly bump overshadowing your jewelry. Luckily, the vast majority of irritation bumps can be avoided with proper aftercare.

woman with nostril piercing

With proper jewelry, aftercare and time, there’s no reason you can’t have the nostril piercing you’ve always dreamed of.

Avoid piercing bumps with a few easy tips:

  1. Keep your piercing clean and free from infection using proper piercing aftercare products. You should clean it 2 – 3 times daily.
  2. Make sure that your jewelry is the right size. Jewelry that’s too small will press against the healing piercing, leading to embedding, rejection, and other complications that could cause bumps and scars. Jewelry that’s too large can snag on your hair and clothing, which could traumatize the piercing site.
  3. Choose jewelry made from materials that won’t irritate your skin. Implant-grade titanium is the most popular starter jewelry material because it’s cost-effective and hypoallergenic.
  4. Keep up with aftercare practices for the entire duration of healing. Before you stop aftercare practices, have a piercer make sure that your piercing is fully healed. Some piercing areas, like cartilage, will take some time to heal—it could take 6 months or even longer—and during that time, you will be susceptible to developing piercing bumps. 
  5. Never use products that aren’t safe for piercings on or near the piercing site. This includes shampoo, hairspray, and lotion. When you shower, try to keep suds away from the piercing, and fully rinse, clean, and dry the piercing once you’re done showering.

How to get rid of piercing bumps

Once you’ve gotten a piercing bump, it is possible to get rid of, but you must be prepared to dedicate some time, especially if you’ve developed a hypertrophic scar.

Make sure to continue cleaning the piercing with piercing aftercare saline solution 2 – 3 times a day.

If you’re experiencing hypertrophic scarring, the best thing you can do for your cartilage bump is to give it time. The scar will eventually go away on its own as long as you continue proper aftercare.

If you’ve developed bumps due to skin irritation, have your piercer switch out your jewelry to a hypoallergenic material, and make sure that you’re keeping harmful chemicals away from your piercing.

Piercing bumps can be an annoyance, but they won’t be permanent. If you want to get a piercing, but you’re afraid of developing the dreaded bump, your best chance against them is to practice proper aftercare throughout the entire healing process. If you’ve already developed a piercing bump, talk to your piercer about aftercare, and know that they will go away in time.

« Which Piercing Should I Get Next? The Best Piercings for Summer
Can I Travel with a New Piercing? A Guide to Getting Pierced Away from Home »