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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.

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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.

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.

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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: