Microdermal VS Surface Piercing: Which is Which?

Microdermal VS Surface Piercing

Microdermals and surface piercings are often muddled up with each other due to sharing many similarities. The names of these piercings are frequently and wrongly used interchangeably.

Many people are confused about which is which. Both piercings can be placed any where on the body with the piercing directly underneath the skin rather than through it.

I would like to help clear up any misunderstandings on the topic of the microdermal VS surface piercing.

So what are the main differences between these two types of piercings?

The Differences Between Microdermal and Surface Piercings

Surface piercing is the term used to describe a piercing where the jewelry passes underneath the skin, rather than through it.

Surface piercings have two points of entry and can be placed nearly anywhere on the body which has skin thick enough to pinch and pierce. Some common forms of surface piercing are the eyebrow piercing, belly button piercing and the anti-eyebrow piercing (underneath the eye).

A microdermal piercing, also known as a dermal piercing only has one point of entry into the skin. In other words the piercing is ‘punched’ into the skin through one point only and anchored underneath the skin. This piercing can also be placed on nearly any part of the body.

Here is a simple diagram to show you how the jewelry sits under the skin with both the microdermal and surface piercing:

Microdermal VS Surface Piercing

Surface Piercing Jewelry

Surface piercing jewelry
90° Surface Barbells

There are  actually many different types of jewelry which are commonly worn in surface piercings. Unfortunately most of  them will increase the risk of your body rejecting your piercing.

The best type of jewelry for most surface piercings is the 90° surface barbell. This type of barbell is straight and turns up at a right angle (90°) at each end with a ball, cone or gem on each end. The only part of this jewelry which can be seen above the skin is the ball/cone/gem. The 90° barbell is usually internally threaded.

Once the jewelry is inserted by the piercer, it cannot be removed or changed without the help of a professional piercer. Although the balls can be unscrewed and replaced if you fancy changing your look.

Certain types of surface piercings require different types of jewelry. For example, in the eyebrow, a curved barbell would be the best choice. In a belly button piercing a banana barbell (also curved) works well.

Microdermal Piercing Jewelry

Microdermal Anchors
Microdermal Anchors and Tops

Microdermal piercings are truly unique. They are the only single point piercing in existence!

People will often find themselves baffled as to how this type of piercing can actually stay put. What exactly is  it that keeps it from falling out or moving?

Well, the jewelry used in dermal piercings is called a “dermal anchor“. As the name suggests, the jewelry is “anchored” underneath the skin.

The dermal anchor is made up from two parts – the anchor and the top.

The anchor is the part of  the jewelry which resides below the skin. This part of the jewelry can only be removed by a professional piercer or surgeon. A ball or gem is screwed into the anchor and this is the decorative part of  the jewelry which you can see on the outside – the top. The ball can be changed by simply unscrewing the old top and replacing it with a new one – like a light-bulb (excuse my terrible analogy!).

How a Microdermal Piercing is Done

For those of you who are still having trouble understanding the microdermal piercing fully. Here is a video demonstration on how this piercing is actually done:


So there you have it! You should now understand how different the surface piercing and dermal piercing are and what makes them unique.

Let’s recap and go over what we’ve learnt here today:

The main difference between the surface piercing and the dermal piercing is as follows:

The dermal piercing is a single point piercing, which is simply anchored under the skin through one whole only. On the other hand, the surface piercing’s jewelry has two points of entry.

So from now on you never need to get these two piercing muddled up with each other again!

I hope you enjoyed this article and maybe learnt a thing or two. Please share this with your friends.

Treat Yourself to Some new Jewelry for Your Surface Piercing or Dermal Piercing!

17 Comments on Microdermal VS Surface Piercing: Which is Which?

  1. Very interesting, I had always wondered how this was done and here you have provided an excellent description. The diagram was very helpful for me to understand the difference.

    • Hi James.

      I’m so grateful for your comment and glad that you found my article and diagram helpful.

      Thanks very much for stopping by and leaving a comment.

  2. Hey there! I like the information you give for both types of piercing. I guess I have always thought that they were the same but this makes since, you explain it really well. A good friend of mine has her dimples pierced and it’s cool to know exactly what it is. Great post!

    • Hi Veronica.

      That’s great that you understand the difference between these piercings now. Thanks for reading and commenting. Much appreciated.


  3. Hi,
    I came across this post rather accidentally but it was well written and I read it through because I had no idea that dermal piercing was even a thing. Now I know about this interesting choice in piercing. If I were to get a new piercing I would feel confident that I know what I am talking about in this area. Thank you.

    • Hey there Lionismee.

      It’s always good to learn something new, right? I’m glad you enjoyed reading my post. The dermal piercing is such a unique piercing and a great choice for people who like to really show their individuality.

