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Surface Piercings

Updated on April 19, 2010
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Whitney is an expert on piercings and tattoos with experience in the body modification world.

Surface Barbells were used, but they were sized a tad too large.
Surface Barbells were used, but they were sized a tad too large.

Getting a Surface Piercing

When you get a piercing, it is nothing more than a foreign object through your skin. Many times, your body will treat the jewelry like a splinter and try to push it out.

Surface piercings are different than most piercings. A proper surface piercing is pierced with a barbell, shaped like a staple with two 90 degree angles, one on either end. With the shape of a surface barbell, it becomes harder for the body to push the jewelry out. With improper jewelry, healing is more difficult.

Only skilled piercers should practice this type of piercing, as the rejection rates are very high. A lot of tissue can be damaged with this piercing.

As surface piercings are so sensitive, once healed, if you bump it several years after the fact, you can invite the migration and rejection process to begin. You do not want to have your piercing to begin rejecting because it is hard to reverse. If you do not remove the jewelry before it is too late, the piercing will be nothing more than ugly scars.

Popular Surface Piercings


Healing Surface Piercings

A surface piercing is one of the hardest of piercings to heal as it is a more complicated piercing. It takes up more skin than other piercings, causing more trauma to the tissues. To heal a surface piercing properly you need to make sure that you watch any friction on the piercing. Place a surface piercing in a low key area, and you'll be better off.

Watch the amount of movement in the area you chose. Many people love the look and appearance of wrist surface piercings as well as nape piercings, but both of these areas are high movement areas. You use your wrists for various activities such as writing, typing, eating, shaking hands, etc; your neck is a high motion and impact area because you turn you neck in various directions, brush your hair, lay on your back, etc.

You should clean the piercing with a saline solution, or a mild sea salt mix. Depending on where the piercing is, you can pour the saline in a small dixie cup, and flip the cup over onto the piercing.

This ensures that you are fully cleaning the piercing.

Watch for drainage, and do not let crusties, lymph, sit around the barbell for long. Now, do not pull off the crusty, as it will cause even more tissue trauma. Soak the area and use a Q-Tip or cotton ball to gently rub the crusty off the piercing.

Make sure that there is enough breathing room between the swelling and the end of the barbell. This will, also, help with the drainage. This can be achieved by using appropriate jewelry, so you're piercer will be most in control of this concern.

Many body jewelry companies have produced a surface barbell that has flat tips versus balls. This is a better option, as it is less likely to stick out and beg to be knocked.

Signs of Piercing Rejection

Visible redness, swelling, and pain.
Visible redness, swelling, and pain.

Causes of Migration and Rejection

There are several causes of migration which include:

Up Pressure: Where the jewelry exerts pressure up on the skin above it, which stresses the tissue and partially stops blood supply to the area.

General Damage: Damage caused from the piercing process, weakening the tissues around the holes.

Motion: Certain areas of the body receive more movement than others, and in the case of surface piercings, the more movement the higher your chances of rejection because of the added there pressure, stretching, twisting, and compression to the skin.

Impact: Again, placement is very important for surface piercings. If you get one in a location that is prone to wear and tear, your chances of migration are again heightened. Impact does not include just hitting the piercing, but any friction towards it, which include clothing.

Improper Drainage: If the piercing is not able to drain the dead tissues, migration can be a problem.

Nape Piercing

Corset Piercing Pictures

Improper Corset with CBR'S
Improper Corset with CBR'S
Proper Corset with Surface Barbells
Proper Corset with Surface Barbells

Surface Piercing Procedures and Techniques

Traditional: Pierced with curved barbells or nylon bars. These do heal, but are almost all unsuccessful in long term aspects. A surface piercing is not recommended with a curved barbell.

Scalpelled: The jewelry sits under a low-pressure flap. Unfortunately, with this technique, the body pulls down the tissues, which only slows rejection, versus eliminate it.

Scar and Brace Technique:The jewelry goes underneath a brace of toughened tissues or under a small implant in the skin. This technique can lead to many other problems than just migration of a piercing. Not recommended

Surgical: A skin tube is created in which the jewelry can be placed.

Flexible Jewelry (Tygon): Plastic tubing has become a popular material for surface piercings. Tygon reduces the amount of pressure on the skin and can be a great choice on areas where surface bars cannot be used.

Surface Bars: The best option for surface piercings. Surface bars are shaped similar to that of a staple, with 90 degree angles on either end of the barbell.

