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Piercing Needles VS Piercing Gun - Which is Safer?

Updated on November 13, 2009
Whitney05 profile image

Whitney is an expert on piercings and tattoos with experience in the body modification world.

Joined: 9 years agoFollowers: 3,491Articles: 1,072

Getting a New Piercing

Piercings are very common among people of all ages. Parents get their babies and young children's ears pierced, and you'll find adults getting their first piercing. When it comes to your body, you want to make sure that you choose the safest method that involves less potential risk.

There is risk with any new piercing because you are putting something foreign into the body, but with proper aftercare and initial piercing techniques, you can heal a new piercing with minimal complications. (Note: not all people can successfully heal a piercing even if the piercing techniques are perfect and aftercare methods were solid.)

* Quick Aftercare Tips: Proper aftercare is simple. Don't play with the piercing. Don't mess with the jewelry. Use saline solution or a very diluted sea salt solution (1 teaspoon sea salt per 6 ounces of water). Do not pick off any lymph or crusties; they will come off during cleaning. Clean the piercing twice a day for the first few weeks, and then once a day until fully healed with a soaked cotton swab and use a Q-tip dipped in either solution to wipe away any lymph.

When it comes to the method used for the piercing, the body, it's just as important as the aftercare techniques that follow. Below, you'll find the pros and cons to piercing guns and piercing needles. Read it. Study it. Make the decision that you think is best for your and/or your child.

Remember that you are talking about your body, and when it comes to your body, you don't want to make any bad decisions.

Piercing Guns


  • It's convenient to get your ears pierced while at the mall shopping.
  • It's sometimes cheaper to get a piercing at the mall or at a booth versus a qualified piercer.


  • Piercing guns cannot be properly sterilized. They come into contact with bodily fluid and a simple swipe of an alcohol swab in-between uses is not enough to sterilize the instrument. Some claim that the instrument never comes into contact with the skin, but the piercer's hands do, and they're touching the potentially contaminated gun and are further contaminating it with your blood. When the blunt stud is forced through your skin, there's no way knowing whether or not particles of blood have been dispersed into the air. A wipe of an alcohol or antiseptic pad is not going to remove all disease-carrying blood particles.
  • Mall employees and booth workers generally undergo a whopping two week course on how to use a piercing gun. That's not a lot of time to teach proper techniques about infection control or healing techniques.
  • There can be major tissue trauma when a piercing is performed with a gun. The piercing guns hold blunt studs, and when these studs are forced through the tissues, it literally rips the tissue in order to make room for the jewelry.

  • The gun pinches the back of the jewelry into place snug, which doesn't allow any room for the piercing to breath and heal properly. Because the butterfly backing is going to be put on way too tight, you will experience increased swelling as the piercing tries to breath; plus, it will swell naturally with the piercing and trauma, but will swell worse if it doesn't have room to swell.
  • The piercing guns use blunt studs that have butterfly backs. These can easily harbor bacteria and gunk, which can infect a new piercing. The studs are usually made of a low-grade material which cause allergic reaction, scarring, and infection.
  • Mall employees do not know of the securities of using piercing guns on soft tissues like ear lobes, which is why they also typically offer cartilage piercings and noes piercings with the same instruments. Cartilage can easily shatter with the pressure and force of a piercing gun.
  • Piercing guns are loud, which can scare younger children more than anything. If the child jumps, the stud can easily get stuck half-way through the tissue, which means it must be removed. The gun will have to be recocked and the stud shot back through the tissue, causing more tenderness, bleeding, and risk of complications.
  • The piercing gun is inaccurate, so if the employee doesn't have it just right, the stud can go through at an awkward angle or in at a bad placement, which may cause your body to reject the jewelry.

Most stores in the mall and booths that are certified for piercings, will tell you that when you get your new piercing, you need to turn it a couple of times a day. This may sound like it makes sense, but it reality, all that does is irritates the new piercing and pushes any bacteria into the wound, which will cause infection.

There are many people who never experience any problems when getting piercings with piercing guns at the mall, but do you really want to take that chance?

