Surface Piercings: Everything You Need to Know

Surface Piercings

Not long ago, piercing styles like eyebrow and septum piercings were considered edgy. With the piercing world gaining mainstream traction, these piercings aren’t as alternative as they used to be. As a result, those who seek to push the envelope when it comes to fashion have begun looking for new areas to pierce.

Enter: the surface piercing.

The surface piercing pierces flat areas of the body, like the chest or upper cheek. While other piercing types typically feature an entrance hole and an exit hole that’s usually directly behind the entrance hole, surface piercings feature entrance and exit holes next to each other on top of the skin. Typically, a piercer will pinch the skin and push the needle through. The result? A double-pierced look that sits flat against your skin.

Don’t get the surface piercing confused with the dermal piercing. While they both offer a similar aesthetic, a surface piercing hosts an entrance and exit piercing hole while the dermal piercing stays in place with a dermal anchor that’s placed beneath the skin and only has one piercing point.

If you’re looking for a new, unique look, then the surface piercing is an excellent option to consider; its style allows you to pierce almost anywhere. Before you start making your surface piercing plans, there are a few things to consider. Here’s everything you need to know about surface piercings.

How much do surface piercings hurt?

The pain level of a surface piercing will greatly depend upon the location of the piercing and where the piercing is placed.

Often, to complete your surface piercing, your piercer will simply pinch the skin that you want pierced and stick the needle straight through. With this process, the surface piercing shouldn’t hurt more than other piercing types in fleshy areas.

If you get a nape piercing or a piercing closer to your eye, it will probably hurt more than a surface piercing on your chest or near your collarbone. If you get a surface piercing on or near your genital region, it’s probably going to hurt quite a bit more.

Depending on your piercer and the location of your surface piercing, your piercer might choose to place the surface piercing using a scalpel rather than a needle. This method often allows them to pierce deeply enough to lower the risk of rejection, but it could be more painful than using a needle.

The pain level of the surface piercing will greatly vary from person to person. If you’re nervous, talk to your piercer about the experience beforehand.

Surface piercing healing process

You should be prepared to commit around one year of healing to your surface piercing. Healing times can be longer or shorter, depending upon the location of your piercing. Before you stop aftercare practices, make sure that you talk to your piercer first.

Surface piercings have a much higher risk of rejection than other piercing types. Since it lays flat beneath your skin, your body is more likely to label the jewelry as a threat and start to push it out. If you choose the right jewelry, properly care for it, and get it pierced deeply enough, you should enjoy your surface piercing for years to come. However, even if you do everything right, your body still might reject the piercing. Some say that every surface piercing will be rejected eventually, so keep an eye on it throughout its life so that you can spot migrating jewelry before it causes scarring.

Aftercare rules

Aftercare rules

As such a unique piercing type, it might seem as though aftercare is more complicated than with other piercing types, but you’ll actually conduct much of the same practices as any other piercing.

Sea salt baths are your friend. To take care of your new surface piercing, conduct a sea salt or saline soak 2 - 3 times daily by filling a small cup or shot glass with the solution and dipping your piercing inside. With most surface piercings, you should be able to suction cup the glass to your skin so that you can move around a bit while you let the piercing soak. Once the soak is completed, gently pat the piercing dry without moving the jewelry.

Be careful with snagging. Rejection will be your biggest risk during healing. Nothing promotes rejection like ripping at your jewelry. Many surface piercings are located in areas that are at risk of snagging. The nape of your neck, your collar bone, and your pubic region all see snagging hazards on a daily basis. Throughout the life of your surface piercing, and certainly during healing, you need to take care when you dress, brush your hair, or do any activity near the piercing site.

Try not to move the jewelry too much. Depending on the location of your piercing, it will see some movement regardless of how careful you are. (For example, anti-eyebrow piercings, located along the cheekbone, will see movement as you talk and smile.) Do your best to minimize movement in order to avoid rejection. If you want to get a surface piercing in an area that sees lots of movement, like your finger or arm, think about getting a dermal piercing instead.


