Plastics are some of the most modern materials used within body piercing but as with all materials there are good and bad options. The main benefits of plastic jewellery are that they are cheap and as they are non-metallic they can go through MRI scanners and X-ray machines without causing issue for the client. The main downsides to plastic are that they can break down and release chemicals during prolonged wear in the body. There is also a double edged of flexibility for plastic jewellery. Flexibility can be good to remove pressure from a piercing channel but flexibility will also stress a piercing channel by moving too much.
PTFE is a plastic that most people have heard of as it is sold under the brand name Teflon. ASTM F754 covers the standards required for PTFE to be implanted in the body so this is the only grade suitable for piercing. Due to the soft nature of PTFE it isn’t an ideal material for jewellery as it is easily damaged or distorted. Damaged and distorted jewellery can lead to irritated piercings and a place for bacteria to harbor which can lead to infection. PTFE jewellery is recommended for short term wear only e.g. for medical procedures where all metal must be removed and then jewellery is replaced after the procedure.
Acrylic is commonly found in the form of low quality threaded ends and larger gauge lobe plugs. The vast majority of jewellery made from acrylic is low quality and unsafe for the body. Acrylic when warmed to body temperature can release carcinogenic gases which will irritate and potentially destroy a piercing channel. Acrylic also becomes brittle over time so jewellery tends to break easily. Dental acrylic is available but currently none of the body jewellery manufacturers use it so acrylic should be avoided.
BioPlast and BioFlex are both brand names for proprietary owned plastic grades. They companies that own the rights state they are bio compatible and implant safe but have yet to release the documentation to back these claims. For these reasons these plastics are not yet deemed safe for the body.
Much like PTFE, BioPlast and BioFlex both break down in the body for prolonged wear and can be very easily damaged. It has been commonly recommended to use BioPlast or BioFlex in oral piercings to minimse dental damage but the risk isn’t negated completely. There are cases of people getting oral damage from dental acrylic brace components so the only way to protect your teeth is to be careful. Anything rubbing on teeth will eventually cause damage. A well positioned and correctly sized piercing is the best defence against dental damage with oral piercings.
Even when plastics that meet ISO or ASTM standards are used for body jewellery the surface finish is rarely safe for the body and almost all plastic jewellery is externally threaded. Plastics are considered to be super low quality and worn only as a last resort.
At Rogue we don’t stock plastic jewellery. We recommend using high quality metallic jewellery for everyday wear and to use glass retainers for medical procedures. We can order plastics if required but we don’t recommend them.
Next week we will finish the materials section about quality by covering organics.