When we get a new piercing we are usually expecting to have a gorgeous new piece of jewelry to admire, and a sense of confidence and bravery for getting it. Maybe a little redness or tenderness in the area of the piercing. Maybe even a little blood. But what we often don’t expect is a bruise. However, bruising can actually be a fairly normal side effect of piercing, even if it can be a little scary if it happens to you. Today, let’s talk about bruising after a piercing!
Why do some Piercings Bruise?
Bruises in general form when small blood vessels (capillaries) near the surface of the skin are broken, often by a hard impact. When this happens blood leaks out of the vessels and appears as a dark mark. Over time our body absorbs the blood and the area heals and returns to normal. If you’ve ever gotten your blood drawn, you may have experienced a small bruise after that. Any time we are potentially damaging blood vessels, bruising is a risk. Piercing is no exception to this! Capillaries run all over our skin, and when we puncture the skin we always risk nicking one in the process. In general, as piercers we do our best to avoid them where we can. But sometimes even if we did avoid them, the skin itself will still bleed. If that blood pools under the skin, that will also cause a bruise. So any time you are getting a piercing, there is always a slight risk of bruising. Just like when you donate blood!
Some areas are more likely to bruise than others. For example, it’s more common to see bruising from eyebrow and lip piercings than any other area on the face. And on ears, lobes are more likely to bruise than cartilage. And nipple and genital piercings can sometimes have some concerning-looking bruising given the area- but it’s not actually dangerous. Some piercing techniques can also be more likely to cause bruising. Most notably the use of clamps or forceps can occasionally cause more bruising, especially on navels, nipples, and ear lobes. But, clamps or freehand, any piercing can still bruise.
Some medical conditions can also make clients more prone to bruising. Bleeding disorders, EDS, Cushings, and vitamin deficiencies can all make someone more likely to bruise. If you take blood thinners or non steroidal anti-inflammatory medications, or if you are on steroids, you may also be more likely to bruise. There’s also some literature that certain supplements can cause you to be more likely to bruise, including fish oil, garlic, ginseng, and st johns wart.
What to do if you bruise
The first step is not to panic. This is also the hardest step. Sometimes bruising can be very subtle around a piercing, but sometimes it can be more severe and intimidating looking (when I was younger and got 6 surface anchors in my chest in one sitting I bruised severely, I’m talking blue and purple all across my chest and neck. It was wild and I was honestly concerned something was very wrong. Fortunately, it was just a good bruise, and in about two weeks it was totally gone. But still- very scary). So if you notice a bruise, be it mild or more severe, please don’t panic. It’s very likely going to be just fine.
The second step is to contact your piercer. Take some clear, well-lit photos (having flash on your phone helps), and message your piercer about what it going on. Your piercer will be able to better see what is up and make sure everything is ok. Most likely your piercing is fine and won’t need anything- just time for the bruising to heal and recover. If it’s just simple bruising time is really all it's going to need. It may look a little rough while it's healing, but given some time it will fade like it was never there. During the process you can also have a little fun- my colleague Mina had some bruising after an eyebrow piercing and did a whole makeup look with it!
If bruising is more severe your piercer may need to swap in slightly longer or different jewelry. If this is the case they will have you come in and take care of getting things swapped. They can also assess things in person and make sure everything is on track to healing well. And in some rare instances, you may need to follow up with a doctor just to ensure you are ok. This is often just a precautionary measure to be safe.
If you’ve ended up with a bruise after a piercing, please try not to fret! When we consider how bruises form it makes total sense to occasionally bruise when we get pierced. The vast majority of the time it’s just an inconvenience for the first few days but will heal up with no issues for you and your piercing. Bodies have some interesting responses to piercing- bruising among them. Happy healing!