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Piercee's Guide to Marking

I was writing the first blog in my new series Each Piercing Beating to Death on Lip and Labret piercings and realized that I seemed to be focusing a great deal on marketing. As important as the subject is, it isn't something that is often discussed or gets lost in all the talk about placement. So I felt that maybe I should spend a little time talking about the importance and in and outs of marking a piercing.

Body piercing like all body arts or modifications are a collaborative involving both the piercee and the piercer. It's often forgotten that the piercee brings more to the experience than just simply submitting to getting the piercing. Their choice to get this piercing or that is not the last input that they bring to the table. There is the selection of jewelry and their desired placement and other goals they envision. It is the task of a skilled and experienced piercer to guide the piercee through these, the piercing itself and the aftercare.

There is always a level of cockiness in the personality of every piercer. Sometimes this self confidence can often over shadow the needs, desires, safety and the finial out come of the piercing. I wrote a blog a while back called 'Free Hand and Minimalistic Piercing Methods'. One of the subjects that I briefly covered was not marking the piercing. Often these methods and procedures are pushed onto the piercee without any input with an altitude of "The Piercer Knows Best". This isn't always the case and an experienced piercer understand this. If they feel that a placement or grouping of piercings that the client is wishing will not work, they tend to fall all over themselves to explain why. Piercing is like any passion and someone that is passionate about piercing should share more information than you ever wished to know about the subject and if your piercer doesn't have that passion or the knowledge to back up their suggestions, you might want to consider going elsewhere.

There is a lot of motivations behind the desire a piercing but by far the main one is to improve or enhance the aesthetics of the area. How a piercee sees their own body and the enhancement of area that the piercing will produce is important. Sometimes that is hard to express through words or a black mark in the area. Sometimes the piercee's anatomy requires a different placement or different jewelry maybe be required for healing than what their desire but they have a right to be given at the least a representation of where they piercing will be located and give some input. In the past, I have even had a client come in dead set on getting a piercing and then after looking over the placement options decided on a completely different piercing or had a completely different piercing in mind.

There are a number of reasons to require that your piercer marks your piercing before doing the piercing but here are some basic ones:

To Insure That You Are Both Talking About The Same Piercing:

The many names of piercings can be very confusing. In part because there can be a number of different names for the same piercing or a slightly different name for a piercing only a few millimeters one way or the other. Like the difference between Lip and Labret it maybe the difference between the angle of the piercing and the jewelry.

Even the most educated piercee and experienced piercer can suffer from communication break down. I had a client that I had done a number of piercings on and one day she came in asking for a vertical helix piercing. I marked the piercing at the top of the ear and did the piercing vertically through the Helix and I was pretty proud at the location and the way the angle fit into the ear. With my chest puffed up with pride, I handed her the mirror to take a look. Her expression clearly showed her disappointment which was confusing to me until she expressed that the piercing wasn't what she wished. Yes, I had marked the piercing and held the mirror in front of her. She waved the mirror away saying, "I trust you." without looking. You see what she really wanted was what I would call a traditional Front Helix Piercing, horizontally under the flap at the top front of the ear. Of course I set up and did the piercing she wanted but she could have saved both of us some time and her some additional pain if she would have just looked at the marking more closely. The lesson I took away from the experience was to insist that the piercee look at the marking.

Does The Placement Fit:

This is a big one with facial piercings and especially those that are part of a group of piercings. If your piercer is skilled, where they mark it is where the piercing will be. If it seems off center or doesn't appear to match another piercing in a grouping, speak up. Remember that we are dealing with the human body and instead of getting out a rule and a level, the goal is to give the elusion of the piercing being centered or matching. 

When I mark a piercing, I usually use other areas of the body as a guide for placement. For example, when centering a labret, I will envision a line that runs from the septum, through the Philtrum and the base of the chin. Sometimes, placement has to be adjusted to fit the size of the anatomy like with nipples or ear lobes where usually one is slightly larger than the other. Often I will mark a piercing or piercings and then step back slightly to see how they match at a distance.

