Common Piercing Problems and What to Do About Them | Painful Pleasures Community

Common Piercing Problems and What to Do About Them

So many common piercing problems are just that - common and expected! Find out how to tackle the most common piercing problems in this blog.
by Danny Tress Last Updated: March 28, 2024

Let’s talk common piercing problems and what you can do about them. The good news is most of these problems are extremely common and nothing to worry about. This is especially true if you listen to a licensed, professional piercer. But you can also benefit from using any of the tips in this blog. So if you just got pierced and you’re already fretting about piercing problems or potential infection… take a deep breath. We’ve got you covered.

Piercing Aftercare Is a Must

Close up of piercing aftercare on belly button piercing

But first things first before we talk about anything else. Getting pierced by a licensed, professional piercer is essential. Everything from quality piercing needles to the angling of your piercing can affect how it heals up, so you’ll want someone with expertise and experience. For starters, you can search for piercers who are part of the APPA (association of professional piercers). Additionally, if you get pierced by a professional, they’ll tell you to follow an aftercare regimen… listen to them. Good piercing aftercare is a must if you want the smoothest piercing recovery possible. Following a healthy aftercare regimen and using quality piercing aftercare oftentimes prevents any problems from happening at all. So, for full details on how to care for a new piercing, check out our Piercing Aftercare Tips blog.

So, yeah:

  1. Get pierced by a professional.
  2. Employ healthy aftercare practices with quality piercing aftercare supplies.
  3. Now that that’s out of the way… let’s dive into common problems you might face with a new piercing and how to deal with them.

Piercing Bumps – What They Are and What to Do about Them

First of all… don’t sweat them. Piercing bumps are extremely common. In fact some clients get piercing bumps every time they get a new piercing. Basically, these pesky things crop up as part of your body’s immune system response. There are a few causes for them.

  1. Well, first of all… getting pierced. You’re displacing and stretching some of your skin and/or cartilage, which your body is going to interpret as a wound. Naturally, it’s going to have some kind of response.
  2. Chafing or snagging: when your new piercing rubs against your pillow, clothing, or anything else, it can become even more inflamed, leading to piercing bumps.
  3. Unfriendly metals: everyone’s skin is different, and some people don’t respond well to certain metals. If you regularly experience piercing bumps (and especially if you notice they don’t go away well beyond the recovery period), your skin might not agree with the jewelry you’re wearing. We always recommend using high-quality titanium body jewelry as a safe starting place. It’s a hypoallergenic metal that won’t inflame your freshly pierced skin. Check out our blog on the benefits of hypoallergenic titanium body jewelry.
  4.  Improper piercing procedures: if an inexperienced piercer uses the wrong angle when administering your piercing, it can aggravate the piercing site more. That means, you can expect piercing bumps.

So, what do you do about piercing bumps?

So, since one of the causes of piercing bumps is getting pierced in and of itself… the first thing you can do is breathe a sigh of relief when you see them. They’re totally normal. Addressing and getting rid of them has to do with the cause, but here are a few good preventative tips:

  1. Choose a professional piercer as we mentioned in the intro. An expert will properly angle your piercing and set you up for a healthy recovery.
  2. Follow a quality aftercare regimen recommended by a professional piercer. Most piercers will recommend you use a sterile saline wash on your new piercing. If you notice piercing bumps, you’ll want to avoid tea tree oil. This lubricant is highly concentrated and can be harsh on your new piercing, increasing inflammation. You’ll also want to avoid anything petroleum-based during your piercing recovery. Thick ointments can clog the piercing site, leading to excess moisture and bacteria, which can make piercing bumps even worse.
  3. Sleep with an airplane pillow if your piercing bumps are from an ear/cartilage piercing! The airplane pillow will prevent your piercing from snagging or chafing while you sleep.
  4. Avoid playing with your jewelry as much as possible while you’re recovering.

Bear in mind that you might still experience piercing bumps even if you follow all these pointers. However… they’re harmless and they will go away as long as you persist with healthy practices.

Piercing Bumps versus Keloids

Illustrated diagram showing the difference between keloids and piercing bumps

A lot of clients become immediately concerned when they spot a piercing bump. That’s because they often mistake the common piercing bump for a keloid. But more often than not… it’s just a piercing bump (or a few of them). Keloids are a result of scar tissue after trauma to the skin and they have several key characteristics that distinguish them from the common piercing bump.

  • Piercing bumps form around the piercing site while keloids can extend beyond it
  • Piercing bumps happen very shortly after getting pierced while keloids can appear upwards of 3 months after the piercing
  • Piercing bumps size may vary but they do not grow bigger over time whereas keloids can continue to grow over months/years
  • Piercing bumps are typically flesh-colored and do not change color over time while keloids tend to darken with age
  • Clear lymphatic fluid is common when you have piercing bumps (this is lymph, but keloids are dry)

Oh, and another thing: genetics can play a role in your tendency to develop keloids. They are rarely a result of a professionally done piercing, particularly if no one in your bloodline is prone to keloids.

Clear Fluid – What It Is and What to Do About It

Maybe you’ve noticed some clear, sticky fluid leaking from your most recent piercing. And maybe that raised some concerns. Spoiler alert: there’s no reason to be concerned about that stuff. We mentioned it in the last section about keloids versus piercing bumps and maybe you didn’t recognize the phrase “lymphatic fluid.” That’s exactly what the clear fluid is. It’s another typical immune system response that your body exhibits after a wound. So, if you’re secreting lymphatic fluid (or lymph for short), it’s a positive sign that your immune system is in tip-top shape. Consequently, contrary to popular belief, lymph is not an indication that you’re infected. Pus or discharge, which can be yellowish or brown and thick in consistency, is a totally different story. We’ll cover actual piercing concerns at the end of this blog.

But for now, just know that lymph is normal. As with piercing bumps, as long as you follow a quality aftercare regimen, the lymph leakage will eventually subside.

Piercing Crusties – Why It Happens and What to Do About It

Eventually, the lymph around your new piercing is going to dry into “crusties.” It’s a result of seepage accumulation. If you stick to your aftercare regimen and keep cleaning the piercing site at least once a day (or however often your piercer suggests), the crusties will eventually go away.

When Piercings Go Awry – Knowing When to Seek Help

Close-up of infected belly button piercing

Sometimes, despite our best efforts, piercings can hit a bump in the road… and not the normal kind of bump. It’s essential to know when to seek professional assistance, either from your piercer or even a dermatologist. Here are red flags that aren’t common, expected, or normal:

  • Your piercing site is hot or warm to the touch
  • You experience excessive pain
  • Common ailments aren’t subsiding after the expected recovery time or are getting worse (rapid accumulation of ‘crusties,’ piercing bumps extending beyond the piercing site)
  • Redness or excessive swelling
  • Excessive drying or flaking skin

All of these ailments can be signs of potential infection. Another problem that can happen is “embedding.” This is when excessive swelling causes your jewelry to get embedded in your piercing. Skin can even start to grow over the body jewelry, making it difficult to remove.

However, bear in mind that while words like “infection” and “embedding” get thrown around a lot, they’re not as common as you might think. As long as you know the warning signs, you can often nip problems in the bud before they kick off into something worse.

The Bottom Line

Piercing bumps, crusties, and clear fluid? They’re all normal and expected. Just keep up your best aftercare practices and pay close attention to your professional piercer. Remember, your piercings are a reflection of your unique style and personality, so treat them with care and attention. Now go out there and get pierced (safely)!

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