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Dangerous Piercings & Body Modifications - Risks and Explanations

You might want to have the latest and most extreme piercing but you need to be fully aware of the risks beforehand. So, in this blog, I'm going to cover a number of dangerous piercings, modifications and other piercing related activities that I don't offer and why. Yes, I'm going to cover everything from Subdermals and Microdermals to Achilles Piercing and Subincision.

When I first started piercing back in 1994, I wanted to be on the bleeding edge of piercing. Part of me wanted to have the reputation of breaking new ground and innovator. However, one of the first lessons I learned was that clients were paying me to give them a piercing that I could ensure that would heal well, not cause harm and last the rest of their life. Though there have been some advancements in piercing over the years, the reality is that a majority of the piercing that I do today, I was doing all those years ago and many of the piercings or body modifications that are more on the extreme side where being tried back then too. Often with extremely poor results.

Yes, the methods have gotten better and so have the success rate. The thing is that even in the best cases most of the more extreme modification do not have the nearly the same success rate or longevity of even the most problematic of traditional piercings. When I say traditional piercings I'm talking about those piercings that were commonplace 20 years ago and even then had a good success rate. Standard piercings like Ear lobes, Nipples, Navel, Nostril, lip, labret, and tongue have been done safely on millions of people and a large majority of them have healed them with little or no issue.

With the internet, I have noticed increasingly that piercing and other body modifications that are extreme, rare and in some cases downright dangerous, appear to be commonplace. This is in part due to social networks where we share just about everything and we have all experienced seeing the same image over and over shared by multiple people. It can give the false impression that something is commonplace even when there is only one photo of the same person's modification.

As a professional, it is part of my responsibility to provide a service and a product that is safe, that I feel comfortable in my ability to perform,  that I feel will succeed in healing and longevity, and that will not harm or cause damage to the client's health, well being and self image. When considering what piercings that I'm willing to perform and offer to the general public I always consider those four things. There are piercings that many may consider standard everyday stuff that I will refuse to do. Things like Tongue Webbing/Frenum, Smiley, Horizontal Tongue Piercings, Snake Eyes, Clitorus Piercings, Isabella Piercings, Princess Albertina, Nape, Fourchette, etc... Then there are piercing that I don't feel comfortable doing like Ampallang, Apadravya because I simply wasn't trained to do the piercing and don't feel comfortable doing them. Then there are piercings and other modifications that simply have a bad track record like micro dermals and surface to surface piercings. The reality is that I rarely have a client that comes in and requests any of these piercings, which only shows how truly rare they are.

Now you may be thinking, "Well, that is well and good, DaVo but I'm going to find someone else that will do the ________ piercing." The problem I have is that it has been my experience that the less experience the piercer has the more likely they are to try something that is completely beyond their skill level. In many cases, there are piercers that haven't even mastered the most common piercing that will attempt to do very complex procedures. Now I could go on and on about how to find an experienced piercer but that may not be the answer either. They may not have an issue taking your money regardless of the outcome or are so full of themselves that they think they can do anything. 

The reality is one of the hardest skills to learn as a piercer and the skill to say, "No" when you know it is going to be a bad idea. Piercer's income in almost all cases relies on the number of piercings they do. Turning away income because they don't feel comfortable doing the piercings or because the person's anatomy isn't a good candidate, says a great deal more about the piercer than a thousand likes and reviews on social media.

The other things you should consider is even if the piercer feels comfortable doing the piercing or modification, did they cover the risks and success rate with you before they did it. Did they educate you enough to make a decision regarding getting it done? Over the last 10 years, I've removed hundreds of micro dermals and I always ask if the piercer talked to them about the risks of migration and scarring or removing them for medical and employment reasons. Only about 1 in 100 said yes, the rest had no clue. An ethical professional piercer wants you to know those risks going in. While an unethical person will not mention any of this because they might miss out on a sale.

OK, so enough let's move on to some of the more common dangerous piercings to get done:

Micro Dermal, Dermal Implants, and Pocketing:

I wrote a blog on the subject years ago and if you are considering getting one I highly suggest reading it - Pocketing And Rejection Dermal Implants Dirty Little Secret.

Here is the short version, They are prone to rejecting which usually starts when the jewelry hooks on clothing, bedding, etc... The jewelry is not easy to remove for medical procedures or if an employer requires you to remove it. Though there are always exceptions most will encounter the body pushing the jewelry out and rejecting the piercing within 3 to 4 years and will have to be redone. Since scar tissue is softer and offers less resistance to rejection, the more the dermal is redone, in most case the faster the rejection will occur and the more visible the scar will be.

