Archive for Piercing and Aftercare Information

clear retainers for dimishing piercings

We’ve all been in a situation where we’ve wished we could hide our piercings.  Whether it’s to avoid family scrutiny, comply with an employment or educational institution, or even a simple aesthetic reason, having the option of making our piercings “disappear” sure would be handy.  While we can’t help you magically close and reopen your body piercings, there is a good way to make them a lot less noticeable: with retainers.

A retainer is basically a body jewelry item that keeps a piercing open while minimizing its appearance. There are several different styles of piercing retainers, employing a variety of materials and shapes, but some of the best for truly hiding a mod are completely clear.

 body piercing retainer jewelry

These are most often made of clear acrylic, bioplast (a flexible material), borosilicate glass, or PTFE, and are usually designed to sit as flush to the skin’s surface as possible.  For many items, this is accomplished with a thin clear disc, especially in pieces designed for high profile piercings like those of the nose and lips.  For other piercings, simply the shape can work wonders, like with modifications of the nasal septum.  Here a staple or crescent shaped pieced can have its ends turned up to sit inside the nostrils, effectively making it look the septum isn’t pierced at all.

 hiding a septum piercing

No matter what the reason for hiding your piercings, keep in mind that retainers are only a temporary solution, but when used to the full extent of their ability, they’re a tool that every modification enthusiast should keep within their arsenal.  You know, (wink, nudge) just in case.

contemporary cheek piercings

Location: The cheeks, starting from just underneath the eyes, extending downward towards the chin, and outwards to the jaw.

Names: The anti-eyebrow piercing (high cheek piercing, Cleopatra piercing, teardrop piercing, butterfly kiss), the dimple piercing (cheek piercing, cheek bites, dimpler), and the cheek dermal (facial dermal, cheekbone piercing, teardrop dermal, Cleopatra dermal).

 anti-eyebrow, dimple, and dermal piercings

Piercing: Most anti-eyebrow piercings are performed as a surface piercing, which usually necessitates either the use of two needles, or punch and taper technique (employing a dermal punch).  Dimple piercings however, may be performed with a single needle, much like dahlia or upper lip modifications.  Microdermals can make use of either a hollow piercing needle inserted at an angle to create a pocket of skin, or a dermal punch to cleanly remove the skin leaving a small hole.

Aftercare: As with most piercings whose base rests inside the mouth, lower cheek or dimple piercings will require both external and oral aftercare.  This often involves the use of both soaks/washes and oral rinses to prevent irritation from food particles.  For higher set anti-eyebrow piercings, standard surface piercing aftercare will generally suffice, and the same will be true for dermal cheek mods.  Microdermals will always require vigilance as well, as they are easier to pull free from the skin when bumped or snagged.

 convenient aftercare products

Jewelry: Anti-eyebrow style piercings are normally worn with surface bars, but can also be seen with flexible barbells or occasionally curved barbells, depending on their exact location.  High cheek dermals can be worn with standard dermal anchors, which feature a removable decorative top, or with single piece micros called “skin divers.”  And for lower cheek or dimple piercings, a labret/monroe style stud (usually with a flat back) is often used.

 surface piercing body jewelry

Popularity: Although cheek piercings are of primarily contemporary origin, they continue to rise in popularity and prevalence amongst certain social sub-groups of the younger modified generations.  It’s estimated that dermal and surface piercings in general still compose less than 3% of the overall piercings amongst these segments of the population.


Superhuman: the Magic of Modified Skin

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the awesome power of human skin

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.

 anatomy of the epidermis

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.

 healed piercing holes and stretching

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!


Modification Overview: Surface Piercings

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surface piercing overview

Surface piercings are piercings that are made across a flat plane of skin, rather than through a fold or outcropping of tissue or cartilage.  They’re composed of two separate punctures, connected by a channel below the skin’s surface.  This means that two balls, spikes, or decorations will be visible above the skin rather than one.  The methods that piercers use to create a surface piercing vary, and can include punch and taper technique (employing a dermal punch), or the use of two piercing needles to puncture and lift.

 surface style piercing mods

The jewelry used in a surface piercing is a surface barbell or “surface bar,” a staple shaped solid barbell with two interchangeable ends.  To accurately measure surface jewelry, length and gauge (thickness) are required just like a regular barbell, but the rise or “depth” of the bar is also a factor.  Rise is the distance from the base of the decorative tip, to the curve or angle of the staple.

 measuring surface piercings

Because a portion of the jewelry will rest beneath the skin, surface bars are most often made of hypoallergenic solid titanium or surgical grade stainless steel, and are generally tipped with small balls, spikes, or flat discs.

 steel and titanium surface jewelry

Many of the popular contemporary piercings are commonly worn as surface piercings including the nape piercing, clavicles, sternum, third eye, bracer (wrist piercing), anti-eyebrow piercing, and several others.

contemporary surface piercings

Take a front row seat as BodyCandy friend Natori gets her tragus pierced by James at American Skin Art.  (Look for the needle insertion at about the 27 second mark.)

