When you get a new piercing — whether it’s in your ears, nose, bellybutton, or a cartilage piercing — you want to enjoy it, take pics, and show your friends. But that thrill can come to a screeching halt if you notice that your piercing is bleeding. Whether it’s a spot of blood, a light trickle, or a crusty scab, never fear — it’s usually a natural part of the healing process.
As long as you follow the piercer's aftercare instructions and only touch the area when cleaning it, you’re doing everything right and a little bit of blood shouldn’t ruin your day. That said, if you can’t shake the worry, feel free to give your piercing studio a call and ask for more advice.
They’ll most likely say it’s fine. But if there is puss and blood — as well as heat and inflammation — coming from the piercing, it’s typically a sign of infection, says Barry Gresky, the vice president of operations administration and piercing services at Piercing Pagoda. At that point, he notes you may want to contact your physician. The remedy is usually an antibiotic to clear up the infection. In more extreme cases, however, your physician might suggest taking the jewelry out for a few weeks so the area can heal.
If you have a new bit of body art, read on for expert-approved ways to prevent a bloody piercing, as well as how you can speed up the healing process.
What Makes A Piercing Bleed
Some piercing locations — like your ears and nose — are more likely to bleed than others due to the rich blood supply in that area of the body, says Dr. Harshal Ranglani, MD, a practicing clinical and aesthetic dermatologist. It’s why she says a slight spotting from blood in the first few days is completely normal. But there are many other factors at play, like these five culprits, which can affect any kind of piercing on your body.
1. Contact Dermatitis
The issue could come from skin inflammation, for one. “A piercing can bleed if the skin around it becomes red or inflamed, which can result from friction of the earring itself or from an allergy to the earring,” Dr. Marisa Garshick, MD, a board-certified dermatologist, tells Bustle. This might trigger allergic contact dermatitis, which can lead to red, weeping, or scaly skin that bleeds.
2. Picking At The Area
This is why you should. never. touch. your. new. piercing. Picking can often lead to small cuts in the skin. As a piercing is healing, it also can develop what’s known as excessive granulation tissue, says Garshick, “which is made up of blood vessels that may be susceptible to bleeding, particularly if there is additional trauma to the area.” So keep your hands away.
3. Bumping The Area
Lathering shampoo, brushing your hair, pulling a shirt over your head — these are all ways to accidentally bump your new piercing, says Gresky, which could cause it to bleed.
4. Taking Medications
What you consume plays a role in your piercing’s healing process as well. “Taking medications like blood thinners or aspirin may make you more susceptible to bleeding,” Garshick says. Let your piercer know beforehand if you’re on these medications and also if you have a bleeding disorder.
5. Drinking Alcohol
Alcohol also increases the chance of bleeding, says Garshick, because it thins your blood. (Hint: That’s why you should avoid going out for drinks before heading to a piercing studio.)
Why Is Your Ear Piercing Bleeding?
When you’ve got a new stud on your ear, know that it’s common to suddenly see a spot of dried blood near the piercing as the area heals — particularly if it accidentally gets bumped. One sneaky way this can happen? As you sleep, since you’re pressed into your pillow for about eight hours. “If you sleep with too much pressure on the ears, there’s always the chance the skin gets irritated and may be more susceptible to bleeding,” Garshick says.
This part of your body does get extra blood flow, after all. And it can also deal with skin conditions that increase your chance of bleeding. “Seborrheic dermatitis can affect the ear,” explains Garshick. “If this becomes itchy or uncomfortable, scratching the area can increase the risk of bleeding.”
What can you do? If you notice that your ear is bleeding, “take some sterile cotton gauze and apply pressure on the bleeding area,” says Ranglani. “You can also pinch the earlobe so you are able to exert pressure from both sides. This should slow down the bleeding.”
Why Is Your Bellybutton Piercing Bleeding?
The last thing you need is a tiny spot of blood on your shirt due to a bloody bellybutton piercing, so try to be extra careful until this area fully heals. “If it gets caught on your shirt or rubs up against your pants or pants button it can lead to irritation, triggering inflammation and possible bleeding,” Garshick says.
A pro tip to prevent it from catching: Protect it with a skin care product. “It may help to apply a barrier ointment such as Vaseline, Aquaphor, or CeraVe healing ointment to the skin around the piercing to protect [it] and minimize the chance of irritation and sensitivity,” she tells Bustle. You can also place a protective bandage over the area if you’re going to be doing something that causes friction, like exercising.
Why Is Your Nose Piercing Bleeding?
Just like ears, nose piercings have a tendency to bleed. “The nose consists of many blood vessels, so even a small amount of injury to the skin or rubbing the area vigorously can potentially lead to bleeding,” Garshick says.
To keep your risk to a minimum, avoid picking or scratching at the skin on your nose, however tempting it may be. Also be careful when washing your face, getting dressed, or blowing your nose. You won’t want to rub the area while it’s trying to heal.
How To Make Piercings Heal Faster
There are several things you can do to prevent bleeding and speed up the healing process. First, avoid fiddling with the jewelry for the first two to three weeks, says Ranglani. You want to allow the wound enough time to heal properly. Not touching it will also keep germs away and help prevent infection.
Be careful throughout the day to ensure you don’t cause unnecessary traction (or pulling) on the area. And finally, keep the spot clean by washing it with gentle soap and water once a day to remove crust and dried blood.
Don’t sleep on the ointment hack, either. Ranglani says it’ll keep the area moist, which aids in the healing of superficial wounds. Piercings take a while to fully heal — sometimes up to 12 weeks — but it’ll be well worth the wait.
Andersen, B. (2018). Prevention of Postoperative Wound Infections. Nature Public Health Emergency Collection. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7122543/
Field, F.K. (1994). Overview of wound healing in a moist environment. Am J Surg. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/8109679/
Dr. Marisa Garshick, board-certified dermatologist
Harshal Ranglani, MD, practicing clinical and aesthetic dermatologist
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