Piercing Needles


  • Piercing equipment can be properly sterilized in an autoclave that uses high pressured steam to thoroughly sterilize anything that may come into contact with a customer. If something can't be put in the autoclave, they throw it away. Used needles are properly discarded, whereas jewelry and hemostats can be put in the autoclave.
  • The needles are one use only, so you don't have risk of someone else's bodily fluids on your needle.
  • Professional body piercers have training that lasts much longer than a two week course that studies proper piercing techniques, infection control, and healing practices. They will also learn how the body reacts to new piercings and how to avoid hitting nerves (which will reduce the pain the customer feels when getting a new piercing). They also learn proper sterilization technique.
  • There is less pain when piercing needles are used. The needle is hollow and extremely sharp so that it slices through the skin, which pushes the tissues aside to make room for the jewelry. Even though it sounds rough, it's a really quick process.
  • The jewelry is design to allow dirt and bacteria to be easily removed. Generally Captive Bead Rings (CBRs) and barbells are used for new piercings; both allow the jewelry to move so that the bacteria doesn't just sit on the new piercing. Plus, their made of metals that are proven to help reduce reaction. Most piercing jewelry is made of a high grade stainless steel or titanium, which gives the the best chance at not developing a reaction or infection during healing.


  • Can be an inconvenience to go out of your way to find a reputable tattoo shop that offers piercings.
  • Can be more expensive than going to the mall. Plus you have to add a tip into the price that the piercer is going to charge for the piercing.

Piercing Babies and Children

You'll find that children do not have as much of a reaction with having their ears pierced with needles than they do when they have them pierced with the gun. The needle is quick and pretty painless without a loud noise to startle them to jump.

Because the mall isn't going to be licensed to use piercing needles, you want to go to the nearest tattoo studio that will pierce a minor. Just call around first because not all states will allow minors to be pierced even with parent permission. If you live in one of these states, you can contact your doctor, as he may be able to perform the piercing (yes, some doctors will perform ear piercings on babies, young children, and even adults).

If your doctor won't do it, and if he can't recommend someone, you'll have to drive to an area where piercing minors with parent consent is legal or just wait until the child is of age.

If you live in a state that won't pierce minors with parent consent, you can still go to the mall if you feel like you don't have any other options, but then you still have to risk all the above issues with piercing guns.

Would you rather have a piercing with a gun or needle?

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    • allison 17 months ago

      I work at icing, one of the stores that peirces with a gun, a store generally located in the mall. I would like to point out that we stopped using the butterfly backs because of the swelling, and now use backs that allow for swelling. Also, no blood, or any bodily fluids come in contact with the gun, and when piercing correctly, one hand is on the gun, the other on the ear. I clean the gun with only one hand so that my hand on the ear has no contact with the gun. Also, our studs are not blunt. They are very sharp, and resemble needles, so That there is no blunt force trauma. Cartilage pierced even with a needle can shatter the bone also. To end my comment, I would also like to point out that we are trained, and I have personally been able to learn better hands on and through experience through others and myself. For instance, if you are worried about the gun missing the mark, don't be. We stick the earring out a little bit, and touch the dot with the earring to make sure that we are accurately hitting the dot. Also, the angle is very important when piercing, which is why we twist our wrist, not our hands or the gun. How you pierce your ears, or your children's ears is your choice, and I fully respect piercings with needles, but I also think that while making this choice, you should have all of the updated information about how gun piercing are now, and not how they were 15 years ago.

    • Beckettbroo 2 years ago

      i had my firsts done years ago with a gun, they took a very long time to heal, and then I had my seconds done like 5 years later with a needle, nowhere near as many problems, and then last year I had them all out too long and they all closed up. I never made the connection that it was the gun that gave me issues but I'd say it's pretty clear that it is since I had them redone with a gun (firsts in January, seconds in August and its December now) and they will not heal they get sore and still seep pus, it's disgusting. I will never get a piercing with a gun again.

    • leah 2 years ago

      I've had 7 ear piercings with a gun and my nose no problems at all also got my son's ear done with a gun at 2 yrs the earing use was not an old fashioned pricing stud it was stainless steel and much tinner, he didn't even flinch nor was the gun LOUD in anyway!! Yet me sis got her nose done with a needle and got a bad infection!! Plus some tattoo shops use disposable guns to pirece ears and noses so what dose that tell you to be far and methods of pricing can get infected or go wrong depends on who did it and to person having it done everybody reacts different and some people are no as good at keeping new piercings clean

    • toxiz77 profile image

      toxiz77 2 years ago

      Only sterile or sterile/disposal instruments are suited for conducting the operation of piercing; all the jewelry for piercing should also be made of safe materials, suited for implantations and constant contact with skin. Professionals consider it absolutely inadmissible to use unsterile tools and jewels, which contain inert metals, inappropriate for wearing long-term. That is why the Professional Piercers’ Association of the U.S. and Europe are categorically against the application of reusable piercing guns, which are not liable to sterilization for all types of piercings!

