Piercings, body modifications go to next extreme

GRAND FORKS, N.D. -- Whether it's the location, number or type, piercings are becoming more intense with the years. It's evolved from simple ear piercings to nose and navel piercings, to various facial piercings.

extreme piercing
Ashley Olson has a single-point piercing done by Roy Ramirez in the center of her chest along her clavicle. Grand Forks Herald photo by John Stennes.

GRAND FORKS, N.D. -- Whether it’s the location, number or type, piercings are becoming more intense with the years. It’s evolved from simple ear piercings to nose and navel piercings, to various facial piercings.

In general, piercings are becoming more socially acceptable as well, said Samuel Cory, head artist and shop manager of Daktyl Tattoo Gallery in Grand Forks.

“The old rebellion is the new conformity,” added Roy Ramirez, tattoo artist and piercer at Darkside Tattoo. “When something becomes the norm, you have to push it to the next extreme.”

The typical ear, nose, navel and eyebrow piercings are still the most common choices for first-timers, but there are plenty of options for those looking for a new level of extreme piercings or body modification.




“I would say most of what I’ve seen come through the shop is dermal implants, most commonly known as just dermals,” Cory said. “Basically, all you have is a little diamond or a little stud where ever you want to put it. Most commonly you see them on the sides of faces.”

He added that he’s seen people get dermals on their back dimples, outside of their hip bones, on the tops of their wrists and on the tops of their fingers.

“The biggest ones are probably for (women) hips, face and back,” he said. “For guys, I’ve seen mainly just on the face.”

Ramirez said he has most commonly done dermal piercings along the clavicle or back dimples.

Cory had a dermal on the left side of his face, but he removed it after it got caught on his shirt one day and wouldn’t heal. Now, he has a scar where the anchor was cut out from under his skin.

“They’re pretty temperamental if you hit it or snag it,” he said. “Removing them is more horrific than actually getting them. Because your skin has grown into it, you have to actually cut the surface to take it all out.”

A dermal consists of three parts: an anchor, a post and a diamond or stud. First, the skin is punctured with a needle or dermal punch to create a hole or crevice. Then, the anchor is inserted into the hole with the post sticking out, so it’s flush with the skin.


“Your skin will actually grow around it,” Cory said. “It sounds horrific, but it’s not that terrible.”

Ramirez said dermals take about three to six months to completely heal, and at least eight weeks before the stud can be changed. Then, different diamonds and studs can be screwed on and off of the post.

Because there is only an entry and no exit point, Cory said dermals are also referred to as single-point piercings.

Ashley Olson, shop manager at Darkside Tattoo in Grand Forks, said she has now tried a dermal in the center of her chest along her clavicle three times. The first time the stud caught on her dog’s collar. The second time it got caught in her daughter’s hair. Now, she’s hoping the third will last. She said she was going to wait until her kids got a little older before trying again, but she decided “what the heck.”

“I always wanted to get one… and it’s better than a necklace,” she said.


Fashion vs. lifestyle

Ramirez added that piercings have become less of a lifestyle and more for fashion reasons to accent one’s face or other feature. He compared it to the Mohawk, which used to only be associated with the punk rocker lifestyle but is now common among kids and celebrities like from The Black Eyed Peas.


Certain piercings have also gained popularity because of musicians like Rihanna, who has a triple helix; Amanda Bynes, who has a dermal on her dimples; and P!nk, who has her nosed pierced, Olson said, adding that alternative models and Pinterest have a big influence as well.

She said women often come in with photos from Pinterest of triple forward helix piercings, which consist of three piercings along the upper cartilage of the ear.


Piercing art

Another trend in the world of piercings is piercing art, which involves a number of piercings on a large surface area that together create a larger design.

“You do a series of piercings on both sides of the surface area, and then you interweave lace through it,” Cory said. “It’s usually not something you necessarily keep in. You get it done, take a picture of it and take it out.”

Cory added that it’s more for the art of it and to show off the piercer’s talent.

“I haven’t seen a lot of people in this area do it, but I don’t see why it couldn’t make an uprising soon,” he said. “I know a lot of piercers would probably like to do stuff like that because it shows their skills as a piercer.”



Tongue splitting

For those who want a more permanent body modification, Cory said tongue splitting is the next step.

“That’s the most extreme thing I’ve thought about doing to myself,” Cory said.

The finished product resembles a snake or reptile tongue and each side can be moved individually, he said.

Although the trend hasn’t reached the Midwest in full force, Cory already knows five people in Grand Forks who have it done. And he might be the next one to sport the split tongue.

“I’ve been in the industry now for about eight years,” he said. “I haven’t done anything extreme… and it gets to a point where this industry becomes your life, so you want to push your limits to see what you can do and what might be socially acceptable.”

Ramirez said he’d like to get more training on body modification and hopes tongue splitting becomes more popular in the area.


Cory said tongue splitting can be done one of three ways. The first way involves cutting the tongue with a scalpel and stitching the sides, so it doesn’t grow back together. Another way to achieve the look is by cutting the tongue, letting it heal and cutting again.

“You just cut it and let it heal until you have it cut to the desired length,” he said.

Cory said the third and final way is seen as the home method. It starts by getting the tongue pierced. Then, medical wire is looped through the piercing and tied around the tongue.

“You tighten it every day and cut off the excess (wire), and tighten it until basically it slowly cuts through your tongue.”


Go-to piercings

For those who aren’t ready to have an anchor under their flesh, numerous holes in their back or a snake-like tongue, Cory said there will always be the go-to piercings that everyone seems to start with.

For women, those piercings include the nose and the navel.


“Those are the piercings that any girl, if they want to get piercings, they’ll want to get those first,” Cory said. “From there, it can go wherever. With guys, it’s a little different. It’s either your lip or your eyebrow.”

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