This article was featured in the October print issue of Reporter Magazine. 

I walked into a tattoo parlor to get my belly button pierced – again – after my skin rejected it the first time. The piercer took one look and told me that I would never be able to have my belly button pierced again, but that I could try getting a piercing – something called a microdermal.

I was soon informed that microdermals are piercings that are inserted under the skin rather than through it. They are often called single point piercings because they have an entrance hole but don’t exit the skin. The piercing is made up of two parts: a dermal anchor and the jewel or decorative piece. Put simply, the dermal anchor is placed inside the skin. It is designed to be mostly flat with holes for the skin tissue to grow around and secure the piercing in place. This part of the piercing is meant to be parallel with the skin above it. The anchor also has a stem that protrudes slightly outside of the piercing site. Once inside the skin you do not see the anchor at all. The jewel piece then screws into the stem of the anchor creating the appearance of a jewel sitting directly on the skin.

This procedure stems from the techniques used in pocketing, or piercings where the middle of a bar is showing while the ends of the bar are placed under the skin, and transdermal implants, which are larger than microdermals and involve creating an incision to place the anchor in the skin. Although there is no time frame found for when these body modifications were first performed, most websites refer to the piercings as a “relatively new” trend.

The Process of the Piercing

For my most recent microdermal I decided to go to a tattoo parlor in Rochester.

My first set of microdermals is located on my stomach, so this time I decided to pierce my arm, a few inches above my wrist. The arm was significantly more sensitive than my stomach was, but still didn’t hurt any more than a bellybutton piercing would. The process itself took less than two minutes.

My piercer was Khary Paradise, owner and founder of the shop. He had me lie down on my back and place my arm at my side. He then grabbed a small section of the skin and inserted the dermal anchor into my arm. The dermal punch – the tool used to insert the dermal anchor – creates the hole where the dermal anchor is later inserted. The dermal anchor is pushed vertically into the skin and then rotated until it is horizontal. After this, the jewel or decorative piece is screwed into the stem of the dermal anchor.

When I pierced my stomach, I barely bled at all, but I noticed with the arm piercing there was quite a bit more blood. Paradise assured me this was normal. When asked if these piercings were more dangerous than other types of piercings, he replied with a laugh.

“Definitely not,” he said. “As long as they are put in correctly by a professional and are taken care of properly, there shouldn’t be a problem.”

Benefits and Risks

As with any body modification, there are certain pros and cons that everyone should be made aware of before getting the piercing. As great as I’m sure your friend is with that piercing gun or dermal punch, this will reduce the possibility of infection or serious injury. The best option is to find a trained professional who will make sure to explain any risks and answer any questions you may have.

Before beginning my piercing, Paradise was careful to make me aware of the issues I may face. “This takes a long time to heal,” he explained. “You have to be careful not to bump it or pull it or it will be ripped out.”

He went on to explain that the healing time for the microdermal is around two months. This time period ensures that the tissue has healed around the dermal anchor and secured the piercing into my skin. If I do bump it or snag it on something before it is completely healed, my body will begin to reject the piercing. Once this rejection has begun it cannot be stopped. Therefore, one con of the microdermal piercing is that I will be wearing a Band-Aid over it for the next eight weeks – not exactly my idea of pretty.

Another issue with the piercing is the common removal process. Although some sites may suggest that removing a microdermal piercing yourself is acceptable in certain circumstances, both of the piercers who have done my microdermals have advised against this. The most common way to remove the piercing involves using a scalpel to cut the piercing out of your skin. This is the safest and least painful process. There are some instances of scars when this occurs, but usually the skin heals completely.

Despite these risks, there are many benefits to microdermal piercings. For instance, these piercings can be placed nearly anywhere on the body. Some common sites are the hips, back, neck and chest area. There are less limitations and therefore more freedom for you to modify more areas of your body.

This procedure is also minimally invasive and relatively safe. Although everyone’s skin reacts differently, Paradise explained that most microdermal piercings heal just fine. These piercings also heal much quicker than surface piercings.

And one of the best benefits? These piercings are still pretty unique. I love having people ask about my hip microdermals and explaining the process to them. For a body modification junkie like me, these piercings are fun and a beautiful way to help you stand out.