Surface piercing jewelry styles

Jewelry styles for the surface piercing greatly depend upon the location of the piercing and your anatomy. When you get your surface piercing, talk to your piercer about your jewelry options and stick to those options. The wrong jewelry type will see rejection, so it’s important to choose the type of jewelry that will make your surface piercing happy.

Surface barbells, also called staple barbells, are made specifically for surface piercings in flatter areas. Although the name implies that this jewelry type is made specifically for all surface piercings, some locations should sport a curved or straight barbell instead. Your piercer will let you know which jewelry type you should use.

Curved barbells work in many surface piercing areas, too. The curvature of the barbell plays a similar role as the staple shape of the surface barbell. Be careful with this type, since the curvature could push the beads against the piercing holes in piercings in flatter areas.

Straight barbells can be used in specific surface piercings. However, it should never be used in many surface piercing types, so ask your piercer before choosing a straight barbell for your piercing.

Whether your piercing prefers surface barbells, circular barbells, or straight barbells, you can choose opal, pearl, or diamond ball styles, or have a little fun with charms.

Some surface piercings, like a corset piercing or genital piercings, can sport a captive bead ring or other hoop styles.

Why shouldn’t I get a surface piercing?

Since you can get a surface piercing almost anywhere, you can usually find a surface piercing that will work for you. However, there are lifestyle considerations to make before getting a surface piercing.

Healing time for surface piercings is substantial, and during that time, you’ll need to stay away from pools, hot tubs, and lakes, refrain from unhealthy habits like drinking and smoking, and make sure that you adhere to aftercare practices for the entire healing period. If you can’t commit to healing for at least one year, then you should choose a piercing with a shorter healing time.

Surface piercings are susceptible to snagging and rejection, which means that you’ll have to keep an eye on it for the duration of its life. If you’re looking for a piercing that requires little-to-no attention after healing, then this isn’t the piercing for you.

If you’d like a surface piercing somewhere that sees a lot of movement, like your hands or wrist, then you want to consider getting a dermal piercing instead. Surface piercings are easily rejected, and the movement will encourage migration.

How much will it cost?

Cost will depend upon the piercer and the location of the surface piercing, but you can expect to pay around $50 - $100. Since surface piercings are so easily rejected, choose a piercer that has experience with surface piercings; the success of your piercing will depend greatly upon how deeply your piercer pierces it.

Surface piercing types

You can get a surface piercing almost anywhere. If you have an idea for a surface piercing, talk to your piercer about possibilities. Depending on where you’d like your surface piercing, they might say no or recommend a dermal instead. However, don’t be afraid to ask; after all, piercings are all about self expression.

Here are some common surface piercings.

Anti-eyebrow piercings are placed on the cheekbone, usually at an angle beneath the eye.

Bridge piercings are placed horizontally at the bridge of your nose.

Belly button piercings are technically surface piercings, even though their popularity has earned them a place as their own piercing type. Variations of the belly button piercing include surface piercings above, below, and alongside the actual belly button.

Chest piercings appear on the collarbone or in the center of the chest. These are often paired with other surface piercings.

Cleavage piercings are placed between the breasts, usually vertically.

Corset piercings feature multiple surface piercings down the back that are usually connected with a ribbon to emulate the look of a corset back.

Eyebrow piercings are technically considered surface piercings. You can also get pierced above and below the eyebrow.

Genital piercings provide popular surface piercing options. For men, the Frenum, dorsal frenum, Jacob’s Ladder, dydoe, kuno, lorem, and guiche piercings pierce different areas of the penis and genital area. Christina and fourchette piercings refer to piercing types surrounding female genitalia.

Hip piercings are surface piercings on the hip.

Pubic piercings refer to surface piercings in the pubic area for both men and women.

Tragus surface piercings vertically pierce the skin next to the tragus.