Category Archives: Body Piercing Problems

We all want to keep our stretchings at a certain size, but downsizing your stretched ears is often a great way to keep them healthy. You can downsize your stretchings permanently or temporarily. Downsizing allows your stretched ears to heal and recover from a variety of problems, from minor irritation to serious problems such as ear thinning. If the problem is serious you may have to stay at a smaller gauge, but in many cases you will be able to re-stretch your ears after they have recovered sufficiently.

I recommend downsizing stretched ears (at least temporarily) as a possible solution for: sudden soreness that will not go away despite a salt soak; tearing; uneven stretching; ear thinning and any injury to your earlobe. Downsizing your ears allows your ears to heal. The resulting lobe is usually more resistant to minor issues but remains easy to re-stretch. However if your problem recurs despite downsizing, you may have to downsize permanently.

How To Downsize Your Ears

The method for downsizing stretched ears is very simple: remove your jewellery and allow your ears to shrink at least 2mm. I recommend cleaning your ears thoroughly with a salt soak and massaging with jojoba oil – provided the skin is unbroken, You can then either leave your ears without jewellery or insert smaller jewellery to prevent too much shrinking. Give your ears a while to heal and keep a close eye on them. I recommend leaving your ears alone for at least a month before re-stretching. Re-stretching downsized ears is usually fairly simple – just go slowly and listen to your body at every step.

This post is part of our Ear Stretching Guide 101 series. Click on the link to see the whole series.


Downsizing is a great way to deal with a variety of common ear stretching problems, from irritation to tears. But can you stretch your ears after downsizing? And can you go back to your previous gauge? The answer is a resounding yes in both cases: most people can stretch back to their previous gauge and beyond. The exception would be if the problem was a serious one, such as extreme ear thinning – in some cases the downsizing may have to be permanent. Every case is different, so it is important to make the right decision. If you are unsure or simply need a little advice, I always recommend consulting an experienced professional piercer.

How To Stretch Your Ears After Downsizing

It is important to ensure that your ears are fully healed before you begin to stretch again. For this reason I recommend waiting 2-4 weeks after downsizing. Your ears should feel fully healed, with no pain or discomfort. You can then stretch your ears in the same way that you did initially. I’m sure that you are already knowledgeable about ear stretching, but for good measure, here is my basic method for re-stretching your ears:>/p>

  1. Clean your stretching taper and lubricate both the taper and your piercing with a skin-friendly oil e.g. olive, hemp or jojoba oil. Massage the piercing with the oil.
  2. Push the taper gradually through your piercing. Take your time and pause if needed.
  3. Once the taper is pushed fully through your ear, align the end of a flesh plug with the end of the taper. The plug should be the same gauge. Then push both the taper and plug through your ear until the flesh plug is fully in your piercing.

As with any time you stretch your ears, I recommend stretching no more than 2mm at a time and allowing 2-4 weeks before stretching again. If you find it difficult to stretch back to your original gauge, it is likely that your ear is not yet fully healed. In most cases, you will simply need to wait a little longer before re-stretching your piercing.

This post is part of our Ear Stretching Guide 101 series. Click on the link to see the whole series.


During the process of stretching your ears you may notice an unfortunate side effect – the smell! Some people are lucky enough to never suffer from ear funk but it is common when you first stretch your ears. It may not be pleasant but never fear – stretched ear odour is completely normal and easy to get rid of.

So what causes the stretched ear odour? Odour is the result of sebum and dead skin cells being trapped between your skin and jewellery. Your skin produces oil called sebum that keeps it soft and healthy, as well as shedding dead skin cells. This happens all over your body, but if these products become trapped under jewellery, they can lead to odour. It does not mean that your ears are disgusting, but they do need to be kept clean – just like the rest of your body.