Punch and Taper: This is a newer technique that is supposed to reduce the chance of migration and lesson healing time. It ensures that the path made by the needle is the exact shape of the surface bar that is going to be used.

Corset Piercing

Corset piercings are gorgeous surface piercings which are to imitate the looks and appeal of a true corset. Most are only temporary piercings. If not done properly, the jewelry will quickly migrate, leaving ugly scars. Make sure to use proper jewelry with special attachments for the ribbons. You do not want to use CBRs, unless you intend on removing the jewelry.

The corset piercing is most commonly performed on the back of a woman. In many cases, the corset may run just two sets of 4 piercings, but sometimes they will run along the entire back.

Many women get the piercing before a party or special outing, and remove the jewelry, in this case CBRs, before they have a chance to leave visible scars.

Temporary Corset Piercing

Pictures of surface navel and rejection are original. Other pictures can be found at


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    • profile image

      Ann 2 months ago

      I got my hips pierced with surface bars a few months ago but the left side rejected so I got them taken out, my piercer said she can't repierce with barbells when they've healed because they're even more likely to reject, is it just her choice or is it a case of not allowed? I really loved my hip piercings and it made me kinda sad to get them out :( I'd kill to have them back, can anyone help?

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      Suzie 2 months ago

      I got a finger surface piercing 2 days ago been cleaning it and everything isn't hot to the touch isn't tgrobbing doesn't hurt it's just a bit swollen and red nothing else is wrong ,but is it okay?

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      Anya 7 months ago

      I just got a few surface piercings on my thigh yesterday, and I think the piercer used surface bars too small, because the area looks and feels kind of pinched and a bit itchy, but I think it could also just be the healing process. I don't want to take them out unless I have to, so is the feeling normal or is there something I can do about it?

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      Frankie 4 years ago

      Hi. I'm a 13 year old girl and I have an appointment to get microdermals in my chest. Is it a good idea? What if I gain or lose weight?? My older brother said of I gain weight, the piercing will get sucked in. If I lose weight, it will get pushed out. I don't know what to believe from him, so I need help!!

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      yo, 5 years ago

      I actually got my hip pierced over a year ago it didn't hurt but i had to take it out after three months as it was to annoying to sleep as i sleep on my tummy. But i recently got it re done yesterday and seriously never get it pierced in the Same place because its gonna hurt but apart from that amaze piercing!

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      CiaraRosex 5 years ago

      Ive had my hips pierced now for 3 months and they were fine until today and i noticed one of the balls has a blue/black ring around it and it was also bleeding.. I could have irratated it during the night because i do sleep on my stomach but does this mean its rejecting? Or is it just cause its irratated? please help, i really don't want to take it out :(

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      dannie_rockd 5 years ago

      Are hip piercing meant to hurt when I flex at first or are they meant to hurt. At all and for how long xx

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      rachelcross27 5 years ago

      I have 16 piercings, 4of them are dermals in my lower stomach below my bellyring n tattoo ive had them for a year5mo ago I snagged one on a shower scrubby n had to get it removed by a dermatologist due to rejection, she sewed it up. I bought xpensive scar cream to lessen the scar, I hope to get it re pierced after it flattens. I was careless sweating out in the bak yard rakin leaves n rubbed another one on my shorts for days I was workin in the yard.n got dirt all in it, never had probs w the other 3but now one is red n swollen, I kno hot sea salt soaks 3x a day should heal it but I luv my dermals!!!however I recommend getting them removed by healthcare professional bc piercers are only allowed to pull them out wich will b severely painful n can cause mor scarring!! Goodluck

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      ashflash 5 years ago

      So my sturnum surface piercing rejected about 2 weeks ago, and I was wondering if I could get it re-done but with microdermals instead? Would that be a problem?

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      jackiee 5 years ago

      i did my belly button peircing on saturday its red ! and it hurts! the whole is not big though its small should i just take it off ? so i wont have a scar ! ?

    • profile image

      Ashflash 5 years ago

      I got my sternum pierced last week, and now there is a brownish/redish color around each barbell. Is this an early sign of rejection or is it an infection? Please help!

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      Patricia 5 years ago

      I want to get my wrists pierced but my husband got me a really expensive fossil watch, would it get snagged on the watch? Or is there a way to avoid it touching the piercing?

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      jessica0234 5 years ago

      i want my hips pierced so bad but im an active person and i don't know if i should because i don't want it to start rejecting on me :( and My biggest question though is does it hurt to get done and does the piercing have after pain ?

