Eyebrow Piercing Beaten to Death
When I started piercing in 1994, the eyebrow was just coming into it's own as a popular piercing. In fact, up until a few years ago it was a great deal more popular than even the nostril piercing. There has a been a rather steep decline in it's popularity recently but it's at no way the fault of the piercing. On a piercee with the correct anatomy, the piercing can heal quickly with little problems and though it got a bad reputation for migration, it isn't anymore prone to migration than a majority of other piercings. When placed correctly it can almost blend into the facial structure and only enhance and draw attention to the eyes.
History and Background:
The eyebrow piecing is a modern invention with no known ties to ancient cultures. However it does have it's roots in the Punk Rock Subculture of the 1970s. Though the practice was often self done with whatever sharp object that could be crammed through the tissue and then closed. Often the extremely unsafe method of forcing a safety pin through the tissue and then wearing it until it became infected or began to reject.
The more permanent modern version seems to have come about in during the late 1980s and then gained popularity through the "Alternative" Music of the early 1990s. I remember seeing it for the first time around 1987 or 1988 on a punk girl in Kansas City. She was wearing a ring in the piercing and it seemed healed but I'm unsure if it was done professionally. P.F.I.Q. #36 published in 1991 featured the article 'Pierce with a Pro' with Jim Ward doing an Eyebrow Piercing. When the piercing was first offered professionally is unknown.
Migration, Anatomy and Location:
Eyebrow piercings have been give an unfounded reputation for migration and are often referred to as a "Safer Surface to Surface Piercing". The reality is that it all comes down to the structure of the brow, placement and the jewelry worn in the piercing. An ideal candidate for the piercing should have a brow that is made up of lose padded skin that is easily lifted from the skull. To test this pinch the brow with the index and thumb. The tissue should be thick and loose and easy to pull away from the body. If you can't pinch the area or it seems that the tissue is thin and tight, an eyebrow piercing may not be the best option. This is due to a lack of padding needed between the skull and the jewelry and the added pressure that the tight tissue. Both will increase the risk of migration and other problems.
The placement is usually at the edge of the eye and placed to intersect the curve of the brow. I will usually first feel the area to determine the structure of the brow and then mark the bottom on the lower side of the brow in alignment with the corner of the eye. For the top I will align it above the hairline in a way that it will match the curve of the eyebrow. With those with thin eyebrow or those that pluck their brows I will mark an even distance from the brow on each side. When done there should be an average of 5/16th to 3/8th of an inch between the two dots. Depending on the person's facial structure I may have them smile and raise their eyebrows to get an idea of how the piercing will flow and fit into the face when expressions change. Placing the piercing straight up and down will not only make it seem odd or out of place but it will not lay flat to the face when it heals.
Alternative Placements and Groupings:
Groupings of a number of piercings can be done in the outer third of the brow if the piercee's anatomy allow for them. When you enter the area more closer to the center there is a few added risks including damaging a branch of Trigeminal Nerve, which I will go into more in the risk section and increased likelihood of migration.
There are also a number of alternative placements that are in fact experimental surface to surface piercings. I do not offer these piercings to the general public and do not suggest getting them. If you are dead set on getting one, ask the piercer to show you photos of a number of HEALED examples of their work and drill them on their success rate with the piercings. This is your face and when piercings migrate, you maybe left with a large scar:
- The horizontal aka trans eyebrow piercing - located above or below the brow horizontally
- The Bindi Piercing - A Curved Barbell placed vertically in the tissue in the center of the brow above the nose
- Teardrop Piercing - A Curved Barbell placed below the eye at the top of the cheek.
- Url Piercing which is through the bridge of the nose. This piercing is an invention of Hollywood and in the 15 or so years since I have only seen a handful that have lasted longer than a few months without migrating on one side or the other.
All of these piercing are rare and it isn't because people haven't tried them but because they are all prone to migration. If you are dead set on getting one of these piecing, do your research, ask for referrals, photos of healed examples and if you see someone with one, ask them about their experience with healing the piercing. Understand that just because the piercer has a number of photos of the piercing on their site or in their portfolios, it doesn't mean that these are example of healed and well seasoned piercings. Many take photos immediately after the piercing is done which may look great but you should be more interested in what they look like 6 months to 6 years after the piercing was done. If you look closely at the photo you may pick up on clues like redness, the residue of surgical scrub or even the marking.
With eyebrow piercings ideally the jewelry should be thick enough to reduce the likelihood of migration or tear but be light enough to reduce stress during healing. After years of piercing eyebrows I've found through experience that 16g in most cases is the best option. Larger gauges can be used up to 12g but they tend to increase migration and scarring unless the piercee's anatomy can handle a larger gauge and a slightly deeper piercing. I have pierced at 18g and had a high level of success but the jewelry selection especially with threaded jewelry is extremely limited at 18g and also 18g would be more prone to tearing. The width of the jewelry should match the depth of the piercing but on average it is 3/8th to 7/16th of an inch wide.
There has been an on going debate for years about which type of jewelry is best for piercing an eyebrow. One camp has championed the straight Barbell while another has pushed the ring. My experience has taught me that the jewelry should be curved to fit more naturally through the tissue. Straight Barbells add outward force to the piercing causing the piercing tunnel to form outward or a loop of tissue instead of growing into the tissue. In my opinion the loop that forms with healing with a straight piece is less aesthetically pleasing and gives the impression that the piercing is foreign and not a part of the body. Also many believe that the piercing will be done with a short barbell and that only the ends will be visible. However it must be longer than the piercing to allow for healing. Due to the angle and force that the jewelry must sit it can cause the balls to indent into the skin and will tend to caught on everything it comes in contact with.
