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Getting Pierced Frequently Asked Questions

1 - Where do I go to get pierced?

It is best to go to a shop that specializes in piercing and does not use piercing guns. 

2 - My friends told me that it's safe to get my ears done with a gun. They all got theirs done with a gun, so why would I have to go to a shop that doesn't use guns?

Piercing gun "technology" is derived from veterinary procedures used to tag the ears of cattle. In a setting where livestock is processed, guns may be the fastest method to tag animals, but they are not the safest for humans. Here is why:

  • They cannot be sterilized. Wiping down a gun with alcohol does not equal sterilization. Gun parts are made of plastic, which cannot be autoclaved, which is the best way to kill HIV and Hepatitis.
  • Guns do not make a clear entry hole. When you are pierced with a needle, the needle is razor sharp and beveled specially to aid insertion. You injure fewer cells with a needle, making it easier for your body to heal. A gun forces a relatively blunt object (a "piercing stud") through your flesh, basically ripping it through your lobe by force.
  • Because the piercing studs used in guns tear through your lobe, there are more bodily fluids displaced by the force of the impact. These fluids will fly off and land on the closest object, which is the piercing gun. Which is then not sterilized in between customers.
  • Piercing studs that are used in guns are usually of a cheap grade metal that contains nickel. Many people have allergic reactions to nickel, making their ears red, raw and puffy. It may not occur to them that they are having a reaction to the jewelry. In addition, these studs have tight fitting "butterfly backs" which have twists and bends which are hard to clean, therefore trapping bacteria perilously close to an open wound.
  • In addition, most guns are labeled for lobe use only. Even thought they are labeled as such, they are too often used on upper ear cartilage. When cartilage gets infected, it can lead to a phenomenon called "cartilage collapse" where the ear cartilage basically melts and collapses, leaving you with a deformed ear that can only be reconstructed by a plastic surgeon.

3 - It's my first time getting pierced. How do I pick out a shop?

You should be looking for the following things. If your piercer does not meet the basic requirements for cleanliness, walk out. Do not be afraid to ask questions, and if the shop staff are rude or seem annoyed with you, walk out. It is not worth risking your health over a dirty shop.

  • Cleanliness. Does the shop look clean? Cleanliness is important in the shop over all. Ask if they use new needles for each new piercing performed, and if their initial jewelry is sterilized by autoclave. Your piercer should wear gloves while piercing, and change the gloves often while preparing to pierce. Used needles should be put into a sharps container. Cleanliness and sterility should be the most important consideration when picking a shop.
  • Overall atmosphere. Do you feel comfortable there? While you may be nervous before your first piercing, you should not feel intimidated by the shop staff or pressured into doing things that you don't want to do. Piercing should be a positive experience! What to expect before, during and after your piercing
  • Jewelry. Ask what they use for initial jewelry in a fresh piercing. Is it Stainless Steel? Titanium? If you are getting pierced with a barbell of any sort, ask if the threading where the ball unscrews is internal or external. Internally threaded jewelry is more expensive because of the manufacturing process, but not having threads on the outside means that when it is time to change your jewelry the tender skin will not get cut up by threads sliding over it.
  • Method. Each shop has its own method. Some pierce freehand, some pierce with clamps. Some will only perform certain piercings in certain gauges, and some have a range of gauges at which they will pierce. Within reason, none of these methods are wrong if your piercer is competent, it is just the way he or she learned. Ask to see portfolios if available. Not every shop has them, but most will. Especially for more unusual piercings, ask how many times the piercer has performed that procedure.
  • Age requirements. Most US States require you to be 18 to get pierced without parental consent. Most shops will pierce only people over 15 because prior to that age, the body is still changing. So, for the most part, if you are in between 15-18, you will need parental permission, ID for both you (a birth certificate counts) AND your parent/guardian. You will probably have your IDs copied and will need to sign a consent form. There are NO shops that I know of that will pierce genitals or nipples under 18. These rules are put in place for your safety; do NOT go to a shop that bends these rules. If they are willing to bend a state (federal if non-US) law, imagine the freedoms that they will be willing to take with hygiene and cleanliness. It is not worth it. 


4 - How much does it cost?

It depends on the shop, but most piercings start around $20 at the low end and $80 at the high end, depending on what's being done. Ask if the price includes jewelry, and if you are getting a set of something done, such as nipples or lobes, ask if the price stated includes one or both sides. And don't forget to tip your piercer. Depending on service and the difficulty of the piercing, $5-$10 is pretty fair.

5 - Does it hurt?

Yes, it does. But only for a split second and probably not as bad as you think. Most people, even those with a lot of piercings will tell you that the worry of anticipation is greater than the pinch of the actual piercing. 

6 - Will I bleed?

For most piercings, not really. Less than a drop of blood, if even, unless you have a clotting disorder or are taking certain medications. Always be up front with whatever medications you are taking, even if they are over the counter. Aspirin can make your blood thinner and you will bleed more. Some piercings, most notably the more major male genital piercings will bleed, but that is normal and it will slow down and stop within a few days.

7 - What's up with all of the forms that I have to sign when I get there? I feel like I 'm buying a car!

That's to insure your safety and the safety of the shop. Every shop should ID and make a photocopy of the ID. Remember, age requirements are there for your safety. Depending on the shop, you may have to initial or sign something stating any or all of the following:

  • That you are of age
  • That you understand the aftercare procedures explained to you
  • That you have seen the piercer open all needles and jewelry from sterile, sealed packaging
  • That you have told the piercer or assistant all prescription medications that you take regularly, and any over the counter medicines that you may have taken recently
  • That you have not had alcohol to drink within a certain time period before getting pierced. This is not only to ensure that you don't come in drunk and get something done then blame the shop the next day, this is also because alcohol can affect bleeding