The Dreaded Bump: Hypertrophic Scarring and How to Treat.
The bump. It’s a pain in the ass and virtually every pierced person will have experienced them at some point. They are often caused by a mix of placement problems, jewellery not fitting just right, knocking it, bashing it, or sometimes, just plain bad luck! However, there are some lucky-as-balls people who have never experienced it!
Certain piercings are more prone to scarring than others, often ones with low bloodflow, such as cartilage. Also, cartilage piercings are easiest to bash about and knock, as well as getting hair caught in them. Nostrils are a common place to have bumps, too!
So, how do you identify a hypertrophic scar?
Wikipedia states thus:
A hypertrophic scar is a cutaneous condition characterized by deposits of excessive amounts of collagen which gives rise to a raised scar, but not to the degree observed with keloids. Like keloids, they form most often at the sites of pimples, body piercings, cuts and burns. They often contain nerves and blood vessels.
- They are red or pink in colour, however can fade to a lighter tone.
- Are fleshy bumps that stay within the boundary of the piercing, often forming in a ring shape, or as a dome off to one side.
- Often very itchy
- Dry skin can flake from them
- No pus or draining fluids.
They are not to be confused with keloids, which are darker in colour, spread far beyond the bounds of the piercing site with no real specific form, often tender, painful and itchy, they are red or much darker than the normal skin tone, they carry a lot of collagen, and they can often develop months or years after the piercing.
Help! I’ve got a scar!
Step one, don’t panic. They take a long time to treat, but the sooner you spot and identify them, the sooner you can begin treatment, of which there many different types. Not every treatment will work on every scar, but keep persevering. If you’re sure a certain treatment isn’t working, then move onto the next one.
These treatments are listed from the most common and safest, to the most extreme.
Treatment one: The chamomile salt soak.
Salt soaks are awesome, and everyone knows that. However, the addition of chamomile tea soothes and calms the affected area further, which can greatly reduce scar reduction
- Pop on the kettle
- Add 1/4tsp to the mug, add the boiled water (leave some room at the top)
- Ensure all the salt’s dissolved.
- Add the tea-bag, allow to brew for 5 minutes.
- Make sure that the water’s hot as you can stand, but not boiling as this can be very harmful. (Derp!)
- Using a soaked cotton pad, hold and press hard on the bump, avoiding knocking the jewellery.
- Do this twice a day for 5 minutes, or more if you want.
Pointers: Make sure you use chamomile tea with no added extras! If you have a ragweed allergy, avoid this method!
The compression and soothing nature of this method should help the bump break down and go. This is the most common and often most effective method.
Treatment two: The breathable tape compress
I’ve never tried this method, but I have heard good things about it. Elayne Angel discusses this method in ‘The Piercing Bible’. It is an example of compression therapy.
- Get some breathable medical tape. MicroPore is the most common and most effective.
- Choose the tone that is closest to your own skintone.
- Using clean scissors, cut into a small strip that will cover all of the bump and about 1-2mm of unaffected tissue.
- Apply tightly, so the bump is being actively pressed on.
- Wear the tape continuously, changing when you feel it’s grubby/peeling.
- Discontinue this method after 2-3 months if you see no improvement.
Pointers: Use this only on healed piercings, as the adhesive could irritate a healing one.
Treatment three: Salt soaks with topical treatment.
Once again, this treatment is outlined in Elayne Angel’s Piercing Bible. I have used this method with success in the past.
- Perform mild salt soaks twice a day for 5 minutes.
- Using a q-tip, apply ONE of the following: alcohol, 3% hydrogen peroxide solution, or tea tree oil. Compressing with the q-tip will add compression.
- Continue this for 2-3 weeks and you would see an improvement.
- Try a new treatment (ie, alcohol to HP) after 3 weeks if not improvement is seen.
Pointers: PLUG YOUR EAR CANAL! Hydrogen peroxide can cause deafness/hearing damage if it enters the ear canal, so plug it before using H2O2 to keep yourself safe. Only use one of them at a time!
Treatment four: Topical application of hyrocortisone cream.
- Apply with concordance to the instructions on the packet.
- If no improvement is seen after 6 weeks, discontinue use.
Treatment five: Hydrogen Peroxide application.
This treatment is outlined in Compunction’s Healing Guide.
once you've determined WHY your piercing grew the big lump of tissue, you can take to removing it. i've found holding a q-tip wet with hydrogen peroxide directly on the bump to be very effective. re-wet the q-tip as necessary to keep the bump soaking for five minutes several times a day for a few weeks. hydrogen peroxide (H2O2) eats away at new tissue, which makes it completely inappropriate for the cleaning of a piercing, but quite suitable for destruction of scar tissue. it will fizz & burn, & eventually your scar tissue will probably scab over. keep up the treatments, & you should see results.
Remember, Hydrogen Peroxide can and will deafen you if you use it without caution. This treatment isn’t always recommended, so caution should be used at all times, and you must understand this risks of this treatment.
If none of these methods work, then you can ask to be referred to a dermatologist, who should be able to provide a more aggressive treatment.
Any bump questions, and we’re always open for business, so ask!