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Why You Should Never Use Butterfly Backs

butterfly back bad

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It may be surprising to learn that butterfly backs are unhealthy for piercings. While they are not common for body jewelry, it can be difficult to find any lobe earrings that are made without butterfly backs. So how dangerous are they?

What are Butterfly Backs?

Butterfly backs (or friction backs) are the typical end you find on an earring that keep it from falling back out. They get their name from the two curled “wings” that hold the post in place with pressure or friction. Butterfly backs are commonly used on regular earrings that are a 22 or 20 gauge, so they may be too small to fit a safer flat back labret.

Why are Butterfly Backs Bad?

Butterfly backs are bad for piercings in a number of ways.

The Design of Butterfly Backs Trap Bacteria

Even if you remove your butterfly backs and regularly soak them in alcohol (and let’s be honest – who does that frequently?), the design of the “wings” and how they are held together, houses bacteria. It doesn’t need explaining that any bacteria that lives near your piercing can cause an infection – especially in a healing piercing.

Butterfly Backs are Made of Mystery Metals

When you buy a new earring and it says what it is made of – its referring to the post. Butterfly backs are made of a blend of various metals that are not safe to hold against your skin. Even worse, these metals can flake off and could get into your piercing, causing infection or irritation bumps. To read more about body safe metals, check out our other article here.

Butterfly Backs Don’t Allow for Swelling

While not an issue for healed piercings, if you are wearing a butterfly back in a healing piercing, this can be a big problem. Butterfly backs hold on to a post at a certain location and if swelling occurs, they need to be pulled rather roughly to lengthen the size of the post available. In the same vein, there is no way to downsize the posts made with butterfly backs as they are always the same size.

Butterfly Backs Get More Loose Overtime and Can Fall Off

This issue occurs more often with body piercings than lobe piercings. Because butterfly backs rely on friction to hold onto the stud, they become more loose overtime. This could cause heavy jewelry to fall right out, defeating the purpose of the back to begin with.

Can You Use Butterfly Backs in Lobe Piercings?

Unfortunately if you made the mistake of getting your lobe piercings done with a gun, there are not a lot of options for earrings. If you always use typical earrings, you are likely a gauge 22 or 20. If you visit a piercer, you can easily gauge up to an 18 or 16 and begin to wear flat back labrets or rings.

While this is the best solution, if your lobe piercings are already fully healed and you have never had issues with butterfly backs in the past, it is likely safe for you to continue using them, while keeping in mind that any new piercings should not use them.

What Type of Backs Should You Use Instead?

As previously mentioned, a flat back labret is the best jewelry that can be fit into lobe/cartilage piercings. Captive bead rings, segment rings, and hinge rings are also completely safe. If you like having the option of changing your back, you can also get a straight barbell, which allows you to change both ends and, unlike butterfly backs, can provide you some customization options for the back of your piercing as well.


It can be surprising for most to discover that butterfly backs are unsafe because of how widely available they are. Unfortunately butterfly backs have multiple different ways they can cause infections and irritation bumps. If you have been having an issue healing a piercing that has a butterfly back, you should have the jewelry switched to a flat back labret or another safe piece of jewelry.