Why transdermals suck, by yours truly

Just like some other big name guy who shed blood for his followers, I shed blood for the readers of Modblog. People are complaining that Modblog isn’t updating and I wanted to help, but without new submissions to BME there is little for me to choose from. So instead of complaining or making excuses, I took action and used this lull in post as the encouragement I needed to get those godforsaken transdermals removed from my noggin.

First and foremost, I want to be clear I knew the risk going into the initial procedure and I realized the super low success rate of transdermals. Hell, I think the BME Encyclopedia entry on transdermal removal summed it up best.

All in all, because of the low success rate and complications, transdermal implants are one of the few procedures that BME recommends against — although we fully support people’s right to get them, if and only if they fully understand and accept the risks.It should also be noted that a variety of professionals are trying to solve the problems with transdermal implants.

I got my implants done by a highly reputable practitioner, whom I also consider a friend. As far as procedures go, it was as spot on as one could hope for.  In fact, long time modbloggers may even remember this post Shannon made of them when they were brand new.

As is the case with most transdermals, they never actually healed. The wounds around the transdermal post oozed, well, pretty much constantly. The channels the implants were inserted in stayed seperated from the underlying tissue and bubbled up. Hair growth was nullified in a large circle around each of the implants……….and this is just what I dealt with in the first year.

I tried lots of remedies, some holistic, some horrific. I used everything from chamomile tea bag soaks to injecting alcohol around the transdermal stems  to dry out the excess lymph. Nothing had any lasting affects. As the years went on the implants just got worse, most started migrating and the first one (as you can see in the before picture) rejected to the point of one foot coming completely through the skin.


While there has been no definitive study on the long term success rates of transdermal implants,  20% or less seems to be pretty accurate. I’d even go so far to assume that most of those will not last indefinitely and that a lot of the “successful” ones aren’t actually fully and properly healed.

I (speaking purely as myself, and not for BMEzine.com) feel that the  transdermal implants, as we know them, have  no place in modern body modification. The original design by Steve Haworth, was ground breaking and without that original design we may not have the microdermal anchor design that we have now. However, with the gray area legality of the implantation procedure and the unlikeliness of them properly healing, I just don’t see why they are still being commonly offered. Don’t get me wrong, if a practitioner wants to do some on a highly modded well informed client, I am not opposed, I just don’t see the point. However, the fact some practitioners will do these on any walk in client is an atrocity and a total F-You to our entire community.

One thing that I feel will certainly make transdermal implants obsolete is large gauge microdermals, such as those offered by Anatometal. With them offering micros up to an 8 gauge, that can be inserted with piercing techniques (no invasive surgery) and also removed far easier that transdermals, I just can’t see the need for an invasive and potentially illegal surgical procedure with a low success rate.

Anyhow, that’s my take on the subject, feel free to chime in your opinions on this topic in the comments. For a whole lot of photos from my transdermal removal procedure, keep on keeping on.















All photos, thanks to Robin Scott.

Have your own transdermal failure stories/pictures that you want to share? Email them to [email protected]

105 thoughts on “Why transdermals suck, by yours truly

  1. LOL
    gnarly, to-the-max.
    thanks for sharing! this is exactly the kind of thing BME needs more of. less cheerleading and more reality testing.

  2. Well it clearly wasn’t due to lack of trying that they didn’t heal. I’m sure many would’ve thrown in the towl a lot sooner, or so i assume. I like the scarred look :D

  3. Holy fuck.

    That looks horrific. I know it is a stupid thing to ask, a question I find annoying about my own tattoos and mods but MY GOD that must have hurt?? Is that not the most painful procedure you’ve undergone?

    I completely agree with your take on the matter, and even feel there should be much more information given to people hardly exposed to the modification world about microdermals. I got a microdermal put at the bottom of my neck around two years ago. It lasted just under a year, (and rejected only because some drunken asshole thought it’d be a great idea to give it a good old poke) but I saw many people in the shop looking to get microdermals or “skin divers” as an alternative that kinda just pop in and can pop out really easily. Anyway, needless to say I’ve seen a lot of younger people with some pretty bad scarring including one of my own good friends who I actually thought was more wised up to the matter, but hers ended up fucking up really early on.

