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Surface Anchor FAQ

What do you mean when you say anchors are “temporary” piercings?

Surface anchors are a relatively new piercing development, having only been around since 2006. While some people still have them from that time, most do not. On average, people have surface anchors one to two years at the most. Anchors aren’t like other piercings you can heal and forget about; they need continual upkeep and maintenance—and even with that they may not work out—so bear that in mind before considering this piercing.

Why won’t you put an anchor on my wrist (or on my toe)?

Technically, you can pierce pretty much anywhere on your body with a surface anchor; the trick is putting it somewhere where it has a chance to heal. Hands and feet are locations where healing is pretty much impossible, and arms or legs aren’t much better. (In fact, any high traffic or extremely mobile area is usually a bad idea.) Stick to the torso or areas without a lot of movement, and where clothes don’t rub, like certain areas on the face. If you’re trying to decide where you want an anchor, come in and talk to one of our piercers. They can help you choose what placement fits not only your anatomy but your lifestyle as well.

But what if I really, really want an anchor somewhere you don’t recommend?

Unfortunately, how badly you want something has no bearing on whether or not it is a good idea. We’re not going to do a piercing that has little-to-no chance of success and may jeopardize your health. We’ve been doing this long enough to have a good idea about what works and what doesn’t. If you search hard enough you may find someone who will do it for you, but that still doesn’t mean it’s a good idea.

What about an anchor on the back on my neck?

The back of the neck is one area where surface bars tend to work better than anchors. Check our surface piercing section for more information.

Can I change the ends myself?

If you want to change the ends on your anchor, it’s best to make a trip to see your piercer. When changing the ends, you need to be able to hold onto the post coming through the skin; otherwise, you can cause the tissue holding the anchor to break free at the base, causing irritation and even rejection. So stop on by the shop; we’re happy to take care of it for you, and it is better to be safe than sorry.

How do I take it out?

Removing an anchor is best left to your piercer. We’ll typically grab the post with an anchor tool, massage the anchor through the skin to loosen the grip of any tissue on the anchor, and then pop out the foot of the anchor with a quick tug.

Does it come out that easily?

Usually, but sometimes, if tissue is attached to the anchor, a needle is used to make a small nick, freeing the attached skin before the anchor is pulled.

I lost the top of my anchor and skin has grown over it. What do I do?

This is something you do not want to let happen. If we can coax the anchor through the skin we will try to remove it, however, if it’s completely sealed over we may send you to a medical professional to have it removed. With this in mind, if you lose the top, make sure it’s replaced promptly.

How badly does it scar afterward?

As with any piercing, there will likely be a scar when you remove the jewelry. Scars are typically minimal—when the piercing is removed while happy and healthy—but if you wait to take out the piercing until it migrates, scar tissue can be more extreme and unsightly. If you see your anchor starting to reject, early removal is usually your best option to avoid excess scarring.

What is rejection?

Rejection is when your body treats your jewelry as an irritant and decides to push it out of your body, or “reject” it. (This is the same way your body deals with a splinter or glass shard embedded in the skin.) With anchors, one of the warning signs of rejection is a thinning of the tissue around the post—i.e., the skin becomes red and shiny as the anchor begins to move toward the skin’s surface. Another sign is when the anchor starts to sit at an angle; in late stages, the base of the anchor will actually become visible, even to the point of the foot poking up through the skin. Once the anchor starts to reject, it should be removed promptly to minimize scarring.

Be aware that surface anchors can reject anytime, even after they are fully healed, and often some sort of trauma (like snagging them) will start this process. So be mindful, and baby your anchor as much as possible.

Is there anything I can do to help protect the anchor during the initial healing?

When getting a new anchor piercing from us, our piercers will typically cover your new adornment with Tegaderm™—with instructions to keep it on for the first two to seven days. (Tegaderm™ is a clear, breathable barrier designed to protect your wound and keep it clean during healing.) Not only will this keep the piercing clean, it will also provide a slight downward pressure—which can come in handy if the piercing is located in an area that may become snagged. Additionally, Tegaderm™ can be used for to protect the piercing during swimming, hot tubbing, saunas, or steam rooms, even after the piercing is healed. It’s available in different sizes from most drug stores.

Are surface anchors an issue in an MRI machine?

The anchor bases we use are made out of implant-grade titanium—most high-quality anchors are—so they are non-magnetic, as are most threaded ends. Some threaded ends may be manufactured from implant-grade stainless steel; while this is safe in an MRI machine, it may produce a “solar flare” on the image.

Either way, ask your doctor. In the end, he or she will have the final say.

Can I go swimming?

It is best to avoid swimming for the full duration of the healing period. The risk to your piercing depends on where you’re swimming: saltwater and chlorine may be okay for your piercing, however, other bacteria in the water may be problematic; the water on a beach in the tropics is not the same at the water at the Jersey Shore; and you can never be sure how balanced the chemical levels are in anyone else’s pool—or what else may be in the water. Definitely avoid hot tubs, quarries, or lakes, as here the water quality is even more questionable. At a minimum, plan to avoid swimming for at least three months, and if you do swim during the healing process, the most important thing to do is to make sure that you clean your piercing afterward.