January 15, 2011
Some of you may have been expecting a blog about metal sensitivities as they relate to body piercing. That blog is coming soon, we promise. Some recent changes to some Minneapolis regulations has prompted us to make this our newest blog.
Hopefully you’ll find this informative as well.
Return of the What?
Microdermals (also know as dermal anchors and single-point surface piercings) have been around for about 5 years. So in the realm of all things body piercing, they are still pretty new. However, in that short period of time they have become quite popular, so chances are good you’ve seen one even if you didn’t realize you had. If you’ve ever seen a piercing that is a single ball or gem inserted in a flat area of someone’s skin, then you have seen a microdermal.
Traditional surface piercings (done with surface bars) will always have two balls/gems/ends that are connected by a bar that runs underneath the skin.
Because microdermals don’t have to be connected by a long bar running under the skin, there are certain areas where they may have a better success rate than traditional surface piercings. In addition, because microdermal piercings can be done as singles they open up the possibilities from a design/pattern point of view.
How Does That Thing Stay In?
If you’re asking yourself that very question, don’t worry…you aren’t alone.
It is often helpful to think of microdermal jewelry as a foot and leg combo. Instead of making you try to make sense of a wordy description…a picture…a thousand words and all that.
The brown part is one solid piece of titanium. We only use titanium microdermals as titanium provides the greatest amount of biocompatibility, making the piercing as body-friendly as possible and nearly eliminating the risk of allergic reaction, even in people who are highly-sensitive to metals.
Think of the post that sticks up (called the uplift) as your leg and the plate it is attached to as your foot. The end with no hole is called the heel and the end with the large hole is called the toe. There are a variety of different hole styles and combinations available from different companies. How much of a difference the various styles make is still up for debate, but we have had really good success with this style. In addition to the fact that we like the design of the anchor, the company who makes the jewelry, Anatometal, Inc., makes the highest-quality body jewelry in the world, hands down. We think our clients deserve the best quality available.
The gem, or whatever you choose to wear, simply unscrews from the small post.
Okay, So How Does That Thing Go In?
Again, a very common question. The answer is probably a little more simple than you might expect. Basically, a hole is made in the skin with a piercing needle. This happens very quickly and doesn’t typically hurt anymore than a standard piercing. Then, the toe end of the anchor is used for leverage and the plate is essentially “popped” into the hole. Once inserted, the plate sits under the skin and the top of the uplift sits flush with the skin or perhaps sticks out very slightly.
Most of the time this happens quickly and you feel only pressure. In some instances the jewelry might need to be removed momentarily and then re-inserted so that it sits flush with the skin. While everyone is different, most people compare getting a microdermal to getting any other piercing.
So, Why Did You Stop Doing Microdermals?
We performed microdermal piercings for about 3 years and we stopped doing them approximately two years ago. We quit doing them because the city of Minneapolis has had regulations for many years against performing “implants”. While microdermals weren’t even around at the time they made implants illegal, the city decided to classify microdermals as implants because the piercing has only a single entrance/exit point. In addition to Minneapolis, Hennepin County enacted the same ban on microdermals. So, the powers-that-be didn’t decide that microdermals were unsafe to do or anything like that…they simply got banned because of a definition/syntax issue.
While a number of studios in the city/county continued to do them illegally, we opted (as always) to put ethics and professionalism first, and we immediately ceased doing them. We believe it is important to represent the body piercing profession as just that…a profession that deserves to be respected and taken seriously. Piercers/studios who choose to do procedures that are illegal because they think the procedure is “cool” or because they disagree with the regulation or because they won’t make as much money if they stop doing it, are acting selfishly, irresponsibly and unprofessionally. They run the risk of doing damage to our entire profession for their own personal gain.
Okay, we’ll get off the soapbox now.
Then Why Did You Start Doing Them Again?
We had been working with the Minneapolis Health Department for some time to find a solution that would allow us to start doing microdermals again. Through no fault of theirs, we weren’t making much progress. Fortunately, and rather coincidentally, it was the State of Minnesota that “came to the rescue”. Starting January 1, 2011, the State of Minnesota began licensing piercers and tattoo artists–we had been licensed for nearly 10 years previously by the city of Minneapolis. This change resulted in the city re-writing their regulations. In doing so, they brought their regulations in-line with the State’s regulations. Since the Sate didn’t have a ban on microdermals, the city followed suit and, as of today (Jan 11, 2011), we can now do microdermals again.
What Do I Need to Know About Microdermals?
Earlier we touched on some of the advantage of microdermals: they work better in certain areas than traditional surface piercings and they open up the possibility for interesting design concepts/aesthetics. And let’s face it…they just look good!
As with any piercing, it’s important to know what you are getting in to before you dive right in. Unfortunately, there seems to be some bad information out there about microdermal piercings. One of the biggest misconception is that they are “problem free”. Many people seem to be under the impression that you put them and “Ta Dah!”, they will simply heal perfectly, never give you a bit of trouble and you’ll be able to keep it for as long as you want. It would be nice if that were always the truth with microdermals, but it’s simply not. Microdermals are prone to many of the same issues as traditional piercings.
