If you’ve wondered how long it really takes for a piercing to close, you are not alone. I’ve had my nose pierced for over 15 years, but in every instance I’ve lost my hoop or stud in my sleep, I’ve woken up with my nose piercing seemingly closed. In those moments, I dramatically feel like my nose ring makes up the entirety of my identity and that I am nothing without it. I will leave the house faster than I ever have before to get to the closest open piercing parlor to re-pierce my nose. In total contrast, my belly button piercing that I pierced myself at 14 and haven’t worn in a decade remains open. After years of wondering WTF was going on, I finally decided to investigate.
The truth is that no one can really say for sure how long your piercing will take to close because everyone's body heals at a different rate. One thing we know for sure is that when wounds heal faster in younger people and seem to take longer with age (hence why it becomes increasingly less funny when you trip and fall as you age). To figure out what the deal is with closing a piercing, I talked to Ryan Ouellette, owner of Precision Body Art and member of the Association of Professional Piercers, because, frankly, I would love to stop having to re-pierce my nose everytime I lose my jewelry in my sleep.
Here are seven facts Ouellette wants us to know about how long it will take your piercing to close.
1. The Location Of Your Piercing Matters
According to Ouellette, the location of your piercing can definitely make a difference. “The act of piercing creates a channel through the skin. During healing your body produces epithelial [skin] cells along the jewelry from the outside-in," he tells me. "Once the new cells [have formed] all the way along the length of the piercing they mature into a fistula [which] is basically a tube. Once fully matured, fistulas can stay open for months or years after [the] jewelry [has been] removed and some fistulas mature thicker and heartier than others.” Ouellette explains, for example, that a fistula on a navel or nipple can stay open much longer than a nostril because the interior of the nasal cavity is lined with mucosa. Guess I know why that navel piercing has become permanent, amiright?
2. Re-Piercing Isn't Always Advised
According to Ouellette, if an old piercing was scarred before you took the piercing out and you repierce that same location, it may cause complications. “Particularly if the scar is from rejection, if the old fistula has fully closed and been reabsorbed by the body, then [it’s less likely it will affect how quickly the piercing closes]. Scar tissue is much weaker than healthy tissue, so once a piercing rejects it should not be re-pierced in most cases. Piercing through an older, partially closed, fistula is not very problematic. Piercing under an abandoned fistula can cause bacteria and oils to build up in the old site causing drainage problems similar to acne at the site.” Ouellette suggests consulting an experienced professional piercer before re-piercing an old site.
3. The Age Of The Piercing Can Have An Effect
As long as your piercing has completely healed and remained healthy, the length of time since you were in that piercer's chair will likely affect how quickly it closes. Ouellette cautions that there isn’t a guarantee it will remain open with jewelry installed, but typically, the older the piercing the slower the close.
4. Irritation Will Mess With Closing Time
If a piercing is irritated it may close up much faster once the jewelry is removed. According to Ouellette, that can even happen in the same day because of the inflammation and discharge that problematic piercings usually have. “Both those [factors] keep a healthy fistula from maturing.” Ryan explains. Of course, once your piercing has become irritated, it’s best to consult a piercing professional before you remove your jewelry to be on the safe side.
5. If Cartilage Is Involved, Expect A Quicker Close
If you’ve heard the myth that surface piercings close faster than other locations, you are not alone. Although it’s possible for a well healed surface piercing to close faster, Ouellette explains that it should typically heal at the same speed as other healthy piercings. Nostril and cartilage piercings, however, may close faster than others not through cartilage. “Cartilage piercings may close due to the lack of blood supply to cartilage. When jewelry is removed, the body may heal the hole with scar tissue, particularly if it was irritated from wearing cheaper jewelry.”
6. Closing A Piercing Doesn’t Always Mean Scarring
IMO, the only thing scary about a piercing is the future scar it leaves when you are ready to close it for good. According to Ouellette, it doesn’t have to be that way. “Removing the piercing when it is healthy is one of the best ways to avoid excess scar tissue. If the piercing is angry from improper aftercare or low quality jewelry causing an allergic reaction the body will have a higher tendency to produce scar tissue," he says. Sadly, Ouellette advises there aren't any products out there that will close up your piercing sans scar — that means the better you take care of your piercing the better closing experience you will have.
7. Not All Piercings Will Close On Their Own
Unfortunately, not every piercing will fully close by itself. For example, some people can go years without wearing earrings without the holes fully closing. Ouellette explains that this “is because the lobe heals a very tough fistula and this isn’t limited to the earlobe — if a piercing forms a mature fistula it will tighten over time, but [it] may not fully ‘close’ for quite some time.” So if you really want to get daring with your piercing, stick to the earlobes.