When I got engaged last November and my fiancé slid his grandmother’s 1949 art deco-inspired engagement ring onto my finger, it wasn’t just love and excitement that I felt in that moment. It was relief that the ring just happened to fit perfectly. Some couples are completely avoiding the ring-size struggle, though, with an option that goes a little more in-depth (literally): engagement piercings.
Called a “finger dermal” by piercing pros, the gem sits on the finger where it would if it were held in place by a band, but instead, a punch is used to remove a small section of skin, into which a piercer inserts a metal anchor that holds the stone, making it appear embedded in the finger.
“We notice lately a lot of people coming looking for that,” NYC Ink Studio owner Sam Abbas told New York’s WCBS of the increase in demand for engagement piercings. And apparently, the inevitable pain of inserting metal into one’s finger skin is not a deterrent. “You’re going to feel it. You’re getting pierced. It is a little bit painful. But people did it, and I have a lot of people who say, ‘Oh nice, it’s nothing, I expect more,'” Abbas says.
“The pain was nowhere near as bad as I had expected, and the discomfort afterward was minimal, too,” Anne Cunliffe, who used to have an engagement piercing, tells Allure. “I never had an engagement ring — couldn’t afford one I liked — and I thought a finger dermal would be something different to have instead. I’d seen one online where the gems were magnetic and you could change them yourself easily, so I decided to go for it.”
The process reportedly takes just a few minutes, and the price varies from studio to studio, especially when you factor in the cost of the stone. But no matter how much you’re being charged, any qualified artist will insist on the appropriate safety measures. “You’re dealing with the blood, so you’ve got to be very, very safe,” Abbas says. “We sterilize everything.”
“Micro-dermal anchors are safe and the body will hold them for years, as long as they’re in ideal places and if implant-grade titanium is used,” says Fallen Sparrow Tattoo’s professional piercer Billy DeBerry, who tells People that even though he’s been doing finger dermals for over a decade, he’s seeing a surge in engagement piercings as a result of social media.
Even though professional piercers, like DeBerry and Abbas, insist on the piercing’s safeness, the procedure raises some doctors’ eyebrows. “My concern with a dermal piercing in the finger is the location,” Joshua Zeichner, director of cosmetic and clinical research in dermatology at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City, tells Allure. “There is constant movement in the fingers, which could displace the piercing. Think about how many times we accidentally bang our hands against the side of the table or doorframe.”
That being said, because of its location, everyday activities could put your piercing at risk of infection, says Zeichner. “If you develop an infection or if you have another complication, it could interfere with daily functioning of your finger,” he says.
Furthermore, in addition to the potential for injury or infection, the metal used for the anchor could cause problems. “Generally speaking, an inert metal like titanium is used, and it does not cause a reaction,” says Zeichner. “However, just as with costume jewelry, if a metal like nickel is used, it may cause a severe allergic reaction.” If that happens, make an appointment with a medical professional to discuss treatment options.
“I got impatient and uncovered it too early, and it caught and pulled out while driving within one month. I had it put back in and sadly, it rejected,” Cunliffe tells Allure. “I’ve got an actual engagement ring now.”
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