One of the most common concerns you can face when getting a new piercing is rejection. This is when the body recognizes your piercing as a foreign object and tries to push it out.
The same process happens with other objects such as splinters that embed into your skin, so it is definitely a useful biological response, but is unwanted in the case of piercings.
Once your body has rejected a piercing, there is nothing you can do about it, because the jewelry will fall out completely and leave scar tissue.
This can happen at any time, but is most likely to occur during the first few months of a piercing when your body is not yet used to accommodating it.
Rejection is not usually very painful, and the piercing will eventually make its way out of the body on its own without outside intervention.
However, as with most situations in life, it is very frustrating to deal with rejection.
Imagine you’ve just visited your favorite piercer to get some fancy new body jewelry fitted, and you show it off to all your friends and family – only to have it fall out 4 months later, without any hope of getting it back in.
This can be a disappointing experience, because you lose all the excitement you had and you’re essentially in a worse position than you were before, as you cannot get repierced through scar tissue.
Plus, it’s not exactly cheap to get a piercing, so you can end up feeling like you’ve wasted money for something you were expecting to last a long time.
While it cannot always be avoided, there are many things you can do to try and prevent your new piercing from rejecting.
The healthier a piercing is, the less likely it is to reject, so you need to know how to achieve this.
The correct preparation can greatly reduce the risk of rejection and keep your piercing looking great too.
Here are our top tips for keeping rejection at bay, allowing you hopefully to enjoy your chosen piercing for many years to come.
If a piercing gets infected, this can greatly increase the risk of rejection, as it makes your immune system work harder to combat anything that shouldn’t be there.
Infections occur when bacteria or tiny particles get into the piercing wound, causing the surrounding area to become swollen and sore.
For this reason, it is important to try and keep any kind of dirt away from your belly button piercing.
Your piercer should explain to you how to clean your piercing, and may also provide you with suitable cleaning supplies.
Experts differ on the best cleaning methods for piercings, with some arguing that it is more effective just to leave it alone and not touch it at all while it heals.
However, the most popular way to clean a piercing involves soaking it in a salt water solution, as it is easy and inexpensive. Here is a step by step guide to do this:
- Make sure your hands are clean by washing them with soap and water.
- Mix a quarter teaspoon of sea salt (not table salt) in one cup of boiled water – let the water cool first though!
- Using a cotton ball or pad, gently wet the area around the piercing holes with the solution.
- Carefully dry with a clean towel or cloth.
You should repeat this process twice a day for at least a month, or longer if you feel like your piercing hasn’t healed well up to that point.
There are no negative consequences of cleaning your belly button piercing for longer than you need to, but stopping too early can cause issues, so it is better to err on the side of caution here.
You can also buy ready-mixed saline solutions if you’d rather not make your own – these carry the optimal salt concentration for healing piercings, potentially reducing the cleaning period.
Where a piercing is placed can have a strong impact on whether or not it will end up being rejected.
There are several factors involved in the positioning of a piercing, so you should consider these fully before getting pierced.
Firstly, you need to go to an experienced piercer who knows what they’re doing.
Professional piercers will have completed many successful belly button piercings, perhaps even several per day, so they will be experts in identifying the perfect location for your piercing.
If you go to an inexperienced or untrustworthy piercer, they may place the jewelry so it is too shallow or sits at an angle.
As well as looking strange, this can increase the risk of rejection and make it easier for the body to expel.
Do plenty of research when choosing which piercing shop to visit – if the prices they are offering seem too good to be true, they usually are.
Remember, you can always ask to see a piercer’s portfolio for examples of previous belly button piercings they’ve done.
It is best not to get pierced in a place on your body that will likely be disturbed a lot.
A belly button piercing is usually tucked away and covered by clothing, so it should be difficult to knock it accidentally.
That said, because it is often out of sight, this can cause you to forget that it’s actually there, and so you might end up leaning or lying directly on it.
