girl with dermal piercings. do dermal piercings hurt
girl with dermal piercings. do dermal piercings hurt

Do Dermal Piercings Hurt? & Other Things You Should Know

Here’s everything you need to know about dermal piercings.

The thought of getting dermal piercings sounds super exciting at first glance. You may have seen your favourite idols or influencers rocking them and aspire to get something similar.

Perhaps you’re changing your style, want to add a little edge to your dark academia look or reinvent yourself before starting uni. A dermal piercing may be just the thing that’s been missing in your life

People get dermal piercings because they can be placed on any flat surface of the body. However, dermal piercings are a totally different level of piercing and require specific maintenance techniques to ensure they’re safe.

Here’s everything you need to know about dermal piercings before going to your local piercing parlour. Top tip: avoid asking the piercer: do dermal piercings hurt? They’ll always say, depending on your pain tolerance.

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In this guide:

What is a dermal piercing?

Cotton bud swiping on dermal chest piercing. do dermal piercings hurt

Dermal piercings, (also known as single-point piercings) are a type of piercing that lies completely flat on the surface of your skin.

There’s no entry or exit point like typical piercings around the body, but instead works by having an “anchor” installed into the skin. It sits on the surface layer of your skin, and the jewel sits on top of this, by being screwed into the anchor point.

What’s the difference between a dermal piercing and a surface piercing?

Surface piercings still have an entry and exit point and can simply be removed by yourself. For surface piercings, the piercer typically pinches the skin in the area where you want pierced and sticks the needle straight through, followed by the piercing.

A dermal piercing only has one hole and can only be removed safely by going back to your piercing parlour.

What is a microdermal?

A microdermal is another name for a dermal piercing.

They’re small and are a single-point piercing, hence the name.

How do dermal piercings work?

As mentioned before, dermal piercings lay flat on the skin. They have only one point of entry, thanks to the anchor made into the skin to hold any piercings you choose to place within it. This is known as a “foot”.

Then, all you need is a jewel with the correct size screw (your piercer will tell you what size to get) which you can swap and change. If no piercing is placed, you’ll have a small yet visible hole in the skin where the dermal piercing sits.

How is a dermal piercing done?

You’re probably wondering how the dermal piercing process is done when there’s no obvious entry or exit for your jewellery. The procedure of a dermal piercing is quite different from a standard piercing, so let’s dive in.

  1. Your professional body piercer will create the hole in one of two ways; a dermal punch or a needle. You’ll first need to find a studio with a registered piercer (FYI: these are most commonly tattoo studios).
  2. A hole will be made to fit the anchor using one of the two aforementioned piercing methods. You’ll feel a bit of pain, but some people report it not being as painful as imagined. It needs to be deep enough to hold the anchor, so expect the worst but hope for the best pain-wise.
  3. A dermal top is then screwed into the anchor within your skin.

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Types of jewellery used for dermal piercings

Dermal piercings can be done one of two ways. Either with a needle, or a dermal (skin) punch. Depending which method is used, here are the jewellery options:

  • Anchor: An anchor is inserted underneath the skin. It may have a rounded base or flat ‘feet’ on each side on the post.
  • Top: Once the anchor is in your skin, it will be topped off with the type of jewellery you picked out, such as metal studs or gems.
  • Diver: These have pointed end bases with jewellery already on top. Using a skin puncher, the piercer will insert the driver.

Dermal piercing jewellery materials

To prevent risk of infection and make sure your piercing heals its best, make sure your piercing is made of one of these materials:

  • Surgical titanium: perfect for those with sensitive skin
  • Surgical stainless steel: one of the most popular materials and is considered hypoallergenic
  • Gold: quality gold like 14-karat yellow or white gold is best for healing. Higher than 18 karats and the gold won’t be as durable.

Best dermal piercing locations

Dermal piercings are unconventional compared to your average piercing, that’s why placement is important, especially as some locations on the body will hurt more than others. A chest dermal piercing is highly sought after, as are cheek dermals, but you need to consider if you’ll be okay with a permanent scar left upon removal.

They can be placed almost anywhere on the body, provided there’s a flat surface for them to sit on. The most popular locations for a dermal piercing are collarbones, wrists and cheeks, but we’ve pulled some other cool dermal piercing locations together too for inspiration.

Dermal cheek piercing

Collar bone dermal piercings

Back dermals

Ear dermal piercing

Wrist dermals

We love this dermal piercing with a tattoo!

Chest dermal piercing

Neck dermal piercing

Do dermal piercings hurt?

A lot of people have said yes, it hurts, just like any other piercing. But that it’s not as bad as people think it’ll be. It totally depends on the area of the body you decide to have your dermal piercing.

Apparently, one of the more painful locations are the cheeks, so consider your pain threshold before deciding to pierce them.

Improper aftercare can result in dermal piercing pain too, as they’re prone to infection if not cleaned regularly, and can pull at the skin if snagged on clothing or hair.

How long do dermal piercings hurt for?

The initial piercing will hurt a bit, like a sharp pinch. This pain only lasts for a few seconds, and then it might feel slightly warm and inflamed, which is normal at the beginning stage of your piercing.

The healing will cause the area to be slightly swollen or sore to touch, and sleeping or certain activities may increase the pain or sensitivity. Proper aftercare can help minimise healing pain and irritation.

Things to look out for

  • Severe pain or swelling around the dermal piercing
  • Discharge that’s not clear (usually yellow or green)
  • Foul odour
  • Persistent skin redness
  • A rash
  • Excessive bleeding.

