Three Myths About Piercings

My first non-ear piercing was in my left nostril. Apprehensive of actual piercing parlors, I got it done with a gun at an Indian beauty parlor where the aftercare instructions mimicked the sort doled out by most mall employees post ear-piercing. What a mistake that was. My piercing got infected several times, took forever to heal, and discolored the skin around my nose stud. Thankfully, I knew better by the time I got my next piercings. Thanks to my go-to spot, Barbella Studios, I’ve had nine gun- and infection-free piercings and learned exactly what had gone wrong before.

Guns are the safest and cleanest way by which to get pierced.

a piercing gun

Guns are actually the worst: they hurt more than needles because they use pressure and force rather than sharpness to make their way through the skin and flesh, they can cause weird staining and damage to body tissues, the jewelry used with them is subpar in several ways, and as the entire gun cannot be properly sterilized, gun piercings are more prone to infection.

Standard first-aid practices like cleaning with rubbing alcohol, applying anti-bacterial ointment, and covering up the area with a bandage are good for piercings.

When my gun-made nose piercing got infected, a school nurse gravely informed me that if I didn’t use Neosporin on it, the infection would go up straight into my brain and I’d have to go to the hospital. I followed her advice — and dealt with infections on and off for about a year following my piercing. I later was to find that most of the standard aftercare advice given by mall kiosks and beauty parlors is wrong. Professional piercers’ advice is more along the lines of “let it heal.”

Spacing out your piercings is the best choice.

a very pierced-up woman with face paint and colorful hair
She looks the way that she wants to look.

This really depends on what piercings you’re getting and how sure you are about your future piercing plans. If you’re going to get multiple piercings in one ear, for example, getting them all done at once means a shorter period of time in which you’re limited to sleeping on one side of your body. Similarly, nipple piercings often make wearing a bra painfully difficult or even impossible; getting one before the other just means having to go without a bra for two separate spans of time instead of one.

With most piercings, however, spacing them out is a good idea financially as well as psychologically. After my first piercings, all I wanted was more. Not getting them all at once meant that I could get pierced every once in a while over the course of years without ending up looking completely unemployable in most industries.

Heina Dadabhoy

Heina Dadabhoy [hee-na dad-uh-boy] spent her childhood as a practicing Muslim who never in her right mind would have believed that she would grow up to be an atheist feminist secular humanist, or, in other words, a Skepchick. She has been an active participant in atheist organizations and events in and around Orange County, CA since 2007. She is currently writing A Skeptic's Guide to Islam. You can follow her on Facebook, Twitter, or Google+.

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  1. I didn’t find it hard to wear a bra after my nipple piercings. In fact, I had to when I slept. But I do wish I’d gotten them both at once. After knowing how much it hurt, it was hard to psych myself up for the second one. Also, they might have matched better. : /

  2. Yes, DO NOT USE GUNS! If your “piercer” uses guns, go somewhere else. A reputable piercer should be very talented with a needle and the appropriate equipment.

    I’ve wanted to get my nipples pierced forever! Maybe next year. I don’t have sensitive nipples and, um, they can take quite a, um, bite, so I think I’d be okay. I know a fantastically awesome piercer if anyone is ever in need in Arizona!

  3. Agreed. I had my first 5 or so piercings with a gun, then had the rest with a needle (what can I say, I’m a slow learner). So much better, and I’ve sworn from day 1 that when my daughter decides it’s time to pierce her ears, she’ll never go near a gun.

  4. This is why I didn’t give in to everyone that told me to get my daughter’s ears pierced as a baby. My first concern is that I want her to make this decision herself, and my second is that I don’t want her anywhere near one of those piercing guns.

  5. Another advantage with going to a professional piercer and not a gun-hack is that they pay much more attention to placement and the angle. Getting a correct angle is almost impossible with a gun. If you want to wear hoops in your ears, the angle is important. Also for nose piercings the angle matter depending on what jewellery you want.

    It’s not horribly bad if you only get your earlobes pierced with a gun, just moderately bad. That’s just skin and heal fast anyway, but as soon as cartilage is involved, like the nose or anywhere outside the ear lobe, don’t let a piercing gun anywhere near you. They take longer to heal, 3-6 months and have a high risk of infection. A professional piercer will sterilise all the equipment, use gloves and other protective equipment, and properly sterilise the area.

    Afterwards, never clean with alcohol either. Use purified salt water. Never twist the piercing. Proper jewellery is made of titanium or surgical steel and will not get stuck. Twisting it only slows the healing process.

    The extra price you pay for both the jewellery and the piercing is totally worth it. I’ve had 14 of them, half in cartilage.

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