More on Microdermals

December 3, 2009

Anchors, single point piercings, microdermals–whatever you call them, they are one of the newest big things in body piercing.  Traditional piercing placements are described in the old  maxim, “If It Protrudes, Pierce It.”   Single point piercings are attractive because you don’t need a protrusion, flap, or fold of skin–you can place them anywhere (theoretically.)  So far, the major problems with these cute little things are migration and rejection. Innovative jewelry makers and piercers are still working to refine the concept for viability, versatility, and long-term wear.

Above is a picture of my almost one-year old single point piercing (which I wrote about getting here.)   I’ve been lucky–many don’t make it this long, as they tend to reject.  Here’s a sampling of what I’ve learned about them:

Placement can make or break a piercing.  Lots of ladies are getting “cleavage” piercings, but are finding that the movement of their breasts is causing the piercing distress.  The anchor part that is in your skin must remain flat to the plane of your body.  My piercer placed my anchor higher than I initially wanted, but I believe it has been the key to my success so far.

Aftercare for these piercings consists of keeping them clean, with the occasional sea salt soak or compress.  Compresses (clean gauze or paper towel soaked with hot saltwater solution) are a good option because unlike a normal piercing with a channel and two exit points, there is only one hole.  Therefore, gentle pressure with a hot compress can help expel any lymph or other matter from the piercing.

Rejection and migration are the big problems here.  A messed up piercing must ordinarily be removed by a piercer, and may leave a scar.  Unfortunately, I’m not aware of anything that can be done by the piercee to prevent this.

As good as mine has been doing (no redness, pain, or anything), it has popped out a bit over the course of the year, as you can clearly see in the above pic.  (It looks a little red in this picture, but I think that’s just my pink person skin!) I think it may eventually work itself out and need to be removed.

Contrast my anchor with the two in the pic above, used with permission from PriestessLolo at the BAF forums from this thread. Her two chest anchors have clearly migrated away from the plane they are supposed to be in.  This is a very common consequence, and the piercee is planning to remove at least the bottom one before it can get worse.

I only have one single point piercing, so my thoughts and experience are limited.   They look amazing, but some might feel the piercing is a lot of money spent for pain, with more money, and more pain to remove them.   If you are willing to experiment with your body and accept the risks of rejection or scarring, they are really very rewarding and unique piercings.  Are they worth it?   The jury is still out on this one.


What do Timothy Leary and Stretched Lobes Have in Common?

November 17, 2009

Some thoughts on stretched lobes:

Some friends of mine were talking about stretched earlobes.  They’ve seen  people wear large diameter plugs or other jewelry in their lobes and They Just Don’t Understand.  They’re ugly! They’re gross! Why would people do that? Tattoos seem ubiquitous these days; piercing of multiple body parts has caught on, but what’s with these giant stretched earlobes? (“Stretched” is usually considered the proper term, over “gauged.”  Not necessarily by me, but I thought I’d mention it!)

Piercees like to stretch their piercings for fun.  Stretched piercings are unique, it’s pleasurable to do things to your piercings, and there’s the shock effect, which some piercees enjoy and cultivate.  There’s nothing quite like a fashion or a look which requires real effort to achieve, and which few other people can wear.  It’s understandable that people would want to wear and collect some of the really beautiful jewelry for stretched ears that is now on the market. I’d be the first to applaud the innovation and artistry being exhibited by the people making some of these wonderful pieces, like the folks at One Tribe.

But are these good enough reasons?  In my opinion, yes.  And no. There’s nothing wrong with getting a piercing because it looks cool or to identify yourself with your peers.  I don’t want to be hypocritical–my earlobes are stretched moderately, and I plan to continue stretching just a bit more, in part to wear certain jewelry.   But I see a couple of problems in the trend:

1) Past a certain point, this is a permanent alteration to the body. Just like visible tattoos, facial tattoos, full sleeves, etc., these types of body mods should only be undertaken by mature individuals who have a good idea of how their life will play out and how they can support themselves. Surgical reconstruction isn’t cheap, and some people with large stretched lobes may find their employment options marginalized or reduced.  Not a good combination in today’s economy.

2) Too many people are stretching way too hard and fast. Not only does this result in a whole host of adverse consequences to the ear (blow out, cat butt, permanent disfigurement), but doing it this way fails to honor the journey and experience.

