Belly button piercing has gained significant popularity over the years. It experienced its “golden age” in the early 1990s when celebrities like Christina Aguilera gave this type of body piercing mainstream exposure. Now that we’re well into the 21st century, more folks than ever are sporting this popular piercing.
While some people just want to emulate their favorite pop stars and divas, just as many people use navel piercing as a form of self-expression. Since belly button piercing is certainly here to stay, we’re happy to provide you with this comprehensive overview all about navel piercing. Explore this article to learn what you can expect during the piercing process, how to properly take care of your navel piercing, and what kinds of body jewelry you can wear.
What Is a Belly Button Piercing?
A standard belly button piercing is placed about 1/2″-1″ above the belly button, traveling down and out through the upper lip of the navel cavity. The end result should be that the bottom ball of your belly button ring nestles right inside or on top of your belly button. If you have an “outie” belly button, it may affect the placement of your belly piercing somewhat, but not dramatically. The bottom ball of your belly ring should still rest overtop your belly button when the piercing is done.
Some people choose to have their belly button pierced in a different configuration. Theoretically, you can have your belly button pierced from the bottom, the left, the right, or any other angle. Even if the piercing’s angle in relation to the navel cavity is different, however, the same principle described above applies: one ball should rest directly over your belly button, the barbell should go through the inner wall of your navel cavity, and the outer ball should sit somewhere between 1/2″ and 1″ away from your belly button.
As always, make sure you’re getting pierced by a reputable and knowledgeable piercer. If your piercer tries to place your belly button piercing so high that the bottom ball is outside of the navel cavity, they’re performing the piercing incorrectly. This incorrect placement qualifies as a surface piercing, which has a high chance of migration or rejection.
Belly Button Piercing: What Can I Expect?
Unless you have an “outie” belly button or are getting a non-standard navel piercing, your piercer will likely insert the needle approximately 1/2″ above your belly button, and then pull it out through the belly button cavity. Most likely, a curved piercing needle will be used and will be followed by a bent barbell or possibly a captive bead ring. Bent barbells make ideal belly button jewelry because the shape is a good fit for the area being pierced. Also, a bent barbell or traditional belly button ring (i.e., a bent barbell with a decorative end) is less likely to put undue stress on the fistula, which is the hole where you were pierced. Reducing the pressure on the healing fistula will increase your chances of having a successful belly button piercing that doesn’t slowly migrate out.
Belly button piercings are slightly more prone to migration and rejection than other piercings. That makes the placement of a belly button piercing and the gauge of your starter jewelry important to a belly piercing’s success. You need to be pierced just far enough back from the lip of the belly button, and you should start off with at least a 14g belly button ring. The heavier the gauge, the less likely the jewelry will be to migrate.
Belly Button Piercing Pain
As with any piercing, you can expect to experience a brief, sharp pinch as the needle punctures the skin, as well as the feeling of pressure as the needle passes through the flesh and when jewelry is first installed. Like other soft tissue piercings, however, the pain is momentary and not very intense.
If you’re really concerned about pain, you can ask your piercer to apply a topical anesthetic beforehand. You’ll need to wait 20 to 30 minutes after application to experience the full benefits of a topical anesthetic, but once you’re numb, you’ll experience more pressure than pain during the navel piercing process.
Belly Button Piercing Cost
The cost of a belly button piercing varies from place to place. Typically, you’ll find that belly button piercings cost less in rural areas and more in cities, due to the different costs of running a shop in these settings. You could pay anywhere from $35 to $60 for a belly button piercing, depending on where you go, but $45-$50 is the average.
The Belly Button Piercing Recovery Process
Belly button piercing healing times vary widely from person to person. While some people’s belly button piercings appear to be fully healed within 4-6 weeks, they actually need 3-6 months—and sometimes up to a year—to heal completely, inside and out.
This long healing time is due to the location of the piercing. The body essentially hinges at your waist, and that can keep your new navel piercing in a perpetual state of irritation. Additionally, the waistbands of pants and skirts are liable to rub against your piercing throughout the day, further irritating an area that’s already sensitive just from being pierced. For at least the first 6-8 weeks of recovery, you should try to wear loose, flowing, or low-waisted clothing that doesn’t sit tightly against your new piercing.
Belly buttons also tend to trap lint and dirt, making dedicated navel piercing aftercare extremely important. If you keep your belly button piercing clean and do what you can to reduce friction by wearing low-waisted pants and skirts and generally loose-fitting clothing, your new belly piercing will heal faster and better.
During the belly button piercing healing process, be sure to follow these belly button piercing aftercare guidelines as closely as possible to minimize the chances of your jewelry migrating or rejecting and promote healing and avoid an infection:
- Keep your belly button clean! Allow warm water to run over your piercing when you shower (but don’t scrub your navel piercing with soap; letting sudsy water run over the piercing is fine). During the day, you can spritz or rinse your navel piercing regularly with a saline wash, like Recovery Saline Solution. You should also perform sea salt soaks at least twice per day. To make your own soak, boil water for at least 5 minutes to sterilize it, measure out 1 cup into a heat-safe container, stir in 1/4 teaspoon of sea salt (not table salt, which contains iodine—we recommend using Recovery Sea Salt), then let the mixture cool off. Apply this solution to both the top and bottom of your belly button piercing using clean cotton balls. Alternatively, you can fill a small glass or container with the sea salt solution, then bend over, pressing the rim of the container to your stomach so that it completely covers your belly button piercing. Hold the container firmly as you stand upright, and hold it tightly against your skin for 5 minutes.
