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Published: Friday, June 17, 2011, 12:01 a.m.

New piercing option is catching eyes and scrutiny of state regulators

Interest grows in microdermal piercing as regulators evaluate safety

  • At Enemy Tattoo in Lynnwood, Kris "Gumby" Kaeser, 27, performs a piercing for Shanna Jones.

    Dan Bates / The Herald

    At Enemy Tattoo in Lynnwood, Kris "Gumby" Kaeser, 27, performs a piercing for Shanna Jones.

  • At Enemy Tattoo in Lynnwood, Kris "Gumby" Kaeser, 27, installs a titanium microdermal anchor in the skin of Shanna Jones' neck while she doe...

    Dan Bates / The Herald

    At Enemy Tattoo in Lynnwood, Kris "Gumby" Kaeser, 27, installs a titanium microdermal anchor in the skin of Shanna Jones' neck while she does her best to relax. Jones said she trusts Gumby and was pleased with the result, her fourth piercing.

  • The anchor piercing on the back of Shanna Jones' neck.

    Dan Bates / The Herald

    The anchor piercing on the back of Shanna Jones' neck.

  • At Enemy Tattoo Kris "Gumby" Kaeser, 27, prepares to do a piercing for Shanna Jones (left).

    Dan Bates / The Herald

    At Enemy Tattoo Kris "Gumby" Kaeser, 27, prepares to do a piercing for Shanna Jones (left).

  • At Enemy Tattoo in Lynnwood, Kris "Gumby" Kaeser, 27, installs a titanium microdermal anchor in the skin of Shanna Jones' neck while she doe...

    Dan Bates / The Herald

    At Enemy Tattoo in Lynnwood, Kris "Gumby" Kaeser, 27, installs a titanium microdermal anchor in the skin of Shanna Jones' neck while she does her best to relax. Jones said she trusts Gumby, and she was pleased with the result, her fourth piercing.

  • At Enemy Tattoo in Lynnwood, Kris "Gumby" Kaeser, 27, installs a titanium microdermal anchor in the skin of Shanna Jones' neck.

    Dan Bates / The Herald

    At Enemy Tattoo in Lynnwood, Kris "Gumby" Kaeser, 27, installs a titanium microdermal anchor in the skin of Shanna Jones' neck.

  • Lisa Deshazer of Marysville has five piercings spaced evenly on her sternum.

    Dan Bates / The Herald

    Lisa Deshazer of Marysville has five piercings spaced evenly on her sternum.

Five gems just below Lisa Deshazer's chin form a connect-the-dots line to her cleavage.
Some people think the small circles are stick-on ornaments.
They're not.
"They're different," Deshazer, 35, said.
They're single-point, surface or microdermal anchors, tiny pieces of metal jewelry slipped under the skin.
"A lot of people question how (the piercings) are done," said Deshazer, who was taking a break from making lattes and other coffee drinks at 13 Buffalos, a drive-through espresso stand on Rucker Avenue in downtown Everett.
It's so new that state officials are still taking a look at the practice. And at least one state has banned it until new regulations can be written.
For Deshazer, the piercings are a bit painful and mostly permanent. If she ever wants to have her anchors removed, she'll have to go to a professional.
She's not worried about it.
"I like them right now," she said.
The piercings are a new and increasingly popular type of body art.
For less than a $100 for the first stud, professional piercing salons will install the jewelry under people's skin and onto their sternums, hips, face, neck, back -- wherever there is about a centimeter of flesh.
"You can put them almost anywhere on the body," said Kris "Gumby" Kaeser, 27. He's worked for nine years piercing people's skin. Today he's practicing his profession at Enemy Tattoo in south Everett.
The jewelry plates, about 6 millimeters in size, have holes to allow the flesh to heal and hold it in place. Little posts stick through the skin. That's where people attach a small piece of jewelry.
An advantage of the surface plates is that the jewelry easily can be changed, people say. Different colors and shapes can be swapped out.
Inserting metal objects into people's bodies certainly isn't new. The practice harks back to pagan times, centuries ago.
But until recently piercers either needed an in-and-out point -- think studs through the ear lobe, tongue, lip, eyebrow and so on -- or they resorted to difficult, painful transdermal implants to get metal to stay in less penetrable parts of the body.
Body piercings either needed to puncture the skin twice, threaded through the flesh, or they were screwed in. Not surprisingly, the body often rejected these kinds of adornments, which failed nearly half the time, Kaeser said.
Kaeser claims the microdermal piercings are safer and pose less of a health risk than other surface piercings. Only about 2 percent of microdermal piercings are rejected.
Officials with the Association of Professional Piercers, a national nonprofit educational group, agree that surface piercings pose less risk than other, more extreme kinds of body manipulation.
The novelty of surface piercing has resulted in some confusion, especially among lawmakers, said James Weber, the group's outgoing president.
"A lot of legislators don't know what to make of them," he said.
Washington last year began to regulate piercers and tattoo artists. Regulations require that no piercer "implant or embed foreign objects into the human body."
"We are continually working with the industry on new practices that come along, especially in relation to public safety," said Christine Anthony, a spokeswoman for the state Department of Licensing. "As I understand it, the microdermal piercing is a relatively new practice and one we will be taking a look at."
Some states, including New Jersey, have banned the practice until further study can be completed, Weber said.
Surface piercing is not a fashion for the thin-skinned, so to speak.
The piercing is mildly painful and there's bleeding involved.
"It only hurt bad for a couple of weeks," Deshazer said.
There also are risks of getting the jewelry stuck on clothing or snared in a zipper. Pain returns every time Deshazer's studs gets snagged, she said.
Fear of pain didn't stop Shanna Jones, 33, of Lynnwood.
On a recent Tuesday, Jones had her second microdermal anchor installed on the nape of her neck. The stud is an accent piece to highlight an existing tattoo.
"I just love it. It's a personal expression," Jones said. "I do love them."
For Jones, and many others, it's a piece of art, an adornment to her body. For some, though, it's too much. Some of Jones' friends think she's gone off the deep end.
"They think I'm crazy," she said.
Jackson Holtz: 425-339-3447; jholtz@heraldnet.com.





Story tags » FashionHealth

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