First, the piercer uses cue tips to thoroughly cleanse the tragus area of the ear.  Next, he marks a dot to show where the piercing will be positioned and has Natori check in the mirror and give the okay.  A hollow needle receiving tube in placed at the opening of the ear canal directly under the tragus, to protect any other parts of the ear from accidentally getting poked.  Then our piercee is instructed to take a deep breath, and the needle is pushed through.  Jewelry is inserted, the ear cleaned up once more, and Natori is ready to walk away with her fun new piercing.

 tragus getting pierced

Tragus piercings require similar aftercare to other ear cartilage piercings, and initial heal is often quick.  They’re a very versatile piercing that can hold numerous different types of body jewelry including BCRs, small barbells, horseshoes, and studs.  Tragus surface piercings and vertical tragus piercings can also be performed on most individuals, and are growing in popularity as alternatives to the standard.

 beautiful new tragus ear piercing

For more cool close-up videos of real piercings being performed, don’t forget to check us out on YouTube.  Happy piercing!


Piercing Knowledge: Threading the Needle

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needles instead of guns for piercing

In honor of Thread the Needle Day (which occurs tomorrow on the 25th), we figure it’s time to have a little talk.  Specifically, we just want to let everyone know why professional piercers are so important, because there’s definitely more to piercings than just a needle.

 piercers and hollow needle know-how

So why is a hollow piercing needle the very best way to create beautiful body piercing art?  There’s actually a few reasons, but perhaps the most obvious and simple one is this: by removing the tissue that the needle pierces through, we’re essentially adhering to the laws of physics.  Removing mass with the needle, and then replacing mass with the jewelry.  When you poke a hole in something without removing any mass, the area around the hole you’ve made is damaged or distressed. Just think about poking a pen through a sheet of paper.  The edges around the pen hole look pretty rough, right?  That’s actually a pretty good comparison of what happens to the skin when a piercing gun is used to pierce cartilaginous tissue.  It doesn’t look terrible or tear anything apart, but on a cellular level, there’s definitely inflammation and fettered tissue.

 why guns aren't good

It’s actually a minor form of what we would consider blunt trauma, and since parts of the piercing gun are unable to be properly disinfected, it quickly turns into a recipe for disaster.  Piercings performed with a gun have a higher risk of infection, migration, or rejection, all of which can be dramatically lessened with a piercing needle.  This is part of the reason that the APP (Association of Professional Piercers), has been working for almost twenty years to educate both piercers and their clients about safe piercing and aftercare practices.

 body piercing education and the APP

So on this Thread the Needle Day, be sure to take a moment to appreciate both your piercing professional, and their stock of sterile hollow piercing needles.  Because the two of them together make your body mod dreams come true.


Photo File: Rare Piercings Peek

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Rare piercings are a sight to behold, and if you’re as obsessed with body art as we are, they might just give you some ideas of your own.  Check out these beauties:

Triple Tongue Piercing

Three piercings of the tongue, whether next to eachother, in a vertical line (a-la- Elayne Angel), or arranged in a pattern.

multiple piercings of the tongue

Nose Bridge Piercings

Piercings of the skin over the nose’s bridge (also called an Erl piercing), generally the most fleshy portion between the eyelids or eyebrows.

piercings of the nose bridge

Vertical Labrets

A vertical piercing of the lower lip, usually worn with a curved barbell or flexible bioplast bar.

vertical piercings of the lower lip

Madison Piercings

Piercings at the front of the throat that can be worn with a curved barbell, BCR, surface bar, or as a dermal piercing.

madison neck piercings

Clavicle Piercings

Piercings directly over or at the top crest of the clavicle.  These are most often performed in pairs (one on each side), and are best performed as surface piercings and worn with surface bars.

clavicle chest bone piercings

Double Septum Piercings

Two piercings of the nasal septum or “sweet spot” flesh, normally worn with circular barbells.

multiple piercings of the nasal septum

Horizontal Eyebrow Piercings

Horizontally placed piercings (usually surface piercings) above or directly over the brow.

horizontal brow piercings

Third Eye Piercing

A piercing in the third eye chakra area between the eyebrows.  These are popular as dermal piercings, but can also be seen in surface piercing style.

third eye forehead piercings

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Follow along as Holly gets a three part piercing on her outer ear cartilage. (Watch for the needle insertions at about 0:30, 0:55, and 1:13).

