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Rejection & Migration


Rejection happens when the body sees the piercing as a threat and slowly tries to push it out, healing the skin behind it until the object is completely pushed out of the skin. Red, warm or sore skin can be symptoms of this.


Migration occurs when a piercing is rejected by the body. It can happen even when the piercing was done properly, and once it starts, it can’t really be stopped. The piercing moves closer to the surface of the skin, creating a hole big enough for it to fall out of. It leaves scar tissue and a hole.

Surface piercings – ones with less skin to keep the piercing in place – are most likely to migrate, especially eyebrow, nipple and navel piercings.

If this happens, it’s best to get the piercer to take it out and let the healing carry on before it causes more scarring. A second try can be made with a thicker piercing, a different material or place (one with more skin to hold the piercing in).

Sometimes a piercing only migrates a few millimetres then stops. Migration can take years before it’s noticed.

Scarring and holes

Healed skin rarely matches the skin around it, so piercings taken out after months or years leave a scar. Often these are hard to see but can be more obvious in darker skin. Some say scarring is less if Tea Tree oil, extra virgin olive oil or sea salt solution (from chemists) is regularly applied. You can also get some steroid gels from your GP.

Holes may close if you take the jewellery out, but with cock piercings holes often never heal over.

Risk of HIV and hepatitis during piercing

Reputable, registered piercers follow hygiene guidelines that prevent the spread of viruses carried in blood like HIV and hepatitis B and C. But there’s a real risk of infection if the piercing is not done by a registered piercer and/or they don’t follow hygiene precautions, such as using sterilised equipment and wearing latex gloves.

Last review: 19/09/2018
Next review: 19/09/2021