    Anyway, there’s my thoughts.

    Thanks for the post in the lull. If I had the equipment to take high enough quality images, I’d be on it!

  4. The lack of posts has been kind of unnerving(though it may have positively impacted on my productivity), but it’s great to see a positive response, and thanks for taking the time out to offer us an insight into your experience with these pieces, I was unaware how invasive the procedure was to remove transdermals. Here’s hoping that they heal up well.

    I have been unsuccessful on three occasions so far with microdermals, though thankfully it’s a lot easier to get those little fella’s out.

  5. I can’t believe he had them in for over a year (all the while they weren’t healing, and oozing constantly)! I really hope his noggin heals up well after having them removed.

  6. i had to remove my transdermal just before it was going to pop through the skin. i had the same problem with constantly having to clean it even after almost 2 years, by the end it was pretty rough looking.

  7. Wow, I’m amazed that you put up with them so long! They looked pretty neat when they were new, its a shame that they are almost impossible to heal

  8. Oh Sean, I remember the sweet relief when I had the one in my forehead removed. Just you wait till you are healed up enough to scratch the area. It’ll be SO satisfying.

  9. Just the other day you said that if we didn’t like how much the ModBlog was being updated that we should submit photos instead of complaining. Fair enough, but now you’re saying that there are no submissions at all, so I went and tried to submit my latest tattoos (which are quite nice and perhaps worthy of the ModBlog), but I can’t figure out how to do that, and I can not be the only one.

    1. Is there any way to submit pictures for ModBlog?

    2. When will ModBlog be updated like it used to be again?

    3. Can we have an official date for when the BME is going to be back online? With Rachel going on her around the world tour I’m wondering if we will have to wait three months until she gets back? No offense, but we’ve been waiting a long time already.

    It doesn’t have to be a submissions thing for the big new beta BME, but it might be nice if we could even just email you Shawn? Maybe your email address could be placed prominently here on the ModBlog, and even on the BME as well, so then at least you can keep updating the ModBlog.

    Thank you for listening. I think if you do this everyone will be happier.

  10. The worst, most painful thing I have witnessed was the removal of some transdermals on a sternum. Makes me cringe to this day to think about it. This made me relive it all over again. That is one big ouch.

  11. It seems obvious to not implant anything flat in a curved, rigid environment like this location. Or are the bases of the implants properly contoured?

  12. like said above, those holes look so gnarly.

    and i TOTALLY agree that micros will become the new transdermals, been trying really hard to bug my piercer about picking up a pair of those 8ga micros that Anatometals putting out. though i have a feeling just like trans not working, micros seem to be just a sensitive with different areas and not be as successful, but only time will tell.

    again, thank you for sharing, as stomach turning as it was it was still pleasing to see and learn about.

    hope healing goes well

  13. I have to admit I agree with you, at least for the most part. I have thought a fair bit about why the fail so much and what could be improved – however there are some factors that I feel you may not be taking into consideration.

    a) Transdermals with 3-4 legs (not 2, like a microdermal as seen in the above photos) have a much higher success rate in terms of rejection, as they are able to ‘spread’ their pressure and hold – similar to I find anchors with larger holes and larger feet hold and heal better. They also heavily reduce rotation (like the one breaking through the skin) which helps dramatically in healing. They unfortunately do require a larger hole for insertion and can sometimes not be used in some locations.

    b) Transdermals made of g23 titanaium (not 316 surgical steel, as many are) will help a substantial amount with the oozing and drying up of lymph, being a porous material it simply allows more breathing but is also much lighter. Not sure what your ones were, but a I think a good point to bring up either way.

    c) Microdermals (even 8g ones) are still a semi-permanent piercing. I love how easy they are to insert/remove and you can do some very cool shit with them – however from my experience they do not work well at all in the scalp (a very popular transdermal placement) and do not allow for cool ‘novelty’ attachments (like big spikes, etc).

    I think there is a place in the body mod world for TDs, however saying all of that – I have had a substantial amount of heavy body mods done over the years and have yet to get a transdermal because I totally agree.

    They just are not evolved enough.

  14. @Stan: The contour of the base doesn’t really have much affect over the healing as you would think, even in a curved area.

    it would if it was a rigid long implant (like a rod), however being relatively short it’s not enough to cause substantial pressure on the surrounding tissue.