    • Robikan profile image

      Robyn J Williams 3 years ago from Canada

      It's not biased at all. Do you really think a mall store with untrained employees and non-sterile equipment is a great idea when it comes to putting holes in your body?

    • PebblesSmudge 3 years ago

      I've have mine done with a gun and it hasn't become infected or anything. When I took it out, it was fine. The lady who did it was a professional as I didn't have it done in somewhere like Claire's. This is a really biased article.

    • Kirstyn 3 years ago

      Piercing guns are horrifying torture instruments. Ive had four piercings (two ears, two in my nose) all with needles and never had any problem with them, except for my first nose piercing which got infected because I had a really bad allergic reaction to the nickel in the surgical steel of the jewelry--but that's a story for another day.

      the point is, think about it this way: needles have been used for piercings for thousands of years on millions of people with few problems

    • suomynona 5 years ago

      Well, I've had my ears pierced twice on each ear with a gun, and they took years to heal completely. I had problem after problem, infection after infection... And I can remember the pain not being too bad when I got them done, but afterwards it burned a long time. Today I had them pierced the third time on each ear with a needle. What a difference! It hurt me more during getting it pierced, but the pain went away very fast and looking at it, you'd never guess I had them pierced today. No redness, just a beautifully pierced lobe. I would happily pay more and hurt a bit more in the name of safety.. and sanity, for that matter.

    • fishlover 5 years ago

      i did mine with a gun just yesterday! what should i do?

    • Whitney05 profile image

      Whitney 5 years ago from Georgia

      Surprisingly, yes. I actually spoke with a coworker this morning, who was wanting to take her baby to the mall to get her ears pierced.

    • Nicole 5 years ago

      This article made me laugh. Do people still get their ears pierced at a mall anymore?

    • katmart 5 years ago

      When I was twelve I got my ears pierced with the gun, I had no problems. I had my kids ears done about 6 months ago with the needle at a licensed shop, and all kids have had problems. I think the ear doesn't heal as quickly when done by needle. Only one of my kids has succesfully had the earrings with out a problem. All others had problems with the back of the earrings. I also had the cartilage done with the needle, I would say the pain is the same but I had to take it out because it was not healing properly. I think the gun isn't safe these days, but it sure is easier to heal from.

    • Li 5 years ago

      I think a point that a lot of the authors are missing on here (at least for ear-piercing) is that many places use disposable guns now, as opposed to the old style that took a re-loadable cartridge. I've had my ears pierced 6 times and my nose pierced with a gun, and never had a problem with them. The only piercing I ever had an issue with was my navel, which was done with a needle at my local tattoo/piercing shop, which got severely infected because the idiot who pierced it used the wrong size barbell.

    • Robikan profile image

      Robyn J Williams 5 years ago from Canada

      Thank you so much for putting GOOD information up! There is so much misinformation about piercings and piercing tools, I am always thankful to see the good stuff!

    • Cam 5 years ago

      I think either one is good but this post tries to make the guns look really bad. I would prefer the needle but the guns still isn't that bad, isn't loud at all, and there were no good pros for it and the needle got a shit ton of pros and little cons. Everyones body is different so I would say they are both just as good, just it depends on the person on which method they would enjoy more

    • Katie Morrow 5 years ago

      I have only ever had mine done with a gun. I got my first hole, second hole and my auricle done, and I have never had a single problem. I have never had an infection or much pain at all. My best friend has had her two holds, upper cartilage, and auricle done and she has never had a problem either. It hurts some of course but neither us have had an infection or major issues with a gun.

    • Zoie 5 years ago

      I have to peircings in each lobe both done with a gun and it hurt SUPER bad. And this weekend Im going to get my helix done (why I read this) and my dad convinced me that I REALLY need to get it done at a super sanitary tatto parlor with a needle. I did not agree with him till know. So thanks so much. Is the needle more or less painful then the gun???

    • Me 5 years ago

      I've gotten both done, and it's funny because the set I got done with the needle have given me more problems than the other two with the gun. I'm so pissed because even though I left the piercing in for more than the recommended time before changing, and I tend to keep something in there at almost all times, one ears done with the needle still closed up. And it didn't get infected or anything, the swelling just never went away and after a week of having them out, a year later, it closed up.

    • jessica 5 years ago

      i turned 14 a couple of months ago and i have my nape pierced with a clamp and a needle i don't think you could get any surface piercings with a gun can you ?!

