There are several methods of branding, including:
“Laser” electrosurgical branding
Violet wand microbranding
Branding began as a way to mark ownership on property, be it cattle, pig or human. Human slaves were commonly branded, some obtaining rows of brands as they were bought and sold. Branding was also used as a punishment, to mark fugitives and criminals in a way where anyone who saw them would know their crimes. Often these brands were on arms, legs, or even the face so as not to be hidden.
In the context of BDSM, branding can be used to mark ownership in Master/ Slave relationships, or as part of scarification play. Strike branding is the more traditional form, by placing a single shape of heated metal on the skin. Using cautery tools is a newer way to make a more detailed design, similar to Credit: Mountain-Top – Source – CC License
There are ways to create temporary brands as well. Microbranding, or “Cell Popping”, is a way to make intricate brands, usually by using the heated tip of a needle. ‘Freeze’ branding or cold branding is also a method of marring the skin, where the branding iron is cooled using liquid nitrogen or dry ice before being applied to the skin. The scars from cold branding tend to develop keloids less and are more visually subtle.
The psychological desires around receiving branding are considered the same as any form of body modification. To some, it’s a way to mark a meaningful event, and to others it may be an aesthetic reason. Some cultures may involve branding as part of their social rituals. And of course, some people just find the act or placing or receiving a brand to be sexually arousing.
The possible health risks of branding are the same as with any burn one might get. The pain of the branding could cause shock in the subject, and a risk of infection is always present when damaging the skin. Proper aftercare should ensure the subject heals while still retaining the brand’s details.
At the time of writing, over 16,000 kinksters are into Branding on Fetlife.