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      Richard Baldwin 5 years ago

      I have around 10 piercings all done at least twice as took out and done again after a few years. My nape has been done 3 times not due to rejection but due to work and having to remove it. The third time it was done was tough as through scar tissue and lasted three years. Then just this week out of the blue started to reject. Therefore i have took it out to avoid a nasty scar and will get it done again in a few months when fully healed

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      Erica 5 years ago

      How much us it usually to have a dermal removed at a shop? I have one under my eye and I'm almost positive it is rejecting

    • profile image

      br 5 years ago

      I'm 15 and I wana get a surface piercing under my collarbone but I'm a cheerleader. :/ so I'm not sure. If not...Does anyone have any suggestions on other piercings I could get that won't be affacted by this (no face of ear percings)

    • profile image

      bsherrod05 5 years ago

      How do I make the scar tissue around my dermal go down?

      I got my hip pierced about 9 months ago. On and off its been trying to reject but through some at-home-ingenuity, I've managed to stop the rejecting. During the last rejecting period, the dermal started to lift on one side, leaving a scar that is kinda puffy but clearly visible. Its not inflammed or hurting or anything. I put cocoa butter around the darkened area to try to lighten the slight discoloration but is there any way that I can get the puffy scar tissue to go down?

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      Britt1987 5 years ago

      I got my hip pierced about 9 months ago. On and off its been trying to reject but through some at-home-ingenuity, I've managed to stop the rejecting. During the last rejecting period, the dermal started to lift on one side, leaving a scar that is kinda puffy but clearly visible. I put cocoa butter around the darkened area to try to lighten the slight discoloration but is there any way that I can get the puffy scar tissue to go down?

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      Shahla 5 years ago

      I just gt y hip pierced yesterday, and i had no idea tht they rejected so much, now im scared bcuz my mom paid 110 for both sides and ill be soooo upset if they come out, but im hoping they stay because im not prone to infection and my bbody tends to go with my flow i guess i shouldve looked into it more but i hope they don't come out because it hurt really bad, and all that pain for nothing

    • profile image

      Jess 5 years ago

      Okay I have had my surface piercing for about a month now, and it is not rejecting. The holes are doing just fine and I even went back to my piercer and he said it looks like it's healing fine for it being just a month. But my piercings redness doesn't seem to be going down. And when I say redness I mean It is ONLY red above where the bar is under the skin. And it has been like that and it doesn't seem to be going down. Any advice or knowledge of what this is?

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      "Just Passin Thru" Body Piercing 5 years ago

      I haven't been on here in a long time. Sorry.....As for piercings "falling out", I assume you mean dermals. They need time to heal. There is an opening that the anchor slips into, and any pulling on it will remove it. Putting on a shirt is such a normal thing, it's VERY EASY TO FORGET about your new piercing. I have to say that dermals and surface bar piercings should be considered "temporary". Eventually they will want to come out. I try to disway customers from them, unless they are aware, and don't care how long they are in.

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      Jacinda 5 years ago

      My dad told me I could get my hips done, which I'm excited for, but I'm a volleyball player(which I have to bend and dive a lot) and I'm also a part of this preschool thing at my school where I handle 2-5 year olds. I feel like my piercing would hurt due to volleyball and preschool, but I think I can manage it. I think that there are ways to advoid my hip from getting hit and from hip work but with the little kids..yeah right. Oh, well..I still want it.

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      ohsaygee 5 years ago

      briana009 i'm a cheerleader and i have my hip periced but it's the dermal anchors it's honestly not as painful as it looks! i've had no problem with it, but i'm reaching the 9th month and it's starting to reject, i honestly don't think it's painful now either it's just ugly looking. No matter what though you're always moving your hips so it's almost bound to reject but everyones body works different. plus if you're gaining or losing weight it wont help. if you really wanna do it, just go for it! i'd look into the dermals though, however i'll warn you if it starts to come out it is going to leave a scar, and sometimes they have to get "surgically removed." even though mines starting to reject i'm just leaving it go. before you get it done go to a tattoo shop and talk to them about it, they'll be friendly!

    • profile image

      briana009 5 years ago

      i'd love to get my hips pierced but i am a cheerleader and i am very active so what would be the recommended jewelry for the least possible chance of rejection?