    • Jess 6 years ago

      im 12 and Ive had my lobes done with a gun about 5 times and now ive had them done for about 2 year and they're fine. Im planning on getting my tragus pierced tomorrow with a needle. IM SCARED !

    • Carol 6 years ago

      My daughter had hers done yesterday, and we went for the needle style of piercing. She's only 13 and it was weird taking her into a tattoo parlor. The guy there explained it all pretty much exactly the way they did here. She said it hurt, but I had mine done with the gun and that doesn't feel real good either. She has tiny ear lobes, and I was afraid they'd be uneven with a gun.

      My mom had hers done a second set of holes with a gun, and the woman said "oops" when she did the second one. After many infections and doctor visits, she gave up and let all four holes grow shut. What a shame, too, because she had some beautiful earrings...

      If I was every going to have any done again, I'd go for the needle. My first two were uneven, and the lady said it was because they can't be that precise with the gun covering most of your lobe.

    • Sarah 6 years ago

      Thanks! I think I will get it again with the needle.... I'll just suck up my fear because I'd rather put safety over fears haha! Thanks so much! :D

    • Whitney05 profile image

      Whitney 6 years ago from Georgia

      The needle will help reduce complications. The guns are terrible to get any piercing with. You also don't want to change jewelry until the piercing is healed.

    • Sarah 6 years ago

      Hey me again! Can someone please help me decide how to get my ears pierced next summer? Pweeeeeeese? THANKS!

    • Sarah 6 years ago

      I had my ears pierced about six weeks ago and I got it done with a gun. It was totally fine because I held still and just closed my eyes. I'm also afraid of needles so I decided to just go to Claire's. I changed them out yesterday but them this morning when I tried to put them back in, (I had taken them out because they were large and would snag on the pillow, irritating them even more) the hold was already healing! It was extremely painful to try to get them in, and my left ear was almost COMPLETELY healed! I cried so much today and so now I'm just letting them heal back up and getting them pierced again next summer..... :( Oh well. I guess I might try the needle thing at a professional this time but I still can't decide! Can someone help or puruade me to get over my fear of needles! Haha thanks!

    • Emily 6 years ago

      This was useful, i got my ears pierced two other times, the first time my left earring came out, the second time they got infected, grew into my ear and i had to get them surgically removed. I am planning on getting them pierced again and plan on using a needle from a professional. Never knew how unsanitary the piercers are, luckily they have needles.

    • dieseldodge09 profile image

      dieseldodge09 7 years ago from Texas

      I think a lot of people in the malls or where ever should not even be piercing. You never know if they clean the gun or if they are sanitary in there process. I remember when I was younger me and my friend went and bought to studs at a shop in the mall, and the clerk used the same gun on both of us without gloves and no in between cleaning. Theres a lot of people out there that don't care but what they are doing is giving a chance of cross contamination, which is not safe. I think the person assigned to piercing at these little shops should be certified in blood born pathogen and cross contamination course.

    • Whitney05 profile image

      Whitney 7 years ago from Georgia

      It is your decision, but each person heals differently. Because they're not healed, you shouldn't have removed the studs. Usually, that antiseptic isn't the best. Use saline when healing peircings.

    • Elvia 7 years ago

      Well the problem is that i figured they should have healed by now, im a very clean person, i was my hands before touching the earring, i don't play with the earrings and I have only cleaned them with the antiseptic that was given to me when i got my ears pierced, my earlobe never bled until yesterday when i took out the studs to pour some antiseptic through the hole with a cotton ball i did the same with the left ear and nothing went wrong i think my right earlobe must be retarded :( but im tired of having to take pills for the swelling to go down

    • Whitney05 profile image

      Whitney 7 years ago from Georgia

      I wouldn't pull out the studs if you can heal them. It just may take longer. What problems are you having healing your ears? How are you cleaning?

    • Elvia 7 years ago

      OMG i had no clue about the gun! I wish I would have never pierced my ears! the pain is excruciating and I can't believe i did that to myself!It's been long past the time they said my ears should have healed and they're still not good to go! I think after 8 weeks of having them pierced im going to give up and pull them out :( I don't recommend anyone to use the gun!

    • Hello, hello, profile image

      Hello, hello, 7 years ago from London, UK

      Thank you for writing it and it was interesting to read all about it. I don't think I would do one or the other.

    • Whitney05 profile image

      Whitney 7 years ago from Georgia

      Anticipation is one thing, but trauma and safety another.

    • lynnechandler 7 years ago

      I've actually had both done and there isn't as much anticipation when you get the gun instead of the needle.

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