  15. Good god, just imagining someone cutting into my scalp makes me cringe. I imagine there to be some sort of awful sound kind of like when you shave your head.

  16. What a biased post.

    I had two 4g transdermals for about five years that healed, and sat there without bitching for a looooong time. I was NOT gentle with them either.

    To say that “transdermals suck” based on such limited experience is wrong.

    I’m saying this from the position of someone who has no emotional ties to the person who performed my implant procedure.

  17. Pre-op head sores! iicckkkkyyyy! xP

    my 10g anchor by anatometal is amazing and wonderful.

    &cutthroat, I think if I had six oozy, bubbly, altogether aesthetically unpleasant head holes, that would be enough for me to say “transdermals suck” as well. Just sayin’.

  18. fuh,i wonder how that felt.
    i just wanna put my finger in there and feel it.
    and id like to see a picture of it after its healed

  19. It took you four years to get them taken out, despite the fact that they “oozed constantly” and the skin bubbled up??

  20. ..Wait, this wasn’t posted April 1? I’m.. I’m confused. I understand opinion and representation and the like but what I’m seeing is language I’m not used to here (oh don’t get me wrong, I have no problem with it, but I’m used to far less biased and more.. professional..?) and.. head vagoo gorefest. I don’t know, why didn’t my post about how much I *love* mine, how well they’ve behaved, how thrilled I am to wake up and see them- why didn’t that make it? I felt like I had the shit beaten out of me for a day. Sometimes they bug me. But they’re so worth it.
    I agree with you, they shouldn’t just be offered to any jackoff that walks in and asks nicely- big procedure, requires thinking, informed consent. Bigger choices are made with less thought every single day. I just.. don’t see what the difference is between this post and the post about the young eunuch a few below, besides the tone of the entire fucking thing. You make a choice and it may be a gray area and quite risky but you accept it because it’s what you really want and you follow through.
    I can’t remember the last time I saw a post this negative on ModBlog. The last that even came close that I caught had to do with safety and suspension. Nowhere even close to this.
    ..Come on. Say April Fools already.

  21. I have had my transdermals for almost 5 years now….also no emotional ties to the person who did them. Mine do have their bad days where it may bubble up SLIGHTLY & will ooze a little then have a little bleed….but that will be one day, The next day they are perfectly fine. This happens maybe once every few weeks, can sometimes be months between flare ups….but i have put this down to my hair being dirty (i have to wear a bit of hair over them for work) & the fact that I am, and have always been, a picker. If there is a bit of a scab over it I will pick it. I can’t help it, i have OCD with things being tidy & when there is crust, it feels untidy to me. I totally know I shouldn’t pick, but I just can’t help it, and I know a lot of people who do this! But through all of that, they are still firmly in place, there has been no infections, no rejections, no problems at all really. They are 3 leaf clover base design made of titanium. The tissue healed back together very quickly & stayed together. I realise I have been very lucky & that they are not 100% healed, but I don’t see me taking them out any time soon, not unless something goes drastically wrong.
    It’s a shame yours didn’t heal much Sean, they looked pretty rad!

  22. Why would you leave them in that long when they were…ooozing!

    Also from a logic point of view I would have thought the shape of the head and how tightly the skin is around the skull it would only be a matter of time before they’re forced out.

  23. I think that the lack of common sense is rampant with clients as well as practitioners.
    I mean obviously it rests SOLELY in the hands of the artist by saying yes or no, but basic drives to one up everyone else is a two way street.

    Well behaved modifications rarely make history.

  24. The 8 gauge microdermals mentioned are an awesome idea, but in my experience they suck. I had 2 of them in my forehead, one of them was rejecting after having it for about 7-8 months – the foot was sticking out of my skin. I got them both removed because the second was really pissy and I didn’t want to come back so many months later to get that one removed for the same reason. At the same time that could be because my body sucks in general with microdermals.

  25. I considered subdermals vs. transdermals for about two years before finally getting implants. I chose subdermals mostly because they would heal faster and easier.

  26. And Sean, what do you expect when you get a lot of experimental work done at once?

    There’s no way I would get five ordinary piercings done in one sitting.

