Body Piercing Rejection and Migration

A surface piercing, slightly inflammed
Smial / Wikimedia Commons / Creative Commons

When it comes to body piercings, unfortunately, migration and rejection sometimes become an issue that can frustrate and even frighten the person experiencing it. The first thing you need to know is what rejection and migration are. Some people tend to confuse the two or think that they are one in the same, but that is not actually the case. So, let's take a look at the two words and define and distinguish them clearly.


Simply put, rejection is a cause. Rejection happens when you place a foreign object in your body (i.e. body jewelry) and your body, for one reason or another, considers that foreign object a threat to your health and safety. In order to protect itself, your body slowly fights the object by pushing it and healing the skin behind it to eventually force the object completely out through the skin.


Migration is the symptom. The process of the movement that slowly brings your body jewelry closer and closer to the skin's surface is migration. If the jewelry is not removed, the process of rejection will cause it to migrate far enough to actually push its way entirely through the skin. Once this happens, the possibility of healing without scarring is very unlikely.

Piercings Most Likely to Reject/Migrate

Piercings that only break through a small amount of surface skin - aptly named surface piercings - are the most likely to become ​victims of rejection and migration.

The less skin there is available to keep the piercing secure, the more chances there are that your body will find a way to push it out. This, of course, depends largely on your body and whether or not it determines that the piercing is a threat in the first place. Some people are much more prone to rejection than others.

The most common surface piercings are navel (belly button) and eyebrow piercings. The surface piercings most likely to reject are those that reside more closely to the skin's surface such as sternum, nape, and madison piercings. An experienced piercer must know how to pierce through enough flesh for a secure hold without causing tissue or nerve damage. However, even the best-placed piercing can still reject if your body simply doesn't want it there.

How to Determine if Your Piercing is Migrating

Because migration is a very slow process that can take weeks or months, it may be difficult for you to know for sure if your piercing is actually changing. Here are some of the symptoms of migration:

  • Constant soreness and sensitivity
  • The skin over the piercing is thin enough to see the jewelry through it
  • The jewelry hangs differently, more loosely than it used to
  • The hole around the piercing appears larger

If You Notice Your Piercing Migrating

Unfortunately, once a piercing has begun to migrate, there really isn't anything you can do to stop it. However, you can prevent it from becoming worse. As your piercing migrates, it is creating scar tissue and a hole that will be difficult to conceal if allowed to migrate to completion.

The only thing you can do at this point is to remove the jewelry (or have your piercer remove it, which would be best) and allow what is left of your piercing hole to heal completely.

Can You Re-Pierce?

Some fear that if their body rejected one piercing, it may or will reject all. This is not necessarily the case. If you desire to try your piercing again, try a different kind of jewelry material like niobium or titanium instead of stainless steel. Or try a larger gauge - very small gauges like 18 or 16 are much more likely to migrate than a 14 or 12. Or try a different location - somewhere that more tissue can be accessed to get a good, secure piercing to begin with. And most of all, be sure that a professional does your piercing to ensure that it is done correctly and follow their aftercare instructions.