With single piercings that are on the face or the ear, I take clues from the angle of the nose or the shape of the eyebrow. Also with piercings where the jewelry will hang, piercing off center will often give a better outcome by allowing room for the jewelry to hang comfortably. This is why I will often ask the client what type of jewelry they plan on wearing in the piercing in the long run. 

How Will the Jewelry Look:

Sometimes it's hard to envision how the jewelry will hang or look in the piercing. Sometimes even after the piercing is done, it might not be completely clear what the goal jewelry will look like in the piercing for months. Mainly because a different jewelry size or type is needed during the healing. Often with piercings where this is difficult, I will hold the jewelry up to the area to give the client an idea of the outcome. For example it's difficult to judge the angle of an Industrial Piercing from the marks. This is in part because when I mark an industrial I'm more focused on the location of the two piercings and insuring that the angle matches. So I will have the client hold a hand mirror while I hold the jewelry at the angle that I feel will be best.

If the mark seems off to you, ask the piercer why they feel that placement is best. I often will explain to the piercee while they are studying the marking, why I choice it and how the jewelry will lay or hang in the piercing. 

It is much easier to remark a piercing than it is to re-pierce it because you are unhappy with the placement. Often I notice that a client will only glance shortly at the marking or even decline to view the marking. So here is some hints for the piercee when viewing the marking or markings:

  1. Take Your Time - Fight back that urge to just getting the piercing over with. Study the location in reference to the rest of your body. For example, If it is the face hold the mirror at arm's length and see how the piercing fits in with the other major structures of the face like, the mouth, the eyes, eyebrow, chin, etc... The piercing should enhance and not distract or seem out of place.
  2. Ask Others For Input - If you brought along a friend or family for moral support, put them to work. Often when getting a piercing you may have a number of emotions that cause you to rush through the process. A friend with a clear mind, can often point out a slight change in the placement that maybe you or your piercer has missed, that could greatly improve the outcome. Also, if it is someone that you are close to, you have more than likely discussed what you desire your piercing to look like in the end and they might bring up a detail that you may have forgotten.
  3. Ask Your Piercer for their Input or Reasoning - When I mark placement there is more going into my decision than just what feel will look best. I'm considering the piercee's anatomy, the jewelry that is going to be used for healing and afterwards, additional piercings that the client may want, where the best placement is for the best healing and with oral piercings, what placement will reduce the risks to damaging teeth, gums, and the bone structure of the mouth.
  4. Jewelry - If you have picked out a style of jewelry that you are going to want to wear after healing, you should mention this during the marking. If you are planning to wear a style of jewelry that is very different from the style it is being pierced with, a different placement might be better.
  5. Look but Don't Touch - Since the marking is done usually between the piercer applying the surgical scrub to disinfect the area and the actual piercing, it is important to avoid the impulse to touch the area. Uses words like more to the left or right or up or down. I usually leave the first marking in place to give the piercee a comparison. Often the placement that is settled on is between the two markings.
  6. Additional Piercings - ​If you are considering additional piercings or groupings in the area, You should bring this up before marking is started. If a client expresses that they are wishing to get a number of piercings in a limited area, I will mark all the planned piercings and than have the client decide which they want to do during that sitting. Since you can't move a healed peircing, it's important that a plan is in place from the start. For example if you are planning on getting three lobe piercings, I will place the piercing more toward or in the center of the lobe to allow space for future piercings.
  7. Stretching - If you are planning on stretching or increasing the thickness of the jewelry over time, it's important to inform your piercer. Stretching the piercing may require that the placement be adjusted to allow the additional tissue and space needed for stretching the piercing.
  8. Angles - From time to time, I have clients request different angles for piercings. For example, nipples that are at a slightly more vertical angle. Since this often may require different jewelry it is best to bring this up early in the consultation and before jewelry selection. 
  9. Posture - If you are sitting during the marking, you should sit straight with your feet planted on the ground and not crossed and looking straight ahead. If you are standing, you should stand at a attention with your arms by your side, feet together and looking straight forward. Try to fight the urge to look down to see what your piercer is doing. After they are done marking you will have a chance to see where they are placing the piercing.
  10. Standing and Sitting - With Torso Piercings, you should be standing during the marking as described above. Your body may change greatly when you sit or lay down and ideally the piercings should look straight while standing. Often with navel piercings, the markings may have to be adjusted after the piercer takes a look at the marking while you are sitting. Also with some gential piercings that may effect walking and leg movement, the markings maybe down while you are sitting and then accessed and adjusted when you stand.
  11. Facial Expressions - Especially with oral piercings, you maybe required to smile, frown, pucker and pout during the marking. I usually ask the client to do it before marking and after. What your piercer is doing to figure out the location of muscles that need to be avoided, how much the piecing will move with common expressions to avoid locations that may have additional contact with teeth, gums and bones and to judge how the piercings will look. It might seems silly but I would suggest that you change your expressions when you view the marking.

