Suppose you get your nose pierced for a nose ring, and you notice a bump appearing around the piercing. Could it be a reaction to the piercing, or could it be a keloid? We’ll discuss the difference between a piercing bump vs keloid, why they happen, and what you can do to relieve them.
What Causes Piercing Bumps?
Piercing bumps are small lumps that often appear after getting a piercing, especially upper ear and nose piercings. The bumps occur due to the body’s immune system responding to the wound/inflammation and initiating the healing response.
One might experience bruising, bleeding, and swelling immediately after getting pierced. Most often, it could result from the piercing being done in unsanitary conditions or is not kept clean, or due to the piercing being accidentally knocked or removed too early, resulting in tissue damage.
Sometimes the person could also have an allergic reaction to the jewelry used.
What Causes Keloids?
Keloids are thick, raised scars that tend to be larger than the original wound and may take weeks or months to fully develop. They are characterized by their reddish/purplish, shiny, hairless, lumpy, and rubbery-looking appearance. It usually forms on the shoulders, cheeks, middle chest, or earlobes, especially after getting them pierced.
Keloid growth might be triggered by skin injuries like insect bites, acne, injections, body piercing, burns, hair removal, and even minor scratches and bumps. The person’s skin can also affect the scar’s growth and appearance.
Fortunately, having a keloid scar isn’t harmful to your physical health per se. However, it may cause some emotional distress.
Piercing Bump Vs Keloid – What Are The Differences Between The Two?
While piercing bumps and keloids are similar-looking skin conditions that can occur following a piercing, their differences come out in a matter of weeks after the procedure.
- Ordinary piercing bumps tend to appear more quickly and do not grow in size, while keloid scars take months and years to form after an injury and may grow over time.
- Both piercing bumps and keloids occur around a piercing site, but only keloids can form beyond the affected area.
- Keloids can occur even without piercing. It happens as a result of various injuries, and sometimes for no reason at all.
- A piercing bump’s size varies, but it doesn’t grow bigger after it’s fully formed, while keloids may start small and eventually grow bigger over weeks, months, or years.
- A piercing bump is normally pink or flesh-colored. A keloid scar starts with a bright pinkish color but darkens over time.
How To Treat Piercing Bumps
A person who gets a piercing should observe proper aftercare to prevent tissue damage, infections, or allergic reactions that could cause a bump. Ideally, the piercing should be cleaned every day for the first 6 months; even if it looks like it’s healed from the outside, tissue inside the nose may still be healing.
The piercer should also advise their customers on looking after a piercing, which usually involves cleaning it regularly.
- Use a sea salt solution – Sea salt has long been revered for its potential cleansing and healing properties and has been a popular aftercare regimen for newly pierced areas. Sea salt solutions help keep the pierced area clean, prevent it from swelling, and facilitate faster recovery.
Ideally, it’s recommended to soak around two times a day for any piercing type after the procedure. To make a saline solution, dissolve ⅛ to ¼ of a teaspoon of sea salt in 1 cup of warm water, gently rinse the pierced area with the solution, and gently pat it dry. Make sure to wash your hands thoroughly first to lower the risk of infection.
- Use saline sprays – Saline sprays are another way to enjoy salt’s antibacterial and antimicrobial properties. They are designed for quick, on-the-go aftercare; simply spray the saline directly on your piercing, and let it soak in. That’s it.
However, saline sprays don’t always fully flush certain piercings, so it’s important to do a combination of both saline sprays, and sea salt soaks during the first weeks of healing in any piercing. After a while, you can opt to spray the piercing twice or thrice daily to keep it clean.
- Rubbing tea tree oil – Most piercing shops usually recommend applying tea tree oil on the newly pierced nose to dehydrate and shrink a piercing bump. One study found that Tea tree oil has anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, and antiseptic properties, which could help eliminate possible bacterial infections.
Before using the oil, it’s important to dilute it with a carrier oil, such as olive, coconut, or almond oil, since undiluted tea tree oil can be harsh on the skin and cause redness or irritation.
- Apply a warm compress – Applying heat and pressure will help soften any crusting or discharge surrounding your piercing.
One can make a simple warm water compress by soaking a clean washcloth or tissue in hot water, applying it to the piercing, and holding it there with gentle pressure for at least 5 to 10 minutes.
