Human skin serves multiple purposes, and is considered to be a separate bodily organ. It facilitates communication through our sense of touch, assists in regulating the body’s temperature, acts as a protective barrier for our delicate underlying tissues, and in the modern world it’s also a living work of art. Piercings and tattoos may cause the skin some minor injury, but it’s in that perforated or punctured state that the epidermis truly shows just what it can do.
The way skin heals itself is nothing short of amazing. When a piercing is performed, a hollow needle is used, which literally removes the skin between one side of the piercing and the other. From there, healing occurs in three basic steps. Immediately following the physical trauma is a period of soreness known as the inflammatory phase, which normally lasts for several days. During this stage a new piercing is swollen and tender, and bleeding or bruising may occur. Once the initial discomfort fades, we enter the proliferation phase, usually extending from two to six weeks. During this time period, the skin begins to reconstruct all of its damaged parts, like when a scrape is scabbed over and heals from the inside out. Lastly, there’s the final “remodeling” phase, taking anywhere from a few more weeks to many months. Throughout this important self-healing stage, piercings are generally painless, and most of the skin around the piercing itself is actually composed of completely new cells.
The healed tunnel of skin that forms a body piercing is called a fistula, and what’s even more awesome than this new structure the skin has constructed, is the fact that it can then be stretched, reshaped, or remolded in a variety of ways as well. Just like a science fiction film where an alien loses a limb and re-grows it, human skin is capable of amazing regenerative feats. You could almost consider it a superpower. Pierced and Tattooed Superhero League, Assemble!