The best way to reduce odour from stretched ears is to practice good hygiene and wear skin-friendly jewellery. I recommend cleaning your stretched ears a couple of times a week – any more and you may irritate the skin. The easiest way to clean your stretchings is in the shower – simply remove your jewellery and clean thoroughly with warm water. You can also use unscented anti-bacterial soap if needed. After you have finished bathing, massage your ears with natural oil or moisturiser e.g. jojoba oil, cocoa butter, Vitamin E oil etc. Then reinsert your clean jewellery. It may also help to remove your jewellery regularly to allow the skin to breathe.

Many people find that ear odour reduces when they reach their desired gauge and allow their ears to heal fully. While you are still stretching your ears, they rarely get the chance to “settle” and heal fully, so the skin may produce excess build-up. Once they are left alone for a while, build-up reduces and so does odour. You should also avoid using alcohol-based substances to clean your stretching gear. This will dry the skin, causing it to produce excess oil. Unscented anti-bacterial soap is sufficient and will not interfere with your skin’s natural processes.

Best Jewellery To Reduce Stretched Ear Odour

Jewellery can also make a big difference to stretched ear odour. Most people notice increased odour when they wear acrylic jewellery, because it can accumulate bacteria. Wooden jewellery, on the other hand, tends to greatly reduce odour and most people find that their ears do not need cleaning as often. Wooden plugs and tunnels allow your skin to breathe and also irritate the skin less, so it produces less build-up. Silicone jewellery may also reduce the odour – it is non-porous and non-reactive, so it does not accumulate bacteria or irritate the skin.

Personally I wear either wood or silicone tunnels and clean/massage my ears once a week. This works for me and I do not get any odour at all from my stretched ears. Everyone is different, but with regular cleaning, massaging and appropriate jewellery you should be able to reduce stretched ear odour once and for all!

Stretching your ears can be done safely if you know how, but as with any body modification, there are risks involved. Some ear stretching risks are reversible but they can lead to scarring and permanent damage to your earlobes. Thankfully, most of these risks can be avoided through careful stretching and doing you research before you start stretching your ears. In this post I will explain three of the most common ear stretching risks, how to avoid them and what to do if they happen to you. As with any piercing problem, consult a professional piercer if you are at all unsure or experience other problems while stretching your ears.

Ear Stretching Blow-Out

Ear Stretching Blow-Out

Ear Stretching Blow-Out

A blow-out occurs when you stretch a piercing too quickly. This puts too much pressure on the fistula (the hole formed by the piercing) and force part of the fistula out the back of the piercing. This creates a lip or flap of skin at the back of the piercing. The image on the right shows a mild blow-out, but they can be much larger. Ear stretching blow-outs look terrible and larger ones can be uncomfortable or even painful. The best way to avoid a blow-out is to listen to your body, massage with jojoba oil before stretching and allow at least two weeks healing time in between stretching. If you get a blow-out, downsize your jewellery immediately – this can prevent the ear healing in its blown-out shape. I also recommend massaging the earlobe with jojoba oil daily to soften the tissue. Do not stretch further until it is completely healed. Some people find that their blow-outs reabsorb, but in some cases they will never fully disappear.

Uneven Stretching & Thinning

Uneven Stretching

Uneven Stretching

Uneven stretching means that the outside of your stretching becomes thinner in one area. It is caused by stretching too quickly or by stretching with weights. As well as looking odd, extreme thinning can lead to a split earlobe. A split earlobe can only be repaired through surgery, but if you catch the thinning early enough it is reversible.

If you notice any unevenness or thinning, downsize by at least 2mm and massage daily with jojoba or Vitamin E oil. It is important to use lightweight jewellery, so that no weight is put on the thin areas. Allow the stretching to shrink and heal for at least 2 weeks before restretching gradually with lightweight jewellery. This process should thicken the tissue and help to even it out.

Earlobe Tearing

Earlobe Tearing

Earlobe Tearing

Stretching too quickly or without lubrication can lead to tears around the circumference of the piercing, as shown here. Tears are painful and can lead to thick scar tissue that makes it harder to stretch further. They can be avoided by stretching slowly with a lubricant such as jojoba oil. It is also important to use high quality steel tapers and stop stretching if you feel a sharp pain.

