When I worked as a body piercer, I noticed a disturbingly high amount of young girls coming in to get navel piercings with improper jewelry purchased from irresponsible vendors. Navel piercings are typically called “belly button piercings” (even though the belly button is really inside the navel and is not actually pierced during the procedure). These types of piercings are increasingly common, especially among teenage girls. While the popularity and mainstreaming of piercing may be cause to celebrate for body art enthusiasts, popular culture’s overall lack of knowledge on the subject is something to cringe at. Many consumers who take care to go to a reputable, experienced piercer do not take the same precautions when choosing jewelry. Just because a store sells a large quantity of body jewelry does not mean that the jewelry is of high quality. Buyers should be aware of some key points prior to purchasing navel jewelry.
1. Don’t get new jewelry until your piercing is healed. Don’t even start looking for jewelry until your piercing has gone through the initial healing stages. If the bleeding or pus has stopped or your piercing is not longer sore, this does not mean that your piercing has necessarily healed! If you change the piercing prematurely, you risk irritating the piercing or possibly tearing some of the soft tissue, thereby completely erasing all the positive healing you’ve already gone through. Piercings can appear relatively healed on the outside, but are still tender on the inside. Navel piercings can take up to a year to go through initial healing; afterwards, you still need to keep an eye on them and clean them. If the piercing is not totally healed, a professional body piercer may still be able to change the jewelry for you, but do not attempt to do so yourself! Navel piercings take an inordinate time to heal simply because your body deems the belly button useless and therefore it does not heal it as fast as, for example, your tongue. It was your umbilical chord in the womb, and now it is useless and mostly made of tough scar tissue.
2.Check the packaging thoroughly. Not all body jewelry is of good quality. You want to make sure your jewelry is made of Titanium or 316 LVM Surgical Steel. Some packages claim to be surgical grade steel, but upon closer inspection they might be imported from other countries that have lower surgical standards. Surgical grade is 316 LVM in the United States, but in other countries jewelry ranked below 316 LVM can still be considered surgical! Make sure you’re getting genuine 316 LVM and not an import imitator. If the packaging does not indicate what the jewelry is made of, it is best to steer clear; you always want to know what you’re putting in your body.
3. Avoid excessively dangly items. While body jewelry with dangles and other charms may be popular, they are bad for the health of your body piercing. Dangly items can snag clothing and can irritate or rip your piercing! If you’re going to wear jewelry that is very ornate, make sure it is only for special occasions and that you are very careful not to snag the jewelry on anything.
4. Check the jewelry construction. Some jewelry is well-made, some is not. Even if the jewelry follows the 316 LVM Surgical Steel guideline, it may not be well constructed. Look for any sharp edges or any parts that may rub against your skin and cause irritation. In the case of jewelry with charms or gemstones, these are sometimes just soldered onto the jewelry, thereby creating a rough solder-edge where the charm attaches.
5. Make sure you get the right length. Many jewelry shoppers will know that their navel jewelry is 14 gauge-but many do not know what this means. The jewelry’s gauge is its thickness, not its length. So even if jewelry is the right gauge, it may not fit the piercing. In addition to the 14 gauge thickness, you’ll want to find out how long your piercing is. If you’re not sure, simply ask your local piercer to measure the length. Most navel piercings are a half inch long, but sometimes they can migrate a bit during healing, or they may be pierced a bit shallow depending on the person’s body-type. Jewelry typically comes in three-eighths and one-half inch sizes. If you get jewelry too long part of the shaft will stick out and catch on clothing, if you get it too short then you’ll squish your skin together and irritate the piercing. Make sure you get the right length.
6. Ask a professional. When in doubt, ask your local body piercer for advice on jewelry selection. Most piercers are familiar with local stores and know which ones sell quality and which ones should be avoided.
Following these tips will help you avoid the mistake of buying a really beautiful piece of jewelry that is actually very flawed. After spending appropriate time healing your piercing, you will want to carefully evaluate your jewelry selections in order to avoid irritating the piercing and having to heal all over again.