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Thinking of getting your ears re-pierced? Perhaps you stumbled on some old pics of your former stylin’ self, or you found a pair of maybe-cool-again danglers in your jewelry box.

Go for it! Just read this first before you start poking about.

Even if you’ve gone months or years without wearing earrings, you may still have a usable hole there, though it’s likely partially closed.

With a partially closed piercing, a thin layer of skin has grown over the hole, but there’s still a tunnel underneath it.

Resist the urge to break through the skin, even if you’re pretty sure you can do it. Even a tiny tear in the tissue can open you up to an infection or some bleeding.

Instead, try this on a partially closed ear piercing:

  • Take a bath or shower. The warm water will help soften the skin.
  • Lubricate your ear with a non-antibiotic ointment (like Aquaphor or Vaseline) to keep the skin pliable.
  • Gently stretch your earlobe to help open up the area and thin the piercing hole.
  • Carefully try pushing the earring through the back side of the earlobe.
  • Experiment with different angles, always using gentle pressure.
  • Once in, keep the area clean and keep your earrings in for a few weeks to prevent the holes from closing.

If reasonable force doesn’t work, you’re better off contacting a professional who can re-pierce your ear(s) for you. You don’t want to cause pain or damage by using too much force.

Wondering why you should stick with a non-antibiotic ointment? Unless you have an infection, using any type of antibiotic is not necessary. Also, antibiotic ointment can aggravate an open wound if you manage to break through the skin with an earring.

If your piercing’s fully closed, you’ll need to enlist the help of a piercing professional to re-pierce your ear(s) for you.

According to Columbia University, around half of at-home piercings end up requiring medical attention.

Re-piercing your ear(s) at home puts you at risk for complications ranging from infection to tissue and nerve damage. Seeing a trained professional with the proper equipment in a sterile environment reduces these risks.

Maybe, but only a piercing professional can tell you for sure.

Book a consultation with a piercing professional who can examine your former earring hole(s) and decide if you can re-pierce the same spot without opening yourself up to complications.

If your hole(s) closed due to an allergic reaction or because of an infection, piercing the same spot may not be the best idea — depending on how the area healed.

The piercing professional will check for issues in or around the old piercing that could make it hard to re-pierce, and they will advise you on how to proceed.

Chances are, the piercing professional will advise you to pierce a different spot where there’s no scar tissue, especially if there’s quite a bit of it.

An infection, allergic reaction, or removal of your initial piercing earrings too soon could result in the development of scar tissue, like a hypertrophic scar or keloid. Some people are also just more prone to keloids.

Depending on how much scar tissue there is, you might be better off avoiding another piercing entirely. The same goes if you have or had a keloid in the past, This is because there’s a higher chance that you’ll grow another in your new piercing.

If there’s only a thin layer of skin standing between your old piercing and some new earrings, you can probably push your way through — as long as you’re careful.

The key is to listen to your body. If you’re met with resistance or pain, leave it to a professional to avoid any complications.

You can find a professional through the Association of Professional Piercers.

Adrienne Santos-Longhurst is a Canada-based freelance writer and author who has written extensively on all things health and lifestyle for more than a decade. When she’s not holed-up in her writing shed researching an article or off interviewing health professionals, she can be found frolicking around her beach town with husband and dogs in tow or splashing about the lake trying to master the stand-up paddle board.