Migration, Drifting, and Rejection

Migration, Drifting, and Rejection


Something I see a lot in the shop is drifted and migrated piercings, most commonly in the various cartilage piercings of the ear. It bums me out, man. It’s so avoidable. I feel like the reason this happens so much is because most people think that the reason you don’t want to sleep on a relatively new cartilage piercing is because of the soreness it can cause. Although this is also true, another big reason is migration.

Migration and drifting happens when a piece of jewelry moves through the tissue, the end result leaves it in a different position from when a piercing was originally placed. Although common, drifting is mostly avoidable. Avoid sleeping on your piercing as much as possible, especially if you are a side-sleeper, or you're like me and like to sleep on your stomach with your head just straight up smashed into the pillow. It’s easier said than done but, just don’t. Sleep on your back, or the opposite side of your new piercing. Whenever I had a new facial piercing or something new anywhere in the cartilage of my ears, I liked to sleep on back so that everything healed straight and lovely, the way it was intended to look when my piercer originally placed it.

Avoiding migration is just as large a part of healing as hygiene. Healing a piercing isn’t just cleaning it. In order to heal a piercing as beautifully as your piercer intended, I’d definitely recommend follow these simple guidelines during the healing process:

  1. Don’t sleep on it, of course! As I’ve said before, sleeping on a piercing can cause severe migration from the pressure put on it throughout the night. It’s also important to note that things like studio headphones, headsets, and hats can also cause harmful pressure.
  2. Don’t touch it. Never never never touch it. Stop touching it. Leave it alone. Your body knows how to heal piercings. Let it do its thing and leave your piercing alone as much as physically possible. Try not to touch your piercing with anything. Every little bump and pull will set back your healing process, even if it’s just a tiny bit.
  3. Stick to the cleaning method that your piercer has recommended. The most common methods will be sea salt soaks or a sterile saline wound wash (I’m more partial to the wound wash myself, just because it’s way more convenient.) If there are little crusties on your jewelry or piercing, don’t pick at it. That stuff is going to come off by itself, just let it happen.
  4. Make sure that your downsize your jewelry appropriately. Your piercer will give you a timeline of when you should be visiting them again, just stick to that. Jewelry that is too long can greatly increase healing time and put unnecessary pressure on a piercing, causing excessive discomfort. It’s important to downsize when you're ready because extra space on the post of your jewelry means that it can get caught, snagged, and pulled much easier.

Photo Credit: Jef Saunders


Rejection can be caused by a number of things, and sometimes it seems to just happen. When your body senses a threat to your health or safety, it’s going to take action to eradicate that threat. We all know that a piercing isn’t a big deal, but your body is trying to take care of itself, dude. Can you blame it? Rejection sucks, but it happens. Sometimes it’s caused by an infection or irritation, and sometimes it seems to slowly happen over time. If you find that your jewelry is much closer to the surface of your skin than it was originally placed, this could be a sign of rejection. If you fear that your piercing is rejecting, it’s always the best idea to go see your piercer. Sometimes it can be stopped by switching the jewelry to a different style or material, and sometimes it’s a better idea to retire the piercing altogether. Whichever, leave it up to you piercer. It’s important that you do not retire a piercing that you think might have an infection before you consult a professional, even if you think it is rejecting.

<3 Emily

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