How Body Jewelry Works
Barbells and Labrets: Internal vs. External Threading
With threaded jewelry, one end has a screw head while the other end has been drilled out (and the threading on each piece has a matching pattern). Depending on the jewelry type, one or both ends unscrew. (This is the same with curved and circular barbells as well.)
Internally threaded jewelry is jewelry where the ball has a threaded post that sticks out, and this screws into a hollow-end barbell. With this type of threading the part that passes through your skin (the bar) is smooth and doesn’t scrape or injure the skin as it passes through. (This is especially important with fresh piercings.) This is the type of threading recommended by the Association of Professional Piercers in their Minimum Standards for Jewelry for Initial Piercings, and the only type we use or sell.
Externally threaded jewelry has screw threading (or a “screw pattern”) cut into the outside of the bar, with a hollowed-end ball that threads onto it. This means that instead of a smooth piece passing through your skin, a relatively rough surface must go through the tissue every time you insert and remove the jewelry. We do not recommend externally threaded jewelry.
Both internally and externally threaded ends can become loose over time, so it’s always a good idea to periodically check the ends on your jewelry to make sure they are tightly attached. (On fancy navel curves, it’s usually the top ball that unscrews.)
Press-fit posts, commonly referred to as threadless or push-pin posts, were developed (and patented) by Neometal. Each barbell/post consists of two pieces: a pin coupling on the ornamental end and a hollow post on the other end. Instead of screwing beads on and off, as you would with threaded pieces, the two ends of the post simply pull apart. (If you are trying to remove jewelry that will not unscrew counterclockwise, as you expected, you may be dealing with a press-fit piece.) Like threaded jewelry, one of the benefits of press-fit posts is that you have the ability to quickly and easily change the ends. What’s more, instead of buying an entirely new piece to change your look, you can simply buy a new gem or designed end.
Rings: Fixed Bead Rings vs. Captives (and Seam Rings too)
Fixed bead rings and captive bead rings (also known as CBR’s) are similar in the fact that they are both held together by tension; in order to open/remove the ring you simply need to bend the entire piece. However, on fixed bead rings the bead is attached, or “fixed,” to one side of the ring. This is beneficial for piercings where you want the look of a captive bead ring but not the fear of losing the bead. For this reason, fixed bead rings are suggested over captives in thinner sizes.
Unlike fixed bead rings, the bead on captive bead rings is removable. Neither end is attached to the bead; instead, the bead remains suspended between the two ends of the bar. This means that you also have the option of changing just the bead.
In many cases you can open and close fixed and captive bead rings on your own; however, in some cases special tools, known as ring opening pliers, may be needed, especially those pieces which are larger in gauge or smaller in diameter.
Despite its name, a seamless ring does have a seam, it’s just less visible than with captive or fixed bead rings. To change a seam ring, they must be bent slightly by twisting the ring open. These are not recommended for piercings where the jewelry is changed often, and because the seam can spin through the skin of the piercing, this jewelry is also not suggested for during the healing period.
Nostril screws are a type of jewelry held in place solely by their shape, specifically by a unique, custom bend in their post. As their name implies, nostril screws are designed for nostril piercings. They are thinner “posts” with a ball, disc, or gem on one end, are usually about ¾” long, and are shaped-to-fit. These are held in place by the bend on the post and are removed by grabbing the exposed end and pulling the post out while giving a slight twist—it is literally like “unscrewing” the jewelry.
Though nostril screws are sometimes sold pre-bent, nostril screws should really be bent to fit the individual. If you’re buying a new nostril screw from us, to ensure a proper fit, we encourage you to stop in and have us bend it and put it in for you. If you’re ordering a nostril screw from us online, we will ship it unbent, and you’re going to need to take it to your local piercing studio for fitting and insertion.
Surface Bars and Anchors
Surface bars are staple-shaped pieces of jewelry that are used specifically for flat surface piercings (like the back of your neck). Like most jewelry types they go completely through the skin, meaning they have both an entry and exit point. They can be difficult to change or remove without help from a piercer. For more information, check out our section on surface piercings.
Also referred to as dermal anchors, microdermals, or single-point piercings, surface anchors are composed of two pieces: a threaded end for the top (the visible part of the piercing), and the base (the part which sits under the skin, between the dermis and epidermis). Our bases are manufactured from implant-grade titanium and consist of a threaded post attached to a flat “foot” that sits under the skin. These posts, or “uplifts,” come in various lengths and are used for different skin types and different areas of the body. While the base stays in place for the life of the piercing, the ends can be changed. Because this can be tricky, and extra stress on even a healed piercing can start it migrating, we recommend having your piercer change the ends for you. At Infinite, we will do it free of charge.
For more information on surface anchors, check out issue #38 of The Point: The Journal of the Association of Professional Piercers.
Whether you have to remove metal jewelry for a medical procedure, want something more discreet for a job interview, or need to hide a piercing during time with family, retainers can keep your piercing open for when traditional jewelry can’t be worn. Glass retainers are made from clear quartz. While most aren’t recommended for healing piercings, piercing retainers are a good short-term solution for keeping your piercing from closing.
Just choose the right shape and length retainer for your piercing. Straight retainers work well for nipple piercings in longer sizes, with shorter sizes working well for ear and lip piercings. Curved retainers are ideal for piercings where curved barbells are usually worn: navel piercings, Christina piercings, and some VCH piercings, with thinner sizes working for eyebrow piercings. It’s best to order these a little longer than you normally wear, just to be safe. Glass nostril and septum retainers are (obviously) for nostril and septum piercings.
Metal septum retainers are another option for septum piercings. These are available in stainless steel, anodized titanium, and black niobium. Unlike glass retainers, these are perfectly acceptable to use for initial septum piercings, and are especially useful for keeping the piercing discreet during healing.