Stretching piercings are a way to honor those who have gone before us and to connect with a spiritual grounding in the past, and to the natural, primitive part of oneself.  As a part of Modern Primitivism, and a growing desire to align with all the peoples of the world, Westerners began to stretch and wear ethnic or primitive inspired jewelry.  In a similar matter to other historical trends in body piercing today, this practice has been influenced by hippie culture, punk fashion, sexual identity, and the media, but has strayed quite a bit from these ideals.   Timothy Leary and the other early drug gurus  explored drugs to connect with something greater, to explore the inner hidden reaches of the mind and spirit.  With the availability and passage of time, the transcendent has whittled down to the mundane, and people mostly take drugs now merely to get high, without a thought to expanding the consciousness.  In terms of the fashion for stretched ears, most people now just want big lobes to wear big, fancy plugs, with no thought for history or meaning.

Just like no crying in baseball, there should be no competition in body modification.  It should be an individual choice and a personal experience.  In competing for the largest ears or the fanciest collection of plugs, piercees have forgotten the journey.  The commitment it takes to stretch slowly for healthy ears should be honored and celebrated; and the end result savored.   Impatiently shoving large jewelry in to wear the bling not only destroys lobes, but diminishes the piercing, in my opinion.


Coda: In reading this over, I wanted to stress that I think people can do what they want to their bodies, and I don’t think it’s a requirement that all body modification projects have deep meaning. But I do think some thought and care into the practice, especially if you are permanently modifying your body (unlike most piercings, which are durable but usually not permanent in the same sense as a tattoo, for example) is the mark of a well informed, thoughtful piercee and appreciated and cared for body art.

First pic from Gabriele’s Photostream at Flickr.

Second pic from Gusjer’s Photostream at Flickr.

Should I tell my husband or surprise him?

October 28, 2009


Piercings, Partners, and Problems.

What happens when your partner disapproves of your lifestyle choices?  An interest in  piercings can seem incomprehensible to others.  Parents, friends, spouses who don’t “get it” can be a big problem for the piercee.   What if you are thinking about getting a piercing, say, a genital piercing, but are unsure about what your partner would think?  Should you, as one lady asked, spring it as a surprise or talk it over beforehand?

It’s a complex problem and unfortunately there is no single answer.  Similar to the plight of teenagers who want to modify their bodies, there’s the issue of whose body is it, really? Are you free to do anything you want to your body if you are in a relationship?  Does your spouse have any rights in that regard?

Here are my thoughts:

–If you are a single adult, your body absolutely is your own to play with and modify as you see fit.  There are other considerations, of course, such as employment, aesthetics, and health.  Further, there’s always a risk that your close compatriots will object anyway.

–If you are married, or in a committed relationship, your body is still your own.  That is, I still think you have the right to make decisions about your own body; BUT–I think you should take your significant other’s reactions and wishes into consideration. It’s like any other issue in a relationship and communication is important.  So is sex; and if you are planning to pierce nipples or genitals, you absolutely need to consider your partner’s feelings.

–Sometimes the piercing debate can be a symptom of other problems in a relationship.  A common scenario is a middle-aged couple who are growing apart after years of marriage.  One spouse feels restless, wants to spice up their sex life, and suddenly becomes interested in body art.  The other spouse is pretty horrified (“it’s deviant! you’re a pervert!), and a big fight ensues over the piercings, even though the real problem is more complex.  Marriages have broken up over less.

–It’s also worth mentioning you should never get a piercing just because your partner wants you to. No one should pressure you to alter your body; unfortunately it does happen.  It’s your body, and if you don’t want those holes in there for yourself, don’t do it!

I can’t give relationship advice, other than to be patient and considerate, and to communicate.  If you want a piercing but suspect your partner may not approve, bring up the subject.  And bring it up again, because it may take some time for your partner to get used to the idea.  Here’s the progression:

  • –Piercings?  That’s weird and perverted!
  • –Piercings?  Well, they’re kind of interesting–on other people.  Hmm, maybe they can spice up our sex life?
  • –Piercings?  MUST HAVE NOW!

And no, I don’t recommend surprising your husband with a shiny new VCH out of the blue.  Bring it up casually first, and if he recoils, you know you have some buttering up to do!

Disclaimer:  I’m single, so I don’t have to worry about this myself!

Teens and Piercings: How to Avoid the Worse-Case Scenario

March 21, 2009

On the Younger Side Part 2: For Parents

Jessica Bitner stretched her ear lobe piercings to about an inch when she was 13 years old.  Now she wants to join the the Air Force.  Oops.

