Like any other industry or artistic medium, body modification has its own, unique language – terms that are used pretty well exclusively within our community, and words that take on a new meaning in regards to our work. Below is a small “dictionary” of body mod terms.
BODY MODIFICATION : This is the all-encompassing term for tattoos, piercings, scarification, branding, dermal implants, stretching/gauging, and even several procedures that have nothing to do with an average tattoo shop, including plastic surgery, cosmetic tattooing, tooth shaping, and tightlacing. Body modification is, essentially, the deliberate alteration of one’s body and appearance.
BRANDING : Branding is a form of modification that uses high heat to effectively burn a design into your skin. There are a few different branding techniques, creating various styles.
CBB/CBR : When you get a new piercing, your piercer is likely to ask you what type of jewelry you would like. Many opt for studs or barbells to begin with, but you can often choose a CBB or a CBR as well. So, what are they? A CBB is a curved barbell – the horseshoe shaped pieces with a ball on each end. A CBR is a captive bead ring – the hoops with a ball connecting the ends.
DERMAL/SUB-DERMAL/TRANSDERMAL IMPLANTS : “Dermal” means, quite simply, “of the skin”. More specifically, the dermis is the layer of skin between the epidermis and the subcutaneous tissue. A dermal implant, then, is the insertion of a foreign object beneath it – generally semi-permanent jewelry, such as microdermals or dermal anchors, or silicone and Teflon implants, used to create designs under the skin.
GAUGE : “Gauge” refers to the thickness of your piercing needle and jewelry. The bigger the number, the thinner the jewelry. For example, someone wanting to stretch their lobes would likely start at 10g; the average navel piercing is 14g; and a standard earring or nostril piercing is between 16-18g. While we certainly don’t expect you to memorise all these numbers, if you are planning to stretch your piercing, it’s a good idea to get a feel for the sizes.
INFECTION/IRRITATION : In both tattooing and piercing, there is concern of infection and irritation, but many people do not know the difference between the two. Most often, when you think you have an infection, what you really have is irritation, which is much less severe, and much easier to remedy. Irritation can be caused by many things – too small jewelry, fabric rubbing against your new piece, not keeping it clean, or touching it too much are just a few common reasons. Most of the time, irritation can be treated by simply keeping it clean, and otherwise leaving it alone. An infection is more serious, and needs to be dealt with quickly. In both tattoos and piercings, infections have visible signs – dark colouring around your piece, foul odor coming from it, pain or severe bruising, and dark green or yellow discharge coming from it (white or light yellow discharge, however, is completely normal and not a sign of infection). If you fear you may have an infection, please see your artist or a doctor immediately.
PLUG : A plug is a usually cylindrical piece of jewelry most often used in stretched lobes. They differ from tunnels in that they are solid.
RIM : While it’s tempting to define each and every piercing there is, that would be a post or two unto itself. The rim is a very common piercing that is rarely called by its proper name, so addressing this one specifically seemed like a good idea. Most people wanting their rim pierced will ask for a “cartilage piercing”, but cartilage is common to several parts of your body – most of your outer ear, your back, your ribcage, and all of your joints, to name just a few. If you are wanting the cartilage at the top of your ear pierced, what you actually want is a rim piercing.
SCARIFICATION : Scarification is the creation of scars, usually via scalpels, to design the skin. There are several forms of scarification, resulting in different types of scars, giving the client and artist a wide range of creative possibilities.
ULTRASONIC & AUTOCLAVE : Two machines that no shop should be without. The ultrasonic uses high frequency waves to clean equipment much more thoroughly than could be done by hand. The autoclave uses extreme heat to sterilize equipment. The combination of methods ensures that any piece of equipment or jewelry that touches you is as clean as it is possible for something to be.
These are just a few common terms that you will hear around the shop – if there are more you have wondered about, leave a comment on our Facebook page.