If your earlobe tears while stretching, immediately downsize to significantly smaller, lightweight jewellery. This removes pressure on the wound and prevents a subsequent blow-out. Allow it to heal completely before stretching again.

This post is part of our Ear Stretching Guide 101 series. Click on the link to see the whole series.


At BJS we are used to hearing alarmist claims about the danger of body piercings and today is no different – a study from the University at Buffalo claims that tongue bars damage teeth. They have released a report based on a single patient, resulting in many high profile news websites plastering their front pages with unsubstantiated claims that tongue piercings lead to tooth damage, brain abscesses and expensive dental work.

Unfortunately for said news websites the University at Buffalo study is not representative of the majority experience (hands up everyone with tongue piercings and healthy teeth!), responsible piercing aftercare or modern tongue studs. Basically the report concerns a 26 year old woman who has developed a gap in her teeth due to playing with her metal barbell for 7 years.

University at Buffalo Claims Tongue Bars Damage Your Teeth

My main objection to this story is that it is the experience of one person and that some basic piercing advice could have prevented her problems – if she did not have access to such advice or a good piercer, then that is another issue. The story offers no statistics on the supposed link between tongue piercing and tooth damage, so all we have is one individual who had a bad experience.

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Migration means, ‘move from one place to settle in another’. When piercings migrate, they literally travel through the skin and settle in a different position from the original piercing.

Some people may take this to mean that a navel piercing might work its way around the body to settle in an entirely different location, like the nipple for example! This will not happen!

A piercing that migrates will usually move a few millimetres out of its original location. This is also called ‘parking’. Sometimes this is because the piercee might be allergic to the metal and so should also display the signs of metal hypersensitivity. Obviously it would be wise to visit your piercer and check that a more biocompatible metal or PTFE jewellery should replace the migrating jewellery. On other occasions, migration will occur because the jewellery used in the piercing is too big and is resisting the elasticity, or ‘flow’, of the skin, and so the body allows the jewellery to move into a more ‘comfortable’ place. A good example is in navel piercings; where some clients have little or no space for jewellery in their navel. If this is the case, the jewellery cannot be expected to heal well, if at all, because of the stresses the jewellery would place on the tissue it rests in. If you notice this happening, then visit your piercer for more adequately sized, or shaped jewellery.

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What is a body piercing infection?

Body piercing infections are most commonly caused by bacteria entering the site of the fresh wound and multiplying as your body’s immune system fails to kill the foreign matter.

Why do piercings get infected?

Infection will usually occur during the healing phase of the piercing, not necessarily as a result of the piercing process itself. Any type of surgical procedure, whether it is a tongue piercing or a kidney transplant, carries a risk of infection even if sterile technique is followed carefully. Skin bacteria is most often the cause of infection in body piercings when coming into contact with the fresh wound during aftercare. Good hand-washing and ensuring your nails are dirt-free when handling your body piercing is essential for the prevention of infection.

What should I expect from a normal, healthy, healing piercing?

A fresh piercing may be slightly sore, tender and swollen for approximately 1-2 weeks after the initial procedure; however, this varies from person to person and the area being pierced. This is to be expected as part of the piercing process. Pain and discomfort subsides gradually as each day passes.
You will also notice light-coloured lymph that will start to discharge from the piercing about a day or two after the initial procedure; this is nothing to worry about. Lymph is a mixture of oxygen, proteins, glucose and white blood cells secreted from the fresh wound to promote healing of your piercing. This will continue to do so until your piercing is fully healed.

What are the common symptoms of an infection?

  • Increased pain and tenderness
  • Excessive redness around the piercing
  • Prolonged bleeding
  • Dark coloured discharge (such as yellow, brown or green pus)
  • A change in your skin colour around the piercing area
  • Area will feel hot to the touch
  • Area may have an unusual smell
  • Black dead-tissue build up
  • Fever

How do I know if my piercing is infected?