She says now, “I love them, but when you get serious about your life, you can’t do stuff like that.”  Here’s a video from a CBS news story, about her plastic surgery to reconstruct her stretched lobes:

As unfortunate as this story is (and I can’t help but think how much her parents are paying for this surgery), this isn’t the worst-case scenario when it comes to teens and piercings.  That would be reserved for botched self-piercings, infected, neglected piercings, and family-come-to-blows piercings.

I love piercings; I think that’s very evident.  I can still remember (in the dim reaches of pre-history) wanting my ears pierced so very, very badly.  I begged my parents for years until they finally relented at age 15.  Not only did my Dad think it was “mutilation,” but there was a social stigma attached to ear piercing at that time.  My mother, in particular, regarded it as a low-class practice which only Catholics indulged in (and she did not like Catholics!)

Nevertheless, I don’t like to see very young people permanently alter their bodies with large piercings, like the young lady in the video, or with visible tattoos before they know for certain what their path in life is.

Most of the information you will find about teens and piercings is of the sort I term “health class” information, i.e., piercings are bad, piercings are a fad they will grow out of, teens are just rebellious.  This kind of information, and there are several books about it, is not what I’m offering here, because I’m not part of the PTA, a health care worker, or anything else like that, and again, I love piercings.


For Parents

Note: It’s  not my intention to tell anyone how to raise their own children.  Just like with the babies’ post, if you are a parent, I encourage you to do your own research and make up your own mind about what is appropriate for you and your family.  The following represents only my own personal opinion.  (And a further note:  if you have babies or very young children, you can read my post about them here.)

If you are lucky, your son or daughter has come to you asking for permission to get a piercing; say, a nostril piercing or a navel.  You may think piercings are a stupid teen fad, are gross, unsanitary, or will just mar your precious little baby’s body.  Whether or not this describes you, I urge you to consider your response carefully. You do not want your child to go behind your back and pierce himself, or to a friend or non-reputable piercer who pierces in an unsafe manner, which is what may happen if you are unlucky, or your attitude makes you unapproachable.

Some things for you to consider:

  • Acknowledge that it’s normal for teens to want to be different than their parents and that they will experiment with style.  Relax and let them express themselves.
  • Most piercings can be removed with no more permanent consequences than a small hole, scar, or divot.  (Large gauge piercings or stretched piercings are another story.)
  • It’s true that piercings have more inherent risks than changing hairstyles or clothes, but with a little bit of knowledge, these risks can be minimized.
  • Lobe piercings heal quickly and are fairly forgiving of mistreatment.  This is NOT the case with most body piercings, including cartilage and navel piercings. These piercings can take many months to heal all the way through.
  • Piercings need regular cleaning and care throughout their existence.
  • If you are presented with a fait accompli, and your progeny shows up with a lip ring or eyebrow piercing, or something similar, watch for signs of infection.  Keep in mind that removing jewelry completely from an infected piercing isn’t a good idea, because it can trap the infection underneath the skin with no place to drain, creating an abcess.

Is your kid ready for a piercing?

Is it something they want and are willing to care for?  If they are considering any other piercing than lobes, they must be capable and willing to engage in an appropriate aftercare routine.   This means regular cleaning and soaking for the first few weeks, and maintenance care thereafter.  If your kid keeps up with routine hygiene tasks without being nagged, like brushing their teeth, cleaning their ears, keeping fingernails clean, and bathing regularly, they can probably be trusted to care for a piercing.  Take a look at the picture below:


I like this picture of a Japanese Cosplay girl, but almost didn’t use it, because a close up look shows that the piercings are not clean.  (You can get a closer look at  theeruditefrog’s Photostream at Flickr.)  Although I don’t think piercings are disgusting, of course, I do think uncared for, unclean piercings are! Piercees, no matter what their ages, need to be meticulous about their personal hygiene and clean their piercings regularly.  Can your child be counted on to do this?

They must also have enough self-discipline and patience to Leave It The Heck Alone.  This means not touching it (especially with dirty hands!); not messing with or playing with it; and not changing the jewelry too soon!

Some Practical Advice:

DO NOT LET YOUR CHILD GET PIERCED WITH A PIERCING GUN. Just don’t–it’s not safe.  Those things were created for tagging cattle–they inflict blunt force trauma on the wound, the design of the jewelry traps bacteria near the wound, and most of all, the piercings gun can not be sterilized.  Even if they have “single use” cartridges, the plastic part of the gun itself cannot be sterilized and is often just thrown into a drawer.  Go to a professional piercer! A reputable, professional piercer will only pierce a minor with parental consent and presence.  Yes, this means venturing out of your comfort zone and actually entering a tattoo or piercing studio.  It can be intimidating, but you can do it!

