How to Pierce a Belly Button

Updated on February 8, 2016
These are the steps that an experienced tattoo artist will take to minimize the risk of infection, rejection, scarring, and migration after a belly button piercing.
These are the steps that an experienced tattoo artist will take to minimize the risk of infection, rejection, scarring, and migration after a belly button piercing. | Source

It may be your first tattoo or your 100th, but if you are about to get a belly button piercing you might want to know exactly how it should be done right so you can know what the expect and assess whether your tattoo artist is experienced.

A skilled tattoo artist will have the following materials ready for a naval, or belly button, tattoo:

  • Two paper towels
  • A 14-gauge, hollow piercing needle
  • A pair of slotted forceps (clamps used to hold navel skin)
  • Petroleum jelly
  • Alcohol wipes (2+)
  • Belly ring
  • Q-tips
  • Cork (optional)
  • Salt water aftercare spray (H2 Ocean, Pressions, or other brand)
  • Sterile plastic gloves
  • Marker

It is advisable to eat and be well-hydrated before getting a piercing. Do not get a piercing if you are not feeling well. Plan to relax afterwards to help with healing.

Getting Set Up

If you are piercing from at home, choose a comfortable, well-lit area free of distractions. A bathroom is a good choice, though you will want room to lie down. Make sure the surface is freshly cleansed. Stop any sink drains that will be used to prevent jewelry from rolling down into the pipes.

The tattoo artist will place a paper towel onto the clean counter. This is where they will rest their materials. They will then complete these steps:

  • Wash hands thoroughly, dry them, and put on gloves.
  • Open the needle package and place a small amount of petroleum jelly along the sharp tip and a little ways up the length of the needle's shaft. This will allow a smooth piercing through the skin and assist with inserting the jewelry.
  • If the belly ring is not new out of the package, sterilize with an alcohol wipe. Be sure to remove the bead and sterilize the curved bar of the ring that will be inside the body. Lube the bar of the ring with petroleum jelly as well.
  • Clean the forcep clamps with alcohol wipes.

Clean the navel well. Make sure to get inside and well around the belly button. Throw used wipes away after use. Using the marker, place a dot at the top of the navel, making sure that it is centered. This will serve as a guide as to where the bead of the ring will rest.

Piercing the Navel

  • Clamp the forceps onto the top part of the navel. For an accurate piercing, your piercer will make sure that the marker dot is in the center of the forceps. A proper piercing must not be too far back, but far enough where the jewelry won't be pulled out by changing clothes, running, etc.
  • When you are both ready, your piercer will take the needle and hold it, point down, between their thumb and second finger. Their first finger will rest on top of the needle (the end that isn't sharp). They will use that finger to apply pressure during the piercing. They should check to make sure the clamps are still correct, with the dot is in the center.
  • If you are piercing yourself and cannot hold both the clamps and needle, ask someone to help you with this step.
  • Place the sharp tip of the needle onto the marker dot and begin to push it through the skin. Be sure to breathe during the actual piercing; sometimes we want to hold our breath.
  • You or your piercer may want to push the needle through in one motion, but it is better to pause once the needle goes through the skin to allow the tissue to rearrange and flatten back into a neutral position. After this pause, continue to push the needle through, while making sure the clamps are sufficiently pulling the skin out and the handles are not sagging down towards your feet. Be careful to not push so hard you perforate the inside of the navel.
  • Once the needle is through, your piercer must be aware of the sharp end and make sure it does not injure the inside of the navel. This is where they would use the optional cork to ensure that the sharp end of the needle does not do damage.
  • Pull the clamps away from the body by allowing the needle to slide through the slots of the forceps. Replace forceps onto the counter because they aren't needed any more.
  • Insert the jewelry by following the needle up through the tunnel of the piercing. With one hand, slowly pull out the needle. With the other hand, follow the needle with the curved bar of the ring. (If using a cork, you will need to insert jewelry from the top of the piercing, so you will have to unscrew the bottom, larger bead of the ring so that this will work.)
  • Pull needle slowly out of the body from the bottom down and insert the jewelry from the top hole. Once the needle is out and is replaced by the jewelry, all that is left is to screw on the bead of the ring.

Do not panic if there is blood. Simply use the spare paper towel and apply pressure to the hole to stop the bleeding.

  • Once the jewelry is completely in with the bead screwed on, use the after care spray and Q-tips to clean off what is left of the marker dot. Clean both holes (top and inside navel). Your piercing is finished!
  • Dispose of materials safely.


  • Your piercing will be sore for the remainder of the day as well as the following. Be sure to not overexert yourself by exercising or playing sports.
  • It is normal for the skin around the piercing to be red, swollen, and painful. All of these symptoms will lessen within days. If you wish, you may apply an ice pack wrapped in a clean paper towel to the pierced area to lessen swelling/pain.
  • The piercing will not become infected unless you fail to clean it regularly or if you touch it with dirty hands. To clean your piercing you will need salt spray and Q-tips.
  • Wash hands before touching piercing!
  • Spray both the top and bottom holes of the piercing with the spray and use Q-tips to remove crusties from around jewelry and on skin. Crusties on a healing piercing are normal: it is the body's way of healing itself.
  • Clean your piercing four times a day: Around breakfast, lunch, dinner, and before bed.
  • You will know if your piercing is infected. It will be very red, sore, puffy, pussing (pus is thicker and more yellow than normal crusties and can smell bad). You may also have a fever.
  • Don't freak out if your piercing becomes infected. It can be fixed without removing the jewelry and letting it close. I use alcohol to clean the piercing twice a day if it is infected, however most piercers will argue that alcohol is too harsh- and they are right. However, I have used alcohol on infected piercings all my life (since grade school) and can say that it makes the infection go away. Some dryness may occur, but it gets rid of the infection and you will be able to keep the piercing. You can also use salt water spray to get rid of infection as well. It smells better than alcohol and it doesn't sting, however in my experience alcohol is faster.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.


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