22 Aug 2012

Below is my correspondence with a young woman who is having trouble healing her nipple piercings. They've been taking an extended period of time to heal, and get bumps (possibly localized piercing pimples) periodically:

Nipple Piercing with Gemstone BarbellI've had my nipple piercings for over a year now, and they're still healing, which is fine with me, however they keep forming bumps. The bumps will appear for awhile, go away, and then come back; it's been doing this for about 3-4 months now (and gets worse when i'm menstruating). I also believe that they may have migrated from the original position they were pierced in. I've considered retiring them for the past two months, but I'm just not sure if they're being fussy or if I should actually retire them. Any help you could give would be amazing!

I have read through the troubleshooting part of the Piercing Bible again to see what I could do to help these bumps; i've been very consistent with warm saline soaks, i've been massaging emu oil onto the area at least once a day, i've tried chamomile teabag compresses, one piercer suggested I try neem oil (which worked for a bit, but stopped helping after awhile), and I very briefly applied peroxide to the bumps (less than a week) to see if that would help them disappear. They do seem to get smaller and go away, every now and then, but they keep coming back.

My reply:

Well, the good news is that there appears to be a goodly amount of tissue between entrance and exit holes, as well as between the jewelry and the end of your nipple. That means you have every reason to keep trying to heal them.

The cyclic nature of the problem strongly suggests that it relates to the natural cycle of your body (hormonal activity) rather than something that is intrinsically wrong with the piercing. Mine did the same thing and they eventually settled down.

I'll brainstorm on some possibilities to consider:Nipple Piercing with Gemstone Barbell

Have you tried massaging the bumps (and the area where they appear) throughout the month, whether you are having problems or not? That isn't just like massaging the emu oil on but actually massaging the tissue as to break up a pocket under the skin…?

Do you do any regular care throughout the month? Have you tried more or less ignoring them when you aren't having the bumps? 

Have you tried titanium bars in place of steel?

Ever tried this:
    • Apply topical over-the-counter antibiotic cream or gel (not ointment) according to package instructions. While this type of product is not suggested for routine aftercare, this is the time to put it to use. The topical antibiotic products usually contain bacitracin, neomycin, or polymyxin B, alone or in combination, to fight different types of microorganisms. Combinations of the three ingredients work against a broader spectrum of bacteria, but allergic reactions to neomycin are common.8 Stop using the antibiotic if you notice redness, itching, or skin erup- tions surrounding the area, and consult your physician.

Keep me posted!

She wrote back:

That's fantastic, thank you!

I've been massaging the the area for about two weeks now with emu oil, and this does seem to help, but not very much.

I've been doing the saline soaks for the past year on my piercings because they're still healing, do you think there's another approach i should take, though?

I haven't tried titanium bars, what advantages could they provide?

No, I've been wary to try any antibiotic creams or gels, but if you think that could help me, I'd be happy to try whichever product you think would work best.

Thanks again for all your help!

My response:

In all honesty, it is hard to say what might help. It is part of the wonder (and frustration) of the unique human body. And part of what has kept my job so compelling and fascinating to me for so long. Bodies REALLY are unique!

Don't try everything at once, or you won't know what exactly is working for you, which could turn out to be relevant for future reference.

You can try suspending
saline soaks and see what happens. You can always start them up again whenever you like.

Have you ever tried adding comfrey or lavender essential oil to the water? (See page 197 of The Piercing Bible.)

Even with high quality jewelry, I've occasionally seen people heal better with one metal or the other. They're both inert, but on highly sensitive individuals, it could potentially make a difference. And it is a pretty easy option to try.

Or, if you want to try something like neosporin or polysporin, (assuming you have no past history of sensitivity), I'd suggest you try which ever you can find in a gel or cream  (rather than ointment) that does not contain petroleum product ingredients.

Please keep me posted on what you're trying and how it is working out.


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