Use the carrot and stick approach.  Negotiate with your child for positive behaviors and use a piercing as a reward.  Realize that all  people want control over their lives and their bodies, and you are empowering your teen by allowing them to have control over their bodies.

Proper jewelry for healing piercings is not cheap.  Buy good quality jewelry from a reputable piercer for starting jewelry.  The jewelry that a teen can buy at the mall, at Hot Topic for example, is not good quality and should only be used after initial healing is completed.  (I wouldn’t use it even then, but I’m trying to be realistic here.)  Understand that sometimes jewelry needs to be adjusted for proper fit and healing, and that may mean another trip to the piercer, and another piece of jewelry.  Accordingly;

Discuss money issues with your teen. Let them save money from their allowance or earn their own money for the piercing. One of the main excuses for kids to pierce themselves is they have no money for a proper piercer and jewelry. Unfortunately, a trip to the emergency room for an infected piercing costs far more.

Do your research about piercings, and encourage your son or daughter to do likewise.  The single most important thing to do to ensure a successful piercing experience is to educate yourself.  Check out the Body Piercing Basics, resources, books and refs, and links on this blog.  At a minimum, review the info on choosing a piercer and Piercee’s Bill of Rights posted by the Association of Professional Piercers.

Pretty much all that is needed for aftercare is sea salt and mild soap.  Hygiene is key! Do not let your child put stuff on it–no ointment, hydrogen peroxide, “ear care solution,” or, heaven forbid–Bactine!

It’s normal for a new piercing to be swollen, irritated, or red. You have to keep close watch for signs of infection, however, which requires diagnosis and treatment by a physician.

And finally try to relax about it!  The majority of teens who get into piercing do actually grow out of it.  On the other hand, some of us never do . . .

Yes, there will be a part 3 to this “Piercings On the Younger Side” series, for the teens. Pic above is from Shekynah’s Photostream at Flickr.  I don’t know how old she is, but I just chose that one ’cause she’s pretty!

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Bellydancers and Body Art

February 22, 2009


Body Art.  That’s what dance is.

Sorry, I’ve been slacking a bit on the blog, but fresh from seeing BellyDance Superstars last night in my town, this is what you get.

I took my first belly dancing lesson in Berkeley in 1975, and I’ve been dancing for my own personal pleasure and fitness ever since. It represents and celebrates life and joy to me. Like body piercing, belly dancing in the West has risen in popularity since the 1970s.  It’s a polyglot, grassroots art form that has ricocheted around the world, from the Middle East, to the United States, and back again, and has absorbed influences from all over.  And like body piercing, much of what is being done today is new–innovative and experimental, and made up along the way.  It’s no surprise that women (and men) who express themselves with their bodies through dance would also appreciate the medium of body art.

As long as I have been involved in belly dance, body art has been a part of it. I remember taking a class in Oakland in the late 70s or early 80s, where the teacher had an enormous  snake tattoo on her abdomen.  She was extraordinarily gifted in abdominal movements, and the effect was amazing.  I also remember thinking how cool it would be if one could glue in a “navel jewel.”  Little did I know that years later it would be me with the tattoos and navel jewelry.

Now, there are many, many dancers with tattoos.  American Tribal Style is famous for encouraging tattoos, (including facial tattoos), bindis,  and other body art in its dancers.  Many ATS dancers, as well as Tribal Fusion dancers, are heavily tattooed.  Cabaret-style dancers sometimes have tattoos, but more often have pierced navels or nostrils. (Read about American Tribal Style dance at the FatChanceBellyDance site.)


One dancer, speaking of a heavily tattooed protege, describes  prejudice against tattoos in certain traditional audiences, and wishes that the freedom that tribal dancers have to adorn their body could be extended to the more traditional styles:

. . . the average Middle Eastern audience would not appreciate her tattoos, resulting in [her] being unsuccessful in acquiring the jobs performing for such audiences.  . . . tattooing is not a Middle Eastern tradition and the Muslims strictly disapprove of it.  It is considered equivalent to disfiguring the body. . .

The only arena of belly dance in which tattooing is accepted and even encouraged is that of American Tribal. How liberating of women! It would be fantastic to have this kind of freedome for dancers of cabaret-style belly dance. . . .  every other form of dance and professional entertainment does not tolerate less than perfect skin on a less than perfect body.  Jasmin Jahal article.