  27. I’m truly disappointed that there is no April Fools Day post…..come on Mod-Blog, you said you had no submissions so you had nothing to do….boooooooo!

  28. Out of curiosity, injecting alcohol “to dry out the excess lymph”, it’s obviously not a common after care method, but has that been done before? Has it worked?

  29. i agree about tds/microdermals not healing on such tight tissue as in the head. the point with the 3-4 legs seem like the better bet for stability. i do have an 8g td in my forearm right below my elbow for about 7 years and hasn’t had a problem with it since i first got it. yes, if i snag it on something(very rare) it will get a little crusty the next day and it’s fine.

  30. rather strange question – did you have any anaesthetic during either procedure? *shrugs* something i always wondered.

    other than the super ouwie and i hope the woundes heal easily…i think you have the happiest forward helix i’ve seen in a long time!! hope to hell mine heals that well!!

  31. I believe everything that Joeltron said to be 100% accurate. Most successful transdermals that are in existence today are clover transdermal designs or have been replaced with the clover design transdermals like those in JageRick’s forehead which I was lucky enough to be able assist on have been successful since the replacement with the new transdermals.

  32. Tell Steve Haworth that 80% of his transdermals reject. Sounds like questionable jewelry and questionable aftercare. Microdermals are definitely a better option for a lot of areas. The scalp is not one of them.

    If you want facts on transdermals check out the link below it is Steve Haworth’s blog about them.
    (Steve Haworth is the authority on Transdermals. Base your opinion on his not one piercer who couldn’t follow correct aftercare.)


  33. I think that there hasn’t been many submissions to ModBlog or bmezine in general, solely because there hasn’t been much updating in the galleries. I think that it really deters people from submitting if they think that nothing will be done with their photos, or that they aren’t ‘worthy’ of being on ModBlog. On that point, I keep hearing about this ‘new’ BME happening but I still have no idea what will change? I may have missed a post explaining it, but I’ve seen more than one post saying it was about to happen with the launch date arriving and passing by with no change. So…is it?
    On the subject of this post, I also wonder why they weren’t removed earlier if you’ve had such problems? That would just bug me, I’d have to get them out ASAP!

  34. Ekh: Logic would say that injecting alcohol to “to dry out the excess lymph” would fail. Alcohol dries things because it dissolves them and then evaporates. Injecting it would allow it to “dissolve” the lymph, but it wouldn’t have anywhere to go from there.

    I don’t understand why either transdermals or microdermals should more difficult to heal than normal piercings. After all, you are trying to do similar things; you are trying to form some type of fistula (of a sort, since there’s only one entry/exit). Seems like it should be just as easy, or as hard, to heal as a very well-done surface piercing. …And probably as delicate.

  35. i think the main problem with transdermals is that now every body part could heal these implants! for example in this article the head is a very hard place to work on, and therefore the healing is worse than in other parts of the body, not to say about the shape of the head: its rounded, and the “legs” of the transdermals are straight and that makes the healing more difficult, sometimes impossible. If the jewelry cant fix on a placement it wont heal perfectly, and it will be migrated too often!
    there are some nice placements for transdermals, i think one of the best is the center of the chest: this part of body is straight, and defended, so the healing can be perfect, and the implant could be worn long time!
    of course microdermals could heal easier because of their size, and the inserting method.

  36. Ouch.

    @69: Most “normal” piercings have a complete fistula, like a tunnel. Transdermals and microdermals have blind fistulas, like pockets. While I’ve found microdermals to be pretty easy to heal, I can totally understand how transdermals would be much more difficult. Have you seen the size of those things?

    Again, ouch.

  37. Did anyone actually read the article?? He says that this is HIS take on it as a personal experience. No where does Sean say that ALL transdermals suck.

    People are getting all snarky and pissy because he’s sharing his experience with everyone.

    He got the procedure done after being well informed as to the possible risks (not to mention he is a body mod practitioner with approx 10 years experience) and went to a highly reputable artist. He gave it his best shot and finally when he’d had enough he had them removed.

    As you’re entitled to your own opinion about your own experience, so is he. It’s pointless to try and compare how your body heals as to another persons.

    It’s an interesting post and it something I’d venture to guess that a LOT of people would never get to witness first or even second hand.

