Save my ear piercing from attracting Edward Cullen.
September 8, 2010 12:15 PM   Subscribe

Are my ear piercings doomed? Must I permanently switch to clips? What are my options here?

I had my earlobes pierced with a gun (yes, I know) say 18ish years ago. Single hole in each ear. I think that they never healed fully. I say this for two reasons. One, my ears are very sensitive and I can't wear earrings for very long. Two, each time I put earrings in, it's like I'm re-piercing through two, five, ten skin cells. I feel resistance, but if I keep pushing, the earring post will eventually go through, but my ear then bleeds. A lot. This effect is much worse on the right ear than the left, but both have bleeding problems.

I like wearing earrings, but I don't very often because of this issue. I'm in a culture now where many women wear them and I don't quite feel put together without them. So I'd like to be able to wear earrings but this bleeding thing is gross. Are my ears just unusually vascular and this problem is indefinite? Do I need to find earrings that my ears don't react to and leave them in for a long time? I did that when they were first pierced, so I doubt that that is the solution, but if you say so, I will try again. Do I need to move to clips (sad!)?

Bonus topic: My nose piercing is Indian and looks like this. I think that I would like to find a pair of these to use as default earrings that I can leave in. Does anyone have experience with a reputable vendor? My nose pin was purchased in person in India, so I don't know how to go about finding that kind of thing here.
posted by emkelley to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (11 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
If I were you, I'd take out earrings for awhile, let the holes heal as well as they can, and then re-pierce them.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 12:16 PM on September 8, 2010

Just to add to pink's post... My ears never healed correctly when I had them pierced with a gun. I took my earrings out for a while, let my lobes heal and then got them re-pierced with a needle. After that, I never had another issue with infections, bleeding, etc.
posted by AlliKat75 at 12:23 PM on September 8, 2010

I would find a reputable place that specializes in piercings.
I had yucky ears from being pierced with a gun at the mall when I was a tween. They never healed fully. I let them close up because I was tired of the bleeding, the lumpy (!) scar feeling in them, etc. So years later I asked a friend who had many *ahem* exotic piercings for her advice and she sent me to a place that specialized in such piercings so they didn't use a gun, they were super sanitary and asked me a lot of questions. They pierced me with a needle and I had small niobium loops for about a month, give or take. I faithfully followed all of their healing advice on the take-home sheet. My ears healed beautifully and over time I switched from niobium or titanium to other metals that if I wear them overnight, make my ears gross but do just fine for daily wear. Maybe this approach will work for you; good luck!
posted by pointystick at 12:23 PM on September 8, 2010 [2 favorites]

Get your ears re-pierced with a needle, preferably a slightly larger gauge. My ears were pierced (badly) with a gun (at a mall) 20 years ago, and I had the same problem. I had them re-pierced 8 years ago and never had a problem again. I also leave my earrings in 24/7.
posted by Cat Pie Hurts at 12:23 PM on September 8, 2010 [1 favorite]

I would go to a reputable piercer (the needle kind, not the mall store gun kind) and seek their advice. They'll have high quality jewelry there as well, and may be able to advise as to whether this sounds like some sort of metal allergy. They likely see cases like this quite often.

I would bet that if the piercings are salvageable, they'll advise you to change the jewelry to something like a ring for a while -- the backs on the standard earrings used with a gun can harbor all sorts of things, and a ring is much easier to clean.

Nostril screws in the US are quite different from what you've linked, but labret studs are similar. Also, I wear small curved barbells (like these) in my ears.
posted by pixiecrinkle at 12:28 PM on September 8, 2010

Me too, plus a wicked nickel allergy.

I got mine re-pierced with a needle about a year ago. They were pierced at 16 gauge, and I now wear surgical steel 14 gauge tapers like these almost all the time. I haven't left earrings out for more than a couple days at a time, so I honestly don't know if I'd still be prone to re-healing if I left them out for longer, but in the past, even leaving earrings out for one day would cause me to have to do that icky re-piercing you're talking about.
posted by ferociouskitty at 12:29 PM on September 8, 2010

Thanks, all!
posted by emkelley at 12:41 PM on September 8, 2010

This sounds a LOT like nickel allergy to me, I've had this go on and my piercings went in fine. Can you try some nickel-free earrings and see if that changes the situation?
posted by jenfullmoon at 1:13 PM on September 8, 2010

I see 2 options:

1. Go to a professional piercer and ask to have high quality hypoallergenic jewellery inserted into the holes you have. Leave that in for a minimum of 2 months.
2. Leave them a few months and then go to a professional piercer and have them redone with high quality hypoallergenic jewellery.

The first option costs less, but if it doesn't work and the second option does later, it'll take you longer to get to that point.

The best jewellery options are

1. A barbell or labret stud made completely out of PTFE
2. A barbell or labret stud made completely out of PTFE except for the ball on the front (the bit everyone will see) which would be made out of titanium.
3. A barbell or labret stud made out of titanium.

PTFE is, for most people, the jewellery material least likely to give problems and the one that leads to speediest healing. Unfortunately, it doesn't look as nice as metal jewellery. High quality (low-nickel) titanium is the best metal option. The best jewellery comes from companies like Anatometal. That said, the cheaper titanium jewellery that comes from Wildcat, Tombstone, and other budget suppliers is often good enough for most people with sensitive skin. And with cheap, good-enough jewellery flooding the market it can be hard to find a good piercer who still carries high-quality, high-price, name-brand jewellery. However Anatometal and other companies make a lot of different interchangable pieces--so you can wear the same labret stud in your ear but change the ball/stone that screws on to the front (the only part that will be seen).

Normal healing time for earlobe piercings is 4-10 weeks, and I would just assume for you it would be a bit longer. This is the point where most people can change to other jewellery of unknown quality. But it takes several months after that of continuous wear before the holes have toughened up and can be left empty for extended periods while still being able to reinsert earrings problem-free. You should wear good titanium jewellery for a minimum of 6 months full time (switching to other jewellery only occasionally on special occasions) given your previous problems. Even after that, I would try to keep titanium in your ears most of the time instead of leaving them vacant for extended periods.

Lastly--long ago jewellery stores would sell small plastic tubes that could be inserted into pierced ears (or slid onto the post of an earring) to keep the metal from coming into contact with the skin inside. If you can find them, that may be an option worth exploring.
posted by K.P. at 2:48 PM on September 8, 2010 [2 favorites]

Simply Whispers has a huge selection of hypoallergenic earrings. If you're near Boston they have a brick-and-mortar store in Hanson where you can find discounted earrings (mostly stuff that they didn't have enough left from the production run to put into another catalog).
posted by Runes at 8:16 PM on September 8, 2010

Pierced my own ears with a needle 40+ years ago. I've never been able to wear studs, "hypo-allergenic" earrings, or 14kt. gold earrings without serious irritation. Sterling silver and 18 kt. gold, no problem.
posted by mareli at 8:00 AM on September 9, 2010

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