Snake Eyes, Off Center Tongue Piercings, and Horizontal Tongue Piercings:

I can go years without having one person walk in the studio doors and request any of these and then I'll have a month where it seems like I get 50 requests. Tongue piercings in the midline or center were developed where they are not only because it looked good but because it is the placement that has the least amount of contact with Teeth, Guns and the bones structure of the mouth. Almost every case I've come across that involved tongue piercing doing damage to the structure of the mouth was caused by the angle of the piercing being wrong, the placement was too far forward, the piercing being off center or the jewelry being too long. Of course, the other biggest cause was piercings being done on anatomy that wasn't a good candidate in the first place. 

Now when you take that knowledge into consideration and start moving the placement to the sides of the tongue or further forward, you are just increasing the risks of damage. If you don't believe me close your mouth and consider how much contact your tongue has with teeth, gums and the roof of your mouth. The space is even tighter when you move forward in the mouth or a side. 

The other issue is that regardless of how much you adapt to having the piercing or piercings, it will affect eating and speech. From how you move food around in your mouth to the shape your tongue needs to be in to make sounds, will be impaired more with the jewelry off to the side or through the tip. The same can be said of having a number of midline tongue piercings. The more forward you go with the placement the more issues you will have.

Tongue Splitting:

This is one of those things that seems to come up over and over and is a common question that I'm asked. First off it is not a new thing and has been around since the late 90s. Though this will not cause the damage that a tongue piercing may cause, it can affect eating and speech. It also comes down to a procedure that is not in my job title. I'm not a plastic surgeon or an oral surgeon, I'm a Body Piercing Artist. Meaning that my expertise is injecting a needle through tissue and then inserting a piece of jewelry. Not cutting, scalping or stitching any part of the body to permanently alter it in an unnatural form. Nor do I advise some without the property training to do the same. 

The other issue is that even after you have gone through the pain and discomfort of cutting the tip of your tongue in two and the stitches without anesthesia, the tongue can grow back together and will continue to do so. 

Also, I do not advise doing this to yourself by using fishing line or string through an existing tongue piercing and tightly tied to the tip of your tongue. Then slowly increasing the pressure over time to split the tongue. Not only is it dangerous but it could cause unforeseen damage to the tissue.

Gun Piercing:

Do I need to even explain how much of a bad idea this is? Think about it, you are placing a metal object as the base of teeth. Not only is there the issue of infection and damage to the root and gun but it could cause the teeth to expand and make your teeth crooked. 

Mandibular Piercing:

Before moving on to other parts of the body, I have to bring up one more oral piercing. To save you the trouble of looking this one up, the piercing goes through the bottom of the mouth and out the bottom of the chin. This is an extremely dangerous piercing to get done. There are a number of important Nerves and Viens in the area and due to the depth of the location, internal bleeding could occur. There is the added risk that an infection could develop deep within the piercing and require surgery to end. There is also the lasting effect on the saliva ducts and saliva leaking out of the bottom piercing hole even after the piercing has been abandoned. Much in the same way that cheek piercing runs that risk.

In my professional opinion, the piercing shouldn't be done at all. However, it should never be attempted by anyone that doesn't have a strong and well-educated understanding of the anatomy of the area. As in a Doctor or trained medical professional.

Dermal Punches:

This isn't a piercing as much as a method for getting a piercing or other modification. I've never used one and never seen the need to use one. They were first used as a way to get large gauge jewelry quickly. The main difference between a needle piercing and using a Dermal Punch is that the needle cuts the tissue while a punch actually cuts out a round section of tissue. A lot of this comes from my belief that one should "earn" large gauge jewelry by stretching the piercing. There have been a number of claims that dermal punching doesn't cause the thinning that stretching causes and that the dermal is more likely to shrink when it the piercing is abandoned. However, I doubt either claim. As far as safety on earlobes, they can be used safely, however, in other areas of the ear and especially with thick cartilage, it isn't.

The issue is that it can cause lasting damage to the structure of the ear or elsewhere where the cartilage is important it supporting the shape of the area. Removing a large chunk of cartilage can cause the other tissue around the area to collapse. With conch piercings, having a hole in the area can affect hearing. In the mouth, for example, a Labret Piercing, it can create a permanent hole. There is also the issue of whether the use of a dermal punch is considered a medical procedure or not. It varies from state to state and country to country and can be considered doing an unlicensed medical procedure.

Sub-Dermal and Trans-Dermal Implants:

For those that don't know, a subdermal implant is where a shaped object is inserted under the skin. While Transdermals have part of the implant is outside of the body in much the same way micro-dermals are. The biggest difference is that with Trandermals the depth of the implant is deeper. Both are a minor form of plastic surgery and involve an incision, separating the tissue and then stitching up the area. If you have seen horns on someone's forehead or spikes across the top of their head, then you have seen Subdermals and Transdermals.

First off and foremost, I did not become a piercer to do plastic surgery and do not even begin to have the skill set to know how to do this. This should only be done in a sterile environment on the level of a surgical operation theater. There is such a high risk of infection and possible complications that I highly suggest that you completely verify and research anyone offering these.