- Be gentle when removing “crusties.” Your body’s natural reaction to any piercing is to produce lymph, which is a fluid that often dries to a whitish crust. In the past, piercers used to tell people to turn their jewelry a couple of times a day to loosen up crusties, but that’s no longer considered a healthy practice. Moving your jewelry around to break up the crusties can invite bacteria into the healing fistula, which can lead to an infected navel piercing. We recommend using cotton balls saturated with sea salt solution, or even just warm water, to soften the crusties before gently wiping them away.
- Don’t change your jewelry prematurely. With so many belly button rings available, it can be tempting to change your starter jewelry soon after having your navel pierced. Try to resist! Typically, the belly button ring your piercer installs at first should be extra long to account for swelling. Even if you have little to no swelling initially, you may have some before your belly button piercing is fully healed. At any time, a little dirt can get trapped in the fistula and cause swelling and irritation, so it’s best to just stick with the longer jewelry for at least the first few months. Also, the process of changing jewelry can irritate a healing belly piercing, particularly if you’re using externally threaded belly button jewelry, which isn’t recommended because it can scrape the delicate healing fistula. The only reason you should change jewelry before your belly button piercing is fully healed is if you’re experiencing an allergic reaction (see below).
- Avoid all oils, balms, and creams! They can clog the healing fistula, potentially trapping bacteria and increasing the risk of infection. If your skin is dry around your piercing, add a drop or two of tea tree oil to your sea salt solutions. Tea tree oil has natural antiseptic qualities and will help moisturize your skin. You shouldn’t apply tea tree oil directly to the piercing, however. Always dilute it in sea salt solution (no more than 2 to 3 drops per cup of sea salt solution).
Addressing Common Belly Button Piercing Problems
There are a few common issues that can occur while your belly button piercing heals. Some are more serious than others, but as long as you know how to identify and address them, your belly button piercing shouldn’t be at risk. Here’s how to recognize and treat the most common belly button piercing problems.
- Excessive swelling: Some swelling is normal for a new piercing, and each person’s body will respond differently. You should only be concerned about swelling if it begins pressing your jewelry into your skin in an uncomfortable way. If that happens, see your piercer immediately and ask them to swap out your current belly button ring for one with a longer barbell. Otherwise, the pressure could cause necrosis (tissue death), which can lead to infection.
- Allergic reaction: If the skin around your piercing is consistently and noticeably red, irritated, and itchy, you may be having an allergic reaction. Some people are more sensitive to certain body jewelry materials than others, and a lot of cheap body jewelry contains a high percentage of nickel, which is a common metal allergen. That’s why we recommend getting pierced with either a surgical steel belly ring or titanium navel jewelry. Titanium is the most inert metal that body jewelry can be made from, and therefore the material least likely to cause an allergic reaction. If you are having an allergic reaction you’ll need to change your jewelry, regardless of how recently you got your piercing. You may want to get your piercer to help you change your jewelry since it can be difficult with a fresh piercing.
- Hypergranulation: Hypergranulation occurs as the result of excess moisture and/or pressure, which can both be an issue with new belly button piercings. It presents as a taut, red bump around your fistula (piercing hole) that looks almost fluid-filled. If you’re experiencing hypergranulation, you should ramp up your aftercare routine to 3 sea salt soaks per day, along with additional saline rinses in between. In addition, be even more careful to wear loose, breathable clothing so that your piercing stays as dry as possible. If it seems that pressure is more the issue than moisture, ask your piercer to take a look and swap your jewelry for a longer barbell.
- Infection: Sometimes, no matter how hard you try to avoid it, infection creeps into a new piercing. The signs to look out for are discharge of thick, yellow pus (not clear lymph, which is benign), red streaks emanating outward from your piercing, skin that’s hot to the touch around your piercing, and fever. If you suspect you have an infected belly button piercing, see your doctor right away and ask if you need an antibiotic. If they tell you to take out your jewelry, don’t worry—it’s actually better to leave your jewelry in while taking your antibiotic so that infected fluids have a way to drain out. Without drainage, the infection could potentially cause an abscess. Just take your antibiotics on schedule and clean your belly piercing regularly. You should do full sea salt solution soaks 2-3 times a day and mist your piercing with aftercare spray 3–6 times a day until the infection clears up.
- Scarring: Some people develop hypertrophic scars around their belly button piercings, which present as a small, circular scar immediately around the fistula that has a relatively flat top with a slightly textured surface. Some people develop atrophic scars after removing their belly button jewelry, which are recessed scars with a rough-textured surface that doesn’t quite fill the hole where the piercing was. Jojoba oil and silicone scar therapy gels are the best options for treating hypertrophic scars and atrophic scars. Simply massage one of these ointments into the scar tissue twice a day for as many weeks or months as it takes to diminish the appearance of your belly piercing scar. You should wait until your piercing is fully healed before beginning either of these treatments, though, since they could clog your healing fistula.