    Good lord, with the whiners around here…

  38. Agree with phoenixxx…both sean and the artist who did his transdermals are extremely highly reputable. that being said, a lot of things come down to a person by person basis. there are some people who manage to heal things that most feel would never heal, and other people who have trouble healing even the most simple of piercings. not everyones body reacts the same.

  39. glory to Sean. this is like a post from the old days of modblog. while they may be more sporadic lately, i definitely like the way modblogs been heading.

    sean bleeds for his posts. hahaha kudos.

  40. I wonder if taking them out will make it any easier to shave your head? Although I suppose the scar tissue will still make it an uneven surface.

  41. had a subdermal for six years never had any hassle………. sad state of affairs when people are asking what they are as opposed to microdermals???

  42. Shimble: It’s interesting that most subdermals (assuming a good, non-mobile location, a sterile environment, a good practitioner, and good a implant; carved silicone = FAIL) seem to heal uneventfully. The implants on my sternum healed great, and have been uneventful for six or seven years. …And yet, there are some pretty awful horror stories about subdermal implants. It seems to be a case of YMMV.

    Thanks for sharing, Sean. I’ll keep this in mind before I give them a try. At least I don’t mind the idea of heavy scarring on my forehead… :D

  43. So…this is, or is not, the April Fool post? If it is, fantastic job, but tell us about the real procedure pictured! If not…I am very sorry to hear that, because OW. Also – yay for a post, whatever it is. :)

  44. it looks too good to be faked. most of the april fools ones are just a little bit obvious. but if this is a fake best damn one yet.

  45. My transdermals healed fine and ive had them for almost 7 years now without any problems. if they get angry a little i spray h2ocean on it and leave it alone. over doing it with to many remedies will just mess them up. Haworth did mine and mine are fine. Ive done several trandermal mohawks and they’ve healed fine and have been in for 4+ years. i only use Haworths trandermals. ive seen them reject too, but not as often as ive seen the 2-foot one reject

  46. the post date was march 31st definitely not april fools joke.

    That said sorry to see the troubles sean, transdermals look great when they dont have serious issues.

  47. I can assure you this was not an April Fool’s joke. I was there when he got them cut out and took all the pictures.

    Sorry kids…no A.F. joke this year.

  48. Nyarlathotep:
    how does carved silicone=fail?

    do you really think all the well healed shaped implants are cast?

  49. @26, my email is on every post I make, but it may not be as obvious as I like. Next to my little bio and pic below every post there is an email this author link and that goes straight to me. Or feel free to email me [email protected].

  50. who took them out and why would you do this at a CON? i would think it would be a great way to get busted for doing surgery without a license. I mean I am amazed people do cuttings at tattoo conventions… doing implants and implant removal would definitely be a private procedure for me. wouldn’t want to get my practitioner in trouble..

  51. @79,
    I have had my “carved” hand implants for 3 years now and my “carved” arm implants for 2 years. No problems so far!

  52. @79 and 90

    there are carved implants, and there are jaggred, sharp edged carved by people who shouldnt IMHO be putting in implants, ive seen some really really really nice carved implants in my time, so yeah, theres a difference between carved, and “carved” so long as its good, it’ll be fine as squirrelgirl has found.

    nice write up, i love the way how people forgot that this was HIS take and expriance on transdermals, i know alot of good mod artists are now turning away from doing transdermals because of the poor sucess rate, sure some people are ganna be fine with them, thats the luck of the beast, IMHO i would never get one, and if anyone told me they where going to get one, id ask them to think twice, yes thay look great, but being such a pain with aftercare, and like i said the poor sucess rate, id sooner get something else.

    i used to have a navel pocketing, ok not quite the same as a transdermal, but a mix of kinda being a implant, with having bald fistula, the movment etc it soon became clear that it was never going to heal, and got in the way to much, and took it out, now if i wrote a thing up saying that id advise not to get them done, im sure id get slamed for that, but thats the way this thing seams to work.

    p.s. there was an april fools modblog post on IAM, quite funny.

  53. i feel the main issue was the location of the transdermals…. awesome pics thanks for sharingg

  54. please show healed pics…look slike a good job
    do you plan on tattooing over that when its all healed up…. good luck mate!

