This page is about a rare piercing bump known as a cyst, which appears most often on cheek piercings.
- Mostly cysts begin beneath the skin, sometimes with a small scab-like opening on the surface.
- They often feel like a hard ball within the skin.
- When the cysts grow a small dome forms on the top of the skin which are often skin coloured.
- If the cyst gets infected or irritated it can be red and sore, though they are often painless
- Cysts are usually full of liquid and can pop or leak. They suffer from a few types of discharge:
- Keratin Discharge. Which is thick and lumpy and can smell like old socks.
- Pus which is grey/green/dark yellow and smells pretty bad, this can signal infection.
- A brownish red discharge which is a mixture of discharge (or pus) and blood.
- Sebum which is very oily, waxy kind of substance that looks like yellow grease.
- When popped, cysts can get smaller but they may not go away completely.
- Usually the cysts that piercings get are epidermoid cysts.
- Cysts are caused by cells getting into deeper parts of the skin where they don’t normally live.
- Instead of dying off these cells continue to work as they normally would and multiply.
- The multiplied cells form a sac which then fills with proteins (keratin) that has nowhere else to go.
- As the sac gets bigger it appears on the outside of the skin and it may empty by popping or leaking.
- The cells getting in the wrong place is thought to be cause by trauma or blocked glands / pores.
- Other types of cysts which could appear include; Pillar cysts and Sebaceous cysts.
- Not much research has been done into prevention of these cysts.
- You are more likely to be prone to cysts if; you are past puberty, male, have had a lot of sun or uv exposure or have a history of acne.
- The best prevention, in terms of body piercing, is to avoid cheek piercing.
- Cysts are possible on other piercings too, just rarer. So, consider if a piercing is worth the risk to you.
If you are worried about a bump you should always seek professional medical advice.
- Encourage the cyst to drain using a hot soak. We suggest a saline soak (see here) and soaking the cyst for several minutes. Do this for several minutes twice a day for a week or two.
- An antibacterial or medicated talcum powder may help to dry out the bump. Something like CX powder is ideal.
- You should never pop the bump with something sharp as they can easily get infected.
Even after the cyst is dried out and drained it can begin to fill up again – bringing the cyst ‘back.’ If this happens you should see a doctor as soon as possible.
You should not use hydrogen peroxide on the cyst. It is ineffective at treating the bump and will cause damage to your piercing.
If the cyst gets very sore, irritated or infected get medical help!
- The doctor may suggest a steroid injection or laser therapy, at first.
- Usually though cysts are surgically removed. This is done under local anesthetic.
- Cysts usually do not reform after surgery.
If you would like more information about cysts we recommend reading the full guide to cysts. Another guide you may find useful is our guide to piercing infections which list the symptoms of infections which cysts can be prone to. Finally try reading about the benefits that saline soaks offer to piercings and how they help cysts to heal.