What are Surface Piercings?

Lauren Romano
Lauren Romano
Woman with hand on her hip
Woman with hand on her hip

Surface piercings are true to their name and are done only at the surface of the skin. The entry and exit points of the jewelry are within close proximity to each other on the same area of skin. The most popular versions of surface piercings include those done on the front and back of the neck and on the eyebrow. It takes someone extremely skilled to properly do a surface piercing and although it can last for quite awhile, depending on the steps taken to care for it, it is still typically a temporary piercing.

Surface piercings are placed on areas of the body that are typically flat, such as on the sternum, eyebrow, hips, back and fingers. The madison piercing, which is done at the front base of the neck, and the nape piercing, which is done on the back of the neck, are two other types of surface piercings. The closer a piercing is to the surface of the skin, the more likely it is that it's going to come out quickly.

The jewelry is a foreign object, which means the body is going to do what it can to get it out. As the body tries to push it out and the layer above the piercing sloughs off, there is then only a very thin layer of skin keeping it in, which means it can fall out. The other possibility is that someone can unintentionally rip it out by doing something as simple as putting on a shirt by snagging the clothing on the jewelry. Ripped out jewelry can often leave a scar in its wake.

Signs the body is rejecting the piercing include redness and swelling around the edges of the bar. There will likely be a discharge and it can be painful on and around the edges of the piercing. The first step in preventing a rejection is to choose a reputable piercer that specializes in surface piercings who knows how and where to place the jewelry. The correct jewelry must be used — the ideal type to use is a surface bar.

To clean surface piercings, it's typically best to use a solution of sea salt as well as a very mild soap. Clothes that are overly tight can cause friction with the piercing — any form of clothing can snag on the jewelry and yank it out or cause problems. The piercer can give more detailed instructions depending on the specific location of the piercing.

It often takes around ten weeks for a surface piercing to heal, but times vary depending on several factors, including aftercare and the location of the piecing. There must also be care while moving the skin and muscles in the area of the piercing as well as when taking clothing on and off. If there are any suspected problems, it's vital to immediately call the piercer or a doctor.

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Discussion Comments


Surface piercings are very cool. I especially like sternum piercings and clavicle piercings. Sternum piercings are done on the chest, in between the breasts or slightly above. Clavicle just means collarbone and this piercing is usually done right below the collarbone.

I think that both look very nice and if I can find an experienced piercer who has done a great number of these, I'm thinking about getting one done. I don't like the idea of scarring and rejection either but I want to at least entertain the idea.


@bluedolphin-- I'm not an expert on this topic but yes, as far as I know, those are surface piercings.

Now, there is no rule that your body will reject the piercing. It may not reject it. I think it depends on the individual and of course, the skill of the piercer. Some people's skin is very sensitive and will not accept the piercing at all. It may never heal as the skin continues to push it out. But other people's are not so sensitive and may heal around the piercing instead of pushing it out. Unless you've had a surface piercing before, you may not know.

I have not gotten a surface piercing but I suspect that skin would reject it right away. Mine even reacts to regular piercings. I used to have a nose piercing that closed in literally an hour when I removed my nose ring. I tried putting the ring back in and the hole was gone! So I know my body is not going to accept a surface piercing. I'll just be left with a scar.


Are some ear piercings surface piercings? I saw a few piercings this weekend. One was a sideburns piercing and the other was a helix piercing. They are not on the ear per se . And they look different. I'm guessing they're surface piercings? Does this mean that the body will reject these too?

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