Belly bars can also get snagged on loose clothes fibres – try and wear high-quality tops made of soft materials, that fit loosely and won’t irritate your piercing.
In addition, you should avoid wearing high-waisted jeans for a few months after getting pierced, as these sit where your belly button is and will be in constant contact with your piercing.
If you are worried about your belly getting knocked, you can affix a patch of bandage or large plaster over the area to protect your belly button piercing.
Most of the time, belly button piercings go through the fold of skin above your navel so the bottom jewel rests snugly in the belly button cavity.
There is also the option of an inverse belly button piercing, which goes through the skin at the bottom of the navel instead.
Which type you can get and the precise positioning will depend on the natural appearance of your body, for example if there is not enough skin at the top for the traditional style.
Unfortunately, some people are unsuitable for any type of belly button piercing as their anatomy simply won’t allow it; this is usually only the case for those with an ‘outie’ belly button, where the navel protrudes above the skin’s surface.
Discuss your individual needs with your piercer so you know what options are available.
You can go in with a good idea of exactly where you want your piercing placed, but always listen to your piercer’s advice as they will have a better understanding of how to position it to minimize issues.
Any piercing is more likely to reject or migrate if it is disturbed a lot. It may be tempting to fiddle with your piercing when it’s new, as the novelty of it being there hasn’t worn off, but it is much better to give it as much time as possible to settle.
You should only touch the piercing to clean it, and it will be a good few weeks or months (depending on the type of piercing) before you should attempt to change it out.
For a belly button piercing, the healing period is anywhere between 6 months and a whole year, which is a long time to wait.
Once it is fully healed, you can remove your jewelry to clean it or swap it for a different design, but you should still try to limit how often you touch it.
Knocking a piercing even years after healing can cause it to reject suddenly, so it is important to treat it with care for however long it is in your body.
Unfortunately, there isn’t a product you can buy to deter you from touching your piercing, like there is for biting your nails.
This means you will have to rely on your willpower or think of somewhere else to direct your energy.
If you find yourself itching to play with your belly button piercing while it is healing, try playing with a strand of hair instead. It’s not quite the same, but it might help to suppress your urges a bit.
You can also admire it in the mirror or experiment with different outfits to see what clothing complements it the most.
Why not splash out on a new wardrobe to show off your cute belly button piercing in the best way possible?
Piercing jewelry can be made from a variety of different metals, some of which are higher quality than others.
Most piercers will use titanium or surgical-grade stainless steel belly bars as the initial jewelry, because these are known to be the safest metals to go into the body.
After all, medical implants are made of these, and they are designed to be inside the body for long periods of time.
Titanium is also a great option because it can be anodized, meaning that you can choose what color jewelry you have – you don’t just have to stick to plain old silver, although of course this will also give you a great look.
Alternative metals that are suitable for fresh piercings include solid gold and platinum. While these are obviously more expensive, they can bring a certain feeling of luxury to your belly button piercing.
If you know you are allergic to a certain type of metal, it is extra important to make sure you choose jewelry that won’t cause an adverse reaction.
Avoid anything with nickel in it, as this is a cheap metal that can cause you to develop a new allergy – it isn’t worth risking your health for lower prices.
We also advise you to only use internally threaded jewelry, where the threading is on the ball of the jewelry and slots inside of the piercing post.
Externally threaded jewelry can create small tears in fresh piercing wounds, lengthening the healing time and increasing the risk of rejection.
Always purchase your belly button jewelry from a reputable shop, where you can access information about the materials used.
Fluctuations in weight or other significant changes in your body can put you at greater risk of your belly button piercing rejecting.
Your skin stretches to accommodate your new shape, which can affect your piercing and start pushing it out of the way.
This is a particular concern during pregnancy, as a lot more weight is concentrated around the stomach area.
If you are expecting a baby in the near future, it is perhaps best to wait until your body is back to normal before investing in a belly button piercing.
