As a new piercing heals or a retired fistula (piercing hole) closes, there's always a chance you'll develop scar tissue around or over top the piercing site. What can you do about a piercing scar? Is there any way to remove it? The answer is yes, but you need to know what type of scar you're dealing with before you can treat it properly.
Types of Piercing Scars
There are three types of piercing scars: atrophic, or indented scars, hypertrophic, or raised scars, and keloid scars, which are dark red or purplish scars that grow out of control well beyond a piercing site. Keloid scars are actually very rare. Those people who do develop them likely have family members who are also prone to keloids. If you develop a keloid scar, you'll be able to differentiate it from a hypergranulation based on its size. Hypergranulations are irritations caused by a combination of excess moisture and pressure that can easily be mistaken for keloid scars, because they both have similar appearances. The difference is that a hypergranulation will form closely around a piercing site, whereas keloid scars will continue to grow well beyond a piercing site. A hypergranulation will present as either as a red bump that appears fluid filled alongside a piercing or as a ring of angry red, puffy tissue encompassing the opening to a fistula. Keloids have a similar appearance to hypergranulations, but they continue growing, forming prolific mounds of puffy, taut, purplish-red tissue.
Both hypergranulations and keloid scars may present early in the piercing healing process, but the other types of piercing scars usually take longer to appear. Hypertrophic scars may appear as soon as 4-8 weeks after getting a piercing, but atrophic scars usually only show up after a piercing is retired. The longer you have a piercing, the more likely you are to develop an atrophic scar if you remove your jewelry at some point. They're the result of collagen failing to fully fill in the gap where your piercing was, leaving you with a little divot marking the spot where you once had a piercing, as shown in the far right image above. Hypertrophic scars are caused by an overproduction of collagen that may appear as a skin tone ring around a relatively new piercing or as a circle of raised tissue with a slightly textured surface over the spot where a retired fistula once was. Hypertrophic scars can take on other shapes, too, when a wound isn't symmetrical, as in the torn earlobe piercing scar picture in the center above.
All three types of scars are treatable, but keloids are more complex to minimize or eliminate than hypertrophic and atrophic scars. If you know you or someone close to you, like a parent or sibling, is prone to keloid scars, you should not get pierced, since keloid scars can be very unsightly and complicated to treat. Fortunately, most people don't have to worry about developing keloids.
Keloid scars require medical intervention to remove, whereas hypertrophic and atrophic scars can be conveniently treated at home with over-the-counter remedies. If you do develop a keloid scar around a piercing site, you'll need to remove the piercing and continue your piercing aftercare until the fistula closes. You can then seek treatment by a dermatologist, who may offer you options like surgical removal, cryogenic treatment to freeze off the scar tissue, laser therapy, steroid shots to shrink the scar tissue, or a combination of treatments that may also include daily applications of a silicone scar therapy gel. Like keloid scars, hypertrophic scars can sometimes be surgically removed by a dermatologist, but in many cases, surgical removal isn't advisable because it could leave you with a more significant scar than you started with.
The best way to treat hypertrophic scars and atrophic scars is to apply either a silicone scar therapy gel or jojoba oil daily for as many weeks or months as it takes to minimize the appearance of your scar or eliminate it completely. All you need to do is massage a small amount of either ointment into your scar tissue twice a day until you see satisfactory results.
If you're wondering which is more effective, silicone scar therapy gel or jojoba oil, the jury's still out, because only the efficacy of silicone gel on scars has been scientifically tested and documented. You can read about one scientific study that found it to positively minimize hypertrophic and atrophic scars in our blog post, Is Silicone Scar Therapy Gel Effective for Treating Piercing Scars? While there's less scientific data about the efficacy of jojoba oil, people throughout the body mod community can attest to having used it to minimize piercing scars with positive results. Jojoba oil also has the benefits of being a natural treatment option that tends to be a little more cost effective than silicone scar therapy gels.
If you're interested in trying jojoba oil on a piercing scar, consider trying our Recovery Aftercare Jojoba Oil. Recovery Aftercare Silicone Scar Therapy Gel is coming soon, too. When it's available, you'll find it in our Piercing Aftercare section. Whether you use jojoba oil or silicone gel, you should wait to start treating your piercing scar until your fistula is either fully healed or fully closed, if you've recently retired a piercing. Keeping up with proper piercing aftercare during the piercing healing process or while a fistula is closing can help minimize the chances of developing a scar at all.