An Expert's Guide To Clit Piercings: Procedure, Risks, & Photos

mbg Contributor By Suzannah Weiss
mbg Contributor
Suzannah Weiss is a certified sex educator and freelance writer focused on gender and sexuality. She has degrees in cognitive neuroscience, modern culture and media, and gender and sexuality studies from Brown University. Her work has been published in The New York Times, The Washington Post, New York Magazine, and elsewhere.
Medical review by Wendie Trubow, M.D., MBA
Functional Medicine Gynecologist
Wendie Trubow is a functional medicine gynecologist with almost 10 years of training in the field. She received her M.D. from Tufts University.
Image of a hand touching a fruit that looks like a vulva, showing clit piercing placement.

Image by Tatjana Zlatkovic / Stocksy

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Clit piercings may sound "out there," but they and other vagina piercings are more common than you might think. One survey found as many as 2% of women have genital piercings. People get this kind of piercing for a number of reasons, including to enhance appearance and sexual pleasure. But can clit piercings actually improve your sex life, and are they safe? Here's what you need to know if you're considering getting a clit piercing. 

Types of clit piercings and what they look like.

The term "clit piercing" is a bit of a misnomer. The clitoris is a mostly internal sex organ that serves as the seat of most vulva owners' sexual pleasure and orgasm. The only external part of the clitoris is the clitoral glans, the small nub at the top of the vulva. In the vast majority of cases, a "clit piercing" is actually on the clitoral hood, the skin partially covering the external clitoris.

VCH piercing (vertical hood piercing)

This is by far the most popular type of clit piercing, says Elayne Angel, professional body piercer and author of The Piercing Bible—The Definitive Guide to Safe Body Piercing. The jewelry it typically uses is a curved barbell, according to Brian Keith Thompson, professional piercer and proprietor of Body Electric Tattoo. The barbell stretches vertically over the clitoris under the hood, with the lower bead resting against the clitoral glans. Because the jewelry is mostly underneath the clitoral hood, it can sit comfortably between the legs without getting irritated, says Angel. It also has the potential to stimulate the clitoris during sex. 

However, 10 to 20% of vulva owners don't have clitoral hoods that are suitable for this kind of piercing, says Angel. "Some builds are too petite or shallow—there's simply not enough tissue to get jewelry far enough away from the edge of the hood for safety and stability," she says. "Others have too large or heavy a pubic mound, which would interfere with jewelry and could cause irritation or even embedding."

Illustration of a VCH piercing, aka vertical hood piercing.
VCH piercing.
Jenny Chang-Rodriguez

HCH piercing (horizontal clitoral hood piercing)

For this one, the jewelry—usually a hoop—stretches across the top of the clitoral hood horizontally, says Thompson. It's unlikely to enhance sexual pleasure unless your clitoral glans is somewhat exposed and the jewelry is properly sized and placed, says Angel, and even fewer vulva owners will be suited for it than the vertical hood piercing. "Some builds are concave or flat, but the hood must be convex," she explains. "It also needs to be relatively symmetrical, and many women are asymmetrical in this region. Also, some have veins in the way of appropriate placement."

Illustration of an HCH piercing, a type of hood piercing.
HCH piercing.
Jenny Chang-Rodriguez

Triangle piercing

A triangle piercing is at the bottom of the clitoral hood, so the jewelry rests below the clitoral shaft. Less than half of vulva owners will be suited for this one, says Angel, but those who sometimes report enhanced sexual pleasure, since the jewelry stimulates the clitoral shaft from behind. "I've had clients who have never had an orgasm in their lives experience them after getting this piercing," she says.

Illustration of a triangle piercing.
Triangle piercing.
Jenny Chang-Rodriguez

Clitoral glans piercing

This is the only clit piercing that involves piercing the clitoris itself; the piercing goes directly through the glans. According to Angel, it's one of the least common types of clit piercing because the glans is much more densely packed with nerve endings than the hood, and most clitorises are either too small or heavily hooded for this piercing.

Illustration of a clitoral glans piercing, a type of clit piercing.
Clitoral glans piercing
Jenny Chang-Rodriguez

The Princess Diana piercing

Sometimes called the Duke's piercing (usually among people with clits who don't identify as women), this piercing is similar to the VCH piercing, but instead of being in the middle of the clitoral hood, it's located on one or both sides of the hood. If the clitoral hood is full enough, the VCH piercing can also be done as a three-piece combo, with one in the middle and one on each side.