There are a number of piercing that I tend to mark and not show the client. The main reason is that there is very limited placements for the piercings due to the location and anatomy. However, if you would like to take a look, just ask. The most common piercings that I may not show the marking are:

  • Navel Piercings - Since the location is dead center there is really very little adjustment that can be done. If you are wanting additional navel peircings, I would suggest that you make your piercer aware of it and you take a look at the marking before the piercing. Though the marking may not much sense to you because often the marking is a straight vertical line with a cross at the bottom of the ridge. The line represents the angle and depth of the piercing and the curved crossing line at it's base respresents to the lip of the navel. When you recline both of these lines will change which is why it is important that the marking is done while you are standing.
  • Septum Piercings - Yet another tight area with very limited options. I've found that really the only way to mark the piercing and see the markings is with the piercee's head tilled backward and looking straight down into the nose. So it is often hard or impossible for a client to see the markings at all. It should be placed as forward as possible in the thin tissue between.
  • Nipple Piercings - This one is a flip of the coin, since the angle to straight or should appear to be straight and unless a different angle is requested, there is very little imput that can change the angle. I mark differently depending on the client's anatomy. Often it is a small dot on each side of the nipple or a line or dash to dictate the angle and depth of the piercing.
  • Tongue Piercings - With placement of the tongue, my number one concern is to limit the contact the jewelry will have with the teeth and gums toward the front of the mouth. I will place the piercing as far back as posible in the center of the tongue to keep the jewelry as far away from teeth and gums. If the tongue and mouth is large enough, I will place it more forward to make it more useful. Especially if the client requests it.
  • Vertical Clitoral Hood Piercings - There is very limited alternations on placement and should be dead center whenever possible. However if the client is requesting additional VCH piercings and wants the piercing to be at an angle, I will ask them for their input and to check the marking. When marked a cotton tipped applicator or Q-tip should be placed under the hood and then removed so that the area is in it's natural state. Sometimes, I will make a marking to determine where the hood starts and then remove the Q-tip and make the centered marking of the piercings. 
  • Prince Albret Piercings - Once again it is a piercing in a limited area with very little options, I often will not ask the piercee for their input. However if their anatomy requires that the piercing be off to one side or the other, I will explain the reason and have them view the marking.

For more detailed information on what to look for in the placement of your piercings, check out my series 'Each Piercing Beaten to Death'. In the future I will be covering correct placement and placement options for each piercing. 

In conclusion, just like selecting the jewelry, marking is a collaboration between the piercee and piercer with the piercer acting as a guide to give options for the best chance of a successful outcome. There is some give and take on placement but often your piercer has chosen a spot for a reason and should be happy to explain the reasoning behind it. If they refuse to mark the piercing or show you the marking or consider your request to move the piercing, there is no time that it is not O,K. to simply walk out and find a piercer that is willing to do these simple things. Always remember this is your body and your piercing should fit into your own vision of what it should look like. If you are unhappy with the placement that your anatomy requires, you may want to consider a different piercing. However if you feel that the placement the piercer is presenting you with is incorrect and they are unwilling to adjust it or give a reason not to, consider a different piercer.