While microdermals can offer some advantages over traditional surface piercings, the reality is that they are still surface piercings. As such, they can still migrate or be rejected just like a standard surface piercing. They are less likely to reject than a standard surface piercing in certain areas such as the hips, wrists/arms, backs and clavicles (collarbones), but rejection is always a possibility with microdermals, just as it is with any piercing. If you’re not familiar with “rejection”, it simply means that your body pushes the jewelry towards the surface of the skin until, if you don’t take it out, it will eventually get pushed all the way out of your skin.
Infection is a possibility, just like with any other piercing. As with standard piercings, true infections are pretty uncommon and they most commonly occur as a result of the piercing getting touched with dirty hands. It’s important that you don’t touch your microdermal piercing unless you wash your hands first. It’s also very important that you touch your piercing as little as possible, even if your hands are cleaning. Touching the piercing, no matter how gently, results in irritation which will prolong the healing and will increase the likelihood of rejection.
If the piercing rejects, or has to be removed for some reason, there will be some scarring. The scarring from a microdermal doesn’t tend to be much (if any) worse than the scarring you would get from a standard piercing. There is no way to know ahead of time exactly how much scarring there will be, as it will depend upon how well-healed the piercing is when it”s removed and how much scar tissue each person’s body tends to create. However, it is important to realize that there will be some scarring.
Another important factor to think about when considering a microdermal is that they may need to be removed for a variety of medical procedures such x-rays, CT scans, MRI’s and surgery. A microdermal will show up in the images those tests produce, potentially interfering with diagnosis. If you have to undergo these sorts of procedures with some regularity, a microdermal may not make a lot of sense. Unfortunately, there are no “retainers” that can be put in place of the piercing for medical testing, like there are for more traditional piercings.
While most people probably don’t have to plan for regular medical testing, that doesn’t mean a microdermal can’t be an issue. In the case of an accident or emergency medical testing or surgery, a microdermal could potentially interfere with getting medical treatment quickly. While the same can be said of any piercing, the jewelry used in standard body piercing is much easier to remove if necessary. In addition, the relative newness of microdermals means that many EMT’s, nurses and doctors aren’t as likely to be familiar with what they are or how to remove them.
In our experience, it seems that most people are able to keep their microdermal piercings nice and happy for about 2 years. After that, they often begin to flare up off-and-on and start to become problematic. Having said that, we know people who have had their micordermal peircings for almost 5 years, which is about when microdermals made their first appearance in the piercing world. In some cses, microdermals become irritated and unhappy sooner than 2 years. Much of it depends upon the care they receive, how much abuse/irritation they get while they are healing, the location of the piercing and the lifestyle of the wearer.
Speaking of Removal
So, once you have a microdermal, what happens if you want, or need, to remove it? As we mentioned, microdermals cannot be removed as easily as most other piercings. There is a common misconception they have to be removed surgically, which is definitely not true. Microdermals can be removed with relative ease by an experienced piercer. The exact process used for removal will vary depending upon the health of the microdermal, each person’s skin and the tools available to the piercer. Most often microdermals can be removed using a little tissue manipulation and some gentle pressure. In other cases, a piercing needle may need to be utilized to help with the removal. Even if this is the case, the removal is typically not any worse than having the piercing done in the first place.
If you need to have a microdermal removed, we do encourage you to consult with an experienced piercer if time permits. While doctors are certainly capable of removing them, in our experience they often over-complicate the removal which can result in unnecessary trauma and scarring. Obviously if the piercing needs to be removed due to a medical emergency it’s best to let a doctor remove the jewelry. We are always available to consult with doctors and other medfcal professionals about any piercing, so please don’t hesitate to have your doctor or nurse contact us if the have questions.
People often want to know how soon they can change the top/end of their microdermal. As with many things piercing-related, piercers have different opinions on how long to wait. In general, we think that patience produces better results. Because of the nature of microdermals, it is easy to irritate them when changing the ends. Obviously, the newer the piercing is, the easier it can be irritated.
We typically suggest waiting 2-3 months before changing the end, depending of course, on how well the piercing is doing. Some may be ready to change before then and some may need to wait even longer. We get folks in the studio telling us they were told by their piercer to change the jewelry after 2 or 3 weeks. We think this is a very bad idea. If jewelry is chosen appropriately to begin with, there should be no need to change the jewelry that soon. Doing so is just asking for a bunch of problems that can easily be avoided by waiting a little longer. In fact, if an appropriately-sized, good-quality piece of jewelry is used to begin with, the end doesn’t ever have to be changed….except of course for a different look. Everybody loves new jewelry!
Either In or Out
Unlike standard piercings, once a healed microdermal is removed, it cannot simply be re-inserted with good results. While some piercers will remove a microdermal that is starting to reject and immediately put it back in (called, re-seating), we have found that this rarely works well in the long-term. Most of the time it simply results in the microdermal starting to reject again after a short period of time. So, if a microdermal is removed, the best option is to let the area heal and then have the piercing re-done. Keep in mind, that due to the scar tissue that forms as part of any healing piercing, putting the microdermal back in the exact same spot may not be the best choice. The scar tissue can often keep the foot of the microdermal from sitting in the skin like it needs to.
