Any piercing that’s referred to as a “dermal” is basically a non-traditional piercing. What does this mean? Well, the easy difference is that a traditional piercing has both an entry point and an exit point, and a dermal piercing has only a single point (which as I’ll explain in a minute, is often thought of as just an exit point or just an entry point.) Dermal jewelry, like most other piercing jewelry, consists of at least two pieces or main components, which are the dermal anchor (the base), and the dermal top (the piece that will be seen once the jewelry is in.) There are three basic types of dermal piercings: microdermal, transdermal, and subdermal. As you might imagine from the names of these piercings, the three styles are done in different ways in relation to the skin.
A microdermal is a piercing done with a single hole, and as such is often considered to have only an exit point, because the decoration that rests above the skin is the only visible side of the piercing. Microdermals can be done with a hollow piercing needle, but are most often performed with a dermal punch. This device is exactly what it sounds like, essentially a whole punch for the skin. It slices out a circular hole in the skin’s surface through which the dermal anchor will be inserted. The anchor itself once in place will never been seen again, as it will remain underneath the skin, and only the top which is screwed onto the base will be visible resting above the skin’s surface.
Transdermal piercing, as its name infers, involves movement across the skin. This style of dermal is done with a punched whole and an incision. The hole is punched where the wearer wants the jewelry to be, and an inch or two off to the side a surgical incision is made. By this method, the dermal anchor will be inserted underneath the skin through the incision and then moved to the placement of the hole so as to cause as little irritation or stretching as possible to the whole making healing easier and rejection less likely. Transdermals are again often thought of as having only an exit point, because the technical entry point (the incision) is afterwards healed up and is no longer part of the piercing.
The last dermal type, subdermal piercing, has only an entry point. In subdermal body art, a piece of medical grade material jewelry in a particular shape is inserted under the skin through an incision and has no visible or emerging area. The shape of the jewelry in this case becomes the modification and will present itself in healing the overlying skin into the shape of the object.
Microdermal and transdermal piercing are generally the more popular and widespread forms of dermal piercing, although subdermals have begun to rise in popularity since the early 2000s and may reach a similar level of prevalence in the near future. Modifications of microdermal piercing have already arisen in the form of the skin diver, a tiny barbell shaped piece of jewelry that can be inserted into the skin in lieu of the traditional two piece microdermal. Only time will tell what’s up next for “dermal” modification.