The Body Piercing Experience: What to Expect Before, During, and After
Having a part of your body pierced is a very unique and personal experience. Like the saying, “one person’s trash is another person’s treasure” it is also true that “one person’s pain is another person’s pleasure.” Furthermore, every piercing experience that you have will vary, depending on the body part, your state of mind and mood at the time, the piercer and the setting of the shop where you are getting pierced, and your level of piercing comfort.
People get pierced for a number of different reasons. Some do it for aesthetic or fashion purposes. Some do it because they enjoy the intensity of the moment. Some people get pierced as part of a group or collective experience, and some do it to stimulate or enhance physical sensation. Regardless of whether you want to be pierced for these or any other reason, once you decide a piercing is for you, you are ready to make the next step to the piercing shop.
To the newcomer, a body piercing or Tattoo shop may be a bit intimidating at first. But once you have been in one a couple of times, you start to realize that they are kind of fun. So when you’re ready, find a shop that you think suits you, and pay them a visit. You’ll meet your piercer, they will make sure that you are of age, and not uncontrollably intoxicated, then they will take you into a sanitary piercing booth. Sanitation is a relative description—obviously getting pierced does not require the same precautions as open-heart surgery, but you should make sure that you are comfortable with the level of cleanliness in the piercing booth. Most piercers are extremely meticulous when it comes to sanitation, and the first thing they will do is pre-sterilize their booth if they have not done so already.
The piercer will put their gloves on, then sit you down or stand you up (depending on the piercing and his/her particular piercing style), and examine the area to be pierced. Not every piercing is for everybody—especially genital piercings, which can present potential rejection or infection situations—but a knowledgeable piercer can determine right away if your body can accept a particular piercing. After examining the piercing area, the piercer will then clean the area and somehow mark the area to be pierced. Some piercers do this with a one use, disposable sterile water-based marker, and some will just do it with their eyes.
The piercer will then ready their tools on their instrument tray. All piercing instruments and jewelry should be in sealed sterile packages, which the piercer opens in front of you just before the piercing. If you do not feel that a piercer’s instruments are adequately sterile, politely request that they use ones that you see them open. If at any time during your piercing experience, you doubt the sterility of a piercer’s instruments or procedures, simply ask your piercer to explain his/her sterilization precautions.
Once your piercer has removed the instruments from the sterilization pouches, they will then be sure you are ready, and begin aligning their needle. Some piercers clamp the piercing area with a rubber band wrapped around piercing pliers called forceps, and some just use their hands and maybe a cork on the exit side of the piercing. Again, this depends on the personal style and preferences of your piercer—there is no right or wrong method, some piercers use the forceps to more accurately align and guide the needle, while some feel that without forceps they have greater control and dexterity. When the needle is in line, the piercer will make sure that you are ready for a final time, and then they will slide the needle right through.
Most piercings last for only a moment—the most anxious part of your experience will be the few minutes it takes your piercer to set up. But after a quick prick, before you know it, your piercer will be inserting your new starter jewelry. Most oral, facial, and body piercings take only a moment and don’t hurt that much at all, but if you are getting a unique surface piercing or a larger spanning genital piercing, expect the actual piercing to take a little longer, and feel more intense. This is understandable, though, as the more sensitive the area of your body, the more sensitive it will be while being pierced.
After the needle is in you, and your wait is over, your piercer will insert one end of your starter jewelry into the back of the needle, and in one continuous motion, slide the needle all the way through and leave the jewelry in the piercing. Piercers prefer stainless steel captive bead rings or stainless steel barbells as starter jewelry, as these will be the easiest to clean and the least prone to infection or adverse reaction. After your jewelry is in place, your piercer will either clip in or screw on the ball at the end of the jewelry, and you are almost ready to face the world with your new piercing. Lastly, your piercer will make a final examination of your piercing, clean your piercing one last time, then instruct you on proper cleaning and aftercare procedures.
In the days subsequent to your piercing, you will notice that the pierced area is a little sore, and may be swollen or slightly black and blue for a few days to a few weeks. This is normal and to be expected. Over time, as your piercing heals and strengthens, it will become a more innate and comfortable part of your body. After a few weeks to a few months (depending on the piercing) your piercing will be fully healed, and you will be ready to upgrade your style from starter jewelry to something a little more personal. If you have any questions or concerns regarding your new piercing, always feel comfortable asking your piercer, or refer to the Tribalectic Healing and Aftercare pages for general information.
Piercing Pain Rankings
(from least painful to most painful)
- Female Nipple
- Cartilage Piercings
- Male Nipple
Note: Pain is completely relative to the individual.