What’s The Difference Between Surface & Dermal Piercings?

If you thought nose and belly piercings were your only options, wait till you come across dermal and surface piercings. These piercings have been in the mix for a while but aren’t as popular as nose and ear piercings.

Surface and dermal piercings have the same outlook, but are quite different, including the procedure and the area of the piercing. Both these piercings look quite fascinating, and if you’re a piercing enthusiast, you will surely want to try one or both of these.

But, before you do, you must learn about the differences between a surface and a dermal piercing, along with the risks and aftercare instructions involved. This article includes everything you need to know about surface and dermal piercings, making it easier for you to decide on one.

What Are Dermal Piercings?

The main feature of dermal piercings is that they have a single-point surface piercing. A single-point surface piercing means that there is only one entry point and no exit, which doesn’t require the jewelry to have a backing to secure it. The process is quite simple, and it takes only a few seconds as the piercer will insert the dermal anchor right underneath the dermal layers of your skin tissue. This allows the dermal top to appear right on top of your skin.

Dermal piercings include a few types of dermal anchors, and two of the most popular ones are the round base anchors and footed anchors. Footed anchors come in the shape of a foot as they are longer and can settle right beneath the skin as this anchor extends.

Anchors with a round base come in a circular shape and are smaller than a foot anchor. This makes them safer and easier to use and insert. Both round base anchors and footed anchors have holes that make way for healing tissue.

How Do They Stay In?

Dermal piercings involve a smooth process by a professional piercer. The technique allows the piercing to stay inside. As this piercing is a single-point surface piercing, it gets confusing as to how it settles in, but it’s actually quite simple. The piercer will either use a dermal punch or needle to carry out the procedure.

If the piercer uses a needle to carry out the procedure, he/she will gently slip the needle under the skin to separate the tissue. By carrying out this step, the piercer can then make way for your dermal anchor.

The dermal punch is much easier to use and isn’t as painful as a needle. So instead of separating the tissue, the piercer will draw out some tissue to create way for the anchor. But many regions in the United States have made the use of dermal punches illegal unless by a medical professional.

With the help of these piercing instruments, the piercing stays in, and as you can tell how delicate the process is, this step requires a lot of skill and patience to avoid any complications or mishaps.

Are They Permanent?

Piercings aren’t usually permanent, as at some point they will close, and you may have to get another piercing if you want to maintain your trendy appearance. Depending on how well you take care of your dermal piercing, it may last longer than you expect.

This doesn’t mean that it will close a few months after you get a piercing. It may last for years, and the time frame is different for every person, depending upon when your body begins to reject it.

How Long Do They Last?

The time frame of your dermal piercing depends on the types of dermal base you’re using. As mentioned earlier, there are different dermal bases.

Some dermal bases have holes the tissue passes through and grows around the piercing, while some stay low in the shape of feet and remain in one place, which helps them last longer. So depending on the type of dermal base you use, you can calculate how long the piercing will last.

Sometimes the body suddenly starts rejecting the piercing, which could cause the piercing to shift. You can never know when the body will reject your piercing as it depends on your immune system’s functions. However, if you practice proper piercing aftercare, you might be able to avoid this issue.

What is a Surface Piercing?

Unlike dermal piercings, surface piercings have both an entry and exit point. For a surface piercing, you have to choose a flat spot such as eyebrows, behind your neck, cheekbones, or belly.

While the process is simple, it requires a bit of patience and more pain tolerance. For the surface piercing procedure, your piercer will first pinch your skin on the area of the piercing and insert a needle through it to create a puncture.

Once they make a hole, they will place a surface or curved barbell. Choosing the type of barbell depends on which area you get your piercing. This gives a double-pierced look as surface piercings include two points.

This will give you an edgy look that’s trending nowadays, but you must first consult your piercing artist about this as it depends on the studio you choose.

Are They Permanent? How Long Do They Last?

As mentioned earlier, piercings aren’t permanent, and surface piercings have quite a short life span compared to other types of piercings. Surface piercings can last for a maximum of 5-7 years.

These piercings have such a short life span because, unlike dermal piercings, surface piercings require two paths: an entrance and an exit, which appear together. Hence, this reduces the life span of the piercing.

But, for a few people, surface piercings can last a lifetime with proper care and maintenance. It is different for everyone as you can face piercing rejection from your body at any time.

Once the body starts rejecting your piercing, you will notice certain changes and will have to take the piercing off to avoid further complications.

How’s the Pain compared Between the Two?

Both these piercings will hurt during the procedure. However, a few factors determine the pain level of each type. If you’re getting a dermal piercing, the pain depends on the position of the piercing, the thickness of the dermis layer, the type of piercing tool used, and the distribution of your sensory nerves.

If you want to experience less pain, then it is best to use a dermal punch for your procedure, but this method is illegal in many parts of the world.

For surface piercings, the pain level depends on the position of the piercing. The surface piercing procedure involves pinching the area and slipping the needle through it.

If you’ve chosen an area with more flesh, you won’t experience much pain than piercing on bony surfaces.

Surfaces such as the nape of the neck may be one of the most painful places to get your surface piercing. Don’t worry though, because it will only last a few seconds and the final look is definitely worth it.

Some surface piercings require the use of s scalpel, which is relatively more painful than using a needle. When using a scalpel, the piercer will pierce through your skin more deeply, which is why it may hurt more.

Most importantly, the pain level of both these types of piercings depends on the professional’s skills. The piercing methods for both surface and dermal piercings require a lot of skill and accuracy, which makes it crucial to choose a professional. This would require you to go on a short piercer hunt!

What’s The Difference in the Tools Used?

Dermal piercings consist of a simple piercing needle and a  dermal punch as tools for the piercing process. Both these tools offer a different type of procedure as with the needle; the piercer slides the needle underneath the skin to separate the tissue, creating a pathway for the jewelry to settle.

A dermal punch helps remove the tissue instead of separating it. The dermal punch is a unique piercing tool compared to other surface piercing tools, but this tool is illegal to use in some states.

Surface piercing require a very simple piercing tool, which includes a needle. This is more of a traditional piercing tool that creates holes in the skin, but with this, the needle goes deeper through the skin to create a two-way entry and exit.

Dermal piercings don’t need as deep a hole as they include a single point surface. The needle used for both piercing types is the same, but allow a different style.


Now that you’re aware of the differences between these two unique piercings, it’s time you start making a decision on which one to get. Of course, you could also go for both.

These piercings have their pros and cons but leave you with something unique and pretty on your body that will make you question why you never went for something like this earlier.

Before choosing a specific type of piercing, make sure you go through the basics of both dermal and surface piercings. Also, make sure to choose a professional piercer.