Uvula Piercing:

I remember seeing the interview way back in 95 or 96 of Jon Cobb and all of the extreme piercings he was doing. He was pushing bonds of what most people at the time considered possible. Yes, a lot of it was feeling around in the dark but it created the foundation of many of the more extreme forms of Body Modification. 

That said, a lot of it was simply not thought out and downright dangerous. Add to that the widespread distribution of images of his work, created a situation where a number of inexperienced "Professionals" experimented on unknowing customers at their own request. For a decade after his interview, and media attention a week wouldn't go by that I wasn't asked to do a Uvula piercing. 

Those that aren't in the know the Uvula is the hanging tissue in the back of your throat and a Nape piercing is on the back of your neck. I highly doubt there is more than a few Uvulas that were ever done.

Nape Piercing, Bridge Piercing, Anti-Eyebrow, Ring Finger Piercings, Surface to Surface, and Pocketing:

Every few years it seems like these come back into fashion. I learned long ago that piercing trends are largely affected by fashion. Each new generation seems to try to find some "new" way to mark out their own path. The reality is usually it is an older trend that had been abandoned because it didn't work. Surface to Surface is like a bad rash that never seems to go away, only to return with a slightly different look to it. 

One of the earliest guidelines to piercing is if it protrudes and has two sides pierce it. Most piercings are done through pieces of flesh that hangs or protrudes from the body. However, there are exceptions where the tissue doesn't protrude that far or doesn't have two side that seems to heal very successfully. A couple of examples would be Eyebrows and a number of genital piercings. So, ridge under the eyebrow or the back of the neck or the bridge of the nose? Well, because they don't work. The tissue, blood flow, structure, location, and movement of the area are different. 

Before I even started to consider piercing, I saw photos of surface to surface piercings. They were all taken moments after the piercing was done and not months later when the piercing refused to heal or was growing out of the body. There are some that have better luck than others and for some reason have become commonplace.

The bridge of the nose or Earl piercing first started to appear after a film around 1995 that came out with the characters having a number of piercing along the bridge of their nose. I never saw a photo of the piercing before that. Since I've seen countless examples in person with a few looking straight and healthy but a majority crocked and rejecting. A lot of this comes down to the location.

The nape of the neck seemed to hit popularity around the same time as Jon Cobb and brings up a number of issues. The biggest being the location and the fact that the wearer can't see the piercing area. The piercing is located extremely close to the spine, which means that if the piercing is done too deep or an infection develops it can turn the piercing into an extremely dangerous situation. That and they are very prone to migration and rejection.

The Anti-Eyebrow is fairly new but I have yet to see one that looks healthy and hasn't migrated within a year. My guess is the fact that the tissue is much tighter than the eyebrow and sees a great deal more movement with facial expressions.

The ring finger piercing seems to be the latest in a long list of piercings that have become popular because of social media. It isn't the first-hand piercing. There was a number of people that have tried to pierce the webbing between fingers with little or no success. That is unless you consider scarring and infections success. The hand has one of the most complex anatomies of any other part of the body. There is a lot going on there and slight modifications of the area can lead to lasting effects. Also, consider the amount of contact your hands have with unclean surfaces on a daily bases. It's an infection just waiting to happen.

Surface to Surface piercings are done in any area of the body that doesn't naturally protrude from the body. While this opens up the ability to pierce pretty much any part of the body, the reality is that they are prone to migration and rejection. Pocketing is an early form of Dermal and Micro Dermal Implants. Done with two anchors that are connected to a post, think two micro dermals with a bar connecting the two anchors.

Genital Beading / Pealing and BrailleTattooing:

This is basically the same thing as Sub-dermal Implants but it done in the genital region and usually involves some form of ball or bead being placed under the skin of the genitals. The legend is that the Yakuza add a pearl for each year they spend in prison. It has the same risks and concerns that any Sub-dermal Implant would have.

Believe it or not, a few weeks ago I was asked about this and I'm guessing that there must be a photo being shared around. Basically, a Braille Tattoo or Braille Implants is a grouping of a number of Ball Sub-Dermal Implants in a Braille Pattern. The outcome creates a word or phrase that can be read by run one's fingers over the area. It is not a special method of tattooing but inserting a foreign object under the skin. 

Penile Subincision:

Though there has been a tradition in some ancient tribal cultures doing Subincision, the fact is that it wasn't beyond the gland area of the penis. The modern version often is the full length of the penis and is self-performed. I would highly advise against having anyone but a licensed medical professional do this procedure. Doing this incorrectly can lead to infection, impotence, and blockage of the urethra. Even after the penis is healed you are more acceptable to STDs and it can reduce your ability to impregnate a woman. Mainly because it impairs the delivery of sperm to the vagina. 