  1. Do you see a dark discharge? Is your piercing painfully swollen? Is it warm to the touch? This could indicate bacteria or another irritant has caused an infection or a response from you body that resembles an infection.
  2. Is there a solid marble-like bump underneath your skin? Is it warm to the touch? Is it painfully swollen? Do you see dark discharge? This could indicate an abscess. An abscess is a trapped infection underneath the skin, which could potentially burst. Don’t squeeze it and don’t remove your body jewellery. See a doctor immediately, as this could develop into a bigger complication.
  3. Is there a bump next to the piercing, similar to a pimple? Is it tender and swollen? Do you see pus? This could indicate a blocked pore or follicle in or near the piercing. This is nothing to worry about and regular hot compress care should treat it easily.
  4. Is your piercing itchy? Is the skin tender, tight and shiny? Is there a rash? This could indicate a reaction to the metal or any chemicals you may be using on the piercing. Simply change your body jewellery to a different metal (Titanium, Blackline and Zircon Gold recommended) and do not use any cleaning agents on the piercing. Saline Solution can and should be used.
  5. Is there a dark, shiny lump forming at the entry hole of your piercing? Does the lump remain a small size without growing? This could indicate hypertrophic scarring. This is fairly common and will subside in most cases. Continue with your aftercare regime, avoiding irritation to the area.
  6. Is there a growing dark lump of skin forming around the entry hole of your piercing? Is the piercing tender or inflamed? Is the lump increasing in size? Is the area itchy? This could indicate a keloid. Keloids are raised, reddish nodules that grow above the surface of the skin and form large mounds of scar tissue. Keloids cannot be treated and will require surgical removal (although this is not always successful). You will need to see your doctor for advice.

I think my piercing is infected, what should I do?

You can treat the majority of body piercing infections at home by following a few relatively easy guidelines.

Your first plan of action should be to visit your piercer (or any reputable piercing studio) to have your body piercing examined and diagnosed. Many people mistake the typical healing process for an infection so it is important to have a professional opinion before taking further action. Most professional piercing studios will provide you with specific instructions on how to care for your piercing and what to do if you get an infection.

In the case of an infected piercing, a doctor or GP will often request for your body piercing jewellery to be removed. It is very important for you to discuss with the doctor that the jewellery must remain in place to act as a drain for the infected discharge. If the jewellery is removed, the openings of the piercing will close up and the infection will not drain, which can result in an abscess. An abscess is an infection that is trapped under the skin and is indicated by a darkening and hardening of the surrounding tissue, swelling and pain.

My cartilage piercing is infected and won’t seem to heal, what should I do?

Infected cartilage piercings such as the nose and upper ear will take longer to heal, as cartilage does not have its own blood supply; it depends on the surrounding tissues to provide oxygen and nutrients by diffusion.

This also makes cartilage piercings more susceptible to infection and harder to treat, therefore require patience and persistence.

Destruction of cartilage by an infection can also lead to deformity of the ear or nasal contours. While most infections can be treated successfully with early use of antibiotics, it is a risk that you should know about.

How can I treat a body piercing infection?

A piercing infection can sometimes be treated at home, although antibiotics are typically necessary if the infection has spread beyond the immediate area of the wound. This as known as cellulitis and occurs when the body can no longer wall-off the infection.

It is important to note that if symptoms do not subside within 2-3 days, one should seek medical advice for oral antibiotic treatment.

The basic steps to treat a piercing infection are:

  1. Clean the piercing and surrounding area with rubbing alcohol using a cotton wool pad or swab for a minimum of one minute, as this will remove any skin bacteria on and around the piercing. Remove any debris; dead tissue, pus, dirt or other foreign material on the piercing and jewellery. Do not use Hydrogen Peroxide to clean the area as this will also kill white blood cells, responsible for fighting against the infection.
  2. Rotate your piercing jewellery gently and apply more of the cleansing liquid, working it all the way through the hole as much as possible. This will also encourage drainage of infected discharge from your piercing.
  3. Use a hot compress to soak the piercing in hot salt water to encourage the infection to drain and increase blood circulation to the area. Compresses should be made of clean, disposable materials such as cotton balls, pads or gauze sponges.
  4. Pat the area dry the area with a disposable cloth or cotton pad and avoid contact with unclean matter. You may wish to apply some antibiotic cream or ointment around the piercing.

