Archive for Surface Piercings


Gabby’s Chest Dermal Piercing Project

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Money Shots: 0:31 and 0:59, 1:37 and 1:56

Gabby decided to start a dermal anchor project, and chose to let us record her experience with professional piercer James at American Skin Art in Buffalo, NY! James starts by cleaning the area where Gabby’s piercings will go. He then marks the locations for each dermal and measures to make sure they’re lined up on either side. A hollow piercing needle is used to remove the small section of skin where the anchor will be placed. James then inserts the dermal anchor. During healing, the skin grows around the anchor, holding the piercing in place. James then repeats the process on the other side.

Since the piercings are so close together, Gabby must return for a second visit to complete the project. 6 weeks later, James pierces her second set, and her dermal anchor project is complete.

Healing time: 2-3 months

Initial Jewelry: Dermal anchor, with interchangeable tops that can be switched out after fully healed.


Maggie’s Lower Back Dermal Piercing

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Come see Maggie get her lower back dermals done!

What is a Dermal?

A dermal is a piece of jewelry that sits beneath the skin and has a decorative top that sits on the surface. Also knows under the term surface piercing, dermals are done using a dermal punch. The dermal punch is a hollow needle with an angled end that is used to remove a section of the skin to make way for the dermal anchor. The dermal anchor itself has flat base or ‘foot’ with holes in it which allow the flesh to grow through as it heals. This helps keep the jewelry in place and prevents it easily being ripped out. The exposed end has threading and the tops can be interchanged.

 The Process

Our friend James begins by cleaning the area and then marking and measuring for the placement of the dermals.  He then pushes the dermal punch through the skin, then slides the anchor into place and secures the top. He finishes by cleaning up the area and the end result is two lovely gems and one happy customer.


Caring for dermals requires keeping them dry and clean. Full healing takes about 2-3 months.

Beautiful Bindi

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There are very few styles that can stand the test of time. Fashion trends are meant to have a shelf-life, to develop, bloom, and then fade into memory. However, there are certain forms of decoration that transcend this definition and become something more than beauty enhancement. This is what it means to be iconic.

The bindi is one of those kinds of icons.

Bindis are a traditional sign of faith and devotion to the Hindu religion and accounts of it’s significance can be found in texts dating back thousands of years and have become a staple in Indian fashion.

The bindi symbolizes so much more than a religious devotion: it is a symbol of Indian identity and a culturally specific fashion accessory. Online debates about who should, and should not, wear a bindi are becoming more prevalent as the appeal of incorporating more “global” accessories into an everyday look become more common.

With the ever evolving history of body modification and piercing, the vertical bridge piercing has been described by piercing experts as an effective way to “customize the way you face the world” (The Piercing Bible). This kind of piercing should not be done casually; typical gauges for a bindi piercing are 16 or 14 gauge curved barbells which can extend the healing time of the piercing. Also, with the thickness of the piercing, minor but visible scarring can occur if the time comes for the piercing to be abandoned.

vertical bridge piercing

Wherever you are in the world, whatever your fashion taste, remember that only the best accessories can be considered iconic. Pierce or place a bindi on your forehead because it belongs to all of us.


Skin Divers Vs Dermal Anchors

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What is a Skin Diver?

A skin diver is a small piece of jewelry that is implanted partially under the skin. The base which is the part that lies under the skin’s surface has a pointed end. To insert them the piercer must use a biopsy punch to create a hole for the jewelry to sit inside. The ends which are exposed are non-interchangeable, so whichever color or style of jewelry you pick would not be able to be changed once  the jewelry is placed. The jewelry can be removed by the piercer should you decide you no longer want this piercing.


What is a Dermal Anchor?

Also referred to as a Microdermal, a dermal anchor has flat base or ‘foot’ with holes in it which allow the flesh to grow through as it heals. This helps keep the jewelry in place and prevents it easily being ripped out. The exposed end has threading and the tops can be interchanged with many colors and styles available. The method of placing this piercing involves the piercer using a dermal punch, which is a hollow needle with a slanted end. The piece of jewelry is then inserted into the pocket created by the dermal punch. This jewelry can also be removed by your piercer when you no longer want it.

The Decision:

Only you and your piercer can decide what’s best for you, but as a general rule Dermal Anchors or Microdermals are made of better quality metals and are less likely to be accidentally ripped out or reject. Still unsure? Check out AJ get her Dermal Anchors:

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.


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


Modern Piercings: Scratching the Surface

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modern surface style piercings

In the early days there were piercings of the upper ears, nose, eyebrows, and belly button, and very few outside challenges.  Then as time went on and more modification artists started to expand and explore, new piercings like the daith, the madison, and the nasallang came about.  But right in the here and now is where mod enthusiasts should feel the luckiest, especially since we live in the age of dermals and surface piercings.