Achilles Piercing:

This piercing is located between the Achilles Tendon and bones of the leg and ankle. Once again it is not a piercing I would suggest getting done. There is the fact of the location of the piercing and the fact that feet and ankles come in contact with a lot of contaminants on a daily bases. Everything flows downwards including pathogens and it is one of the reasons that we don't use the floor of the kitchen to cook and prep meals. Feet tend to come in contact more filth than any other part of the body, one trip to a public restroom on a business day, should give one a clear understanding of why your mom always told you to throw away the candy that landed on the floor. Now add to the length of time it will take to heal a piercing this deep.

Maybe an even bigger risk is the effects the piercing may have in your ability to walk if the piercing is done incorrectly or becomes infected.

Crucifixion Piercing:

When I first heard about this piercing, I thought it was where it crucifixions were in fact done. Which is through the cartilage between the lunate and scaphoid bones and the radius bone in the center of the wrist. Now that would be an even more risky location. That said it is in fact in the middle of the hand and to the best of my knowledge, no one has healed this piercing out and is considered a play piercing which I will cover next.

If someone did try to heal this piercing, the chances of infection would be high due to the fact our hands come in contact with so many surfaces. One needs to consider the amount of damage this could do to the structure of the hand. As I mentioned before with finger piercings, The hand is a very complex grouping of nerves, tendons, and bones. Anyone that has gone through a hand injury can very difficult to overcome and often, in the end, they are only left with limited uses.

Lastly back to placement, the reason that crucifixions were done through the wrist is that soft tissue between the bones could not support the weight, So, if it got caught on something and with enough force, it could rip right through.

Corset Piercings and Play Piercings:

If I had a dollar for every time I had someone ask about corset piercings... The thing is that they are a play piercing. What is a Play Piercing? You ask. A play piercing is a piercing that is done for the experience of getting pierce but is tempory. It is about what the person getting the piercing experiences and not about wearing jewelry. They are surface to surface piercings and the body would reject them over time.

In case you don't know what a Corset Piercing is, it is a grouping of piercing done in a row, usually on each side of the back with captive bead rings and then a ribbon is laced through the rings. Thus visually it looks like the person has a corset. The piercings are often done during a session often involving BDSM and/or a photo shoot and then removed shortly afterward. 

Play Piercings are often considered an activity or form of play within the BDSM community. Though those that enjoy the sensation of play piercings but have no interest in BDSM have been to do it as a form of body play. The same could be said of suspensions. Usually, it doesn't involve any type of jewelry and only uses hypodermic or piercing needs of a small gauge like 20 or 22g. The needles are inserted in through the skin and are often shallow only being through the epidermis and dermis layers. They can also be done in patterns that can be very interesting.

Play piercing should always be done by someone that has a basic understanding of anatomy and knows what areas of the body to avoid like major blood vessels. Also, they should have a basic understanding of cross-contamination prevention, be trained in first aid, know how to disinfect and prep the area, use only brand new sterile single uses needles and depose all materials as medical waste.

Suspensions:

For some reason, everyone assumes that since I piercing that I would be into suspensions. Yes, I will admit that when I read Modern Primitives, I was intrigued by Farkir Masafar's interview on the subject and the Sioux Sun Dance. However, I'm a big fellow and the idea of hanging from large hooks seems extremely pain and not something I want to willingly go through. What interested me most was the ritual and spiritual side of the experience and the connection to ancient cultures.

I have also never really considered being involved with others doing it though I have been asked a number of times. The thing is that there is the piercing part of it involves a completely different type of anatomy and tools. Then there is the rigging of the ropes. The key to the whole thing is to have a balance of the person's weight to reduce tearing and ripping of the piercings. This involves a skill level and knowledge of math that I don't have and really have no interest in learning.

Conclusion:

I have a belief that you should have the right to do just about anything to your body as long as it doesn't negatively in pack others and is done with a focus on your safety and the safety of others. To me that involves not only making sure that the person doing the procedure is well educated and has the skills to do it correctly but also being responsible in how you share your experience. Meaning that you shouldn't just post a video, photo or a blog about it but should include what the risks and concerns that were involved in getting it done.

The general public doesn't often understand how rare and extreme many of these piercings and body modifications are. Often their only exposure to the industry at all have been either through TV and Movies or watching their friend get a semi-colon on their forearm. It is the ethical responsibility of those that are willing to do these procedures and those that have had these procedures done on themselves to educate the public about the risks involved.

If you are considering getting anything done on the list or even a standard piercing, you should do your research beforehand. Research the modification or activity, the professional that is involved and anything you can find. When you select your professional, understand that there is no such thing as a dumb question and that if someone is truly passionate about what they are doing is not only going to be willing to answer any questions you may have but will be truly excited to share their knowledge.