What precautions should I take when treating an infected piercing?

  • Your bed sheets and clothing in contact with the body piercing area should be changed daily
  • Promote circulation and a healthy immune system with good nutrition, avoiding alcohol, and quitting smoking. This is extremely important, if not essential to the healing process
  • Do not use alcohol or Peroxide to clean the area as both products will dry out and irritate your skin
  • Do not use any public hot tubs or swimming pools until your infection has been treated
  • Throw out your old toothbrush and get a new, soft-bristled toothbrush if you are treating a tongue or lip piercing. This is to avoid exposure to bacteria from your old toothbrush.
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What is piercing-related gum recession?

Piercing gum recession is a problem associated with oral piercings, such as tongue, labret, lip, Monroe or any area that uses piercing jewellery resting on your teeth or gums. Many people have no gum recession caused by their piercings at all; there are even factors not related to piercings that could also influence the risks, such as your diet, smoking or your genetics.

Why do some piercings cause gum recession?

Piercing gum recession is caused by the jewellery in your piercing, such as a labret stud, which rests on your gum area causing the soft tissue to gradually wear down and expose the underlying tooth or root canal. This can happen fairly quickly, within several weeks before you may even notice.

What are the effects of gum recession caused by your piercing?

Piercing gum recession exposes your teeth and gums to risk of gum and tooth disease, loose teeth and extreme sensitivity. You’ll certainly have no fun eating ice cream or drinking coffee!

How can you prevent your piercings from causing gum recession?

The risk of gum recession by your lip or labret piercing can be reduced or even prevented by using several precautions.

  • The placement of your lip or labret piercing could be discussed with your piercer to prevent your jewellery from resting on the gum area, although this will inevitably limit the area which you can have pierced.
  • Many people find that wearing a ring in the piercing (such as ball closure ring, body spiral, smooth segment ring or circular barbell) prevents gum recession as the curvature of the jewellery avoids the gum area. This will also depend on the piercing placement, but will almost always slow down and reduce effects of gum recession compared to labret studs that push against the gums with the backplate.
    Products to consider include Ball Closure Rings, Body Spirals& Circular Barbells.

The Titanium Medilab Labret stud has a ART-techâ„¢ surface

  • Medilabsâ„¢ labret studs can be worn in the piercing, which may help reduce or even prevent gum recession altogether. Medilabsâ„¢ have a unique backplate filled with bio-compatible pure white ART-techâ„¢. The ART-techâ„¢ surface is lighter and softer than titanium or steel and causes less impact trauma when it touches teeth or gums by gently bouncing back and avoiding friction damage.

Bioplast jewellery is proven to reduce gum recession

  • Bioplast can be worn in the piercing. Bioplast jewellery is flexible, soft and has been proven to reduce the effects of gum recession as the softer material is gentle against the gums and teeth. We have a vast selection of Bioplast labret studs and Bioplast retainers to choose from!

What can you do if you notice your piercings has caused gum recession?

Unfortunately any piercing gum recession is irreversible, so immediate action must be taken as soon as you have noticed the problem.

If you have noticed any damage to your gums, you can either remove your piercing or change your piercing jewellery for something softer, such as Bioplast or Medilabsâ„¢ labret studs. Changing your piercing jewellery may only help to slow down the gum recession, not completely prevent it from happening.

In very extreme cases of piercing gum recession, surgery may be required to prevent further complications such as gum and tooth disease, loose teeth and root sensitivity. Surgery would involve a skin graft from another area of your mouth that will be transplanted into the damaged area.