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Retiring A Piercing- How to Heal After Removal

Sometimes, things don’t go the way we intended with our piercings. Maybe we simply changed our mind about what we wanted, or perhaps a job won’t allow us to have a certain piercings. Sadly, sometimes our piercings are done incorrectly or aren’t healing and need to be removed. Whatever the case, many folks will end up retiring piercings. And this leaves us often with some questions- namely how do we take care of a piercing once we’ve removed it? After all most folks know how to care for healing and healed piercings but once removed- is it different? Today, let’s talk about how to care for a piercing if you are retiring it!

Healed vs Healing, Irritated vs Healthy

To start, how we care for a piercing we are retiring largely depends on the state a piercing is in when we remove it. If you choose to remove a well healed piercing that is healthy and happy and you’ve had for years, that’s going to look a little different then removing something that’s 3 months old and super irritated and having issues. So the first step is to determine if the piercing you are removing is healed or still healing. And is is healthy and happy currently or irritated and grumpy?

Regardless of the situation if you are removing a piercing for good yourself, always ways your hands throughly before removal. You should also clean the piercing with saline wound wash as well before removing it. Make sure everything is nice and clean first!

Retiring a Healed Piercing

The easiest care is going to be for removing a piercing that is well healed. Because, literally, you don’t do anything. If you have say an earlobe or a nostril piercing that’s years old and well healed that you need to retire, simply remove the jewelry and go about your day. You can wash your face, apply makeup, do your hair, do everything as normal. It’s a totally healed piercing! That’s just healthy skin at that point and you can just leave it be. It will shrink and either close or shrink very very small with time. Nothing you do is going to make that process happen faster so simply remove your jewelry and let it do it’s own thing.

Now occasionally we remove a healed piercing that is irritated. Often this is from wearing low quality jewelry that has caused irritation or some trauma to the piercing to upset it. If that is the case, I would monitor the piercing after removal for the first few weeks. Avoid harsh soaps or makeups in the area and if there is any secretion, crust, or blood, I would gently clean that away with either warm water or sterile saline wound wash. There’s no need usually to do anything more than be careful with it and keep it clean. After a few weeks the irritation should subside and you can resume regular cleaning/makeup/etc in the area.

Retiring a Healing Piercing

Sometimes we have to remove a piercing that hasn’t had the chance to fully heal yet. In these cases, a little extra aftercare can sometimes be required. That looks a little different depending on if the piercing is healthy or irritated when we remove it.

If you have a piercing that isn’t fully healed but is healthy, that makes things a little easier. Sometimes we are removing these piercings for work or personal reasons. Other times it’s because we are unhappy with the piercing, placement, angle, or something is incorrect about it. Either way if it’s still healing but healthy, retiring this is straight forward. Gently remove jewelry, and then clean the area with saline wound wash. Since this piercing wasn’t healed it is considered a wound- keep makeup, skin care, hair care, and other harsh chemicals and products away from it for about 2-3 weeks. During that time if there is secretion or debris, clean that away with saline wound wash. Do your best not to pick at or mess with it during this time. I know it’s so tempting, but it will only slow the healing process and potentially cause scarring. After about 2-3 weeks it should no longer be an open wound and should be in the early stages of healing up fully. At this point you can gently resume regular care and cleaning around it, but pay attention to the area and not to cause any further irritation.

If you are retiring a piercing that isn’t healed but is irritated, that is a different situation entirely. Maybe the piercing has irritation bumps, perhaps it’s been migrating and has angry, inflamed skin. Whatever the case may be, these instances are highly situational. You should get in contact with your piercer for a care routine specific to the irritation you are dealing with. Often its’ not dissimilar to the care you would do for the irritation in question- for example if you were doing warm compresses to help soothe irritation bumps, it’s likely you’ll continue them for a week or two after removing the piercing to help any remaining bumps heal up. That said, this is going to vary depending on the irritation you are experiencing, so if you decide to move an angry piercing please contact your piercer for exact care advice! As per usual avoid harsh chemicals. I know it can be tempting since the jewelry is removed to try all the weird remedies you see online, but those can often irritate the healing skin and cause even worse bumps, problems, and scarring. Never try to pop, pick at, or otherwise irritate the irritated skin.

The biggest help in removing irritated piercings is time- it takes time for these wounds and irritations to heal fully. Your bump won’t go away overnight just because your jewelry is removed. It will take time! So be patient with your body as it heals these.


After questions about care most folks want to know about scarring. After all, if you remove a piercing it’s realistic to wonder if it will leave a scar, and how to minimize any scarring left. The good news is there’s lots you can do to reduce scarring!

The first step is to let the piercing heal fully- most treatment for scarring are topical balms, gels, and oils. If these get in the wound while it’s still open and healing they can cause irritation and sometimes even worsen the scarring. So let your piercing heal up first- usually 3-4 weeks is enough time for this. Once you are certain your piercing is no longer an open wound, and if it was irritated once most of the irritation is gone, you can use an over the counter scar treatment to help minimize scarring. My personal favorite is bio oil, but many folks also like miderma, scar FX, or silicone scar sheets. Different peoples skin will respond differently to different products- so do some patch tests and experiment to see what works for you. Massage in addition to topical treatments can also help improve the look and texture of scars.

Many of these treatments do as much as they will in the first few months. If you are still left with a scar you dislike, consider seeing a dermatologist for a consultation to see if further treatment would be beneficial to reduce your scarring.

I know it’s often a sad time when we have to remove and retire a piercing, so please be gentle on yourself if this is the case. I know I have at times felt like I was loosing a piece of myself when removing a piercing I had loved. It is ok to grieve the loss of a modification that was important to you. But, remember that piercings serve us until they don’t, and often times if you truly miss the piercing it can be redone at a later date if the area heals up well! So don’t totally give up hope yet. This is why proper care after removal is so important. I hope this blog helps you understand the unique aftercare that comes with removing a piercing! Happy healing.

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