by Elayne Angel
I have been piercing for four years and came across something today I was wondering if you could help me with. A girl came into the shop with her medusa pierced (about 2 months old), after having it previously pierced before, complaining that her old piercing site, a little bit higher than the current piercing, would swell up with fluid (I assume to be lymph?) and drain a significant amount when she put pressure on it.
She also added her nipples were repierced about 2 years ago, and occasionally her old piercing sites would do the same thing.
I’ve never encountered this before. She wanted to only use natural products so I suggested sea salt soaks and hot compresses. Is this good advice? Are there any other natural alternatives you would suggest? Any input would be awesome 🙂
Thank you so very much,
It seems to me that you’re offering sound advice. Unfortunately, there’s no guarantee that it will be effective. Still, I would suggest that your client use warm saline soaks and/or compresses at least twice daily to promote drainage. There are some other natural remedies discussed below that may be worth trying as well.
I’ve seen this same issue with the navel, nipple, ear, and other locations on the body when repiercing is done adjacent to an abandoned hole. It seems that the closer a new channel is to the old one, the greater the risk of this complication. It can also happen when there is a “correction” in which the entry or exit of an established piercing is moved to a new position. Fortunately, closed piercings that are reopened in their original locations do not seem to suffer from this setback.
The problem is apt to occur when the initial channel remains either partially or completely intact. I believe it is possible for a similar complication to take place when a sealed, old piercing is near a fresh one; however, drainage will not happen spontaneously when no opening is present.
The discharge in this situation is usually the same clear or straw-colored fluid that comes from healing piercings. Though it is partially lymph, it also contains dead cells and interstitial fluid, which is the liquid from between cells. What piercers call “crusties” is technically termed serious exudate.
Sometimes the old channel secretes pus due to inflammation or actual infection.
Sadly, the old hole may secrete off and on and remain troubled as long as jewelry is worn in the new piercing. The good news, if it can be considered such, is that these areas usually become inactive and stop secreting if the new piercing is also abandoned. There is a chance the piercing could settle and be successful, but this can certainly be frustrating and will require extra patience and care.
One thing you can do in these cases it to alert clients about this potential drawback as part of informed consent prior to piercing. Explain that sometimes an old channel will become inflamed or develop an infection after a new piercing is made right next to it. Due to continuous secretion or irritation at the site of the previous hole, sometimes jewelry cannot be worn comfortably and safely in the area. Then, if this complication does arise, the client will not be caught unaware.
There is an interesting natural remedy used by nursing women with inflamed breasts and nipples: the topical application of cabbage leaves. These leaves are known to help reduce inflammation and have a drying effect. I have had several clients—including a male—who used the following method for some severely inflamed nipple piercings. I’ve seen it diminish (and in some cases, eliminate) the problem, and it may work for this piercee, and on other irritated piercings.
In a medical research study on women with engorged breasts comparing gel packs to cabbage leaves, the latter performed better (i). In another analysis, the leaves were also preferred to hot and cold packs. (ii)
These are the instructions given to nursing women with inflamed breasts and nipples:
Red cabbage could be used, but green is less likely to stain. Use up to four times in a 24-hour period.
- Remove and discard the outer leaves.
- Separate individual leaves from a head of cabbage and rinse in cold water to be sure that they are clean and free from dirt, pesticides, and residue.
- Pat the leaves dry with paper towels and place in the refrigerator.
- Before applying, tap the leaves with a wooden spoon or crush with a rolling pin to soften them.
- Cover your breasts with the cabbage leaves and recline, or women can wear a bra to keep the leaves in place.
- Keep the cabbage leaves on for about 20 minutes.
- Remove the leaves and rinse off any liquid from them that has seeped onto your skin.
Below is information on some natural options excerpted from the chapter on “Alternative Aftercare” in my book, The Piercing Bible:
Herbal remedies: Herbs have been used in medicine for thousands of years. There is a large body of well-tested and proven herbal wisdom. When used properly, certain herbs can be beneficial to healing. Herbs can be applied on healing [or troubled] piercings in several ways: you can soak your piercing with an infusion (a tea that is steeped longer than usual) or topically apply diluted essential oils (concentrated liquid compounds from plants). An infusion of herbs can be used on a compress, or as a soaking liquid instead of a saline solution, or in addition to it.
- Lavender, chamomile, and comfrey are good herbs for healing piercings. Select one at a time unless you are a skilled herbalist or receive advice from one.
- Add one to two teaspoons of dried herbs per cup of boiling water to make an infusion. Let it steep for at least ten minutes before you strain it. Some herbalists recommend infusing for hours. Keep the mixture covered in the refrigerator for two to three days. Heat the tea (a microwave is fine), and use it on your piercing as described with salt soaks. Unlike saline, there is no potentially harmful residue that must be rinsed away, so you can soak with herbs after your shower.
- Tea tree and lavender in essential oilii form are popular for topical use on healing piercings. Essential oils are much too harsh for full-strength application on piercings; they must be diluted first. Since they come in varying concentrations, ask for guidance from a knowledgeable supplier before putting this type of product on a piercing. Tea tree oil is also sometimes used for trouble- shooting problem piercings.
By being aware that repiercing next to an old, open channel could result in a rather trying complication, you can educate your clients about the potential risk. And having additional remedies in your troubleshooting toolkit will allow you to offer more alternatives when clients do experience healing issues.
(i) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28941842 – Application of cabbage leaves compared to gel packs for mothers with breast engorgement: Randomised controlled trial.
(ii) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2763679/ – A Comparison of Cabbage Leaves vs. Hot and Cold Compresses in the Treatment of Breast Engorgement/span>
(iii) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1360273/ – Melaleuca alternifolia (Tea Tree) Oil: a Review of Antimicrobial and Other Medicinal Properties/span>
(iv) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4880962/ – Wound healing potential of lavender oil by acceleration of granulation and wound contraction through induction of TGF-β in a rat model/span>