What To Do If Your Piercing Starts To Reject
You’ve been as diligent as possible with your cleaning routine, and taken care not to get your piercing caught on anything.
Unfortunately, despite your best efforts, you notice that your piercing has begun to reject anyway. If this happens, remember not to panic.
Your first instinct will probably be to remove the piercing straight away, but this will make the exit holes close up faster, trapping any infection under the skin and causing bigger issues along the line.
Instead, you should try and stop any more dirt getting in and causing further complications.
With clean hands, gently clean the piercing as instructed in your initial consultation.
Contact your piercer right away to ask them how best to proceed, as there may be a chance they can save the situation if you act immediately.
Once the piercing rejects altogether and the wound has fully healed, you may wish to recreate your original piercing look.
You cannot get repierced in the exact same spot, as there will be scar tissue present that can’t support a piercing.
However, a skilled piercer should be able to place a new piercing around the scar tissue to get it as close as possible.
This is a viable option, but be aware that scar tissue is weaker than normal tissue so you may find the healing process somewhat problematic.
It is a good idea to discuss your circumstances in depth with your piercer before committing, as you need to be informed of any potential issues you could encounter.
Frequently Asked Questions
How Often Does Rejection Occur?
As stated above, rejection can happen to anyone who has a piercing and at any point, but the majority of cases occur with new piercings where the skin hasn’t yet healed.
With older piercings, it usually takes knocking or otherwise disturbing the piercing to trigger the rejection process, but it can still happen out of the blue.
There will always be someone who is eager to tell you horror stories about their own belly button piercing that got infected and pushed itself right out of their body – these are usually accompanied by graphic descriptions of bodily fluids, that could put you off getting a belly button piercing for life.
Exact figures regarding rejection rates are difficult to find, as there is not enough accurate data available. However, we know that belly button piercings are one of the most likely to reject.
While rejections of any kind may not happen a lot, remember that the belly button is a highly common piercing location, so proportionally these represent a relatively high number of actual incidences – ear piercings are even more usual but they only ever reject very rarely.
It is also worth noting that, although belly button piercings are as popular as ever, rejection rates are going down as regulations for piercing providers are becoming stricter.
There is less opportunity for irresponsible piercing practices to slip through the cracks, so there is more chance your belly button piercing will be carried out properly.
Why Are Belly Button Piercings At High Risk Of Rejection?
Belly button piercings are a type of surface piercing, which means they go through a flat part of the body that doesn’t have obvious entry or exit points.
With standard ear piercings, the metal goes through one side of the ear and comes out the other – the same is true for nostril piercings, nipple piercings and all kinds of oral piercings.
With a surface piercing, however, the piercer needs to create two points for the jewelry to protrude through the skin.
Other examples of surface piercings include collarbone piercings, eyebrow piercings, bridge piercings, and nape piercings.
Surface piercings are notorious for rejecting, because they are often placed close to the skin’s surface and so there is not much flesh anchoring them in position.
Belly button piercings have a slight advantage here in that they go through a thicker chunk of skin, but they still have a high rejection rate.
What Are The Signs That A Piercing Is Rejecting?
If your piercing is starting to reject, there are a number of symptoms that can be present to give you an indication of what is going on. As with an infection, the surrounding skin may be red and swollen.
You may experience itching and tightness around the piercing holes, as well as soreness in the area. As the rejection progresses, you will notice the piercing gradually moving closer and closer to the surface of the skin, and it will droop around the entry and exit points which are now bigger and closer together than before.
Your skin may be peeling or flaky near the piercing and can also feel hard to the touch.
A similar issue that can arise is migration, where the piercing moves over time to a different position.
With migration, the piercing doesn’t always reject fully, but can instead stray just slightly from its original place. Either way, migration is annoying and changes the look that you were going for.
Always keep a close eye on your belly button piercing, so you are familiar with how it looks and can tell immediately if anything unusual is happening.