Surface piercings are those piercings in which both the entry and exit points occur on the same plane of skin, with only the tips or decorative portions of the jewelry being visible.  This type of piercing utilizes a staple shaped barbell called a surface bar, and the barbell portion itself remains below the skin, with both free ends resting above.  This enables artists to pierce the human body almost anywhere.

 the anatomy of a surface body piercing

There are several methods of creating a channel within the skin to house the surface barbell, including the use of forceps and a single needle (like a regular piercing), the use of two needles and no forceps, and the technique known as “punch and taper” which employs a taper or needle along with a dermal punch.  The use of many of these approaches will depend on both the area of the piercing, and the preferences of the piercer.

Most surface piercings carry a slightly higher risk of migration or rejection comparative to standard piercings, but with proper aftercare and maintenance, they can be healed and worn comfortably for many years.  The surface bar itself is not continually changed out or removed, but the tips can be changed repeatedly to augment the look of the piercing.

 body jewelry balls

Some of the most popular surface piercing sites include the wrists, the nape of the neck, the eye/cheek area, the hips, the clavicles, the sternum, and the side of the head near the ear (in the tragus area).

areas of the body for surface piercings

valley, or sacral piercing

The “valley piercing” is a surface piercing of the lower back that lies right above, or sometimes within, the cleft of the buttocks.  This funny and interesting contemporary piercing has also been known by many other names, including “butt crack piercing,” “sacral piercing,” and “coccyx piercing.”

Like most surface piercings, the valley piercing can be performed with either a single hollow piercing needle, two hollow needles, or the punch and taper technique, depending upon the preference of the client and the piercer.  Due to the area of the body in which it resides, this type of piercing can be difficult both to clean and to completely heal, and because of constant movement there’s a higher rate of rejection or migration than average.

 coccyx surface piercing

Valley piercings are worn almost exclusively with surface bars, though flexible PTFE or tygon bars have been used from time to time.  They can be pierced both vertically and horizontally, and sometimes will sit slightly higher up on the back.  As an alternative to the traditional surface piercing, some choose to get dermal piercings in the area instead.  Those who have tattoos across the lower back may also use valley piercings or valley dermals strategically to accent their body art.

 fun dermal body jewelry

Although valley piercings have been around since at least 2007, they remain rare to this day in both the US and UK.  For a long time these piercings were called by interesting alternate names by both the persons who wore them and the artists who pierced them, causing them further anonymity.  Many piercers throughout the western world have yet to even perform one, making them some of the coolest piercings you may have never heard of.


Popular Piercings: Surface Piercings

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Surface piercings are piercings performed along the plane of the skin so that both ends are visible above the skin’s surface.  They most often utilize a staple shaped barbell known as a surface bar.

Facial Piercings

surface piercings of the facefrom left: horizontal eye brow, vertical tragus, anti-eyebrow, bridge, vertical bridge

Horizontal Eyebrow: a horizontal piercing performed just above the natural brow and generally worn with a surface bar.  Some persons may get multiples of this piercing on one or both sides, or alternatively, fake the look of it through the careful placement of dermals (single point piercings).

Vertical Tragus: the tragus is the nub of cartilage that protrudes from the side of the head to cover the opening of the ear canal.  When this piece of flesh is pierced through vertically, it’s called a “vertical tragus piercing.”  This name however, has also been applied to vertical surface piercings of this area, as shown above.  The name vertical tragus is unique in this way, as it applies to two different piercings that are performed in the same general location.

Anti-eyebrow: anti-eyebrow piercings may be made in a variety of locations around the eye, but are usually worn in either the crows feet area, or (as shown above) just below the lower lash line.  Surface bars are primarily worn in both locations.

Bridge Piercing: the bridge piercing is also often called an Erl, after character actor Erl Van Aken, who is credited with popularizing it.  Unlike most surface piercings, depending upon the anatomy, an Erl can sometimes be worn with a regular curved barbell, flexible bioplast bar, or even a standard straight barbell.  Surface bars are not able to fit properly in many cases.

Vertical Bridge: another name for the vertical bridge piercing is the “third eye,” due of course, to its location directly over the third eye (or ajna) chakra.  This type of piercing is rarer than the traditional bridge piercing, and may sometimes be worn in conjunction with other adornments such as bindis.

Body Piercings

surface piercings of body and torsofrom left: clavicle piercing, nape piercing, hip piercing, cleavage piercing, wrist piercing

Clavicle Piercing: clavicle piercings may be performed directly above, or in any area closely below the visible outcropping of the clavicle itself.  Although they’re primarily a female piercing, many versions of clavicle piercings have been performed on men, including the alternative sub-clavicle piercing, which begins above the bone, penetrates the body cavity, and emerges from underneath on the other side.

Nape Piercing: this piercing is often worn in multiples as seen above, but may also be performed as a single piercing or even a microdermal piercing.  Piercings performed anywhere on the back of the neck from just underneath the hairline, to the visible protrusion of the cervical vertebrae, fall under the name.