How much is a dermal piercing?

A dermal piercing is anywhere between £70-£100 per piercing. The price highly depends on the location and how many you choose to have too. Some piercing parlous may or may not include the jewellery price too, so consider this when budgeting for a dermal piercing.

How long do dermal piercings last?

There isn’t a determined amount of time a dermal piercing can last. It will eventually get pushed out by your body over the course of a few months (or if you’re lucky, a few years). This is completely normal.

There are cases where your body simply rejects the piercing, registering it as a foreign body, and it may get pushed out far sooner than you’d like it to.

How to remove a dermal piercing

As we mentioned before, your skin will start pushing your single-point piercing’s anchor out after a while (anywhere between a few months to a few years). This is your body’s way of healing and eventually getting rid of a foreign body

However, if you want out sooner because you don’t want the dermal piercing anymore, then it’s time to take a trip back to the piercing parlour you got it from.

This is the process they’ll follow for removing a dermal piercing:

  • Sanitize the dermal piercing and surrounding area and pat it dry with a fresh paper towel or gauze
  • Unscrew the jewellery
  • Dislodge the anchor by massaging the skin around it
  • Make a small incision around the anchor with a scalpel
  • Use thumb forceps to extract the anchor
  • Stitch up the wound or apply bandages to protect it.

As you can see, it’s quite invasive and definitely painful. Some dermal piercings make be much easier to remove than others, but we highly recommend expecting the worst and hoping for the best with dermal piercing removal!

Do dermal piercings hurt? They definitely do if you let them get infected.

How long does a dermal take to heal?

Dermal piercings heal relatively quickly compared to regular piercings with an entry and exit point. They can heal in as quickly as a month, or up to three months depending on how you look after your piercing and your rate of healing wounds.

How to clean and care for dermal piercings

Here’s how to clean your dermal piercing safely and reduce crusting

  • Wash your hands with antibacterial soap before touching the area, even for cleaning
  • Use a new paper towel each time you clean the piercing
  • Clean twice daily with sea salt or saline solution (often provided by the parlour or are cheap to get hold of)
  • Gently wipe away any crust that’s formed between cleansings by soaking the area with warm salt water and wiping away with a fresh paper towel or earbud
  • Cover the piercing to protect it from getting wet while showering, especially in the early healing stages
  • Pat the area dry after each cleansing or after taking a shower.

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How to minimise dermal piercing infection

  • Don’t wear tight clothing around the piercing
  • Keep your hair out of the way, as well as mesh or other loose fabrics away to avoid it tangling 
  • Avoid extreme or high-contact sports for a while
  • Don’t have a bath or swim until the dermal piercing is fully healed, as water submersion can encourage bacterial growth
  • Don’t play with your jewellery!

Piercing rejection signs

Dermal piercings can be rejected by the body. Here are the dermal piercing rejection signs to look out for:

  • The jewellery has moved from its original place quite significantly
  • The hole is getting thinner or larger
  • It’s been dry and red for longer than it should have been
  • The jewellery is hanging out or is very loose.

Do dermal piercings leave bad scars?

Most piercings will leave some sort of scar or sign that they were there. The scar can be better or worse depending on how the piercing healed. If the dermal piercing is removed with force or accidentally, the scar may be slightly worse than taking it out properly and carefully.

Over time, the scar should get smaller, like if you take a lobe piercing out, but there will likely always be a small scar, no matter how well you look after it. It will fade over time, however.

What do I do if my dermal piercing (transdermal implant) gets infected?

As with any infection, seek medical advice from your GP and also talk to your piercing parlour for further aftercare instructions. You could need a course of antibiotics if the infection is especially bad.

However, most infected dermal piercings can be treated at home. Here’s what you can do to treat the infection and reduce swelling

  1. Add another round of cleaning to your daily routine
  2. Ensure you properly dry the area after each round of cleaning. The remaining moisture can breed more bacteria!
  3. In between soaking in sea salt or saline, you can cleanse with an antiseptic solution gently around the dermal
    1. Just be sure not to do this right before or after the sea salt or saline wash.

How to change the dermal piercing jewellery top

You can go back to your piercing parlour to change your dermal piercing jewellery top, however, we’re assuming you may want to do this yourself.

You’ll need the following tools to change your dermal piercing jewellery top:

  1. Sterile Pliers — this helps if your jewellery is screwed on too tight
  2. Anchor Holder — the anchor under your skin can move around, so an anchor holder ensures it doesn’t when changing your jewellery
  3. Forceps — not the huge scary kind, don’t worry. They’re actually small, and help jewellery tops that are too tiny to get with your fingers
  4. Rubber gloves — This makes everything a lot more hygienic, as well as easy to grip
  5. Saline or salt water — to keep everything clean.

How to change your dermal piercing jewellery

  1. Unscrew the jewellery top. You’ll need a fairly good grip on it as it can be a little tough the first time around. Don’t try to force it if it won’t budge, as you can cause some damage to your skin. Instead, place some damp kitchen roll on it and try again.
    1. Not budging still? Use the pliers or the forceps to wiggle the jewellery top out
  2. Then, line up the new jewellery in line with the anchor, slot it and screw it in. Use a mirror if you’re struggling, and don’t force the piercing to turn more than it should do
    1. If it keeps falling out or doesn’t feel right, it may be misaligned when screwing in. Take your time, it may take a few goes to get it right. Don’t lose heart!

Thinking about a dermal piercing? Let us know which one you plan to get! Keep this guide handy so you know what to expect.