- Keloids: Keloids can look like scars, but they are actually the result of a genetic issue that affects a very small percentage of the population. Keloids present as smooth-surfaced, bulbous, and reddish scars that grow excessively past the area immediately surrounding a piercing. Treating keloids often requires the help of a dermatologist, although silicone scar therapy gel can help reduce their appearance in some cases.
What Type of Jewelry Is Used for a Belly Button Piercing?
A navel piercing can accommodate many different types of body jewelry, and with the wide selection of belly button rings in our online store, you’re sure to find the navel jewelry you want. Check out some of our options below.
- Acrylic Belly Button Rings: Each of our acrylic belly button rings includes a stainless steel bent barbell shaft and end balls or a decorative charm made of colorful, lightweight acrylic.
- Bali Belly Rings: Bali jewelry is crafted in Indonesia, where each jewel is carefully placed by hand into the framework of a meticulously crafted belly button ring. These elegant designs are the work of highly skilled local craftsmen who we partner with.
- Jeweled Belly Button Rings: Whether you’re looking for a fun navel ring with a little sparkle or a sophisticated jeweled belly button ring to add to your collection, you’ll find the perfect piece of jewelry here.
- Gold Belly Button Rings: Our gold belly button rings are made from solid, 14-karat yellow or white gold. Each piece is precision-machined, hand-polished, and 100% guaranteed.
- Dangle Belly Button Rings: Draw attention to your sexy midriff with one of our dangly belly button rings! Our dangle belly button rings feature a wide range of dangling charms and delicate chains interspersed with gems.
- Navel Shields: These unique belly rings are framed by decorative loops that beautifully encompass your belly button.
- Opal Belly Button Rings: Opal is a beautiful accent to any jewelry, and with our opal belly rings you can click a style you like, then customize it by choosing your favorite opal color.
- Pregnancy Belly Rings: Our comfortable pregnancy belly rings will bend and flex as your belly grows. Their adjustable-length, extra-long shafts can be cut to the perfect size for you, and each one features a beautiful jeweled charm.
- Top Down/Reverse Belly Button Rings: Flip fashion upside-down with our reverse belly button rings! These fun navel rings feature charms that overlay your belly button and bent barbells that go through your belly piercing from the top down, with the ball screwing on the bottom behind the charm.
- Unique Belly Button Rings: These are a little different from your normal belly button rings. From dangling jewels to funky charms to glow-in-the-dark options, these belly button rings are sure to make an impression.
- Navel Clicker Rings: Our unique navel clickers provide a fun and easy-to-wear alternative to your traditional belly button barbells. These belly rings feature a hinged segment that “clicks” into place, allowing for easy insertion and removal from the piercing.
- Venus Hoops: Venus hoops are attractive belly button rings that fill the belly button and extend a bit beyond it. Each piece has a ball surrounded by a hoop that nestles into the belly button, as well as several dangling beads for added ornamentation.
- Titanium Belly Button Rings: Our titanium belly button rings are made from pure elements—no coatings here! Titanium is stronger than steel, as light as aluminum, and ideal for sensitive skin types due to its hypoallergenic properties.
- Surgical Steel Belly Button Rings: Our solid 316L surgical steel belly button rings make great starter jewelry. Choose from plain bent barbells and belly button rings with a charm loop, where you can attach any charm to create a completely custom look.
- Spiral Belly Button Rings: These unusual navel rings contain twisting, spiral designs that are sure to catch attention.
How to Change a Belly Button Ring
You should try to avoid changing your belly button ring until your piercing is fully healed, which can take between 3-12 months (see above). Changing a belly button ring can be a little tricker than changing other types of body jewelry, especially if your fistula isn’t well-healed and reinforced, so you might want to ask your piercer for help the first time.
First, you’ll want to make sure that your new jewelry is the same gauge as the jewelry you’re removing. One of the easiest ways to change a belly button ring, especially for newer piercings, is to use a threaded taper. To remove your old jewelry, unscrew the top ball of your belly button ring and pull down gently on the bottom ball until the barbell slides out through the bottom of the piercing. To install your new jewelry using a taper, unscrew its top ball and screw the taper on in its place. You can then insert the taper into your piercing and use it to pull the rest of the jewelry through. Once the barbell is in the correct position, you can unscrew the taper and replace it with the ball.
If you’re having trouble getting your new jewelry in, you can use a drop of water-based lubricant on the jewelry, the taper, or the piercing to help make the process smoother. Be careful not to use too much though, or else you may not be able to handle the jewelry.
PainfulPleasures Has You Covered
We hope this guide answered your questions and helped you better understand belly button piercings, the belly button piercing healing process, and the types of jewelry you can wear with a belly button piercing. Be sure to check out our full online store for even more body jewelry options, and the PainfulPleasures community page for more information about piercings, body jewelry, and body modification.