Belly button piercings have been popular for a long time—and for good reason. Given their minimal pain levels plus being easy to take care of, they've endured the test of time as a top choice. While we will note that belly button piercings carry risks like any other body piercing and also may not work for every anatomy, they're a great option to upgrade your personal style as long as you find a licensed, experienced piercer and know what to expect. Keep reading to learn all you need to know about belly button piercings, from pain to healing time to aftercare.
Meet the Expert
- Lauren Dozier, DO, FAAD, is a board-certified dermatologist at Brickell Cosmetic Center in Miami, Florida. She has expertise in both aesthetic and medical dermatology.
- Cozmo Faris is an Atlanta-based professional piercer with more than 12 years of experience. He also teaches for the Association of Professional Piercers (APP) and is a member of Byrdie's Beauty & Wellness Board.
- Alexandra Moench, DNP, FNP-BC, is a board-certified nurse practitioner at Schweiger Dermatology Group in New York City.
- Kristina Outland is a body piercer and fine jewelry consultant at Fiat Lux and Rose Gold in San Francisco. She is on the APP membership committee, as well as an incoming board member.
- Claudia Valentini is a body piercer and scarification artist at Enkitattoo in Barcelona, Spain.
What Is a Belly Button Piercing?
A belly button piercing, also known as a navel piercing, is a piercing through the skin located directly above the belly button. This allows the jewelry to hang slightly over the belly button to essentially highlight itself. If you don't like the traditional placement or it doesn't work well for your anatomy, other potential placements for your belly button piercing include the lower rim, upper rim, and sides of the navel.
Belly button piercings are done either with tools or freehand by a professional piercer. First, the area will be cleaned, and if you have some hair in the way, your piercer will most likely shave the area with a disposable razor to allow for a smooth and clear piercing site. Then, if your piercer is using tools, they will use a clamp to hold the area taut before marking the placement. You should have agreed on location beforehand, but now is the time to double-check that it’s marked in the correct spot. After that, your piercer will push a hollow needle through to create the hole before finally inserting the jewelry. Don’t worry if you experience slight bleeding, swelling, or redness immediately after the piercing—that’s completely normal and should subside quickly.
Belly Button Piercings
Placement: Belly button piercings are pierced through the skin surrounding the navel, with a traditional belly button piercing centered directly above it.
Pricing: $30-$75, plus cost of jewelry
Pain level: 4 or 5 out of 10
Healing time: Six to eight months, fully healed by 12 months
Aftercare: Wash the piercing two times a day with a sterile saline solution and pat dry with a paper towel. See more detailed instructions in the "Aftercare" section of this article.
Who Can Get a Belly Button Piercing?
Belly button piercings are possible on most body types, but you'll have to double-check with your piercer that your navel area can accommodate the placement you have in mind. "This piercing in all of its variants is very anatomy-specific," says Atlanta-based professional piercer Cozmo Faris. "There is a very high likelihood that you may not be suited for one or any of the versions. The required anatomy is completely based on the navel shape itself and has nothing to do with weight directly."
Even if a traditional belly button piercing isn't possible for you, there may be alternatives for you to try. "A floating navel is a way to make a navel piercing work on individuals who have either a more deep-set navel ridge or a smaller navel cavity that won't support a standard gem on the bottom," Faris explains. "By canting the jewelry inward towards the body on the bottom and using a flat disk on that bottom end rather than a gem or ball, the bottom portion of the jewelry can lay flat against the tissue, giving the appearance that the top gem is just 'floating' against the navel."
Cost of a Belly Button Piercing
The cost of your belly button piercing will vary depending on the studio you go to, your geographic location, your piercer’s experience, and how complicated your piercing is. On average, however, you can expect a belly button piercing to run between $30 and $75. Of course, this baseline price either includes a very basic jewelry option or none at all. In many cases, you'll have to also pay for the cost of the jewelry, which varies depending on the material and style. Of course, on top of this price, you'll want to be sure to tip your piercer for the service.
