What to Know Before Getting a Dermal Piercing, According to a Pro

There are so many (no really, so many) areas of the body that are prime real estate for new piercings and body art. When we talk about the most popular kinds of these, the examples that often come to mind are the more traditional options — like ear piercings, nose piercings, and navel piercings — but there's another type that doesn't get enough attention: dermal piercings.

For the unfamiliar, dermal piercings are a form of body art that's inserted directly into the skin with a gem that sits on the surface like a piece of jewelry. It doesn't have an entry point or exit like, say, a nose or ear piercing. Whether you're ready to take the plunge or are simply curious about how they work, professional piercers explain everything you need to know about dermals, including how to take care of them and what to do if your body rejects them, ahead.

What Are Dermal Piercings?

So, what are dermal piercings? "I usually refer to them as 'surface anchors,'" Tom Gottschalk, a piercer at Dorje Adornments in Rochester, NY, tells POPSUGAR. "They can go in most places that have little to no movement, such as the cheekbone or the back of the neck — basically places where you don't normally see your skin move."

Do Dermal Piercings Hurt?

Piercings will never be painless — you're puncturing the skin, after all — but just how badly it hurts depends on a number of variables, like your pain tolerance and the area you're piercing.

Still, in comparison: "This piercing doesn't tend to be particularly terrible," Gottschalk says. "It lies on the easier side of the spectrum when done properly. Surface anchors are usually pretty easy, but it all depends on where it is and who's doing it. If you're going to a reputable piercer who knows what they're doing, it should be pretty easy."

If potential pain is what worries you the most, you can always take a Tylenol or acetaminophen ahead of your appointment to help minimize it.

How to Take Care of Dermal Piercings

You should plan to take care of a surface anchor in the same way that you'd take care of any piercing, but the instructions you're given may differ depending on your piercer.

"Keep it clean and leave it alone," Gottschalk says. "With surface anchors, you really want to make sure you're not touching it on stuff because the odds of it being ripped out of your body are much higher than your average piercing. You have to be super responsible with them, and you have to take really good care of them — otherwise, they're going to reject pretty quickly." (More on that later.)

How Long Do Dermal Piercings Take to Heal?

Every part of the body tends to have slightly different healing times, but if you happen to get a dermal piercing, Gottschalk says that you can expect for it to heal in around three to six months. "This is a fairly easy piercing to heal as long as you take care of it, don't do anything dangerous, and stay within the parameters of your aftercare," he says.

Sub-Clavicle Piercings

Recently, piercing enthusiasts have been searching for a lesser-known type of dermal: the sub-clavivle piercing. While some versions are located right above the clavicle and minimally pierce the body, traditional sub-clavicle piercings pass beneath the collarbone, fully penetrating the inner-body cavity. For this reason, sub-clavicle piercings are no longer recommended by most piercers and cross over into the realm of body modification. "They are kind of a throwback to a bygone era of piercing that doesn't really exist anymore," piercer Jef Saunders says. "In general, the sub-clavicle is not a piercing anyone could actually obtain insurance to practice."

What to Do If Your Dermal Piercing Rejects?

One thing that's extremely important to note about dermal piercings is that, unlike other traditional piercings, they're not meant to stay in your body forever. In other words: you should expect it to reject at some point.

"Every surface anchor rejects. They're not permanent piercings by any means," Gottschalk says. "It's so different for everybody. It could [happen in] a month or three months — it could be 10 years! But eventually, it's coming out."

How long it takes your piercing to reject can also be dependent on your aftercare process, which is why Gottschalk typically recommends clients leave their piercings alone (with the obvious exception of cleaning) after getting them.

"You have to take really good care of them — otherwise, they're going to reject pretty quickly," he says. Once it does begin to reject, you can look into seeing a professional who can tell you if there's a possibility that your piercing can be saved or you can remove it.

"Usually, the object of the game at that point is to minimize scarring, so I tend to recommend removing it the second it begins to show signs of really bad irritation," Gottschalk says.

Additional reporting by Ariel Baker