Body Piercings Guide

person with green hair and pierced nose


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Body piercings are not as permanent as tattoos, so the commitment isn't as great, but you still want to take some care when deciding where and how to get pierced. There are so many different types and styles to choose from, not to mention locations on the body. Each one has different pain levels, risks, and healing difficulties attached. Knowing these factors can help you to make the right decision when thinking of getting pierced.

Keep on reading for more information on some of the more well-known piercings. This guide will inform you of where these piercing styles are located, what they look like, what kinds of jewelry are best, and the expected healing times. It will help you to choose the right piercing artist, and provide instructions on how to care for your new piercing.

Ear Piercings

person with multiple ear piercings

Ear piercings run the gamut from traditional piercings to edgier ones. You can surely find an earring look that suits your style. An orbital piercing, for example, is one that runs from side to side rather than front to back, with two pierced holes instead of one. Some pierce the cartilage, which may take longer to heal, while others are in the fleshy parts. Cartilage piercings take longer to heal, often six months or more. They are also more prone to infection since cartilage has less blood supply to help fight germs.

  • Lobe (including Orbital): The easiest place on the body to pierce. It is a fleshy piercing and heals much faster than a cartilage piercing.
  • Helix and Helix Orbital: Along the curled outer edge of your upper ear cartilage.
  • Conch and Conch Orbital: The conch is at the large opening of your ear and it might be one of the riskiest for damage to the cartilage and possible infection.
  • Daith: A cartilage piercing of the innermost cartilage fold.
  • Rook: Along the inner ridge of ear cartilage that runs down the center, parallel to the outer rim.
  • Tragus and Anti-Tragus: The rounded protuberance of cartilage just outside the ear canal.
  • Industrial/Scaffold: A two-hole piercing, the jewelry includes a long spanning bar.
  • Snug/Anti-Helix: Along the vertical inner cartilage ridge.

Facial Piercings

Close up of nose piercings

Some facial piercings are surface piercings in the skin, while others pierce through to your mouth (oral piercing) or nasal passage.

  • Erl/Bridge: Across the bridge of the nose
  • Dimple/Cheek: Pierced through to the inside of your mouth.
  • Monroe: In the area of a beauty mark, through the upper lip into the mouth.
  • Septum: This pierces the soft tissue of the center of your nose.
  • Labrets and Lowbrets: Under the center of your lower lip, through to the inside of your mouth.
  • Nostril: Through the soft cartilage of the nostril.
  • Lip Rings: Most piercings are both external and oral.
  • Snake Bites: Two symmetrical lower lip piercings, more like fangs than bites.
  • Medusa/Philtrum: The indentation between your upper lip and nose, it's both an oral and lip piercing.
  • Eyebrow: These are surface piercings.

Oral Piercings

woman sticking out pierced tongue
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These heal fairly quickly, in about four weeks if you're not a smoker, but they can be painful.

  • Tongue: This may be a painful piercing, as the tongue has many nerve endings.
  • Tongue Web/Frenulum: The thin strip of connective tissue under your tongue.
  • Frowny: Through the thin connective tissue under the bottom lip.
  • Smiley/Scrumper: Through the thin connective tissue above the upper lip. It can be painful.

Body/Surface Piercings

woman with pierced belly button

Different areas of the body have more or less healing time and also may have a risk of rejection or migration. Surface piercings may have a higher risk of rejection or migration.

  • Navel/Belly Button: This requires a lot of aftercare as it is a very germy area and you'll need to be diligent for three to four months.
  • Nipple Piercings (M+F): Healing takes at least six months.
  • Nape: A horizontal surface piercing with balls at each end.
  • Sternum/Cleavage: This has a higher risk of rejection.
  • Vampire Bite: A surface piercing on the neck or shoulder.
  • Madison: A surface piercing at the clavicle, it has a higher chance of rejection.
  • Dermal Anchors/Micro-dermal Implants: Protruding implants.
  • Corset Piercings: Parallel rows of piercings you can connect with string or ribbon.

Selecting the Right Piercing Artist and Studio

woman with pink hair and piercings

Getting a new piercing is exciting. But why spend your hard-earned money, or endure the pain and discomfort of a piercing, only to have it end in disaster? Take your time and find a really good piercing artist that you can feel confident in.

  • Visit Several Studios: If you have several studios in your area, visit as many of them as you can, or even travel out of the area to find others to compare.
  • Check the Portfolio: Take a look at examples of piercings they have done in the past. Do they look well-placed? Do lobe piercings look even?
  • Listen To Your Friends: If they have had a good experience, they will probably recommend their artist. And if they've had a bad experience, they'll warn you not to make the same mistake. If you're outgoing, and you see someone walking down the street with a great piercing, don't be afraid to ask them where they got it. Many people love to talk about their body art.

Piercing Safety

person with tattoos and piercings lying on couch
  • The studio should have a working autoclave for sterilizing all reusable equipment. Autoclaves should be clean and in good working order. They must be regularly maintained and tested often for accurate spore termination.
  • Your piercing artist should wear medical gloves at all times. Their ungloved hands should not come in contact with your skin or any of the piercing equipment or jewelry. Period.
  • Under no circumstances should you be pierced anywhere on your body with a piercing gun, squeeze piercer or any other object other than a clean, sterile, body-piercing-approved needle. 
  • The forceps, needle, jewelry and any other metal equipment should be removed from an autoclave bag, with gloved hands, in your presence. It remains in the pouch until it is time to use it on a client.
  • Many piercers will use some kind of pen to mark your skin before inserting the needle. It should be brand new and then thrown in the trash after they are finished. 

Body Piercing Aftercare

Most piercers will give you aftercare instructions, and the general rule of thumb would be to follow their advice. if you have allergies or a medical condition that might impact healing, discuss your intent to get a piercing with your doctor to see what modifications you may need.

Article Sources
Byrdie takes every opportunity to use high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial guidelines to learn more about how we keep our content accurate, reliable and trustworthy.
  1. Gabriel OT, Anthony OO, Paul EA, Ayodele SO. Trends and complications of ear piercing among selected Nigerian populationJ Family Med Prim Care. 2017;6(3):517-521. doi:10.4103/2249-4863.222045

  2. Association of Professional Piercers. Safe Piercing FAQ.

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