So There You Have It
We’ve covered a lot of information here, and if you’ve made it all the way to the end we applaud you for sticking with it. Nice work!
Some people will read the information about the “cons” of micordermals and may think that we don’t like them. That isn’t the case at all. We think microdermals can be a great option on certain parts of the body. We like the aesthetic options they provide and there is some really amazing jewelry available for them. We have done a lot of them and most of the time people are very happy with their microdermal for a long, long time.
We feel it’s important that our clients have as much information as possible when considering getting any piercing, especially microdermals. They are different than standard piercing and have some unique characteristics that need to be understood before rushing in to them. We believe that if our clients have a good understanding of what to expect before hand, they will have piercings that heal faster, look great and which they can enjoy for years to come.
As always, our piercers are available for consultations and to answer your questions about anything piercing-related. There is never a charge for consultations or check-ups.
UPDATE: November 2011
We’ve gotten a lot of comments from people expressing that they are “scared” or “concerned” about their microdermal piercing(s) after reading our blog. So, we wanted to take a moment to try and clarify some of what we said in the original blog.
It wasn’t our intention to make anyone overly worried that their microdermal might reject. As we mentioned, there are many people who have had their microdermal piercings for more than 5 years. They can be a very viable long-term piercing for a lot of people. However, because they are a piercing, and especially because they are a form of surface piercing, problematic healing and/or rejection is always a possibility. Other than taking good care of the piercing and being as careful as you can with it and keeping your hands off of it, there isn’t much else you can to do prevent rejection. If the piercing gets overly traumatized or your body simply decides it doesn’t like it, rejection can happen.
But, there is no reason to spend a lot of time worrying about it, because there isn’t anything you can do to prevent it. Instead, just relax, go have some fun and enjoy having the piercing for however long you end up having it; whether it’s 6 months or 10 years.
We thought we’d answer a few questions/concerns that we’ve been hearing frequently, so hopefully you can have the information faster and not have to wait on us to reply.
If I’ve had success healing other piercings does that mean that my microdermal piercing will heal fine?
While successfully healing other piercings is definitely a good sign your body is able to heal itself, it’s also no guarantee that you’ll be successful with a microdermal piercing. As we’ve mentioned, microdermal piercings are a form of surface piercing, and as such, are more prone to rejection than more traditional piercings. The best things you can to do reduce the likelihood of rejection are KEEP YOUR HANDS OFF OF IT, take appropriate care of it, be careful to not abuse it, get plenty of rest, eat a healthy diet and KEEP YOUR HANDS OFF OF IT!.
What should I do if I just snagged my microdermal piercing or bumped it really hard
If you bumped it or snagged it on something that was dirty or unclean, it’s a good idea to VERY GENTLY wash the area with a very mild soap; preferably not an antic-bacterial soap. Be sure to rinse the area really well and dry it. Then, gently apply an ice/cold pack to the area to help reduce swelling and irritation. Be sure to put something clean (sterilize gauze is great, a clean paper towel will do in a pinch) between the cold pack and your piercing. Also, try to use the ice pack in such a way that it doesn’t put a of pressure on the piercing.
I’ve had my microdermal for a while now and it doesn’t sit as flush to the skin as it used to. Should I be worried?
The answer to this question is: maybe. Now, many microdermal piercings appear to sit very flush to the skin when they are first done because their is swelling in the area which causes the tissue to puff up a bit, making it look like the jewelry is sitting flush with the skin. Ideally, that is how a microdermal should fit. But, if isn’t sitting flush when it’s put in, once some of the swelling goes away, you may see a small bit of the post or it may appear a bit raised.
In some cases, microdermal piercings do move towards the surface of the skin over time. In many cases, they move a bit and then stop and are completely fine for the rest of the life of the piercing. In other cases, they continue to move toward the surface of the skin until they reach a point where they should be removed. As we’ve said before, you have a very limited amount of control over whether the piercing migrates/rejects. So, if this is happening with your piercing, it’s really a “wait and see” situation. But, if there is no redness, soreness or other signs of irritation to go along with a slightly raised microdermal piercing, chances are good there isn’t anything to be concerned about.
How long do I have to wait until I change the top on my microdermal?
Different piercers will have different opinions on this, but we think that you should wait an absolute minimum of 2 months before changing the top, and it’s very likely that you will need to wait longer.
The challenge with changing microdermals is that you have to be able to hold/stabilize the base that is in the skin. This can be difficult to do, even with the right equipment. As a result, it’s very easy to irritate a microdermal piercing that isn’t well-healed. That irritation can cause swelling and increases the chance of taking a happy piercing and making it unhappy. The older the piercing is, the less easily it will be irritated when changing the end. That’s why it’s better to wait longer before changing the top.
Hopefully these help answers a few common questions. As always, feel free to post your specific question in the comments and we’ll do our best to answer it as quickly as we can.