Piercing scars suck. There’s no other way to say it. When you’ve gone through the work to get and heal an awesome new piercing, a scar is the last thing that you want.
Scars can form for a number of reasons, but even if you do everything right, they can still appear. Our bodies are pretty amazing at healing themselves, but sometimes they get a little overexcited, leaving you with a permanent parting gift. Thanks, but no thanks.
The good news is that, in the vast majority of piercing scar cases, the scars and bumps will eventually fade on their own, and in some time, you’ll barely be able to notice them at all. However, we understand that it’s hard to be patient.
The two main types of scarring that you’ll see with piercings are hypertrophic scarring and atrophic scarring. (You often see keloid scars talked about in the piercing world, but these are a more serious, rarer hereditary condition. Likely, if you suspect that you’ve developed a keloid, it’s actually hypertrophic scarring, which is much simpler to treat.) Here are some ways to treat both conditions.
How to minimize hypertrophic scars
Hypertrophic scarring is a raised scar that occurs when your body produces too much collagen during healing. It can be characterized by the following:
- The scar is raised, usually less than 4mm.
- It is slightly hard to the touch.
- A new hypertrophic scar will be red. As it ages, it should lighten.
Use scar ointments and treatments
If you have hypertrophic scarring, silicone gel and other scar treatments can be used in order to reduce its appearance. For an all-natural option, you can also use tea tree oil.
Talk to your piercer about which products will be safe to use on your piercing. You should also have them make sure that your piercing is fully healed before taking this option; these creams contain chemicals that could irritate a healing piercing and make things worse.
You also want to make sure that your bump is, in fact, a hypertrophic scar. Bumps can form around your piercing for a number of reasons, including bacterial infection, and scar creams won’t have an effect.
Gently put pressure on the scar to break down collagen
Hypertrophic scarring occurs when too much collagen is produced. Gently putting pressure on the scar helps to break down the collagen so that the scar won’t appear raised. The scar will still be red, but it will lighten over time, so eventually, it should only appear as a small, light dot or line.
Some piercers will recommend discs that you can wear with your jewelry that will put pressure on the hypertrophic scar throughout the day. Others might have their own methods with this process.
Talk to your piercer before messing with the hypertrophic scar. If your piercing hasn’t fully healed, you could risk causing damage.
Give it time
The best thing that you can do for your hypertrophic scar is give it time. Ointments and pressure can help the scar healing process, but it’s important to keep in mind that scars take at least 12 months to heal. Until then, it will appear red, and you will be able to see it. Patience is your friend here.
Most likely, after some time, your scar will become barely noticeable. As long as you chose a good piercer and scarring wasn’t caused by any massive traumatic event—like having your jewelry ripped out—chances are that you won’t even be able to notice it in a few years.
Seek medical assistance
If you’ve given your scar plenty of time to heal, used all of your at-home treatment options, and talked to your piercer about potential options, and your hypertrophic scar is still there, you might need to seek medical assistance.
Depending on the scar, your doctor might have a few treatments available to you. Minor surgery may be required to remove the scar (although this risks further scarring). You can also opt for laser treatment options. They might prescribe you with a stronger scar ointment than over-the-counter varieties. Medical treatment will depend upon you and your body, and your doctor will be able to recommend the best option for you.
How to minimize atrophic scars
Atrophic scarring occurs when something interrupts the healing process, and tissue beneath the skin is unable to be produced, resulting in a small pockmark. Atrophic scarring commonly occurs after chicken pox or as a result of cystic acne. In piercings, atrophic scarring usually occurs if the piercing was rejected or migrated, if the piercing saw a traumatic event during healing, or if you chose to take the jewelry out before the piercing fully healed. It can be characterized by the following:
- A small divot appears next to the piercing or in an area where an old piercing was.
- Since the scarring is caused by issues beneath the skin, you usually won’t see discoloration
Atrophic scarring will require professional treatment in order to fully heal. This is because the issue is caused beneath the skin, so it’s more difficult to address on your own. Here are some procedures your dermatologist might recommend.
In this treatment option, fillers will be used to fill up the space that causes the pockmarks. Your dermatologist will use a syringe to carefully fill the atrophic scar for almost immediate results. Fillers are a great option for atrophic scarring as a result of a piercing because the scar is usually quite small. However, the results might not be permanent, and you can expect to pay anywhere from a few hundred dollars to a couple thousand per treatment, so it might not be a viable long term option.
Chemical peels remove damaged skin layers, greatly reducing the appearance of atrophic scars. Chemical peels can take a long time to heal, and their results can take weeks to see, so be prepared for a long healing path if you choose this option. This is a better option for those who have more extensive atrophic scarring.
Skin needling or laser treatments
Both of these options work by poking small holes in the skin to encourage new collagen formation. These work with your body’s natural healing methods to try and organically stimulate tissue growth to heal the scars. Typically, you’ll need around 3 sessions, and it can be painful, but if successful, this could be the best and most permanent option.
Treatment for atrophic scarring will depend upon the type of atrophic scarring you have, so talk to your dermatologist to determine the best treatment.
Scars suck, but luckily, they don’t have to be an eyesore. If you start to see a scar form, don’t panic. Wait until you’re fully done healing, talk to your piercer, and know that the best thing that you can do is give it time.