Our piercing professional, James from American Skin Art, first cleans the ear and marks three small dots where the piercings will go.  He then has our piercing enthusiast double check in the mirror that the markings are aligned how and where she would like.  He instructs her to take a deep breath, and pushes the hollow piercing needle through, corking the free end.  Next, the jewelry is slid into place and secured, and the other two piercings are performed in the same fashion.  Once all three are finished, there’s a final cleanup, and our newly modified friend is ready to go.

 triple outer cartilage piercing

There are a variety of perforations that can be made in the cartilage of the human ear, and not all of them have a specific or distinct name.  This type of triple piercing is often referred to as an “ear flat piercing,” “triple scapha piercing,” or “fossa piercing,” and can be performed in a variety of orientations.  Multiple piercings of the ear cartilage in general are becoming more common amongst the modified generations.

 Holly's Triple Cartilage Piercing

For some, the ear’s features won’t allow for certain piercings, and that’s where your piercing professional comes into play.  With a thorough knowledge of the ear’s anatomy, they can often recommend alternate placements or styles, and angle such piercings correctly to allow for optimal healing.

For more up close videos of real piercings being performed, don’t forget to follow us on YouTube.


Dimple Piercings Overview

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piercings of the cheek or dimple

Piercings of the cheeks can go by a variety of names, but perhaps the most common is “dimple piercings.” These are cheek piercings specifically positioned to give the appearance of natural dimples, hence the cute and interesting name.

Dimple piercings are performed with a hollow piercing needle, and generally utilize a pair of pennington forceps like most other common facial piercings.  The piercer will have you smile a few times and may feel or pinch the flesh of your cheek to decide on the most natural and viable placement.  Most expert piercers will place these piercings far enough forward to avoid any possibility of tooth or gum damage from the backing of the jewelry that will rest inside the mouth.  This usually means placing the piercings in front of the first molar, which also prevents any interference with the glands.

Healing can be difficult for piercings of the cheek, because they see so much movement on a daily basis.  Smiling and laughing, talking, and especially eating will all be uncomfortable during the first few days, and avoidance of alcohol, makeup, and smoking are usually encouraged.  Initial healing may take up to ninety days or more, with full healing normally occurring around the one year mark.  Like other piercings of the lips and cheeks, dimple piercings must be cared for diligently both at the surface, and inside the mouth.

Both barbells and flat-back studs can be worn in most dimple piercings, but initial jewelry is often longer than average to accommodate any swelling that may occur.  Since the cheeks tend to swell quite easily, some piercers will purposely use barbells during the initial healing phase, as the ball is less apt to be healed over due to excess inflammation than a flat disc.

 internally threaded dimple piercing studs

For some, dimple piercings will cause mild a-symptomatic nerve damage, which basically creates a man-made dimple where there wasn’t one prior.  Even after the piercings themselves are taken out, the dimpling or any small amount of scarring tend to be permanent for most individuals.  Many choose to get the piercings for exactly this reason, as a cheaper and less invasive alternative to surgery for creating dimples. Becuase of the implications however, dimple piercings should always be considered carefully, just like any other permanent mod.

 healed dimple piercings

Want to see dimple piercings being performed up close?  Then check out this short video, and follow us on YouTube for more.

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anti-tragus piercings

The tragus piercing is a piercing of that small nub of cartilage that extends out from the side of the face in front of the ear canal’s opening.  An anti-tragus piercing is a piercing of the cartilaginous outcropping directly across from it, at the ear’s inner rim.  A little bit rebellious, but it’s actually named “anti-tragus” after the portion of the ear anatomy that holds it.

 parts of the human ear

Aside from a fun name though, the anti-tragus actually has a lot of other things going for it.  This piercing heals well, can accommodate a variety of jewelry styles, and matches perfectly with its less feisty counterpart.  It’s also pierced in much the same fashion as its cartilage-decorating cousins.  Some piercers will pierce entirely freehand, while others will use a receiving tube, or more rarely, a pair of forceps.

As long as it’s cared for properly and avoids any knocks or scrapes, initial healing will occur around the eight to twelve week mark, with full healing taking approximately one year.  During the first weeks it’s often recommended that wearers avoid submersion in pools or lakes, take care when pulling clothing off or on over the head, and limit the use of hair products, which can be potentially irritating.

Depending on individual ear anatomy, piercing the anti-tragus of some persons isn’t feasible, and others may be limited to specific types of jewelry.  For the most part though, a variety of styles can be used including small curved barbells, straight barbells, tragus style studs, BCRs, and other circulars.

 tragus and anti-tragus earrings

For more about ear piercings and anatomy, check out our Ear Piercings category, and don’t forget to hit us up on YouTube to see real piercings being performed close up.