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A Beginner’s Guide to Body Modifications

Discover the wonderful world of body modifications.

January 17, 2024
6 min read
Allef Vinicius via Unsplash

In collaboration with BodyArtForms

The goth subculture (along with other subcultures like punk, grunge and emo) champions individuality and self-expression, and body modifications have emerged as powerful tools of personal identity and creativity. Whether it’s the subtle elegance of a pierced ear or the intricate tapestry of a full-body tattoo, the realm of body modifications offers a diverse spectrum for individuals to explore and redefine their own narratives.

Whether you’re a curious newcomer or someone looking to embark on your own transformative journey, join us as we peel back the layers of stigma and delve into the beautiful, complex world of body modifications. Let’s celebrate the unique canvas that is the human body, and explore the myriad ways individuals choose to make it their own.

What are body modifications?

Body modifications are changes that a person makes to their body, encompassing everything from relatively commonplace mods like tattoos and piercings to extreme body modifications such as dermal piercings, implants, stretching, scarification, and forked tongue surgery.

Some of these practices have formed part of indigenous cultures that go back centuries as rites of passage, status symbols or expressions of personal identity. Today, body modifications have become a form of art and self-expression, allowing individuals to assert autonomy over their bodies and communicate their unique stories to the world. It’s essential to recognize and respect the diversity of motivations and meanings behind these modifications, as they play a significant role in the ever-evolving tapestry of human expression.

Researching body mods before you dive in

As part of an alternative subculture, you will see a lot of people with body modifications, and this might inspire you to get one as well. There are numerous social media accounts and blogs that are dedicated to this part of alternative subcultures, and provide education for newcomers. 

That being said, you need to do a lot of research beforehand – this is so you have a full understanding of the procedure, how painful it is, and how to handle the modification after you have it done. 

Things to consider:

  • Which type of body mod are you looking at? 
  • Is there any historical or cultural significance to the body modification that you’re considering?
  • Do you know anyone firsthand who’s had the mod done? It’s worth talking to them about their experience.
  • Is this a trend? Think about whether you’re being influenced by the media or your peers, or it’s something you’re genuinely interested in getting. 
  • Take time to research the practitioners you’re considering using. Scroll back through their social media accounts and see if you can see healed pics of the people that they’ve worked on. Bear in mind that the healing and aftercare of any body mod will have an impact on the final result.
  • See if there are any documentaries on your chosen body mod that you can watch to help you get a deeper understanding. 
A mouth, slightly open with a vertical lip piercing body modification. The lips are red and there is a a red rose below it.
Image credit: Rodolfo Clix/Pexels

Different types of body modifications

In this section we look at the different types of modifications, to bring you up to speed on what you expect when you get them done.

Piercings

These are the tip of the iceberg when it comes to body modifications, and one of the most common as lots of people have their ears pierced. Many consider piercings to be a semi-permanent type of body modification because the holes can close up if you take out the jewellery. However, it very much depends on how your body heals and whether the piercing has been rejected from the body (as well as a myriad of other factors), as they can still leave scars.

The most common piercings are the ear lobes, but there are loads of different ear piercings, from the daith to the tragus to the rook (plus more!). Nose piercings are also very commonplace, with nostril and septum piercings being the most obvious – though again there are loads of places on your nose you can get pierced, like the bridge, the rhino and more. 

Your imagination is the limit when it comes to getting body piercings – however some can be dangerous and others downright silly (we’re talking about things like between your fingers or tongue piercings, which, when done incorrectly can mean losing a lot of blood!)

One of the joys of piercings is that when fully healed, you can change the jewellery to suit your style or mood on any given day, from pretty dangly earrings to edgy lip labrets or hoops.

Dermals

These are piercings that are also known as surface piercings, they are placed on flat parts of the body. The thing about dermal piercings that differs from regular piercings is that they only have an entrance point and no exit point. They can be super pretty in locations like cheekbones, chest and nape of the neck. 

If you want to remove your dermal piercing, you will have to get it professionally removed, as it’s anchored underneath the skin. 

Tattoos

Tattooing is the art of injecting ink into the dermis layer of the skin, creating permanent artwork on the body. They might express personal stories, beliefs or aesthetics. Like piercings, they are a common occurrence in alternative cultures, and even in wider everyday life. People with tattoos are no longer judged or looked down upon as harshly as they once were (at least, most of the time).

There are people who choose to tattoo almost every visible surface of their body – including areas like their eyeballs – this falls on the more extreme side of body modifications (and can cause blindness!).  

Stretching

Stretched ear lobes are also frequently seen in alternative subcultures, and are sometimes known as gauges or flesh tunnels. This is where piercing holes are enlarged over time. Commonly associated with ear lobes, other areas like nostrils, lips and even cheeks can be stretched too. 

This process doesn’t need the aid of a practitioner but needs to be performed carefully (and slowly) in hygienic settings. Earlobes are gradually stretched from a regular earring hole to holes large enough to thread your whole fist through. The ears need to be stretched up to one size at a time to prevent any damage happening to the ear.

Surgical body modifications

These are the more extreme types of modifications that see processes like splitting of the tongue to appear forked, reshaping ears to look pointed like elf ears, and scarification – which is intentionally scarring the skin so it heals in a particular design. Some of these more extreme body mods are considered illegal in the UK, so make sure you do your research!

An ear with body modifications, i.e. lobe and cartilage piercings, as well as a stretched lobe.
Image credit: Kilian Seiler/Unsplash

Healing and aftercare

Every modification that you have done needs to be properly taken care of so that you don’t run the risk of the modified area becoming infected or healing incorrectly. This is why you need to research the modification that you want – find out the amount of time it takes to heal and how you need to specifically take care of this modification. When you are speaking to your practitioner, they will be able to provide you with suitable advice to handle the healing period. It will also be a good idea to find out about your pain tolerance level, to have an idea of how well you will handle the procedure you choose. 

The long-term effects:

When you get a body modification, you need to be aware of the risks, both long and short term. This could mean anything from excessive scarring, infection or the body parts you’ve modified no longer performing in the same way. You may also experience negative social effects – i.e. when applying for a job or appearing in court.

Body modifications are often ways to express your creativity and individuality. Before getting one, it is important to understand the commitment and care that you need to take for the modification so that it heals well.

DarcieRae

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Hi, I’m Darcie.

Bound in Bone is my goth fashion and lifestyle blog. I like to write about dark outfits, spooky interiors and the goth lifestyle in general. You’ll find everything from alternative markets to what to wear to the gym, and more!

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