Illustration of a Princess Diana piercing, aka Dukes.
Princess Diana piercing.
Jenny Chang-Rodriguez
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How clit piercings affect sex and pleasure.

Most vulva owners need clitoral stimulation to orgasm, which is why only about a quarter consistently orgasm through intercourse. However, some people with vertical and horizontal clitoral hood piercings report that the movement of the jewelry during intercourse provides them with clitoral stimulation. The triangle piercing is more likely to produce pleasure through grinding motions. "I've had plenty of clients experience positive changes in their sexual responsiveness and ability to orgasm following hood piercings," says Angel. 

However, Thompson says that while some of his clients have reported increases in sexual pleasure, most don't. "It's more of an aesthetic thing," he says. 

Health concerns and risks. 

"A clitoral piercing that is improperly placed or placed too deeply can damage important nerve endings, interfering with sexual arousal and response and potentially causing chronic nerve damage, impingements, or pain," says Eden Fromberg, OB-GYN and medical director of Holistic Gynecology. Because there isn't yet widespread information about the nerves of the clitoris, even among doctors, procedures like these can be very error-prone.

For this reason, it's important to make sure any piercing you get is from a reputable place and compatible with your anatomy, says Angel. "Because of variations in genital anatomy and personal preferences for sexual stimulation, each piercee must be evaluated (and even counseled) by an expert on an individual basis before deciding on a genital piercing." Make sure your piercer is trained specifically in clit piercings. 

Every piercing runs the risk of infection, which can happen during the piercing itself if the proper precautions aren't taken or during the healing period, says Angel. Make sure your piercer is using sterile tools and jewelry and follows cross-contamination prevention protocols, and follow any aftercare guidelines you receive. There's also the possibility of a piercing tearing, migrating, or rejecting, but this doesn't usually happen if you have the right piercing type, placement, and jewelry size, says Angel. 

If you want to adorn your genitals without taking these risks, some companies, like SubSensuals, make clip-on genital jewelry that doesn't require any puncturing of skin.

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How bad does a clit piercing hurt? 

A piercing on the clitoral glans itself is going to hurt, but some of Angel's clients have compared clitoral hood piercings to ear, nose, and belly-button piercings. People's experiences can range from high amounts of pain to no pain, says Thompson, but regardless, it's usually over within a split second.

Clit piercing healing time.

The healing time for clit piercings varies depending on the type. These are the usual healing time periods, according to Angel: 

  • Clitoral glans piercings: four to six weeks
  • Vertical hood piercings: four to six weeks or longer
  • Horizontal hood piercings: four to eight weeks or longer
  • Triangle piercings: two to three months or longer

Bleeding, bruising, and swelling are normal during the first week or two. If these symptoms continue longer than that initial period, reach out to your piercer or trust medical professional.

While your piercing is healing, it's important to avoid swimming and baths; keep your fingers, which can be dirty, away from the piercing; and refrain from sharing bodily fluids (including saliva, semen, or vaginal), Angel adds. Thompson recommends waiting two weeks before having sex. 

Piercings can close up if the jewelry is removed, so Angel recommends leaving it in. If you want the piercing to close up, though, you can just take the jewelry out. Otherwise, you shouldn't remove it, or it'll close up pretty quickly. 

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How to clean a clit piercing. 

Angel recommends cleaning clitoral hood piercings with Briotech's topical skin spray three to five times a day while they're healing. You just spray the mist on and then leave it to air dry or pat it dry. Thompson suggests using Cetaphil to clean the area around the piercing. "You don't want to use astringents like alcohol peroxide," he says. "That can produce a yeast infection."

Clit piercing prices.

Piercings themselves cost around $50 to $150, and then the jewelry usually costs $50 or more, says Angel. Thompson usually charges around $250 for a piercing with basic titanium jewelry. 

Before getting any kind of clit piercing, Thompson urges going around to different studios, talking to piercers, and doing online research to make sure you're working with someone trustworthy. "Lots of piercers are doing genital piercings without any specific training, and they are hurting their clients," says Angel. "Consulting an expert is critical."

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The bottom line.

Getting a clit piercing can be a fun and edgy way to express yourself and potentially improve your sex life; just make sure you've taken the time to seriously consider the risks, extensively research the facility and piercer you're intending to use, and follow proper healing and cleaning protocols to reduce the chances of any adverse side effects. The clitoris is key to pleasure for those who have them, so it's worth taking your time to make sure you're making the right decisions.

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