An irritation bump on a piercing is not necessarily a reason to remove the jewelry. Irritation bumps, also called keloid scars, are common and can often be treated at home without removing the piercing. However, in some cases, removing the jewelry is the best option to allow the piercing to heal. The key factors are identifying the cause of irritation, practicing proper aftercare, and determining if the bump persists despite attempts to treat it.
What is an Irritation Bump?
An irritation bump is inflammation that develops around the site of a piercing as a result of trauma or irritation. It may look like a small, red or white bump, or a raised area of scar tissue.
Irritation bumps have several other names, including:
- Hypertrophic scar
- Piercing pimple
- Collagen bump
- Keloid scar
While unsightly, irritation bumps are generally not a major cause for concern. They are simply the body’s response to irritation and are rarely indicative of infection. With proper aftercare, most irritation bumps resolve on their own. However, in some cases they may persist and warrant jewelry removal.
Causes of Irritation Bumps
Irritation bumps have several potential causes, most related to some source of trauma, irritation, or improper healing:
- Poor piercing placement or technique – Piercings done incorrectly through cartilage or at an incorrect angle are prone to developing bumps.
- Friction and pressure – Tight clothing, helmets, masks, or anything putting pressure on the piercing site can cause bumps.
- Harsh cleaning or over-cleaning – Overly vigorous cleaning or harsh cleaning products disrupt healing.
- Allergic reaction – Nickel or other metals can cause allergic responses in some.
- Early jewelry change – Changing jewelry too soon doesn’t allow the fistula to properly heal.
- Injury or trauma – Bumping or snagging a piercing can damage the healing fistula.
- Unsuitable jewelry – Poor quality jewelry that is too heavy or tight in the piercing.
- Infections – Bacterial, viral, or fungal infections can prompt a bump to form.
Identifying and addressing the cause of irritation is key to resolving a bump. This may require switching jewelry type or size, allowing more healing time between jewelry changes, avoiding trauma, or using antibacterial/antifungal treatments.
Signs It’s Time to Remove the Jewelry
In most cases, an irritation bump does not automatically mean you need to remove the piercing. However, if any of the following apply, it may be time to let the piercing close:
- The bump persists for several months despite treatment attempts
- The bump is growing larger or appears infected
- You experience bleeding, oozing, foul odor, fever or other signs of infection
- The bump is excessively painful with no relief
- You have a history of keloid scarring
- The piercing was done incorrectly through cartilage
- You have a nickel allergy and even hypoallergenic jewelry causes a reaction
Consult your piercer or doctor if you are unsure about removing a problematic piercing. Leaving in infected or rejecting piercings can lead to permanent scarring.
Treating & Healing Irritation Bumps at Home
If the piercing is new, recently irritated, or you want to try avoiding removal, there are several at-home treatment options to reduce bumps:
- Use a warm compress – A warm, wet compress helps increase blood flow and promote healing.
- Do sea salt soaks – Dissolve sea salt in warm water and apply to the piercing to draw out fluid and irritation.
- Try a chamomile compress – Chamomile is soothing and anti-inflammatory.
- Take an anti-inflammatory – Ibuprofen or acetaminophen reduces swelling.
- Apply diluted tea tree oil – Tea tree oil is antimicrobial and healing.
- Let it breathe – Expose piercings to air regularly to prevent moisture buildup.
- Avoid touching or moving jewelry – Moving or twisting jewelry slows healing.
- Practice good hygiene – Keep hair, clothing, and hands away from the piercing.
Along with at-home remedies, be sure to keep up with your regular piercing aftercare routine of cleansing and using antimicrobial ointments until the bump resolves fully.
Healing After Jewelry Removal
If you do opt to remove pierced jewelry to allow healing, continue caring for the open wound until it closes. Steps include:
- Wash hands before touching the area
- Clean twice daily with saline or antibacterial soap and water
- Rinse away crusty drainage but don’t pick scabs
- Apply antibiotic ointment to protect from infection
- Cover with a bandage if needed for comfort and protection
- Avoid re-piercing until the area is fully healed, usually several weeks to months
The piercing may seep fluid for the first few days after jewelry removal. As it heals, you’ll notice decreased tenderness, redness, and discharge. Signs of complications include increased pain, swelling, redness, fever, or foul-smelling drainage. See a doctor if infection occurs.
Can I Get it Re-Pierced?
Once an irritation bump piercing has fully healed after jewelry removal, you may consider re-piercing if desired. However, the area stands a higher chance of developing another bump, especially if the original cause was improper placement.
Discuss risks and placement with an experienced piercer. Allow at least 2-4 months for the perturbed area to stabilize before attempting to re-pierce. Proper aftercare will be especially crucial the second time around to prevent recurrence. An alternative is getting the area pierced in a slightly different location.
Preventing Bumps with Proper Piercing Aftercare
While irritation bumps are common, you can minimize risks by starting with a reputable piercer and following proper aftercare:
- Have piercings done by an experienced professional with a hollow piercing needle, not a piercing gun.
- Ensure jewelry is high-quality implant grade metal.
- Avoid touching the new piercing and only turn jewelry during cleaning.
- Clean diligently 2-3 times daily but avoid over-cleaning.
- Rinse away crusties but don’t pick at scabs.
- Avoid submerging in baths, pools, etc until healed.
- Watch for signs of infection and seek medical care if concerned.
- Have jewelry downsized by your piercer as soon as initial swelling resolves.
- Avoid changing jewelry too soon – wait the recommended 4-12 weeks depending on location.
With attentive aftercare and avoidance of irritation and trauma, you can minimize the risks of developing unsightly and uncomfortable piercing bumps. Be patient, as some bumps simply need time to resolve, even with proper care. But if a bump persists or appears infected, don’t hesitate to consult your piercer or doctor.
Irritation bumps are common piercing complications, but aren’t necessarily cause for alarm or jewelry removal. Identify the cause of irritation and practice dutiful aftercare to allow many bumps to resolve on their own. However, if the bump persists despite treatment, appears infected, or causes significant pain, removing the jewelry may be warranted to allow the area to heal fully. With some patience and attentive care, most irritation bump piercings can recover well without the need for removal. Discuss options with your piercer if you are unsure how to best handle a stubborn bump.