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Irritation bumps vs Keloids? What is that next to my piercing?

Gah! There’s a lump next to my piercing! What the hell is that? Is that a keloid?! Is it infected? Is my ear going to fall off? Is my piercing rejecting? No, probably not, take a deep breath. It’s most likely an irritation bump, which is exactly what it sounds like. Something has bothered your piercing and in reaction your body has created a bump in order to try and protect itself. But it hurts! Yep, they are not nice, but don’t worry you can heal them.

Let’s start from the beginning.

Where do you get irritation bumps?

Irritation bumps can happen on all piercings but they most commonly occur on cartilage piercings, ie: ears and noses. They can happen on any side of the piercing, front or back, or both sides. They look like small red or skin colour bumps or lumps pressed up against the jewellery. They can be painful to touch or to apply pressure to for example: when you are wearing headphones or sleeping on them.

What causes irritation bumps?

A lot of things can cause irritation bumps. Most commonly they are caused by improper cleaning of the piercing and by sleeping on the piercing. However other causes can include jewellery that is the wrong size, metal or quality, hair getting wrapped around the piercing (if it is an ear piercing) or creams, moisturisers, make-up, etc, around the piercing if it is a facial piercing. You are more likely to get irritation bumps if you are pierced with low quality, non-sterile jewellery.

How do I make sure I don’t get an irritation bump?

The best ways to avoid irritation bumps is by following your after care routine carefully, cleaning your piercing 2-3 times a day with a sterile saline wound wash, not sleeping on your piercing, and my making sure you are not introducing irritants to the piercing by not using make-up or other lotions near your piercing, and keeping your hair away from the site.

How can I get rid of an irritation bump?

The best way to get rid of an irritation bump is to treat it like a fresh piercing. Clean the area 2-3 times a day with a sterile saline wound wash, and do not touch it outside of cleaning it. Also make sure that you do not introduce any more irritants to the piercing. If you are diligent with your care you will see the bump quickly reduce in size as the area heals and eventually it will disappear.

How long does it take an irritation bump to heal?

This can vary wildly depending on how your body heals, how well you look after the piercing, and what jewellery you are wearing. If you think you have been pierced with a low quality piece of jewellery check with your piercer and ask them what they use. If you are still unsure, head to a reputable piercer and have the jewellery changed to a high quality titanium piece, such as those that we use here at Athame Piercings.

Someone said it could be a keloid!

Keloid is a word some people like to throw around because it sounds technical, but all it is is a type of scarring, or more specifically “an area of irregular fibrous tissue formed at the site of a scar or injury”. If someone who is not a professional piercer or doctor tells you it is a keloid they are almost certainly wrong and are just using a word they have heard or read without understanding what it actually is.

What is a keloid?

A keloid is a raised scar. The most popular instance in current media is Killmonger's scars in Marvel's Black Panther. Anyone can develop keloid scars however they are much more common in people with darker skin. Even then the likelihood of developing keloid scars is small and there is a genetic component so it is unlikely to happen without you knowing that you are prone to keloids. Keloid scars are not caused by improper care of the piercing but rather by an overproduction of collagen. If you are prone to keloid scars you must be aware that piercings can cause them to develop and unfortunately there is no way to prevent them outside of medical care, so please consult with your doctor beforehand.

Do I have a keloid or an irritation bump?

As stated earlier the development of keloid scars is rare and unless you are prone to them you most likely just have an irritation bump. This should be treated by following the “How can I get rid of an irritation bump?” section or by consulting your piercer.

How do I tell the difference between an irritation bump and a keloid?

In the early stages of development keloid scars and irritation bumps can appear similar with both presenting as raised red or skin coloured bumps near the site of the piercing. If you think you are prone to keloids then you should consult your doctor, however, if not you should follow the treatment set out in the “How can I get rid of an irritation bump?” section.

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