WARNING: Images below may be considered graphic and violent.
Piercing rejection and migration is no joke. The likelihood of either of these occurring to cartilage piercings and earlobe piercings is quite low. However, surface piercings can easily come up against either one. And you don’t always have a say in it. I had the opportunity to speak with Danii Forrest, a young woman with a passion for body piercings despite dealing with several rejections and migrations happening to her own collection of piercings. Additionally, I chatted with Faith Niz and Shana Riley, both of whom are fabulous professional piercers who never seem to mind when I randomly interrogate them with piercing-themed questions.
What does it mean when a piercing rejects?
If you have a piercing and you suspect it rejecting, it means that your body has detected a foreign object under the skin and wants it out as soon as possible. There are different levels of rejection. But if you suspect that your piercing is rejecting, you should definitely take it out as soon as possible. Because it can easily get worse.
Which piercings are most likely to be rejected?
While there are always exceptions, surface piercings can commonly be rejected. Examples of surface piercings would be:
❇ Nape piercings
❇ Neck piercings (also known as Madison piercings)
❇ Navel piercings
…or any other surface piercing you can think of.
Faith agreed that navel piercings are oftentimes a pretty big contender when it comes to rejected piercings. “If navel piercings are performed too shallow—meaning that not enough skin was pierced—or the angle of the piercing is off, it can contribute to major migration or, most of the time, rejection.”
“I’ve seen eyebrow piercings do the same thing,” she continued. “Surface piercings are very common with rejecting and migrating. Most of the time, the piercer isn’t trained in performing surface piercings. So they either pierce way too deep or not deep enough, allowing the jewelry to be swallowed or pushed out completely. Training is a huge part of the issue. If they are not trained, they won’t be able to perform piercings properly.”
But even if you don’t have any surface piercings, other locations are not exactly immune. If you aren’t careful with your new piercings, regardless of their location, they could easily get messed up. “Cartilage piercings can reject and migrate as well,” Faith explained further. “But that’s most common for people who sleep on their piercings or are touching them and playing with them. That adds bacteria and irritates the tissue while it’s trying to heal! Sleeping is the #1 cause of migration. The pressure causes the jewelry to move.”
How can I tell if my piercing is being rejected?
“Signs of rejection are inflammation and pus (not clear fluid, but a thick yellow to green color),” warned Danii. “It can be hot to the touch and incredibly sensitive or painful, or even feel like there’s a lot of pressure in or around the piercing. Basically, it just sounds like an infection. I’ve had a few rejections, one being clavicle piercings that I just adored. It sucked something fierce when I finally gave up and let them heal. But even the scars they left are pretty cool, in my opinion.”
“Other signs of migration and rejection are dry flaking skin and redness in the area with white skin where the piercing is pushing against the skin,” Shana illustrated. “It mostly depends on the area you’re getting pierced. There are a lot of areas that are prone to migration and rejection. Skin that is tough or stretches and moves a lot is more prone to piercing and rejection. Other areas like navel and nipple often migrate a little during healing, but don’t often reject.”
If you’re concerned that your piercing may reject (but does not show any visible signs of rejection yet), follow regular aftercare instructions for your piercing. Be sure to keep your piercing as healthy as possible as it begins to heal. If you begin seeing signs of rejection, go see your piercer as soon as possible. If your situation worsens, go see your doctor to avoid infection and potential scarring. Because we can’t all be as lucky as Danii… If your piercing rejection leaves a noticeable scar, there’s a chance it might not look as badass as you’d think.
What’s piercing migration?
“Migration typically happens to surface piercings,” explained Danii. “Your body just naturally pushes the heavy jewelry out over time.” Just like how piercing rejection means that your body is pushing out your piercing, piercing migration is when your body pushes away your piercing.
You can tell if a piercing is migrating if either of the holes of the piercing shift or move. You may also begin to see more of the jewelry than you originally did when you were pierced, as your body begins to push the jewelry up and out. There could be less skin holding the piercing under the skin. This may be a slight shift or an obvious shift. I say “may” and “could” because migration is different on everyone. It might happen quickly or over a great length of time. It could be painfully obvious or dreadfully insidious. Regardless, it’s important to catch it before you’re left with unsightly scarring.
You might not notice it at first, but if you do suspect your piercing is migrating, you should immediately go to your piercer and have them take a look at your piercing for themselves. They are trained professionals and should have an answer for you once they take a gander at the piercing location.
I have a metal allergy. Does that increase my chances of piercing rejection?
“Genetic makeup or metal allergies absolutely have an effect [on whether you’ll deal with piercing rejection],” stated Danii. “Not to say that you’ll never have a successful piercing if you do have a metal allergy, it just means you need to consult with your piercer first and let them know so that proper jewelry can be used. Most places have titanium pieces they can use, which are less likely to reject.”
“If you have a history of rejection, consider that first,” she added, speaking from personal experience. “Chances are it could happen again. It’s possible you’ll waste your money. Also, rejections or infections can have nasty consequences and scars. But also, do you personally think it’s worth the risk? If it’s something you really want, just do it! But remember to follow what your piercer has to say about taking care of your piercing.”
Can I do anything to prevent it?
Not really. Piercing rejection and migration is pretty much up to chance. If your biology is one that rejects foreign objects readily, like Danii’s, you may be more prone to rejection and migration. But even if you have excellent genetics and all your past piercings have healed perfectly, there’s still a chance it could happen. If you have a new piercing that you’re worried about, your best bet is to avoid touching it, playing with it, and sleeping on it. And when it heals up, be sure to celebrate with cute new jewelry!
“If [the piercing] happens to reject after all that, it was through no fault of your own,” Danii concluded. “Piercing is an art, and what better way to express yourself than through art that you can keep with you.”
Featured image by Riley Silva