Having worked in the body mod industry for over a decade, this is my advice.
FAQ vs. Do Not Do
In another article, I answered the most common questions we would get asked about piercings. This one is a little different; these are still things you should know before you get a piercing, but, more specifically, these are things you absolutely should not do if you want a happy piercing.
1. Do Not Do It Yourself!
I beg you, I implore you, I will get on my knees and grovel for you to not do it yourself or get a friend to do it. I ask you this as someone who pierced my nose with a safety pin and as someone who has seen the nightmare of self-piercing many, many times at work. About once a week, we would have to fix, take out or sometimes cut out a self-done piercing. So, I assure you, I know what I'm talking about, here!
There are countless reasons not to pierce yourself, but here are the big ones:
- You will not be in a sterile environment. And no, wiping things down with alcohol doesn't count. Piercing shops use chemicals that kill 99% of all diseases in 1 minute. Alcohol is merely a disinfectant, meaning it does not kill all pathogens. Sterility is absolutely vital when getting a piercing, as it greatly minimizes the chances of getting an infection, or even a disease!
- Trained professionals know how deep to pierce, where to place it, how much it will swell, and all sorts of other things that you cannot be sure of. All of these things are very important in getting a safe and nice-looking piercing.
- Your tools won't be clean. You do not have the equipment to sterilize the needle, the jewelry or the clamps that will be used. Again, alcohol isn't good enough!
2. Do Not Go to the Mall
Often, people would come in and ask how much it cost for ear piercing. $50. But, you can get it done at the mall for $20! Easy decision, right? Wrong.
Piercings done at the mall are done by a non-professional (some take a training seminar that lasts from 2 days to 2 weeks, and some just watch a video! Piercers apprentice for months.) with a piercing gun. What's wrong with the gun? Well, everything.
- Piercing guns cannot be sterilized. The sterilization process involves extreme heat, and piercing guns are plastic. They would melt if they were put in an autoclave. Sterile equipment is extremely important. Think about it -- the person who got pierced before you may have had an infection or contagious disease, and now you are about to get a piece of jewelry that has been in that same gun, shot through your body.
- Piercing guns cause more trauma to your ears. There is no sharp end on them -- they are literally shooting the jewelry into your ear. This means no clean incision has been made, making your risk of slow healing, pain and bad scarring much higher.
Non-professional piercers do not know the risks associated with piercing, nor do they take the proper steps before piercing you to ensure everything is clean. They can't, the layout of a mall shop doesn't allow for sterilization.
Malls also do not offer appropriate aftercare. While shops differ on what they offer, the one thing all professionals agree on is to not use alcohols, which is exactly what most mall shops will give you. They may also give you antiseptic wash. Both will dry out your skin terribly and prolong the healing period.
3. Do Not Play With It
Once you've been pierced, you may be tempted to play with it. It's new, after all, and you're excited about it! There are even people who still believe that you should turn your new piercing while it's healing. Don't!
Besides keeping it clean, the best aftercare is to do nothing. Don't touch it, don't play with it, don't turn it. The less you mess with it, the faster it will heal and the happier it will be. Every time you move it, you are making that wound fresh again. Leave it alone, and it will heal all by itself.
4. Do Not Change It Too Soon
Because starter jewelry can be plain to look at, people are often tempted to change it right away. What they forget is that there are good reasons we use that jewelry in a fresh piercing. Jewelry that is colored or has jewels can't be properly sterilized, and you want sterile jewelry in a piercing that isn't yet healed. Jewels can also be bacteria traps—when you're healing, lymph will come out (that's the crusty stuff around your piercing), and if you're wearing a jewel, it will stick to it, making it far harder to keep clean. Starter jewelry is plain for a reason: it's sterile and easy to keep clean. Make sure to leave it in for a minimum of 3 weeks; even longer is better.
5. Do Not Listen to Your Friends
I know, I know. They're your friends, and some of them have probably been pierced many times. They sound like they know what they're talking about, and they very well might! The problem is, everyone is different, so what happens to one person may not happen to another. If you have any questions or concerns about your piercing, go talk to the piercer who did it. They are trained to recognize problems and can often take care of any issues it may be having. They can also help you change your jewelry, assist you with aftercare and sterilize your own jewelry.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2011 Robyn J Williams
Cecil Wilde from Melbourne, Australia on June 17, 2013:
I had my first ear piercing done at a chemist. The first earring went in, no problem, but the second one fell out when they took the gun away. At 12 years old I thought I was going to be lopsided for life! Thankfully another place nearby had an actual piercer who gave us some excellent advice. Hooray for professionals!
sparkywriter13 on July 07, 2012:
I now understand why the 2 times I've gotten my ears pierced at the mall before got infected. I did everything they told me to. Wow, if only I had found this sooner.
I'm glad that this time I got them done by a professional piercer. I have had them for over a year & things are so much better this time around. They haven't gotten infected once since I got them done professionally. I followed the instructions the piercer gave me & I'm definitely going back there to get all my piercings done from now on. It might be a bit more expensive, but better to pay extra for the professional piercing than to get an infenction & everything that comes w/ that.
Liz Elias from Oakley, CA on September 05, 2011:
Good information. My daughters begged for pierced ears, and I would not allow it until they were teens, and more able to understand the consequences of their decision. Unfortunately, we went the mall route, as we, like probably the majority, didn't know any better. I'd had mine done at a mall as well, years before.
When I was in grade school, all the girls from Italian families had their ears pierced by the time they were in 5th grade..usually at home, by a family member, using a needle, and backing up the ear with half a potato!!!! They had a looped circle of red thread in their ears for the requisite 6-week healing period! Yikes! That put me off enough that I didn't get my first piercing until I was in my 40's!!
Great info, and voted up!
Robyn J Williams (author) from Canada on August 30, 2011:
I hear ya! That was the standard for MANY years -- my first piercing experience was the same. Gun, disinfectant, turn 'em everyday. I was horrified when I started working in a proper shop and realized that literally everything those mall shops do is wrong. I'm not sure how they even get away with it anymore, but the body mod industry is still largely self-regulated in a lot of places, so there's no one to tell them they can't.
Sammy from Australia on August 30, 2011:
:/ When I was 5 I got my ears pierced as a birthday present, mum took me to the local chemist and bam! piercing gun and pretty pink earrings, a bottle of disinfectant and "don't forget to turn them everyday".
f on August 30, 2011: