You’ve received the new piercing that you’ve been wanting for a while, and it looks great! But, you’re starting to notice that the jewelry isn’t in quite the same place as it used to be. What’s going on?
Body jewelry has a tendency to move within your body. This is no accident; your body is purposefully trying to remove the foreign object in order to protect you. Although it’s done with good intentions, it’s difficult when you and your body are fighting each other for your piercing.
Here’s everything that you need to know about piercing migration and rejection.
Migration vs. Rejection
You’ve probably heard these terms before, but like much of the diction surrounding the piercing world, you might not have received a full explanation of what these mean.
Shortly, rejection is when your body pushes out your jewelry because it sees it as a foreign substance that shouldn’t be there. Migration is the process of rejection. As your body rejects the jewelry, the jewelry will move from its original piercing location. Unfortunately, once this process begins, there’s nothing you can do about it except wait for the migration and rejection scars to heal.
All about rejection
Think about when you get a splinter that you can’t remove. Your body does this amazing trick where it pushes the splinter out on its own, and eventually you’ll be able to easily pull it out so that the skin can heal.
This is the same process your body goes through with your body jewelry.
Your body is designed to survive when it’s attacked. Whether you’re fighting off a cold or dealing with allergies, your system knows when there’s something that shouldn’t be there and goes about removing any foreign objects ASAP, including your body jewelry.
When you get a piercing, you’re going against what your body was designed to do. It’s going to fight to heal the skin back to its original form and remove anything that shouldn’t be there. This is why jewelry rejection can be a big issue in body piercings.
There are always red flags before rejection, and that includes when your body rejects your jewelry.
Signs of rejection
Typically, your jewelry will be rejected during healing. Once your piercing has fully healed, the body usually feels as though its job has been done, and it will no longer fight against the piercing. However, rejection can occur in piercings that are decades old. In fact, in some piercings, like the eyebrow piercing, rejection is an almost guaranteed inevitability.
When you start seeing these signs, it’s time to take out your jewelry or talk to your piercer:
- The skin around the piercing appears red and flaky.
- Your piercing holes are growing.
- Your jewelry is no longer in the same position.
- You see decreased space between entrance and exit holes.
- The jewelry hangs differently than before, or it starts to sag.
How to avoid rejection
Rejection occurs for a number of reasons. Your body might not like the material of the jewelry. The jewelry might be too heavy, which will pull at the piercing and encourage migration. Your piercing might not have been pierced deeply enough. Sometimes, rejections can be avoided, and other times, it’s iminent. Here are some ways to set your piercing up for success:
Carefully choose your initial jewelry. Your first jewelry should be big enough to accommodate swelling and light enough that it doesn’t tug at your piercing. Don’t choose jewelry that dangles or otherwise pulls at the piercing. In many piercings, it’s a good idea to stay away from hoops until the piercing has fully healed. This is especially important for piercings in more fleshy areas and flat surface piercings, since they are more susceptible to migration and rejection. Curved barbells, cartilage studs, non-dangle belly rings, and simple straight barbells are fantastic options for starter body jewelry.
Opt for precious metals. 14k or 18k gold or platinum are great choices for your initial jewelry. Cheaper metals contain alloys that your body might mistake as something that needs to be removed. Precious metals are less likely to be rejected (although, it’s still possible).
Here are some examples of good starter jewelry options:
Pick an experienced piercer. Often, rejection occurs because the piercing wasn’t pierced deeply enough. This comes down to the expertise of the piercer. Make sure that you do your research and choose a piercer that has years of experience or is associated with a quality studio so that you can get your piercing right.
Keep an eye on your piercing for the entire life of your piercing. Rejection and migration can happen in old piercings. It can be triggered by a body change like weight gain or pregnancy or if your jewelry is pulled and the skin around the piercing becomes damaged. Watch for signs of rejection well beyond when your piercing has healed.
What to do when your jewelry starts migrating
Unfortunately, when rejection begins, it’s almost impossible to stop it.
You’ll want to take out the current jewelry, since there’s a reason why your body won’t accept it. If you leave the jewelry in, your body will fully reject it, leaving substantial scars.
Once you’ve removed your jewelry, talk to your piercer. They might fit you with a lighter, smaller piece of jewelry that your body is more likely to accept. Depending on how far your jewelry has migrated, the piercer might recommend that you let your body heal and to come back in about a year to try the piercing again.
Which piercings are likely to be rejected?
Piercings in fleshier areas and flat surface piercings experience rejection and migration the most. It’s possible for rejection to occur in piercings like cartilage piercings, but it’s not as common. Here are piercing types that commonly see rejection:
- Eyebrow piercings
- Belly button piercings
- Nape piercings
- Dermal piercings
- Cheek piercings (or any other flat surface piercing)
Can I re-pierce my piercing once it’s been rejected?
The short answer is yes.
The longer answer? You’ll need to wait. Once a piercing has been rejected, there will most likely be some scarring. The level of this scarring depends on how long you waited before removing the jewelry.
You want to wait until the skin has fully healed. Consult your piercer, and they will let you know when you’re ready to try again. If you have excessive scar tissue because of the migration, then you might not be able to get pierced in the same location.
Jewelry rejection sucks, but it’s not the end of the world. Keep an eye on your jewelry in piercings new and old, and the jewelry rejection shouldn’t be more than a minor inconvenience.