Cautionary Tale: About a beautiful bellydancer and a “Fail” tattoo:

Speaking of less-than-perfect, I admit I have a dislike for tattoos that run all together so the overall design cannot be seen.  Dense images without any white space just make a big blob, especially from a distance.  Anyone contemplating permanent body art should think carefully about the total effect, on their body, and on their life.   For a professional dancer or any kind of performance artist, extra special care should be taken.  Would it affect your career?  How will it show up on stage?

One of the dancers at the show last night, Kami Liddle, had a tattoo which was, well . . . distracting.  She’s a beautiful girl, and a talented and accomplished dancer.  She has also chosen to decorate her belly with a tattoo.  Seems logical,  if you’re a belly dancer, right?  However, I’m very, very sorry to say that the placement and composition are, to be delicate about it, infelicitous.  You can see for yourself.  Here is a photo where you can see the tattoo (at least at one stage–she may have added on to it):

(Edit: Pic Removed.  The following section of this post has been been edited, on my own initiative, as a courtesy to Ms. Liddle–Cloud)

It looks okay in that picture (which belongs to Ms. Liddle and/or BellyDance Superstars), and you can see that there’s a skull and some wing type things there, but here’s what it looks like from the audience, at a distance (and we were sitting farther away than the viewpoint of this video):


It’s a great video, by the way, but with sincere apologies to this incredible dancer,  my two companions and I left the auditorium feeling rather sorry for her.  It turns out we were all thinking the same thing: To put it as nicely as possible, the tattoo was not flattering.

That can’t be good. Kami, we suggest you either adjust your costume higher (or lower); or extend the tattoo around the back.  Or something!

More BellyDance stuff:

Here’s a fairly random selection of more belly dance links for the interested reader:

FatChanceBellyDance catalog:  Here you can buy tribal-style jewelry, including lots of hanging-style jewelry for stretched ears, henna and kohl, bindies and mung tikka (which goes on the head in the part of the hair.)

BellyDance Superstars website:  Includes info about shows and has a store.  A phenomenon is recent years, BDSS is well and heavily marketed by its brainchild, Miles Copeland (brother of Stewart Copeland of Police fame.)  Please buy something (I highly recommend the Belly Dance Superstars at the Folies Bergiere DVD) so they’ll forgive me for using the photo!  I don’t think the store part of the site works yet, but you can certainly buy their merchandise at

More pictures of Kami Liddle. A great compilation of instructional articles, reviews, and other info, which has been around the ‘net for quite some time.

YouTube: For a range of belly dance videoettes, from performances by top dancers worldwide, to instruction and drills.

What Were They Thinking. Here’s a fun/mean one–the “official home of the Goddess of Ugly Belly Dance Costumes.

Top image from Alaskan Dude’s photostream. Middle photo from Beige Albert’s photostream. Thanks, guys!

Now, excuse me.  I gotta dance!

Cautionary Tales: One size does not fit all!

December 3, 2008

The trouble with just walking into the nearest tattoo studio and getting a piercing on the spot from a piercer you don’t know is . . .

you get bad piercings.


Here is a photo from Blondie, who very graciously let me use her photo as a bad example.  It’s of a navel piercing a week and a half old.   You can see that the barbell is simply too short.  Although it’s common for fresh piercings to swell a bit, navel jewelry must be able to encompass the flesh as you stand, sit, bend, and lie down.  This one obviously is digging into the flesh.

On top of that, it’s apparent from the photo that the jewelry itself is of poor quality.  Not only is the finish dull, but the piercee appears to be getting a rash from it.  That happens when you buy stainless steel jewelry that is not implant grade. The proper grade of stainless steel is 316LVM ASTM F-138, which means that it’s manufactured in such a way as to minimize the impact of the nickel in it, which is the leading culprit for allergies to this type of jewelry.

Jewels and danglies are pretty, but save them for when your navel piercing is healed.  After a year or so.

Yes, I said one year! Navels are notoriously slow healers.

Unfortunately, run-of-the-mill piercers think that everyone can wear the same size navel jewelry.   It isn’t so.  Piercings can be deeper, longer; people are made in different shapes, too.

So, the moral to this story is:

  • Make the effort to find a piercer that will look at YOUR anatomy and pierce and place the jewelry accordingly.
  • Buy GOOD QUALITY jewelry that won’t give you a rash or abrade your wound.

Thank, you, Blondie for the pic! Here’s the original thread.