Piercing Safety: Do You Know the Risks?

Piercings – for some, they are a rite of passage. For others, they are a bold form of self-expression.

Whether you are getting your ears pierced for the first time or you are a recurring client looking for something edgier, it is vital to find reputable piercers who make your safety a priority.

In most cases, piercings are safe and should not be excruciatingly painful. (We can’t lie. Some discomfort is inevitable when you are breaking skin). However, there are risks that you should be aware of when considering a new piercing.

Infections are the most common complication with any piercing, especially on body parts more prone to bacteria, such as the nose and mouth. In rare cases, serious diseases such as hepatitis or HIV can be transferred from unsterile equipment and jewelry. In addition, poorly performed piercings can damage the pierced area.

Although some pain, redness, and swelling is associated with piercings as part of the healing process, bad piercings can cause pain, itching, swelling, and redness that is more severe than what is considered normal. In any of these cases, it is important to contact a medical professional.

To avoid all of these complications so that you can have a safe and beautiful piercing, your piercing studio should be as clean and orderly as a doctor’s office. You would stay away from a doctor who ignores safety regulations that protect patients from getting sick and you should choose a piercing studio that operates with the same high standards.

Here are a few tips to make sure your piercer is keeping you safe:

  1. Choose a qualified piercer.
    Qualified piercers should be able to display their knowledge, competency, and experience. A good piercer will give you a full consultation that explains the process, the potential risks, healing and aftercare steps. You can find piercers near you that adhere to the rules and guidelines of the Association of Professional Piercers here.
  2. Take note of the overall cleanliness of the studio.
    From the moment you walk in the door, the piercing studio, equipment, and jewelry should appear clean. Equipment and jewelry for sale should be handled with care by professionals only, not customers. You can ask to watch your piercer prep for your piercing: sterilizing your equipment, washing their hands, putting on fresh gloves, and avoiding contact with anything that has not been sterilized once the gloves are on.
  3. Is everything separate?
    To avoid cross-contamination, a piercing studio should have separate stations for waiting, sterilizing, piercing, and retail. It may seem like common sense, but never trust a piercer that uses the public bathroom as a place to clean and sterilize equipment. There should be a separate station for sterilizing equipment and jewelry that is not open for public use, a clean room for piercing clients, and a retail area where customers can purchase jewelry.
  4. One client, one needle rule.
    A piercer should never use the same needle on more than one client, even if it was cleaned and sterilized between uses. Each needle should be discarded into a clearly marked bin, often marked “Biohazard,” similar to those in a doctor’s office. In addition, piercing guns are often difficult to sterilize. In general, they are not the recommended method for piercing.
  5. Keep up with policies.
    Your piercer should be up-to-date with current policies and best practices in the industry, especially in regards to safety inspections, following age minimums and parent consent forms, and aftercare methods. Your piercer must always request photo ID and a parent consent form for minors and their guardians. Studio employees should not recommend the purchase of any harsh cleaners, alcohols, or other harmful products that could irritate your new piercing. This is likely a way for the studio to make money from unnecessary products.
  6. Go with your gut.
    If the piercer or studio does not seem 100 percent right to you, don’t risk it.

Ear, face, and body jewelry should be a fun, beautiful, and safe form of self-expression. No one should have to worry about suffering through unsafe or painful conditions for a piercing. Clients and parents of young clients should take note of these red flags when considering a new piercing, so that they can avoid complications and enjoy their beautiful new jewelry.

Photo credit: MandoBarista

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