Anyone who is into body piercings has probably heard the terms migration and rejection. Unfortunately, these issues can sometimes be very frustrating and even frightening for someone to experience. But, with a little knowledge and understanding we can all develop the ability to handle these situations without fear.
The first thing you need to know is what rejection and migration mean. Some people tend to confuse the two or think that they are one in the same, but that is not actually the case. So, let’s take a look at the two words to define and distinguish them clearly.
Simply put, rejection is a cause. Rejection happens when you place a foreign object in your body (in this case, your body piercing) and your body, for one reason or another, considers that foreign object a threat to your health and safety. In order to protect itself, your body slowly fights the object by pushing on it and healing the skin behind it to eventually force the object completely out through the skin.
Migration is a symptom of the body’s rejection of the foreign object. Migration is the process of movement that slowly brings your body jewelry closer and closer to the skin’s surface. If the jewelry is not removed, the process of rejection will cause it to migrate far enough to actually push its way completely through the skin. Once this happens, the possibility of healing without scarring is very unlikely.
Piercings Most Likely to Reject/Migrate
Piercings that only break through a small amount of surface skin – aptly named surface piercings – are the most likely to become victim of rejection and migration. The less skin there is available to keep the piercing secure, the more chances there are that your body will find a way to push it out.
This, of course, depends largely on your body and whether or not it determines that the piercing is a threat in the first place. Some people are much more prone to rejection than others.
The most common body piercings that reject are navel piercings and eyebrow piercings. The surface piercings most likely to reject are those that reside more closely to the skin’s surface such as the sternum or nape (back of the neck) and Madison piercings.
An experienced piercer must know how to pierce through enough flesh for a secure hold without causing tissue or nerve damage. However, even the best placed piercing can still reject if your body simply doesn’t want it to be there.
How to Determine if Your Piercing is Migrating
Because migration is a very slow process that can take weeks or months, it may be difficult for you to know for sure if your piercing is actually changing. Some of the symptoms that a piercing might be migrating include (but are not limited to):
The piercing is constantly sore and sensitive to the touch.
The skin over the piercing is shallow and thin enough to see the jewelry through it.
The placement in the tissue is different that is was originally.
The hole or piercing channel seems to be larger than it was previously.
It should also be mentioned that a lot of sources will tell you that migration will only happen to relatively new piercings, but this is not always the case. A piercing can be completely healed for many years and if your body decides it’s time or the piercing to go than it will begin the process of migrating it out of the body. Even a well-established and healed piercing can reject.
If You Notice Your Piercing Migrating
Unfortunately, once a piercing has begun to migrate, there really isn’t anything you can do to stop it. However, you can prevent it from becoming worse. As your piercing migrates, it is creating scar tissue and a hole that will be difficult to conceal if allowed to migrate to completion. The only thing to do at this point is to have the jewelry removed (preferably by your piercer) and allow what is left of your piercing hole to heal completely.
Can You Re-Pierce?
Some fear that if their body rejected one piercing, it may or will reject all piercings. This is not necessarily the case. If you desire to try your piercing again, try a different kind of jewelry material like niobium or titanium instead of stainless steel. Or try a larger gauge piece of jewelry. Smaller gauges such an 18G or 16G are much more likely to migrate than a 14G or 12G. You can also try a different location, preferably somewhere that more tissue can be accessed to get a good, secure piercing to begin with. Most of all, be sure that a professional does your piercing to ensure that it is done correctly and follow the aftercare instructions they give you. This will give you the best chance of having a happy, healthy piercing for many years to come.
Credit for much of the information in the blog is given to Karen L. Hudson, the author of Body Piercing Rejection and Migration, an article written for About.com