      Thanks very much your input.

  4. Hi Hannah,

    I also read your about me page which is how I learned your name.

    Very well written and easy to understand article. I love the graphics you used to illustrate. They’re perfect.

    On the other hand, I’m not and probably never will be one who engages in piercings. It’s not for me. It’s one of those things I don’t need to try.

    I’m not knocking it. It’s just not for me.

    I’m glad you found a niche that you are passionate about. Your passion shines through your writing.

    Great job.


    • Hey there Bob!

      That’s great that you took the time to read my about page too. I really appreciate you taking enough interest in my site to do so.

      Piercing is not for everyone, I can understand that. It takes all types to make the world go round.

      Thanks very much for stopping by and leaving a comment.

  5. Wow!


    I never knew there was so much to piercings. I was under the impression that they were all the same, this is a great site keep up the good work.

    • Hi Theresa.

      There is a lot more to piercings than most will ever know. There’s a lot to know on the topic – even I still learn something new everyday! That’s what I love about this topic.

      Thanks for reading.

  6. Hi Hannah, I have wondered how eyebrows, for example, were pierced. I had no idea there was so much to this topic. I wonder if surface piercings are less prone to infection or irritation than microdermal. Unfortunately I am so highly allergic, I can no longer have pierced ears. I used to only be able to wear platinum, but that didn’t last. I had my ears pierced again last year and was in agony from the start. I bought titanium earrings since I understand it’s pretty much impossible to be allergic to them but guess what – I am!! I took my earrings out after 8 weeks or whatever it was, and literally from the time I took an earring out, to the time I picked up the new one to put it in (seconds!!) my hole had closed up. Just wondering if a different type of piercing would make a difference.

    • Hi Hindy.

      It does sound as if your skin is reacting to something in the jewelry. Have you ever tried wearing BioPlast/BioFlex jewelry? I’m very surprised that you react to titanium – that’s very rare!

      I would say that surface piercings are less prone to infection than microdermal if you wear the right jewelry in it. This depends on what piercing you end up getting.
      Eyebrow piercings have a low rate of infection/irritation. You need to make sure you care for the piercing properly. Cleanse it using saline solution (salt water).

      Hope I have helped you out a bit. If you need any more help, don’t hesitate to ask.

  7. Man, I have always wondered how this worked! I see more and more women with these types of piercings on their lower backs, and I would say to myself, how did she do that? Well now I know. What is the healing time or process involved with theses types of piercings?

    • Hey Christian.

      It’s a fascinating piercing isn’t it? That’s one thing I love about this piercing is that element of mystery where people wonder how it works.

      Well the microdermal piercing is done using a tool known as dermal punch. It literally punches a hole in the skin and the jewelry is anchored underneath, as you can see from the diagram. The healing time for the microdermal is about 2 months.

      The surface piercing is slightly different. It is done with a normal piercing needle and rather than being ‘anchored’ under the skin with only one hole, it goes though a flat area of skin. The jewelry goes in through one hole and out the other. Again, as shown in the diagram above. Sorry if this doesn’t make sense, it’s a bit hard to explain. The healing time for the surface piercing varies drastically between different types of surface piercing usually it will take anywhere between 4 to 6 months. The amount of time it takes for a piercing to heal varies from person to person. These are just estimates.

      Many thanks for your input.

  8. I see it, but it still baffles me a little bit. I understand the surface piercing. I’ve had a few done in my lifetime. The microdermal is still a little above my head. When I look at the mechanism, it looks like you’d have to cut an incision rather than a small hole like the surface piercing. You also talk about it needing to be surgically removed or removed by a piercing specialist. Is the microdermal surgically installed then? Enlighten me. Thanks!

    • Hi Renee.

      I can understand your confusion – the microdermal piercing is very different to other piercings.

      For a start, the piercing is not done with a standard needle, instead it is done using a microdermal punch. The hole will be slightly bigger than that of other piercings, this is to allow enough room for the piercer to insert the anchor of the jewelry. Once the hole has been made, the piercer slides the anchor underneath the skin and secures it in place. One this anchor is secure, the head is screwed on.

      I will post a video demonstration so you can see exactly how it is done.


  9. Ive had a few piercings in my time, the top and bottom of my ears I even nearly even came close to a prince Albert but I bottled it at the last minute!
    I’m 38 now and the one I’ve still got is my nipple pierced.
    Long story short I was 18 and in work and my girlfriend (now my wife) phones me to tell me she thinks she’s pregnant So I left work and got drunk in the nearest bar because I panicked and woke up on the train on the way home with a bloodied shirt and no recollection of what happend.lol

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