The mainstream world of body piercings and jewelry has expanded far beyond the simple earlobe piercings you used to squeal about having done in middle school. With tons more piercing styles normalized these days, new combinations are popping up all over social media. One piercing, for example, that has officially made the jump from extremely obscure to super trendy is a dermal piercing.
Ever wonder about those mysterious gems that seem to float on the skin? You’ve probably have seen them on some cheeks, chests, or necks, and maybe you’ve even seen finger dermal piercings. This specific style is called dermal — as in epidermis, which is a fancy word for skin.
Dermals have grown majorly in popularity over the last few years. Currently on TikTok, the #dermalpiercing hashtag has over 129 million views and #microdermal has over 228 million views. You may have seen celebs flaunt the trendy piercing, too, including Cardi B with chest piercings and Simone Biles with a sternum dermal. More and more people are popping into studios to request dermal piercings, according to Lynn Loheide, a professional body piercer, piercing educator, and manager at Icon Tattoo and Body Piercing in Nashville, TN. “I do a few a month,” Loheide tells Elite Daily. “They are, however, very anatomy dependent, meaning if someone doesn't have the appropriate anatomy for them, we can't safely do them in that location.”
Given that, how are dermal piercings done, exactly? And where is it safe to get one pierced? Below, you’ll find all you need to know about dermal piercings, according to experts.
What Is A Dermal Piercing?
“A dermal, also known as a surface anchor or microdermal, is a form of single point surface piercing,” Loheide says. While most traditional piercings have a visible front and back — there's usually an earring with a removable post — dermals are done differently. “They are pierced using a piercing needle to create a small pocket in the skin, and the base is inserted into this pocket,” they say. “The base is about the size of a grain of rice, and the piercing process itself is often very easy.”
As for pain, Loheide notes that while some is to be expected, it really isn’t all too bad. “I would describe it as a very uncomfortable pressure,” they say. “Certainly not pleasant, but with a skilled piercer, not the end of the world.” While there are lots of variations in terms of location — piercings on the face are quite popular — dermals shouldn’t be done just anywhere. “Microdermals heal in areas of low movement, with a stable amount of fatty tissue,” Loheide says.
Finger piercings, and specially ring finger dermals, can still be found making rounds on social media, but you might want to think twice before getting one done. Dermals on hands, feet, arms, and legs tend to do poorly, as does the clavicle (a popular placement), due to the movement of the neck and shoulders, according to Loheide.
“It’s for this reason that it’s so crucial to see a piercer with a lot of experience in surface work who can map out your anatomy and ensure things are placed where they will heal for you,” they say. “These are sadly common to see online on fingers and hands, and oftentimes these placements can lead to severe scarring and even infections. Because your hands come in contact with a lot of things — food, pets, even cleaning yourself after the bathroom — it's a bad mixture.”
How Long Do Dermals Last?
Successful dermal piercings typically last three to seven years. “Surface piercings, including dermals, are all considered long-term temporary, meaning they should not be expected to last a lifetime,” Loheide say. “Some folks get lucky and have these longer, and that’s always the hope! But it shouldn’t be the expectation.”
For some people, they may only last for months — every body will react differently, and some people may just opt to take out their piercings. “Having a dermal last three years is a great run, but some may only last a few months to a year,” Loheide says. “These will not last you forever, so enjoy them while you do have them!”
How Much Does A Dermal Piercing Cost?
From a reputable piercer with implant-grade titanium, dermals will usually cost somewhere between $80 to $120 and up, according to Loheide. “Most of the cost is the jewelry — these bases are a lot of work to machine correctly,” they say. “More importantly is the material — since dermals can't be taken in and out for things like surgery or medical imaging, it's essential to be pierced with implant-grade materials that are safe for these procedures.”
If you do find a piercing spot that is charging less than average, be wary, as companies sometimes try to cut corners by using lower quality metals for microdermal bases. However, that means you'll have to remove and lose the piercing if you need to get an MRI or any surgery. “With implant-grade titanium, these can often be left in,” says Loheide. “I have personally worn all my dermal piercings for a multitude of surgeries over the years.” In general, it’s always worth asking your piercer what metal they plan to use.
How To Care For A Dermal Piercing
The healing process is fairly simple, but it definitely takes time and patience. “Sterile saline wound wash is all you should use around them, and you can irrigate them daily to remove any crust or debris,” Loheide says. “These heal best if left alone, so resist the urge to pick at, play with, or fuss over them.”
Typically, dermals take around one to three months to heal, and even then, you should be diligent about keeping the area clean in order to prevent any future infection. “Once healed, you want to keep them clean and free of makeup, skin products, and anything that may irritate the area or become trapped around the piercing,” Loheide advises.
Are Dermal Piercings Safe?
When done by a professional and reputable piercer, dermal piercings are totally safe. There are, however, some things you should consider before getting one done, as there are potential side effects and complications. For example, microdermal piercings have a higher rate of rejection than most other piercings. In fact, one of Cardi B’s dermals, a chest piercing, was rejected by her body, as she revealed on Instagram Stories in July 2020.
There is also the potential for scarring. Dr. Lily Talakoub, M.D., FAAD, board-certified dermatologist and fellow of the American Board of Dermatology, notes that if you plan on getting a microdermal piercing, you should understand that you're likely going to have a scar. “I've never seen a dermal come out that didn't leave a permanent scar, even if it was miniscule,” Dr. Talakoub tells Elite Daily. “Best-case scenario is [that] you have a flat one to two millimeter tiny little hole where it was, but still, you will see that hole.”
Dermals also pose the risk of infection, be it from a lack of proper cleaning, trauma (such as accidentally snagging it on something), or an allergy to the metal, according to Dr. Talakoub.
How To Remove A Dermal Piercing
Microdermal piercings were designed to be removed easily and pop right out with some tissue manipulation, so getting one removed isn’t as intense and scary as it sounds. “There's this urban legend online that dermals have to be surgically removed or cut out of you,” Loheide says. “This is probably what I hear the most often, and it’s also the most untrue!”
In fact, Loheide says, most clients find the removal process less painful than getting the actual piercing done. “Have you ever taken off a shoe with the laces still tied tight? You stretch your heel out and then you can slide your toes out. Microdermals work much the same way!” says Loheide. “They have a long and short side (a toe and heel side), and the heel can be massaged out and then the toe slipped out. This still requires a specific technique, and so should be done by a reputable piercer, but is a very easy process.”
While there is no need to visit a doctor to remove your dermal if you have an experienced piercer you trust, many plastic surgeons and dermatologists can remove them as well, and they specialize in minimizing scarring. But if your piercing does happen to get infected, visiting a medical professional to remove it might be the better option, as they can provide you with antibiotics and local anesthesia if necessary.
If you do opt for a dermatological removal, a doctor will numb the area, make a tiny incision, and pull the dermal piercing out. “Because it has one metal base, either in the shape of an L or T, we make a little incision to get the L or T out of the skin and pull it through the incision,” Dr. Talakoub says.
Overall, microdermal piercings are definitely on the rise, and it’s way more common to have one than ever before. If you do decide to try one out, make sure you know what you’re getting into and go to a reputable studio and artist. Happy piercing!
Lynn Loheide, professional body piercer, piercing educator, and manager at Icon Tattoo and Body Piercing in Nashville
Dr. Lily Talakoub, M.D., FAAD, board-certified dermatologist and fellow of the American Board of Dermatology
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