  55. @83: Shawn, can you tell me how spraying an isotonic, room temperature saline solution with egg white extracts eased the irritation your transdermals were having? Do you truly believe that their product is a viable solution to the problems people encounter with “regular” piercings, no less transdermal implants? I’m not being sarcastic at all, I’d just like to hear an opinion from someone who’s so closely involved with that company.

  56. @95 The sutures are still in so I am a ways off from tattooing that little strip. I have a few ideas what to do there though, I am leaning towards some hand poked black work, but am still not committed to any one idea.

    I will definitely post healed pics after the closures are actually healed.

  57. To clarify: the problem that I have with carved silicone implants is mostly a matter of surface texture, but also an issue of damage not visible to the naked eye done to the integrity of the block of silicone. Small cracks seem to cause problems, and an uneven surface also appear to cause problems. When carving something by hand, it become easier to contaminate the surface; although the implant will be sterilized before being implanted, that doesn’t necessarily remove the debris, which may or may not cause a reaction. Silicone is also really fucking hard to carve, and carve neatly, while it’s fairly easy to carve and polish the surface of a mold (even easier if your mold doesn’t have to be something like D2 tool steel). IDK what the difference in price is between a custom molded implant, and a custom carved implant, but I’d rather minimize the risks my going with the smoother, easier to decontaminate surface.

    That said, I only have direct, personal experience with teflon, and that’s over bone. I have never performed or participated in performing an implantation procedure, so this opinion is an aggregate of the experiences of other people I have spoken to.

  58. This is a bit late, but I can’t seem to be able to submit photos from either the beta bme or original sites. Seems as if some kinks need straightened out?

  59. I think transdermals are pretty much a bad idea. Anyone saying “Oh they are so great! You guy’s just had bad luck!” is seeing what they WANT to see, not the obvious truth about them.

    I had mine for a long time, what’s it been something like 7 years? Took them out the other day, generally because they are just not a good idea and have a low rate of success. (The transdermals in my head that is) For every one person that has had good luck with them long term, I can point out 10 that have had problems and had them removed.

    The success rate is INSANELY low. Really, I would say 80% doing well long term is too low. I would say maybe 95% go bad, 5% success rate after a few years from what I’ve seen… and hell, even if it was 50/50%, would you buy a car that only worked 50% of the time?

    Transdermals almost never work, look at the numbers. The original people getting them that had problems and gotten them removed were all pretty high up in the community and were like family. There is no “They didn’t know what they were doing, they were all idiots” excuse that can be made for the majority of folks.

  60. Valentine, feel free to email me, no one else seems to be having problems as there are tons of submissions waiting to be moderated right now.
    [email protected]

    There definitely is not a decline in submissions and updates should resume properly very soon. I’m excited for the new changes.

  61. To the person that said they considered sub vs trans for a while, I had both in the same spot (at different times), and each comes with it;s own set of issues. I can’t say that one is better than the other. I spent more than a couple years with both. I enjoyed both sets too.

  62. i got some verry positive story’s about transdermals i got six of them myself for four years now
    if the bme team wants i can give an interview about my experieces with them.

    take care chris

  63. I’ve had my microdermals for about two years now. They’ve been great.

    About once every three months they’ll get irritated for about 24 hours, but then they settle down.

    They were put in by someone I respect immensely, and only after talking with him about them after a few appointments for stretching my ears.

    He did a fantastic job, and would only place them in specific areas that the skin didn’t move too much around in. My original idea was denied by him, so we worked together to find a suitable solution, and it ended up so much better than the original ever would have been.

    Scott was the best piercer I’ve ever met – and probably will ever meet. It’s sad that I’m no longer in the same city as him, otherwise he’d still be getting frequent visits by me. He’s the best.

  64. I have had poor luck with Micro-dermals. I had one placed between my eyes in tough tissue. It healed great and had no problems with it for 4 months. It got lightly snagged 1 time on a shirt and started pushing itself out. Scarred a little heavy as well. I have it my Transdermals with long jewelry hard several times. I have been elbowed at high speed directly in the plate with no jewelry in it. They are hanging in there after all these years. If they did come out for some reason though. I would get them removed and have them put back in after full healing. I do not think they are for someone new to modding though.

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