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Surgical Steel vs Sterling Silver – Which is the best material for body piercings?
By: Steph Simpson

Although body piercing is far from a new concept, thanks to the huge advances in both medicine, and modern technology, body piercing in general, has undergone quite the transformation over the last decade or so, and as many piercing enthusiasts will surely agree, those transformations have most certainly been for the better. Thanks to modern technology and medicine for example, there are now a number of different preventative treatments and processes available, designed not only to deal with common piercing issues such as infection, inflammation, migration, or rejection, but to help to prevent any of these issues before they have chance to occur. When it comes to body piercings for example, the material used in the piercing can play a huge role in just how quickly the individual will recover from the piercing, and whether or not they will experience any unpleasant side effects or not. Metal allergies for example, are surprisingly common, with a lot of people not actually knowing they have them until it’s too late. Some people however, confuse sensitivity with allergy, so it’s important to know the difference. If a person is indeed sensitive to a certain metal, the issue can quickly be resolved by switching to a different metal. If they’re allergic however, more care will need to be taken. Two of the most popular metals used in body piercings, are: silver and surgical steel, and whilst, on paper, one may certainly seem more appealing than the other, in terms of practicality, you may be surprised by which is considered safer.

Surgical Stainless Steel – Surgical Stainless Steel is one of the most common metals used in body piercings, and behind G23 Titanium, is actually considered the second most bio-compatible metal used for piercings. As far as which grades are considered safe by experts, there are only two types, and it is important that you know them, to help ensure that cheaper and less reputable piercing studios don’t try to fob you off with a cheaper, more harmful alternative. These two examples are: 316LVM and 316L. These are the ONLY TWO grades of stainless steel that are deemed safe to be used in closed and fully healed piercings. It is worth remembering however, that even those grades of stainless steel do still contain nickel, and as a large percentage of individuals suffer with a nickel allergy, a certain level of discretion and vigilance must be executed. In terms of attractiveness however, many people tend to opt for the 316LVM grades of steel. This grade is the same as the 136L, except for the fact that it has been specially melted in a vacuum, creating a flawless, smooth, shiny, and reflective finish, and therefore has less chance of being combined with other alloys which could lead to added sensitivities and irritations. A lot of European countries however, have actually banned Surgical Stainless Steel altogether in new piercings, due to the fact that there are such a high number of initial allergic reactions with the metal.

Silver – Now, from an aesthetical standpoint, as silver is considered a precious metal, and is deemed more valuable than steel, you’d think that silver would be the obvious choice for new body piercings, although that is not the case at all. Sterling silver is actually only made up of .925% silver, and is often combined with other metals, including nickel, which can cause severe irritation and even full-blown allergic reactions in some instances as well. What’s especially frustrating with silver piercings however, is the fact that, once it does come into contact with bodily fluids such as blood or saliva, as well as air in general, it oxidizes, which basically means that it begins to rust and becomes tarnished. Sterling silver is not designed to be worn in unhealed piercings, or new piercings for this reason, because once it does tarnish, it can actually be deposited directly onto/into the skin, giving it a distinct grey/black colour. As well as that, the silver is also much softer than other metals, meaning that it can become bent, scratched, or chipped far easier, which again, will greatly tarnish the overall appearance of the piercing, which is exactly what you don’t want. Add to this the fact that there is an increased risk of allergic reactions taking place with silver jewellery, for many people it is simply not worth the risk. For optimal results, silver jewellery is best suited in well established ear piercings, I.E the lobes, providing the jewellery is not left in for a prolonged amount of time. So, wearing a nice set of silver earrings for a romantic meal out will be fine (providing you remove them when you get home) but leaving silver earrings in for several days/weeks/months, is simply not an option and is very dangerous. Short-term wear is fine, long-term wear, is not.