Piercing Rejection: What It Is and How To Treat It

Just like Cardi B's experience, it happens more often than you'd think.

Cardi B is pretty much an open book on social media, sharing everything from her plastic surgery to her experience with vagina bleaching. The rapper also revealed that one of her chest piercings was being rejected by her body.

In the graphic video posted on her Instagram stories, Cardi B touched the piercing and showed how it was pushing out of her body. This piece of chest jewelry looked like it was hanging off her skin, with just part of it still attached to her chest. "This is how my piercing has been for the past four days, ugh, ow," Cardi B said in the video.

In another video, posted to her Instagram stories and shared on Twitter, the affected piercing is hidden by a chunky necklace.

What Is Piercing Rejection, Exactly?

What happened to Cardi B's chest piercing is medically known as 'piercing rejection,' and it's more common than you probably think.

"Any time a foreign body, such as a piercing, is introduced into the skin, there will be inflammation," dermatologist Angelo Landriscina, MD, told Health. "In the case of piercing rejection, that inflammation actually starts to move the piercing toward the skin surface and can even cause it to perforate out of the skin." In general, this happens if the body sees the piercing as a foreign object and therefore must "reject" it.

Dr. Landriscina said piercing rejection isn't well studied, but certain types of piercings seem to be rejected more, such as surface piercings. This type of piercing will have a separate entry and exit point in the surface layer (epidermis) of the skin, like an eyebrow piercing. It may also have a base or "anchor" that sits below the skin surface.

Cardi B's three chest piercings appear to be surface anchors, also known as dermal piercings. The top piercing looks like the head of a screw, while the middle piercing is a dollar sign and the bottom piercing is a sun. The screw is the one being rejected—and it's also her oldest piercing. The other two piercings were added later and Cardi B shared the experience on Instagram.

Piercing Rejection Symptoms

Dr. Landriscina's advice for anyone experiencing a piercing rejection is to check with a healthcare provider to confirm that this is actually what's happening. You may also start to see the piercing migrate toward or above the skin surface, as Cardi noted. If an infection has occurred, you'll have symptoms such as "local swelling, redness, warmth, and excessive discharge," Dr. Landriscina explained.

How To Treat Piercing Rejection

"If one of my patients was having a piercing rejected, I'd tell them to remove the piercing as soon as possible rather than letting it fall out on its own," Dr. Landriscina said. "Allowing the inflammation around the piercing to carry on can result in unsightly scarring."

Once a rejected piercing is completely out of the skin, Dr. Landriscina advised keeping the area clean by washing it with regular soap and water once per day. "Moisture is very important for helping the skin heal efficiently, so applying a thick ointment like petroleum jelly will be helpful," Dr. Landriscina added. "And covering the area with a plain bandage until the holes close is a good idea."

Because there doesn't seem to be any evidence showing that piercing rejection recurs in people who have had it once before, "they can try again after the first piercing heals," added Dr. Landriscina.

How To Prevent Piercing Rejection

It's not always obvious why a piercing is rejected, but these tips may help prevent it:

  • Make sure the piercer uses an autoclave to sterilize equipment.
  • Be sure the room is properly sanitized and the piercer wears gloves.
  • Choose jewelry made from hypoallergenic metals, like gold or stainless steel.
  • Avoid harsh cleansers—keep the pierced area clean by washing with soap and water.

In Summary

Although piercing rejection is more common than most people think, there are things you can do to minimize the chance of piercings getting rejected. Keeping piercings clean, choosing hypoallergenic metals, and checking piercings regularly for any signs of infection are a few ways to help keep piercings looking great. And you can talk with a healthcare provider if you have any questions about any piercings.

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