- Captive Bead or Beaded Ring - A circular ring with a fixed bead or ball or a bead or ball that is held captive by the tension of the ring. For piercing and healing, I have found that a ring is the best option. It is not only lighter than Threaded jewelry but it will not have to be longer than the piercing to allow for swelling. Once the piercing begins to heal the jewelry will tend to lay flat to the face.
- Straight Barbells - A straight post with threaded ends. I do not suggest healing with them or wearing them even after healing. In fact, I have seen a well seasoned piercing suddenly begin to migrate a few weeks after the jewelry was inserted. Curved and Circular Barbells are a much better option.
- Circular Barbells - A circular shaped horseshoe with two threaded ends. Can be used during healing and after the piercing is healed with one main concern, weight. Since the ends add additional weight to the jewelry it can increase the risks of migration.
- Curved Barbells - A banana shaped 1/4 turn post with two threaded ends. I don't suggest piercing with a curved barbell do to the added weigh and the fact that the width will be much larger than needed. However, it is the best option for a healed eyebrow piercing. Not only does it limit contact but it sits comfortably into the piercing.
I always do the piercing with forceps. Do not be sold this idea that a freehand piercing is going to be less painful. The reality is that the forceps are needed to pull the tissue away from the body, support the tissue and insure the angle of the piercing is correct. In fact because the forceps flatten out the tissue giving the needle a shorter distance to travel, the piercing is faster and less painful. The forceps should be tight but not painfully tight and should be supported during the whole procedure.
The piercing should be done from the bottom up to avoid the sharp needle have contact with the piercee's eye. One of the most common mistakes that I see with inexperienced piercers is not lining up the needle at the correct angle. The forceps add greatly in this. If the angle is incorrect the piercing will comonly be deeper on the bottom than the top. I have found that having the client close their eyes makes the experience less stressful and reduces the reaction they may have from seeing my hand move. The piercing is usually not very painful and very quick. Once the needle is through, I remove the forceps and guide the jewelry in at an angle to allow clearance of the tissue this may cause a slight tug or discomfort. If the tissue is too thick, I will cork screw the jewelry for insertion.
Hassles and Aftercare:
Eyebrow piercings are prone to bleeding, bruising and swelling. In most cases this will fade after a few days and usually looks much worst than it is. It is not uncommon for the jewelry to want to stick straight out instead of laying flat to the face. As the piercing heals the jewelry will relax and begin to lay flat. You should never try to force the jewelry to lay flat. If even after the piercing is healed the jewelry doesn't lay flat, changing to a slightly larger width will correct this.
Basic aftercare will involve hot soaks or compresses with warm water and sea salt twice a day and cleaning the piercing in the shower twice daily. Also you will need to take steps to reduce the likelihood of cross contamination. For more details go to Basic Aftercare Instructions. Due to the location of the piercing you need to take precautions to avoid the piercing coming in contact with cosmetic and hair products. Since sweat tends to collect in the area, it is a good idea to clean the piercing after strenuous activity, especially if you use hair products.
It is important to avoid stress and abuse to the piercing during healing and after. Which side you naturally sleep on should be considered before getting the piercing. Sleeping on the piercing especially during the piercing can cause migration and other problems. If you are a stomach sleeper try sleeping with the pillow push to the side that isn't pierced. Also avoid clothing and sport safety equipment like helmets and masks that are tight in the piercing area. If you are required to wearing safety equipment for a job or sport that is tight fitting in the area, you may want to consider a different piercing. This is one of the problems that I saw with every member of Slipknot that got their Eyebrow pierced. The piercing would be fine until they went on tour and then suddenly healed piercing would start acting up. Mick struggled off and on for a while before giving up.
For one reason or another, hair dresser and barbers tend to caught eyebrow while brushing your hair. This is especially true for some reason when the piercing is still healing. When getting a hair cut or a new style make them aware of the piercing and ask them to try and avoid the area. Also if they are using spray bottles, make sure they cover the piercing with a clean paper towel. You should also do the same when you apply anything from a spray bottle. There are two concerns. The first is that the chemicals and other items in hair products will get into the open wound and cause a reaction. The second is that you will introduce a foreign pathogen into the piercing. So even if it is just tap water, cover the piercing.
Risks & Concerns:
Since the piercing is on the face, there is a concern about permanently changing the tissue of the brow. If the piercing is healed correctly there will be two small indented scars but if the piercing migrates or rejects you will be left with a line scar. In the worst case there will be a hairless line in your brow with a red line going through it. This can be avoided by removing the jewelry at the first signs that the piercing is rejected. Even when the piercing heals correctly and doesn't migrate, there will be a raised area where the piercing was healed. Eyebrows like many piercing will develop a slight raised area and this may not go away if the piercing is abandoned. The size of this loop can be reduced by only wearing curved jewelry and avoiding straight barbells.
Eyebrows have had a reputation for migration and rejection but it is unfounded, If the piercing is placed correctly, pierced with the correct jewelry and extreme cases of abuse are avoided the piercing will not migrate. However if you don't have the correct anatomy and the tissue is really tight, there is a high risk of the piercing migrating.
Another piece of misinformation that is often stated about Eyebrow piercings is that they can cause paralysis. This is due to the location of a branch of the Trigeminal Nerve that is located in toward the center of the brow. Though piercing the area may cause complications, it will not cause paralysis but will cause a loss of sensation and sensitivity in the face and cause numbness. To have this happen the piecing would need to be very deep and close to the nose or temple. This is one reason in a long list of reasons why the piecing should only be preformed by an experienced professional using forceps. Forceps will regulate the depth of the piercing and limit the risks of piercing too deep. When the piercing is done free-hand there is an increased likelihood of the piercing being angled wrong or being pierced much deeper than it should be.