Many styles of jewelry have been experimented with over the years to get flat skin to “take” jewelry, and keep it in, without rejecting. Different ideas were tried—including curved barbells, flexible Tygon or PTFE, and even rings and straight posts—before the surface barbell was introduced in the mid-1990s.
A surface barbell is a variation on the straight barbell, bent into a staple shape (and often flat in the middle). The “uplifts” on the ends are of varying length, depending on the thickness of the tissue in the area being pierced. Flat discs are usually the best option for ends, at least for healing, but more ornate pieces can also be threaded onto the bars, such as small balls or flat gemstones. Surface bars that have 90-degree angled edges and height appropriate for the tissue pierced (which is generally between 1/16” and 1/8”) tend to work best. Some bottoms are flat, others are rounded; however, which is used is usually the individual piercers’ preference. Regardless, the shape of the surface bar that works best is one that does not put a lot of pressure on the piercing.
Surface bars generally work best for nape, horizontal piercings under the navel, and for some facial piercings—areas where distance does not change side-to-side. Surface bars tend to be more “stable”—with a better chance of long-term success—than surface anchors, so if a surface bar will work for the area, it’s usually a better choice than an anchor.
The care for surface piercings is the same as with most other piercings; the only difference is that healing times can be much longer, and that surface piercings can be a little trickier to keep clean—especially if it’s on the back of your neck! A consistent aftercare regimen is crucial, and you should plan on a good solid year for healing surface piercings—with shorter or longer healing times depending on the length of the piercing and where it is on the body. (For more information on surface piercing aftercare, click here.)
One final note: Even once these piercings are healed there is a chance that the body will reject it, and that the piercing will be temporary. If you’re looking for a permanent piercing, a surface piercing may not be your best choice, but if you’re looking for something a little different you’ve come to the right place.