Body modification (or body alteration) is the deliberate altering of the human anatomy or human physical appearance. It is often done for aesthetics, sexual enhancement, rites of passage, religious beliefs, to display group membership or affiliation, to create body art, for shock value, and as self-expression, among other reasons. In its broadest definition it includes plastic surgery, socially acceptable decoration (e.g., common ear piercing in many societies), and religious rites of passage (e.g., circumcision in a number of cultures), as well as the modern primitive movement.
Branding - controlled burning or cauterizing of tissue to encourage intentional scarring
Ear shaping (which includes ear cropping, ear pointing or "elfing")
Scarification - cutting or removal of dermis with the intent to encourage intentional scarring or keloiding
Tooth filing - generally used to have the appearance of some sort of animal.
Yaeba - the deliberate misaligning or capping of teeth to give a crooked appearance. Popular in Japan.
Piercings of the lip and tongue
Nipple, navel and genital piercing
The piercing needle
The dermal punch
The piercing gun
Needle receiving tubes
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Risks associated with body piercing
Body piercing is an invasive procedure with risks. In a 2005 survey of 10,503 persons over the age of 16 in England, complications were reported in 31% of piercings, with professional help being necessary in 15.2%. 0.9% had complications serious enough to require hospitalization.
The healing process and body piercing aftercare
The aftercare process for body piercing has evolved gradually through practice, and many myths and harmful recommendations persist. A reputable piercing studio should provide clients with written and verbal aftercare instructions, as is in some areas mandated by law.
The healing process of piercings is broken down into three stages:
The inflammatory phase, during which the wound is open and bleeding, inflammation and tenderness are all to be expected;
The growth or proliferative phase, during which the body produces cells and protein to heal the puncture and the edges contract around the piercing, forming a tunnel of scar tissue called a fistula. This phase may last weeks, months, or longer than a year.
The maturation or remodeling phase, as the cells lining the piercing strengthen and stabilize. This stage takes months or years to complete.
Many use body modification and self-mutilation interchangeably. In many ways self-mutilation is very different than body-modification. Body modification gives one the feeling of pride and excitement, giving one something to show off to others. Alternately, those who self-mutilate typically are ashamed of what they've done and want to hide any evidence of harm. Body modification is explored for adornment, self expression, and an array of many other positive reasons, while self-mutilation is inflicted because of mental or emotional stress and the inability to cope with psychological pain. Those who self-mutilate do so in order to punish themselves, express internal turmoil, and reduce severe anxiety.
Body art is art made on, with, or consisting of, the human body. The most common forms of body art are tattoos and body piercings. Other types include scarification, branding, subdermal implants, scalpelling, shaping (for example tight-lacing of corsets), full body tattoo and body painting.
Body art is also a sub-category of performance art, in which artists use or abuse their own body to make their particular statements. More extreme body art can involve mutilation or pushing the body to its physical limits.
In more recent times, the body has become a subject of much broader discussion and treatment than can be reduced to body art in its common understanding. Important strategies that question the human body are: implants, body in symbiosis with the new technologies, virtual bodies, among others.
Burning Man festival is held annually in the Black Rock Desert of northwest Nevada (USA), September. Jake Lloyd Jones, a Sydney based artist, conceived the Sydney Body Art Ride, which has become an annual event. Participants are painted to form a living rainbow that rides to the Pacific Ocean and immerses itself in the waves.