Should I Opt For Externally or Internally Threaded Body Jewelry?

Updated 10/24/19

Astrid & Miyu

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.

What Is Threaded Body Jewelry?

Threads exist on body jewelry that has an end ball that screws on and off, like straight, curved, 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 vs. Internally Threaded Body Jewelry

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, on the other hand, 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.

Benefits of Internally Threaded Body Jewelry

  • It's less abrasive on new piercings
  • It's less likely to cause an infection in a new piercing

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.”

Side Effects of Externally Threaded Jewelry

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, it 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 (aka keloids) with even nastier stuff inside them.

While classic piercings are often the first thing to come in mind, the APP points out that steering clear of externally threaded jewelry is especially important during the stretching, or gauging, process, as the sharp ridges of the jewelry can tear and irritate the healing tissue inside your piercing.

What to Expect When Shopping for Internally Threaded Jewelry

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.

Aftercare

While internally threaded jewelry is proven to be better for new piercings, it's worth noting that fresh piercings can still get inflamed. That said, make sure you have a sterile saline solution (like H2Ocean Piercing Aftercare Spray, $8) to regularly (and gently) cleanse your new gem.

When it comes to drying your internally threaded piercing, the APP says that you should only ever use disposable paper products, as reusable cloths can be a breeding ground for bacteria. Plus, the fibers of said cloths are more likely to snag on piercing jewelry of all kinds.

In addition to regularly spritzing (and drying) your new piercing, be sure to wash your hands regularly so that you never touch it (or any piercings for that matter) with dirty, bacteria-ridden fingers.

The Final Takeaway

If you're planning on getting a new piercing anytime soon, make sure that wherever you go uses internally threaded jewelry. While it's an APP standard, you'd be surprised by the number of shops that don't comply.

Additionally, when you feel like switching out your jewelry, make sure to, again, look for internal threads. If you can't find any that truly fit your fancy, feel free to take a risk with external threads—just always remember that new piercings call for internals at all times.

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