You can also mix sea salt in hot water. No one should force the bump to drain or pop as it can lead to further irritation and scarring.
- Use a chamomile compress – Chamomile is prized for its potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, and such properties, according to one study, can help cleanse wounds and prevent infections, in this case, a nose piercing bump, while increasing blood flow to the cartilage.
Soak a chamomile tea bag in warm water and allow it to steep for 4 to 6 minutes. Apply the tea bag to the surface of the piercing for about 5 to 10 minutes. If it starts to cool, you can resoak the tea bag with warm water every few minutes.
- Switch to hypoallergenic jewelry – Certain metals can cause an allergic reaction in some people. Nickel, cobalt, copper, and chromium are commonly-known allergens that cause significant local contact dermatitis (skin reddening and itching).
If your jewelry irritates the skin, consider replacing it with hypoallergenic jewelry that will not react with the body. Materials like nickel-free stainless steel, surgical-grade stainless steel, titanium, 18-karat yellow gold, nickel-free yellow gold, and sterling silver are good alternatives.
Other aftercare tips
Do not remove the jewelry before a nose piercing has finally healed (The healing process can last 4–6 months). Changing out the jewelry puts you at risk for infection. You also risk letting the piercing hole close up if you remove them, and it may even trap bacteria which can cause an infection.
Try to avoid moving the jewelry, playing with it, or knocking the piercing when moving about to prevent tissue damage. If you must touch it, make sure you’ve cleaned your hands well first since unwashed bacteria can cause an infection in the area.
Avoid applying lotions, cosmetics, topical or hair care products near the piercing to allow air circulation. Similarly, don’t use harsh antiseptic products such as bactine, bacitracin, hydrogen peroxide, and alcohol to clean nose piercings, as these can irritate and/or damage the skin and prevent faster healing.
Avoid using towels after cleaning. One study discovered that bacteria, viruses, and fungi can live in moist and dirty towels. Instead, use a clean cotton pad after bathing, showering, or a treatment.
Consult a doctor
Some of the symptoms should clear after a week. Suppose there is no improvement even after 2 weeks of treatment. In that case, one should immediately consult a doctor/dermatologist, especially if they’re experiencing the following:
- A throbbing or burning sensation, redness, or irritation/pain around the area (This could signify an infection)
- Grey, green, or yellow pus oozing from the nose piercing bump
- Fever, dizziness, or nausea
How To Treat Keloids
Keloid scar treatment is possible. But even with treatment, a keloid scar can last for years or recur. So it’s important to seek early treatment.
Treatment options for keloids include:
- Corticosteroids – Corticosteroid injections are a common treatment for keloid scars. The steroids help break the bonds between collagen fibers, which reduces the amount of scar tissue beneath the skin, effectively shrinking the scars.
- Cryotherapy – In this therapy, the doctor freezes the keloid during cryotherapy (via liquid nitrogen to soften it and reduce its size.
While experts agree that it’s one of the most effective, safest methods of keloid removal, cryotherapy, according to one study, may not be suitable for people with darker skin due to the possibility of skin pigmentation changes.
- Laser treatment – Laser treatment can help flatten the keloid scar, reduce itchiness and make it fade. Experts recommend that a 585-nm flashlamp-pumped pulsed dye laser be used to treat keloids over several sessions with 4 to 8 weeks between each.
- Surgery and radiotherapy – Radiotherapy following surgical excision of a keloid scar, according to a study published in the U.S. National Library of Medicine, has been shown to prevent keloids from coming back, with a 10% or lower recurrence rate.
Piercing bumps and keloids are different skin conditions that can occur after getting a piercing. While they may look similar, piercing bumps appear more instantly and don’t grow in size, while keloid scars take time to form but continue to grow over time and are sometimes harder to treat. It’s also possible to have keloid scars even without getting piercings.
After getting a piercing, it’s important to follow all aftercare procedures to help prevent a bump from appearing around the area. Taking good care of your piercing also reduces possible bacterial infections and tissue damage.
If you have keloids (or think you’re developing keloid scars), talk to a doctor or dermatologist immediately to discuss possible treatments that might suit your condition best.