Body jewelry comes in many styles, sizes, and materials. It is important to choose jewelry that is the right shape and size for your piercing. The quality of the jewelry is very important, because low-quality jewelry can be uncomfortable, break easily, and even damage your piercing.
When you receive a new piercing, it is crucial that the jewelry be high-quality and appropriate for the piercing. Surgical-grade stainless steel is the most common material, and it is safe for almost everyone. Surgical steel does contain a small amount of nickel, so if you are allergic to nickel you will need to use a nickel-free alternative, such as titanium, niobium, or gold. Please disclose any allergies you may have before you get a piercing; your piercer will help you choose appropriate jewelry.
Body jewelry is available in several common shapes, such as captive-bead rings, labret studs, nostril screws, barbells, bent barbells, and curved or "horseshoe” barbells. A captive-bead ring is a circular ring with a small ball that is held in place with tension. A labret stud is a straight stud with a flat disc on the back and a ball or gem on the front. A barbell is a straight rod with a ball on each end. Bent barbells and curved barbells are similar, except that they are curved into different shapes. Nostril screws have a straight rod that goes through the piercing and a half-circle twist near the end to keep the jewelry in place. Some piercings (such as a monroe piercing or industrial) require a specific type of jewelry. Others, such as many piercings in the ears, accept several different shapes of jewelry. Talk with your piercer about what shape of jewelry is appropriate for your body. Using jewelry that doesn’t fit the anatomy of the area getting pierced could result in inflammation, migration, or tearing.
Some people prefer to wear natural materials rather than metal jewelry. Common options include bone, wood, stone, and glass. Bone, wood, and some stones are porous materials, so they can harbor bacteria, unlike metals. For this reason it is important to wear bone and wood only in healed piercings, not fresh ones. If you are stretching a piercing (moving to a larger gauge of jewelry), stretch using metal jewelry and then switch to natural materials after healing if you wish. Stretching into any porous material could cause significant damage to your skin. Glass is safe to wear in certain piercings (nostril, earlobe) at any time, but it has a risk of breaking, so be cautious and check your jewelry often if you wear glass jewelry. Any glass jewelry should be tempered, because tempered glass breaks cleanly rather than shattering.
Acrylic jewelry is popular among athletes and people who are often around children. Acrylic is a lightweight plastic, so if it gets pulled or hit or becomes caught on something, the jewelry will be more likely to break than to tear the skin. Acrylic is also porous, so it should only be worn in piercings that are completely healed. Many people choose acrylic balls for tongue jewelry because they are less likely to damage the teeth and gums. Acrylic-backed labret studs are sometimes worn for the same reason. Silicon plugs are available for stretched ears. Silicon is flexible and more durable than acrylic, but otherwise very similar.
If you prefer to wear gold jewelry, always choose 14 karat or higher. If you wish to be pierced with gold, choose a piece that is stamped "14k” in a location that will not rest inside the piercing. For example, if you want to get your navel pierced with a gold bent barbell, make sure the stamp is not on the barbell but on one of the balls instead. The stamp creates tiny, sharp edges on the metal, which could irritate or cut the new skin that is trying to form inside the healing piercing. Please note that gold may discolor during the healing process because of contact with proteins in the skin. If the gold becomes a darker, coppery color, take it out after you have completely healed and polish it with a jeweler’s cloth. The discoloration is easy to remove and will not hurt the skin.
Never wear plated body jewelry such as gold-plated or titanium-plated. The coating can flake off the metal underneath it, producing tiny shards of metal plate that will damage your piercing. If you find gold jewelry that is unusually inexpensive, it is probably gold-plated and not safe to wear.
Also, be aware that a piece of jewelry can be made of more than one material. Navel jewelry with dangling decorations may appear to be surgical steel, but the decorative part is usually made of a lower-quality material such as silver, copper, or pewter. Most people can wear surgical steel jewelry, but many people’s skin will be irritated by these lower-quality metals. Watch out for this issue with nostril screws, nipple jewelry, plugs for stretched ears, and eyebrow jewelry as well as navel jewelry.
Many different styles of jewelry now contain gems rather than plain surgical steel balls. If you prefer jewelry with gems, look at the way the gems are connected to their metal settings. Gems can be connected using a bezel (a small rim of metal around the edge of the gemstone) or prongs (tiny metal points that grip the gem like fingers). Use only bezel-set gems in jewelry for fresh piercings. Prongs can catch on your clothing, hair, towel, pillowcase, etc., and cause the piercing to tear. With bezel-set gems, there are no sharp edges to catch on anything. After your piercing has healed, you can wear jewelry with prong settings as long as you are careful. In some jewelry, the gems are simply glued to the metal. Some people prefer how this jewelry looks, since less of the metal is visible. It is also usually inexpensive. The glue will weaken over time (especially if you clean the area with anything containing alcohol) and the gem will eventually fall out. If you prefer this style of jewelry, please wear it only after your piercing has healed, since you will need to replace it more often than jewelry with a higher-quality setting.
Jewelry is available that is designed to hide a body piercing. This kind of jewelry is usually known as a retainer or spacer. Retainers are usually clear acrylic, but some styles are also available in glass. Acrylic retainers are not especially durable, as they are designed to be worn for short periods, such as a shift at work, a day at school, or a surgical procedure. If you need to wear a retainer often, keep in mind that you may need to replace them frequently because they can break. Retainers are used to keep piercings open but less visible. Most retainers are non-metallic and safe for use during MRIs and surgery. It is only safe to wear a clear retainer in a healed piercing, not during the healing process, because acrylic is porous and can harbor bacteria.
There are countless options available for body jewelry, and new materials and styles are still being developed. Body jewelry is increasingly available in malls and other stores that are not piercing studios. Please keep in mind that professional body piercers have years of experience with body jewelry, and that the jewelry in piercing studios is usually higher quality than mall jewelry. Also, in a piercing studio you can get answers from the staff to any questions you might have about body jewelry. A piercer at Miraculous Creations is always available to answer your questions.
- Ryen Welker
Miraculous Creations Body Art/Tattoos 387 Park Avenue Worcester MA 01610 508.755.1379