“In my studio, we usually charge 40 euros [or `~$40 USD] with a basic titanium internal threaded piercing,” says Claudia Valentini, a Barcelona-based body piercer. “If the customer chooses another option, we charge [additionally for] the jewelry.”
The Best Jewelry Materials for Belly Button Piercings
- Implant-Grade Stainless Steel: “[Implant-grade] stainless steel is usually the safest type of metal for a piercing due to its low irritant or allergic sensitizing potential,” says board-certified dermatologist Lauren Dozier, DO, FAAD.
- Titanium: If you’d rather avoid the potential negative effects of surgical steel or if you know you’re allergic to nickel, medical-grade titanium is your best bet.
- Gold: If you’re more of a gold person for the general aesthetic and look (and are sure you aren't allergic to the metal), it's another of the better options for your new piercing. Also, make sure it’s at least 14 karats, as anything less than that is too soft and unsafe for a healing body piercing.
Types of Jewelry Used for a Belly Button Piercing
When you first get a belly button piercing, your options will be limited to the styles your piercer recommends for optimal healing. "Typically, this piercing is done with a curved barbell," Faris says. "These barbells are banana-shaped and will have an ornament of some type on both ends, either balls or gem ends." Keep reading for more about this and other styles of belly button piercing jewelry.
The typical and most popular jewelry choice for belly button piercings is a curved barbell, which slightly curves outward to pop against your belly button and generally fits better with the natural shape of your body. This jewelry has a small bead on each end, with one of them being adjustable/removable to allow you to change out the jewelry if you want.
Curved in both directions, twister spiral jewelry is fun to wear and makes a statement. The design of this piercing is said to put less stress on the navel area.
With this jewelry, size is everything. You'll most likely find 14- and 16-gauge offered for this style, which hugs the navel and lays outward, so the side of the ring is showing.
Those who sport the reverse/top-down style of jewelry typically showcase the larger part of the jewelry above the navel and the smaller part inside it. Heavier design elements will be featured up top, however, the great thing about this style is that you can wear the jewelry however you like, hence the name.
If you're looking to show off your belly button piercing, dangle jewelry is the ultimate way to do it. Typically featuring a curved barbell, this style has a plethora of options and adornments like stones, jewels, or charms hanging off the end of the ring.
This smaller jewelry style is perfect for those who lead a more active lifestyle or don't want to show off their navel piercing all the time. Non-dangle jewelry hugs closer to the belly button and is usually seen as a drop, hinge, or curved barbell.
Pain and Healing Time
Although you may think a belly button piercing wouldn’t hurt that much due to being on your stomach, it will hurt slightly—just like any other piercing. Because the skin on your stomach is fleshy, it’s true that you can probably expect it to be less painful than some sort of cartilage piercing. However, a piercing is created by pulling a needle through the skin, so there is, of course, some pain involved.
“I would say [the pain is] around a four or five [out of 10] with my clients based on their feedback; I would rate my own at a four or so,” says Kristina Outland, a body piercer at Fiat Lux and Rose Gold in San Francisco. “It’s a super quick process, which makes it very manageable.”
A belly button piercing can take anywhere from six months to a year to fully heal, depending on how you care for it and your day-to-day lifestyle. However, the most common time frame is between six and eight months. "Timeframes will vary drastically based on body shape, activity level, and overall health," Faris explains. "Simply put, healthy people will heal faster, but piercings that are constantly moving during activities will heal slower. If I had to make a numerical estimate, I would say anywhere from six to 12 months."
"Generally, any tenderness and redness will be completely gone and the piercing channel will no longer be secreting or developing crusties," Faris tells us of how to determine if your piercing is fully healed. Regardless, it’s important to check with your piercer when you believe it’s healed before stopping aftercare—if it's still healing, the site could become infected if you let up too soon.
Following the correct aftercare during the healing process is super important, both because it will help the piercing heal properly and because not doing so could slow down the process.
