Help – My Piercing Won’t Heal! The familiar cry of someone discovering a mystery bump on their cartilage piercing.
As one of the top piercing shops in Toronto & Vancouver, we get a lot of questions about mystery bumps. They’re unsightly, uncomfortable, and itchy. So naturally, people want to know:
- What are they?
- How they got there?
- And most importantly – How to get rid of them?
What are cartilage piercing bumps?
Cartilage piercing bumps are colloquially known as mystery bumps. It’s pretty easy to guess why. Their appearance and reason for appearing is usually a mystery to the affected. What they actually are is hypertrophic scarring. Fortunately, these bumps aren’t dangerous and are treatable.
How do cartilage piercing bumps form?
Hypertrophic scars occur most often on ear or nose piercings. They are the result of the healing process being interrupted. There are 3 typical causes that form piercing bumps:
- Ongoing irritation to the piercing
- Piercing gun
- Improper/Lack of aftercare
Irritation to the piercing
This is probably the most common culprit for bumps on new piercings. It’s always tempting to touch your new piercing, but try to resist. Touching it too much or too roughly is a good way to end up with an uncomfortable bump.
Touching isn’t the only cause of irritation. The type of piercing can affect it as well. Especially if you have sensitive skin. Loose fitting jewellery, or jewellery that moves too much can cause enough friction to raise a bump.
Most accomplished piercing artists avoid piercing guns. But, they are still common at mall kiosks and jewellery stores. Using a piercing gun can damage the cartilage around the piercing, making it more likely for mystery bumps to form.
In addition to damaging the skin, guns are less sterile than needles. That leaves you open to infection as well. This is just one of the reasons why needles are better than piercing guns. The best piercing shops use needles.
Improper/Lack of aftercare
Following piercing aftercare is important for fast, safe healing. It also helps to prevent irritation bumps from forming. Keep your piercings clean to help keep them free of bumps and/or infection.
Aftercare can take anywhere from 4 weeks to 1 year, depending on the piercing and your body’s ability to heal.
How to get rid of cartilage piercing bumps
Piercing bumps are very treatable. They’re easy to remove, but it takes a bit of patience. While improvements are visible within a week of treatment, some bumps can take over a month to fully disappear.
Step 1: Addressing the irritation source
Another common name for mystery bumps is irritation bumps. This is because they are often the direct result of irritation. The irritation prevents the piercing from healing, leading to hypertrophic scarring.
External sources of irritation are a likely cause. These include:
- Sleeping on the piercing
- Frequent touching of the piercing
- Picking at scabbing
- Hair or hat touching the piercing
Another common irritation source is the jewellery itself. The type of piercing jewellery material affects how your body reacts. Stainless steel is a popular jewellery option because it’s cheap and durable. But, it can cause allergic reactions and irritation.
The reason for this is that stainless steel can contain significant amounts of nickel. Nickel being the cause of allergic reactions and irritation. Better alternatives are gold or titanium.
Solid 14k or 18k gold is generally a safe choice for body piercings. The gold content is high without being too soft. Pure 24k gold is too soft to use for jewellery.
ASTM F-13 implant grade titanium is another excellent material for the safety-conscious. After all, it’s used in medical implants like metal bone and locking screws. In addition to being safe, it is a very durable metal.
Our artists provide only the highest-quality piercing jewellery with a 0% nickel guarantee.
The type of piercing jewellery you pick also affects the likelihood of irritation bumps. A ring, for example, can move a lot. Sensitive skin fresh piercings are easily irritated by this added friction. A well-fitted post fits more snugly and moves less. As a result, irritation is minimized and the piercing can heal more easily.
Step 2: Treating the bumps
After removing the potential causes of the bumps, it’s time to start treatment. Start with regular cleanings as well as a salt soak or chamomile compress.
A salt soak is effective, safe, and uses household items:
- Sea salt (¼ teaspoon)
- Boiling water (1 cup)
- Cotton pad
Boil the water and remove from heat. Stir in the sea salt until it completely dissolves. Allow the water to cool a little before dipping the cotton pad into the solution. The temperature should be hot, but not hot enough to damage your skin. Apply the soaked cotton pad to the bump for two minutes.
You can repeat this process twice daily.
A chamomile compress is a good option if you have sensitive skin:
- Boiling water (1 cup)
- Chamomile tea bag
- Cotton pad (optional)
Set to boil and then brew the chamomile. Once again, allow the water to cool enough that it won’t damage or hurt your skin – but it should still be hot!
Soak the cotton pad and apply to the bump, or use the tea bag itself. Keep it in place until it cools.
This can be performed multiple times throughout the day. The recommendation is at least twice a day, every day, until the bump disappears.
While it can take a couple months for the bump to completely disappear, the effects should be distinguishable after the first few days. Day by day your mystery bump will slowly disappear.
Our Favourite Piercing Aftercare
NeilMed Neilcleanse Piercing Aftercare
NeilMed Neilcleanse Piercing Aftercare saline spray helps in healing piercings. It is an isotonic, drug-free, preservative-free solution for cleaning your piercing during the healing period with no burning or stinging to irritate the pierced area. The sterile saline solution can be used as part of your healing process with any fresh piercing, including ear piercings, nostril piercings and belly button piercings. Neilcleanse sprays in any direction for easy use without touching your piercing.