When it comes to body art, piercings seem like a relatively non-committal option. After all, if you get tired of it, you can simply take it out. If you're thinking about removing a piercing, though, you may be wondering if certain spots close better than others and if any leave a mark. Whether you're concerned about a nose piercing scar or having a belly button piercing scar, here's what you should know about how to close a piercing properly.
The most important thing to remember about piercing removal is that a closure won't ensure that all traces of the piece of metal or plastic once stuck through your skin are gone forever. After all, you are piercing your skin, and skin can scar when it's damaged. Truthfully, there's no magic way to guarantee a scar won't form due to the natural way skin heals. According to studies, scars are the result of a quickened healing process where your body's only intent is to heal — regardless of restoring the skin to its original state (in this case, pre-piercing).
So, when you take out a piercing, there will be scarring, especially if it's one that's fully healed. However, you can still take steps to minimize the amount of scar tissue by thinking a little bit ahead and taking the proper steps. Here are seven things you should know if you're planning on letting a piercing close up.
1. Some Piercings Close Better Than Others
The kind of piercing you have will dictate how well it will close up. Rob Banks, a piercer at Elite Jewelry Co. on Saint Mark's Place in New York City, explains to me in an interview at the shop that belly button, eyebrow, and Monroe or lip piercings all leave deep scars, which makes them harder to fully close. Meanwhile, microdermal piercings and piercings on the ear tend to close up a little easier.
2. Think About Scars Before Getting Pierced
When you go in to get a piercing, ask your piercer about what the scar will look like if and when you take it out. One of the best ways to minimize scarring is to place the piercing well. "Go with the folds of the body," Banks explains.
If placed well, certain scars will disappear into the nooks and crannies of your skin — think a nose piercing scar or a belly button piercing scar — making them harder to see. Even eyebrow piercings can be placed near the hairline to minimize the look of scars. The scars from other piercings, like navel rings, however, will be a challenge to hide, no matter how carefully you place them.
3. Don't Remove Your Piercing If It's Infected
The time to close up a hole is not when the piercing is infected. While you may think that removing jewelry seems like a good idea when the infection has set in, it's not. Dermatologists caution against removal as the infection can get trapped if the hole closes. Plus, if yours is infected and you don't actually want your hole to close permanently, you can lose the piercing altogether upon removal.
4. Minimize Scarring With Topical Treatments
As your piercing is closing, if you're concerned about scarring, you can use topical treatments to help minimize the appearance of those potential scars. Mederma, a scar treatment that's made from onion skin extract, has been proven effective in studies, and it should be applied to the area once per day.
Another option is Bio-Oil. Like Mederma, studies have shown that its key ingredients — oleic and linoleic acids — can help improve the appearance of scars once they have already formed. It should be applied to the area once a day.
5. Let It Be And Be Patient
If your piercing is fully healed and you're ready to get rid of it, just take it out and let it be, Banks advises. However, there's no way to really know how long it will take to close, or even if it will fully close up. The general rule, however, is that newer piercings will take less time to close up and can do so in just a few days. However piercings that are over a year old will take several weeks minimum to close.
6. Stitches Are An Option
Perhaps the most complicated piercings to close up are gauged ears because the skin is so stretched out. Taking out the plugs won't be enough, and you'll likely need to get them stitched up. There are different ways to have stitching done depending on the type of stretched piercing you have. With small holes, plastic surgeons can cut away the newly grown skin, essentially creating a new wound that can then be stitched to heal together. Larger holes may also be cut to create an opening and then stitched back together.
7. Embrace The Scars
When you take out a piercing, your skin doesn't magically snap back to what it once was, and you may even be left with a hole for the rest of your life. And that's OK. "Sometimes you just have to accept it," says Banks.
Even if the piercing doesn't stay with you forever, the scar will, so make sure you think long and hard about whether you want the scar as much as you want that piercing. If you do want to take a piercing out, though, don't let yourself become ashamed of or embarrassed by the scars. They're totally natural, and they show where you've been. In a way, they're part of your story.
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