To clean your new piercing, "the easiest method is a twice daily saturation with a sterile saline solution," Faris tells us. "When doing these saturations, you should ensure that any build up present is completely washed away. Sometimes, saturating a Q-tip in your solution and gently wiping any difficult 'crusties' away may be required."
Alexandra Moench, DNP, FNP-BC, a board-certified nurse practitioner at Schweiger Dermatology Group, suggests using non-woven gauze for the cleaning process, also advising that you "avoid using hydrogen peroxide or rubbing alcohol, as these can cause irritation to healing skin." Always be sure to wash your hands before touching your piercing to avoid infection, and dry the area with a paper towel after cleaning, as a typical hand or bath towel could harbor bacteria.
During the healing process, Dozier suggests staying away from antibiotic ointment, as this can suffocate the piercing site and cause more problems. She also recommends wearing loose-fitting clothing and pants that have low-rise waistbands to ensure you don’t irritate the piercing site or cause further complications.
Don’t pick at the area, as it can cause further irritation or bleeding. It’s also important to avoid soaking your new belly button piercing in anything but a sterile saline solution until it’s healed—bodies of water both big and small like baths, the ocean, or a pool may harbor bacteria and cause infection. Because of this, consider the time of year you get your belly button piercing: Fall or winter may be ideal, since it allows the site to heal before waterside summer activities. Don't hesitate to ask your piercer for advice if your healing timeline and travel plans conflict or you have any other questions about aftercare.
Common Side Effects and Signs of Infection
When you get a belly button piercing, as with other piercings, a few side effects are normal to experience during the healing process, while others may be cause for concern if they signal infection. Below are a few of the most common:
- Rash: The piercing site should maintain a normal appearance for the entire healing process, but a rash could pop up due to irritation of the jewelry or the skin around the piercing site. If at any point you notice a rash that wasn’t there before, seek medical help immediately.
- Itching/Mild Discomfort: "During the healing process, you may experience some itching which is normal," Moench says. "Try not to scratch at the new healing skin."
- Discharge: It’s completely normal for your piercing to leak some off-white fluid for the first few days. This is your body’s natural reaction to a purposeful wound and is meant to protect the area. If the discharge keeps happening, however, or the color changes to a murkier yellowish hue, that’s a sign that something could be wrong with your new piercing.
- Signs of Infection: Infection is a common risk when getting a piercing, and can be caused by improper aftercare, an inexperienced piercer, or various other factors. "Signs of infection can include redness, swelling, oozing, or increased tenderness in and around the piercing," Moench tells us. "If you experience these symptoms, you should check in with a dermatologist."
How to Change Out a Belly Button Piercing
You can effectively change out a belly button piercing yourself, but you have to be completely sure your piercing is fully healed before doing so. As mentioned, while six to eight months is the typical healing period, it could take up to a year. Because of that, most piercers recommend waiting the full year-long period before switching it out, but if you can’t wait or otherwise are nervous about changing it for the first time, your best bet is to go back to your piercer.
"I suggest coming to the studio for the first change," Valentini says. "If that’s not possible, make sure that it’s the right time to change it, and [that you] have good quality jewelry to replace it."
According to Outland, the top of belly button piercing jewelry usually comes unscrewed, allowing for the jewelry to be slipped out and easily replaced in the same manner. Always wash your hands before touching the piercing in any way to avoid irritating it or transferring bacteria. "If you do need help or have questions, a reputable piercer is always willing to help you out," Outland adds.
The Final Takeaway
A belly button piercing can be a fun and versatile way to switch up your look, as long as it works for your anatomy and you're prepared for the process. By being diligent about aftercare, following your piercer's advice, and checking in with a pro if you encounter any signs for concern, you can help ensure a healthy, healed piercing that will make a statement for years to come.
Halloran L. Body Piercing: Avoiding Complications. JNP. 2015 Jan; 11(1):142-43. doi:10.1016/j.nurpra.2014.10.004