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      Zara-Leigh 5 years ago

      I currently have 25 piercings. which include 2 surface piercings and a skin diver which is a smaller version of a dermal anchor. i've never had troubles with any of my piercings. my wrist piercing is my newest and i love it! i've had it for about 6 months now and my nape piercing is almost 2 years old and still perfect. it just goes to show that if you properly take care of your piercings and don't play with them while they are healing, of course always take healing times for different piercings very seriously too. i am also glad to say i've never had an infection either, infection depends on the type of environment you're always in and your body's natural defences against infection too, of course though cleaning procedures and being careful of new piercings is important too. By the time i have all the piercings i want i'll have 80-100 piercings on me. including dermal implant corset piercings down both my sides two rows of 8 either side with hoop dermal attachments and many more surface piercings, including my bridge. Honestly i am addicted to piercings and i just can't help myself, it's been about 6 months since i got a piercing and i am absolutely itching for more!!

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      Jess. 5 years ago

      I have a bridge piercing. I did myself, which I do most of my own piercings. Anyway, I did it about a month ago. It was doing perfect till about now. Its really red and bleeds when I mess with it. It also has bumbs on the end filled with ooze? It hurts to. Is it rejecting? I really don't want to take it out, to have a really ugly scar in a very obvious pace. ): HELP?

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      rids 5 years ago

      Got my nape pierced two weeks ago tomorrow. Didn't hurt as much as I thought, didn't even bleed which shocked me. I've been soaking it twice a day. I have red circles around the piercing though. I'm hoping they aren't signs of rejections. I've only just started getting signs of crusties too. So I'm hoping it is fine. Just wish it didn't itch so much XD

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      Hailey 5 years ago

      I'm thinking about getting my hips pierced on both sides. The only problem is, is that I'm not sure how you take them out. Can you take these piercings out whenever you feel the need to? Can you take them out by yourself just like a navel piercing or ear piercing?

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      summerbloom12 5 years ago

      I just got my nose pierced about two months ago, and i have been swimming in chlorine, which i wasn't supposed to do for a while and it has fallen out a couple times and i have had to put it back in, which im assuming is not good for it. Now there is this growth of skin that is practically pushing the piercing up. it is a little ball of skin slightly underneath my piercing and coming out of the bottom half. i clean it like 3 times a day and it still hasn't gone away. i have a friend who said the same thing happened to her. but you do you think it is infected and i should just take it out?

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      summerbloom12 5 years ago

      I just recently got my nose pierced, probably about 2 months ago. And it fell out a couple times and i had to put it back in by myself, which probably wasn't good for it and now there is a growth of skin right underneath the piercing. its like a little ball of skin that is kind of underneath my piercing and just coming out the bottom side of it. is this bad? should i take it out??

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      samantha 5 years ago

      I have two dermal piercings beneath my collar bone, 7th month ive had them and they're perfect :) at first one wasn't deep as the other but you're supposed to push down on them while they heal and ive had no problem with them. they don't all reject, it depends on what kind of skin you have and how much they get messed with. i think im going to get back dimple dermals next

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      piercer101 5 years ago

      after reading a lot of the comments about the jewelry falling out.... With every piercing u should be tightening the balls every morning/afternoon/ before bed to ensure the stay put. If the do still fall out, immediately get something in the hole because i can close over in a matter of seconds!!

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      buzzieee 5 years ago

      hi i just got my neck pierced 4 days ago and it seems to be healing but i cn feel the bar move a little bit under my skin when i move my neck. there is no redness yet or any thing it didn't hurt when getting pierced i clean it 3 times a day and seems to be doing fine :)) i love it anyone going to get one goo for it jus clean it at least twice a day oryou will have a higher risk of it rejecting...

    • profile image

      Tiffany  5 years ago


      You need to raise awareness around you and spread word. You should really research the effects of reusing needles and the benefits of using new, sterile needles. You should also look up all of the possibilities of disease and infections for using unsterile needles. Express how it is putting people at risk and spread the word. Make it a big deal.

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      Jackie 5 years ago

      All of you who have issues with existing piercings and you are unsure as to if it is infected or rejecting or whatever the case may be, go ask your piercer!! You paid them to give a service and part of that is answering your questions during the healing process! They tell u to come back if you have questions, they are professionals and if something is wrong they can help try to fix it before you lose the piercing.

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      kelpar 5 years ago

      I got 2 microdermals on my hip about a week ago. Getting them done wasn't painless but it definitely wasn't anything to worry about. Afterwards wasn't painful at all. The only thing that hurt after is if you catch or bump them within the first couple days. Make sure your piercer places them in a good spot. Pick a spot that is above your pants line and not in a spot that moves alot when you walk.