Hip Piercing: like many other surface piercing, a hip piercing may be done anywhere in the general area of the hip.  Usually however, it is worn just inside or just above the protrusion of the hip bone, on the lower abdomen.  Many women who get hip piercings prefer to pair them symmetrically (one on each side), and they’re often added to accentuate a tattoo or a belly button piercing.

Cleavage Piercing: piercings of the skin across the decolletage are called “cleavage piercings,” or “sternum piercings.”  These piercings are won almost exclusively by women for obvious reasons, and are sometimes difficult to heal completely because of their location.  Most will be worn with surface bars or flexible PTFE or tygon barbells.

Wrist Piercing: the wrist piercing can be made horizontally or vertically, and is sometimes called a “brace” or bracer” when worn in multiples.  Like most surface piercings, surface bars work best here, but other types of jewelry have been worn successfully.  Many who pierce their wrists will do so temporarily with the intention of lacing them as corset or play piercings.

Rare Piercings

surface piercings that are rarely seenfrom left: hand piercing, Madison, valley piercing

Hand Piercing: most surface piercings performed on the hands don’t have official names as of yet, being essentially in their infancy as piercings go.  They’ll normally be referred to simply as “hand piercings”, “hand surface piercings,” or will be called by the area of the hand on which they reside (ex: finger piercing, knuckle piercing, hand “web” piercing, etc.).

Madison Piercing: the Madison piercing is relatively rare as surface piercings go, but it has actually been around since the 1990s, having been first seen on and named after former adult star Madison Stone.  The Madison is sometimes performed as a single point piercing (dermal), but as a surface piercing it remains unique, being worn almost exclusively with curved barbells or circulars.

Valley Piercing: any piercing made between the small of the back and the crest of the rump is called a valley piercing.  This type of piercing is relatively new, and can be worn as either a vertical or horizontal piercing based on individual anatomy and preference.  One of the rarest of all the surface piercings, the valley has been used primarily to accent tattoo art, or as a temporary piercing for use with specific articles of clothing.

A nape piercing is a contemporary surface piercing through the back part of the neck, just below the hairline. Surface piercings have a higher rejection and migration rate and must be measured and placed properly, so it’s very important to go to an experienced piercer for this procedure. Extra care must be taken so the piercing does not catch on hair or clothing as well. The main difference between a surface piercing and a standard piercing is that the surface piercing has entrance and exit holes that go through the same plane of a flat area of skin, such as the nape.

First, all of the hair and jewelry that is on the neck is moved out of the way. The nape is then measured and marked with a surgical pen. This is extra important with a surface piercing because improper bar size can cause infection or rapid rejection and discomfort, especially since it rests under the skin. This piercer placed the piercing slightly higher on the neck because Michele wears a necklace everyday, and he did not want the nape piercing to hinder that. The piercer then extensively massaged the back of the neck to separate the tissue, pinching it with his gloved fingers and the forceps. Deep Breath. Then the skin was clamped and a 14g hollow piercing needle was inserted through the flesh. The needle was followed immediately with a titanium surface bar. The low profile surface tops were then placed on the bar and screwed in. Michele has many body piercings, and she barely felt the needle. According to both her and the piercer (who also has his nape pierced), the clamps and tissue massage hurt much more than the actual poke itself.

nape surface piercing being performed

Special jewelry is mandatory for this piercing. A surface bar is a barbell that goes under the skin; it is shaped like an open staple with a longer shaft and two shorter upright threaded legs. The threaded portions protrude from the skin and are where the balls or decorations are attached. The low profile balls or flat tops will sit snug to the skin. Titanium surface bars are the most common jewelry used for this piercing, because titanium is nickel free and is less prone to causing irritation. Tygon or PTFE barbells can also be used.  Most nape surface piercings are done in two steps. The initial bar has longer rises to accommodate swelling and the second has shorter rises to be inserted months later once the healing process has taken place.

Another less common method for obtaining a new nape piercing is with microdermal implants. Microdermal implants are single point surface piercing where the base is inserted under the skin, the threading protrudes, and a decorative top screws into the threading and sits flush on the flesh. These piercings can be arranged in a vertical line, or placed symmetrically on either side of center of the nape to give the same appearance as a surface bar.

vertical piercing of the neck nape

Due to the location on the body, piercing urban legends associate nape piercings with a potential for nerve and spinal damage. This is false. Nape piercings do not intermingle with nerve tissue more than any other surface piercing, and there is no risk of nerve damage associated with them.

As with any piercing, it is important to strictly follow your piercer’s aftercare guidelines. Nape piercings take around 8 weeks or so to heal. Because of the placement on the back of the neck, where you cannot see, it may be difficult for you to clean the piercing without the help of a friend. Just like all piercings, the first step for speedy healing is keeping the piercing clean and free from bacteria. Most body piercers will recommend cleaning the piercing with daily sea salt soaks, and also taking precautions to make sure that your hair does not get entangled in the piercing, and avoiding sleeping on your back during the initial healing period.