When buying body jewelry, particularly from an online company, you might come across the terms “internally” or “externally” threaded and wonder what they mean. It’s actually crucial that you know the difference, as one is safer and higher quality than the other. However, first you have to know what threads are.
Threads exist on body jewelry that has an end ball that screws on and off, like straight, cuved, or circular barbells and labret jewelry. A thread is a spiraled ridge that winds around the metal like that on a screw or the inside of a nut.
Externally threaded body jewelry has the thread on the end of the barbell, and it is placed inside a threaded hole in the ball. This means that when the jewelry is being passed through the piercing, the threads also pass through it, and then the ball is screwed into place. Internally threaded body jewelry has a threaded hole inside the barbell, and then an external thread protruding from the ball. A smooth barbell passes through the piercing, and then the ball is inserted and screwed into place.
Logically, the internally threaded body jewelry sounds more comfortable. Still, the debate over internal versus external jewelry is not just about comfort. The Association of Professional Piercers (APP) sets the standards to be followed by professional body piercers, and they've made their position very clear in regards to threaded jewelry: “Internally threaded jewelry is part of the APP standard for initial piercing jewelry: the part of the jewelry that passes through your skin is smooth, and the threads are on the removable end(s), such as balls, gems, or spikes.
Internally threaded jewelry avoids any possibility of scraping your tissue with sharp threads, which is especially important with fresh piercings.”
The APP specifies initial piercings as they're the most susceptible to irritation and infection. Bacteria can make itself a home in the nooks of the threading, and, if it comes in contact with the raw flesh inside a new piercing hole, will cause a whole host of problems. If you have externally threaded body jewelry, it should only be used on well-healed piercings. If the piercing isn't healed, you risk all kinds of nasty bumps with even nastier stuff inside them.
Internally threaded body jewelry does, admittedly, cost more. But there's an obvious reason for that: it’s more difficult to manufacture. Novelty stores and mall shops (hello, Hot Topic,) often sell body jewelry for less because the quality is much lower, and the jewelry sold by stores and kiosks like these should never be used in an unhealed piercing. High quality jewelry from reputable shops (physical or online) will ultimately cost you much less in regards to your health, which is something you can't put a price tag on.