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      Beth Dixon 6 years ago

      I got my nape done yesterday, and the bar is too big. it's flexy, and i was told in two weeks i can get it trimmed. however, the bar slides across if i move my head. It's the least painful piercing I've had and i Love it, im just terrified it'll reject (although i have other piercings)

    • JustPassinThru profile image

      JustPassinThru 6 years ago from Woodland Hills, California

      To lessen the chances of migration or rejection, be sure the proper jewelry is used for surface piercings. I use a bent surface barbell. This keeps the jewel from pressing on the skin, and leaves more room for the tissue to heal. Clean 2 x a day with antibacterial soap and sea salt soaks. Don't move the jewelry around, and remember that less is more. Clean! Dry with a tissue, as towels harbor bacteria. Also be sure to make one of your cleaning times right AFTER your shower or bath, to remove any soap or conditioner residue. That's it! Have a Happy Piercing! xo Barbi

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      Trish 6 years ago

      I just got two piercings below my collar bone. And I was putting my shirt on and one just fell out, it didn't hurt! But what does this mean? Was the piercing not done right? I didn't think they could come out so easy

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      lyndsie 6 years ago

      So I have a dermal in my wrist and I just noticed the top is gone! Is it gonna be OK till tomarrow! Wit do I do!

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      KS 6 years ago

      Just had anchor surface piercing on my chest three days ago and seemed to be healing properly. This morning, after cleaning it, I am standing in my kitchen and it just FALLS OUT! anchor and all! No trauma to it, no pain. Rejection?

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      Shayne 6 years ago

      I just got my hips pierced about 2 days ago. Reading this, I am very depressed that it is so rare for them to last more than a year or two. They are freaking amazing piercings, and I want them for WAY longer than that! :(

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      Louise 6 years ago

      Anyone with a nape piercing or who wants one, go for it, i love mine, had it done just under a month ago, it hurt less than my belly and i love it to pieces, oh i have 8 piercings currently and going to have 3 ore done soon, hips beng one of them, defo getting them x

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      .... 6 years ago

      i got both of my hips pierced 3 wks ago - i feel like there to low and to close inward of my stomach bc i can barely even wear jeans ; does neone else have this issue?

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      Chrissy 6 years ago

      Wut exactly is rejection and wut do u do wen the peircings start to reject?? I really wanna get my hips peirced and my belly button, do belly buttons reject? Im 15 btdubss

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      LJ 6 years ago

      i have a dermal anchor on my chest, been there about 2 years

      its pretty much been rejecting since i had it done

      looks kinda like the picture on here, although mine is always kept clean...

      i want it removed, but im not game as im told it reaaally hurts

      and no one where i live is experienced in removing them

      i have spoken to numerous doctors and they all recommend cutting it out and stitching it up!

      which i know is the hardest possible way of going about it

      whaaat can i do :S

      its getting to the point where i want to yank it out myself.. but then il be left with an even bigggggggger scar

      ahhh worst idea ever

      don't anyone everrrrrrr get a dermal, way to much hassle!!!!

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      julia 6 years ago

      i got my hips done like 3 days ago, the piercing itself didn't hurt but it def hurt after. it was hard to walk for the reest of the night. but i would def say get them done it looks sick! just plan on pain killers and bed after you get it done. and this healing stuff is very helpful!

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      hippy 6 years ago

      hey, i was wondering if anyone here has their hip peirced? if so does it hurt and does it catch onto clothing?

      i'm thinking of getting mine done for my birthday but not sure,


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      tattoots 6 years ago

      i'm a body piercer from ireland and as of yet we have no laws concerning tattoing or piercing, which means needles can be reused!!! I am constantly getting people in who have been stoopid and got a piercing from an untrained piercer, this really annoys me as i am striving hard to keep a good name and then some twat who think they know what they're doing comes along and destroys people and i'm left to sort their bad job out. Any info on how i could push for these sterile laws to be brought in?

    • profile image

      Natalie 6 years ago

      Im 14 & I just got my wrist done on the 2nd & I love it. I know people say you shouldn't use curved bar bells but I've yet to find a problem with mine. The piercing holes are already healing. (I can move the barbel without it bleeding) &I make sure to disinfect around the hole & clean all the dry blood. It's still hurts but no more than a bruise would, but it's worth it. :)

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