What is the White stuff that comes out of an old piercing?

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Body modification has been a popular way for people to express their individuality for centuries. One common form of body modification is piercing. Piercings can be found on many parts of the body, such as the ears, nose, belly button, and tongue. However, like all forms of body modification, piercings require proper care to avoid complications. One issue that some people experience with older piercings is the appearance of a white substance around the piercing site. In this article, we will explore what this white substance is, why it occurs, and how to treat it.

What is the white stuff that comes out of an old piercing?

The Anatomy of a Piercing

To understand what the white substance is, we first need to understand the anatomy of a piercing. When a piercing is performed, a needle is inserted through the skin and a piece of jewelry is placed in the hole. The body recognizes the jewelry as a foreign object and sends cells called fibroblasts to the site to create scar tissue. This scar tissue forms a capsule around the jewelry, securing it in place.

What is the White Stuff?

The white substance that sometimes appears around an older piercing is called sebum. Sebum is an oily substance produced by the sebaceous glands in the skin. These glands are present in all areas of the body except for the palms of the hands and the soles of the feet. Sebum is made up of lipids, wax esters, and squalene, and is responsible for lubricating the skin and hair. When sebum builds up around a piercing, it can create a white or yellowish substance that may appear crusty or flaky.

Why Does it Occur?

Sebum buildup around a piercing can occur for a variety of reasons. One common cause is the use of improper jewelry. When jewelry is made from low-quality materials or is not the right size for the piercing, it can cause irritation and inflammation. This inflammation can cause the sebaceous glands to produce more sebum, leading to a buildup around the piercing.

Another cause of sebum buildup is poor hygiene. When piercings are not cleaned regularly, bacteria can build up around the site, leading to infection. The body responds to this infection by producing more white blood cells, which can mix with the sebum and create a white substance.

How to Treat it

If you are experiencing sebum buildup around an older piercing, there are several things you can do to treat it. The first step is to clean the area regularly. Use a gentle soap and warm water to clean the piercing site, and be sure to rinse thoroughly to remove any soap residue. You can also use a saline solution to clean the area. Simply mix 1/4 teaspoon of non-iodized sea salt with 8 ounces of warm water, and soak a clean cotton ball in the solution. Hold the cotton ball against the piercing site for 5-10 minutes, then rinse with warm water and pat dry.

Another way to treat sebum buildup is to change your jewelry. If you are wearing low-quality jewelry or jewelry that is not the right size, it may be causing irritation and inflammation. Switch to high-quality jewelry made from materials such as titanium or surgical steel, and make sure it is the right size for your piercing.

The Importance of Proper Piercing Care

Proper piercing care is essential for maintaining the health of your piercing and avoiding complications such as sebum buildup. One important step in piercing care is to avoid touching or playing with the jewelry, as this can introduce bacteria to the site and cause irritation. It is also important to avoid swimming or soaking in hot tubs or pools, as the chemicals in the water can irritate the piercing and increase the risk of infection.

Another important aspect of piercing care is to avoid using harsh or abrasive cleaning products. This can cause irritation and dryness around the piercing site, making it more susceptible to sebum buildup and infection. Stick to gentle soap and warm water, or use a saline solution as recommended by your piercer.

When to Seek Medical Attention

While sebum buildup around a piercing is usually a harmless issue that can be easily treated at home, there are some instances where medical attention may be necessary. If you experience any signs of infection such as redness, swelling, or pus, or if the piercing becomes hot to the touch or painful, it is important to seek medical attention right away.

In some cases, sebum buildup may be a sign of a more serious issue such as keloid scarring or a foreign body reaction. If you notice any changes in the appearance of the piercing or if the sebum buildup persists despite proper care, it is important to speak with your piercer or a medical professional to determine the underlying cause.


In conclusion, sebum buildup around an older piercing is a common issue that can be easily treated with proper care and attention. By understanding what causes sebum buildup, how to treat it, and the importance of proper piercing care, you can keep your piercings looking great and avoid complications. Remember to always use high-quality jewelry, clean your piercings regularly, and seek medical attention if you experience any signs of infection or other complications. With the right care, your piercings can continue to be a beautiful form of self-expression for years to come.

What is the White stuff that comes out of an old piercing?
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