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Types of Body Modification

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Tattoos and piercings are two common types of body modification, but they're not the only varieties.

Tattoos and piercings are two common types of body modification, but they're not the only varieties.

Body Modification

There are all sorts of different types of body modification. Basically, anything that you do to your body to alter the way that it naturally appears is a body modification, so it includes body building, hair dye, and plastic surgery. More "punk" or alternative means of altering one's body, including tattoos, piercings, scarification, various implants, ear shaping, etc., are also considered body modifications.

Below, I've gone over the more alternative body modifications you are likely to encounter. You won't see modifications such as neck stretching or foot binding on the list, although they are two primitive types of modifications, because they are not as common in today's society.

5 Types of Body Mods

  1. Tattoos and Piercings
  2. Scarification
  3. Implants
  4. Tongue Splitting
  5. Other Modifications
A butterfly wings tattoo on the back. (Flickr Image by spaceninja)

A butterfly wings tattoo on the back. (Flickr Image by spaceninja)

1. Tattoos and Piercings

Tattoos and piercings are more common body modifications that you will encounter. It has taken years, but, to some extent, both of these modifications are becoming more and more accepted among today's adults and seniors.

Although both tattoos and piercings both have long histories, stemming from our tribal pasts, they fell out of popularity as civilization modernized and, well, civilized. Their popularity have since rebounded, but that does not mean that everyone accepts them.

About Tattoos

Tattoos are a permanent body modification, and the removal process is more painful and expensive than actually getting them, which is why you should carefully think yours out before going to the shop. We all cannot afford tattoo removal.

There are so many different designs and patterns that you can have tattooed, but if you are thinking about getting one, you may want to find a design or create your own that has symbolism to you, versus a random pattern on the wall of the tattoo shop.

Double Navel Piercing by Christina

Double Navel Piercing by Christina

About Piercings

Piercings, on the other hand, are more temporary, and when you're tired of one, you can take it out and let the hole close. Now, that does not mean that you will not have a scar or impression left behind, but the actual hole will no longer be there.

The exception is when you stretch a piercing. With stretching, there will be a point of no return, which is generally different for everyone. After that point, your piercing will typically only shrink so much and never go back to normal. So, if you decide to stretch a piercing, you want to make sure that you make every stretch as though it were irreversible.

Branding by Karl Schmidt

Branding by Karl Schmidt

2. Scarification

Scarification is a body modification that is slowly gaining more popularity, but it is not nearly as popular as tattoos. More adults accept tattoos than they do scarification; many adults assume that those who purposely cut or burn themselves for a scar have some mental instability.

Scarification, like tattooing and piercing, is another tribal body modification that was used as a rite of passage to marking an important point in a person's life, such as a hunt, marriage, or just coming of age.

Skin Removal by Cali

Skin Removal by Cali

Types of Scarification

There are different types of scarification, which include:

  • Ash rubbing
  • Branding
  • Cutting
  • Chemical scarification
  • Dremel scarification
  • Injection scarification
  • Tattoo gun scarification
  • Skin removal

3. Implants

The type of implant determines the procedure and extent of the body modification. There are typically five different implants, some of which are not exactly legal everywhere.

  • Eye Implants: Eye implants are actually illegal in most countries, and if you want to have an eyeball jewelry implant, you may have to travel.
  • Magnetic Implants: A magnet is placed under the skin so that the other half of the magnet can be attached to the outside of the skin.
  • Microdermal Implants: Similar to a transdermal implant, but smaller. They are also known as surface anchors and are an alternative to the surface piercing.
  • Subdermal Implants: This implant is pretty much 3D body art with a piece of Teflon or silicone material placed under the skin, creating a raised design.
  • Transdermal Implants: This implant is not legal in all areas because it is more complex than a piercing and typically requires anesthetics—which, if conducted by a non-medical practitioner, can cause a legal concern. Basically, a labret-type stud with a flat back is pocketed into the tissues with part of the jewelry on the outside.
A split tongue.

A split tongue.

4. Tongue Splitting

Ok, I had to add tongue splitting. Who thinks of hardcore body modifications and doesn't think of tongue splitting? Ha.

How It's Done

Basically, it is what it sounds like. The person typically starts with a tongue piercing, and slowly stretches the size of the barbell until there is just a small sliver of tissue on the tongue. A knife is typically used to cut the last piece. There are other methods of splitting a tongue, but that is the more commonly used one.

The only cool thing about a split tongue is that, with training, you can train both sides to move independently.

5. Other Body Modifications

You may encounter the following modifications as well:

  • Amputations
  • Corseting or waist training
  • Ear cropping
  • Elf ears
  • Various adult hardcore modifications that I'm not going to mention, as the list is pretty extensive.

But, for the most part, anything you do that alters your natural body can be considered a body modification. And, yes, that includes having male infants circumcised after birth.

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.


duncan Wilkie on May 29, 2019:

can anyone do the two horns on top of forehead around the city area, if so, how much and how long would it take, cash in hand, id it possible today, already have face tattooed, am willing to be advised to consider any other consider any additional body modifications, piercings and tattoos you consider would be great.

don't worry, im on disability and 58y/io gay male

jeff on April 17, 2019:

my name is jeff

pierced_celt on July 18, 2010:

@gamergirl:permanent ple hooks wouldn't work due to the imense amount of pressure they would come under during the suspension.

Varnadore on January 10, 2010:

I have three microdermal implants in my chest and I love them, they just look like a pretty necklace with an "invisible" string. They don't hurt nearly as bad as people make it seem or as bad as it looks. Its like a hard pinch on your arm and a warm feeling from the adrenaline. I'd suggest them to anyone who wants something a little bit different but still classy.

Whitney (author) from Georgia on October 10, 2008:

Typically you can go to a tatto shop for branding and scarification, but not all tattoo shops will do it. There are some that actually have people specialized in it.

Kandie Kay from Hollister, CALI on October 09, 2008:

Where can i get branding or scarification done???

Whitney (author) from Georgia on October 03, 2008:

Patty some of these mods are pretty tribal, but like you, many people see them and cringe. Personally, I'd never get an implant just because the process look painful, but the piercings and tattoos are pretty simple and handleable for me. The rest can be a little much, for me. Ha. I like the idea of the body suspensions, but I'm just not sure how people get the spiritual rush that most people claim.

Patty Inglish MS from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation on October 03, 2008:

I've seen very beautiful scarification among Africans, but I cannot think of piercing without a cringe, and flesh-hanging - some Chinese martial artists practice this but I don't know why. But then, I just don't like makeup, jewelry or any decorations for myself at all. A shaved head and space helmet are my ideal. lol

Whitney (author) from Georgia on October 03, 2008:

For like body suspension? I'm not sure how effect they really are though. I mean the point of the suspension is the thrill so to speak is really getting the hooks and then the hanging. I'm not sure how well the suspension would go over if you had the plugs, I'm not sure how well they would heal especially for future hangings. It's definitely something I'll have to look up though, as it is an interesting concept.

Kiz Robinson from New Orleans, Louisiana on October 03, 2008:

Woohoo! Good stuff!

Have you ever heard of the plugs that you can put in your back to support hooks (as in for frequent flesh-hanging?)