Yes, I'm 31, and Yes, I Just Got My Belly Button Pierced For the First Time
I'm a true child of the early 2000s. In the early aughts, you would have 100 percent found me sporting all the most bitchin' trends, from a bedazzled flip phone to micro denim skirts to those Steve Madden platform sandals. And of course, who could forget that most unholy pairing that defined the early 2000s: low-rise jeans and a crop top.
And like any good Britney- and Xtina-loving tween, I was desperate for a belly-button ring. You know the kind: that big silver bar adorned with translucent balls on either end (I would have chosen blue). Predictably, I was laughed out of the room when I casually brought up the topic of a belly-button piercing to my parents. ("Keep dreamin', sweetie" were the exact words.) So for the entirety of 2003, I forlornly walked past the windows of my local Limited Too, watching all the cool girls showing off their newly bejeweled navels, silently cursing my mother for dashing all of my dreams.
Of course, like anything you just had to have as a teenager, the idea fell off my radar as I got older — until now. Why, you ask, would I want to resurrect this relic of my youth as I enter my early 30s? Well, for one thing, piercings have gotten way more chic. No longer are we talking about big, chunky bars with screw-on balls — dainty is now the name of the game for piercings, from ears to, yes, the navel. Plus, when you have friends who are professional piercers, it's easy to keep up with the latest jewelry trends.
Step 1: Pick Your Jewelry
First, I had to pick my jewelry of choice. Usually, with piercings you have to pay a small service fee, but the biggest cost barrier is the type of jewelry you get. For instance, solid-gold barbells can be significantly more expensive than surgical steel or other metals. I decided on a curved barbell, because Harris says that tends to make for easier healing.
"You want some breathing room to allow for swelling in a new piercing," he says. Once it's healed and feeling good, he said a small hoop can be swapped in to fit "nice and snug."
Step 2: Pick a Belly Button Placement
Once I landed on the jewelry, it was time to get down to business. Harris looked at where my skin naturally falls when I'm comfortably standing and made a tiny mark where the piercing will sit. Then, he had me lie down on my back and placed a clamp around my navel to keep everything lined up. It felt a little tight but didn't hurt.
If you are like me and got your first ear piercing at a young age at your local Claire's or mall kiosk, you probably have a horror story about the piercing gun. I personally had a gun get stuck midpiercing (*shivers*). The more sophisticated piercers of today use a hollow needle, done by hand. "The needle seems a little scary, but it's healthier on the tissue and allows us to get more precise with the piercing," Harris said. "It's also used to connect to the jewelry and guide it in. The gun pierces you with the jewelry by forcing it through the tissue."
The question of what to wear to your appointment might seem obvious, but it's easily overlooked. Harris suggests you wear "something comfortable and not too tight. Pants or shorts that do not lay across your navel and a shirt are best. Anything with easy access to that area. Dresses or onesies are a little trickier for obvious reasons." I personally wore a cropped tee and the lowest-waist jeans I own (which are still pretty high).
As for whether it hurts, I can really only speak for myself, but I'd say it was about a five out of 10.Getting a needle pushed through your skin is never going to be pleasant, but it wasn't nearly as painful as some of the piercings I've gotten in the thicker cartilage of my ears. No tears streamed down my face, but Harris did have to remind me to unclench my fists and breathe a few times. The most uncomfortable part was actually the few seconds it took to thread the piece of jewelry through the hollow needle.
Once we were done, Harris walked me through the after-care process. He recommends cleaning the piercing twice daily with some fragrance-free soap and water (I always go for Dr. Bronner's Unscented Baby Soap). Until it's fully healed, you want to be careful of snagging it on a towel or rubbing it with your clothes (tread lightly around high-waisted jeans).
Since I was eager to get back to my regular yoga practice, I also asked Harris how long I should wait before working out. Thankfully, he said, "I would say if it's comfortable enough for you to work out, then it should be OK. Just be mindful of it."
Keep in mind that everyone heals differently, and some people's bodies react differently to a piercing than others. For me, the healing process took somewhere between three to six months, which is normal, but it's not unusual for healing time to take up to a year if you constantly put pressure on the area.
Even though it's not ready for the teeny-tiny hoop of my dreams just yet, I'm already so excited about my new piercing. Just, um, please don't send this article to my mom.