Body piercing is a serious decision. Before making your decision, ask other teens who have piercings what they think about it. You may want to know things such as —
- How much did it cost?
- How long did it take to heal?
- Was it painful?
- If they had the chance to do it over again, would they?
If YOU do decide to have your body pierced, NEVER pierce your own body or let a friend do it because you can run into serious health problems.
What are the risks with body piercing?
The most serious risks are
- allergic reactions
- damage to nerves or teeth
- infections caused by hepatitis, HIV, tetanus, bacteria, and yeast
A professional piercer should wash his/her hands and use gloves and sterile equipment to lower the risk of infection.
Did you know that...
- You CAN get and/or spread a serious infection including HIV, if the piercing equipment hasn't been sterilized properly.
- Infections caused by bacteria may also happen later, even after the piercing has healed.
- If the studio uses a piercing "gun" to do body piercings, LEAVE!! Piercing guns cannot be sterilized and should NOT be used for body piercing.
Know the risks before you have your body pierced…
- Bacterial infection (where you had the piercing)
- Excessive (a lot of) bleeding
- Allergic reactions (especially to certain kinds of jewelry)
- Damage to nerves (for example, you may lose feeling at the area that gets pierced)
- Keloids (thick scarring at the piercing site)
- Dental damage (swelling and infection of tongue, chipped and broken teeth, choking on loose jewelry)
How long will it take a piercing to heal?
Healing time is different depending on where on your body you get pierced.
|Pierced Body Part||Time it Takes To Heal|
|Ear lobe||4 to 6 weeks|
|Ear cartilage||3 to 6 months|
|Eyebrow||9 to 12 weeks|
|Nostril||2 to 4 months|
|Tongue||4 to 6 weeks|
|Lip||2 to 3 months|
|Nipple||3 to 6 months|
|Navel||9 months to 1 year|
|Female genitalia||4 to 10 weeks|
|Male genitalia||4 weeks to 2 months|
If I decide that a piercing is important to me, where should I go?
The APP, which stands for the Association of Professional Piercers (a professional organization of piercers), makes safety rules for people who do piercings. Make sure that there is a certificate on the wall that says the piercer is registered with the APP. You may need to bring a copy of your birth certificate. If you are under 18 years old, you will need your parents' or guardians' permission. Your parent/guardian will need to go with you and sign a consent form. Since the law is different from state to state, you will need to find out what the law in your area says about whether or not you need parental permission to have a piercing.
What should I look for in a piercing salon?
- The shop should be kept clean and sanitary.
- The lighting should be good so the piercers can see well while working.
- All the instruments should either be brand new and disposable (meant to be thrown away after one use) or be sterilized in pouches.
- If the piercer uses disposable needles, you should see him/her open sealed packages of the needles! The piercers should throw away the needles in a biohazard container after using them.
What kind of jewelry should I buy?
Implant grade stainless steel jewelry is generally reasonably priced and safe to use for new piercings. Both 316L and 316LVM types of stainless steel meet the standards for "implant grade" that has been approved by the American Society of Testing and Materials (ASTM), an organization that is not related to the government but sets high standards for all kinds of materials that are manufactured in the U.S. The European organization that is similar to the ASTM is called the "ISO."
Implant grade stainless steel is least likely to produce a foreign body reaction or infection in the skin. Other choices for new piercings are metals such as gold (AT LEAST 18 karat), titanium, or niobium. All of these cost more than implant grade stainless steel but are safe.
Silver is not a good choice for new piercings because the tarnish from silver gets deposited into the skin. The deposits often darken the skin around the piercing which can be permanent. Sterling silver jewelry can be safely worn on most healed piercings but it should not be worn in the mouth or genital area where the skin is moist.
Gold jewelry should be 18 karat (75% gold) for new piercings and at least 14k gold for healed piercings. Gold-filled or gold-plated jewelry should never be used in any piercings because the metal is very thin. The finish wears away easily and it chips even with the slightest contact with the body.
Titanium. It is recommended that Titanium jewelry be highly polished to reduce the "porosity" (pores or very tiny holes in the metal) that can attach to your skin.
For people who are extremely sensitive to metal, Teflon or nylon piercings may be used.
What's up with all the different kinds of jewelry?
- Bars, which are the type of jewelry used in some piercings like the tongue, are measured in length (how long the bar is). When the piercing is first done, a longer bar will be used. When the piercing heals, a shorter bar is used.
- Ring jewelry is measured by diameter, or how wide the ring is.
- Gauge means the thickness of the jewelry. The smaller the gauge number, the thicker the jewelry. The APP says that jewelry no greater than 14 gauge should be used below the neck. This is because of the risk of a foreign body reaction and the possibility of the ring cutting the skin.
How are piercings done?
An experienced piercer uses a hollow needle to create a hole by passing the needle through the body part you want pierced. The body jewelry is then inserted through the hole. Sometimes there can be a small amount of bleeding. You should not take aspirin or any pain medication that contains aspirin the week before any piercing is done, since these medicines may cause you to bleed a little bit more than usual. Remember, piercing guns should NEVER be used since it can damage tissue and cause infection.
How much will a piercing cost?
There are actually 2 costs with piercings - the site cost and the jewelry cost. The site cost depends on where on your body you get pierced. Some jewelry is more expensive than others depending on what it is made out of.
How should I clean my new piercing?
Follow these steps to prevent infection
- Wash your hands first with soap and water before touching or cleaning the pierced area. (Don't let anyone else touch the pierced area until it is healed.)
- Remove any crusty material from the site and from the jewelry with warm water.
- Gently wash the area around the piercing with liquid antibacterial soap or special cleaning solutions that you may have gotten at the piercing place.
- Gently rinse off all of the soap and crusty discharge.
- Gently dry the area with a paper towel or plain white napkin, not a towel.
- Do steps 1-5 twice a day (but no more than that) until the skin heals.
- Do NOT use antibacterial ointments because they trap bacteria.
How can I prevent infections after I get pierced?
Preventing infections isn’t hard. It shouldn't take a lot of your time to keep your piercing clean.
- Do NOT use alcohol or Peroxide to clean the area. (Both products will dry out your skin.) Other strong solutions such as Betadine will discolor gold jewelry.
- Rinse the pierced skin after exercising since sweat may irritate the piercing.
- Keep the pierced area from coming in contact with other people's body fluids, such as saliva and sweat to limit spread of bacteria. (Do not have oral sexual contact for 4-6 weeks if you have a tongue, lip, or genital piercing).
- Keep things clean that come in contact with the body part that has been pierced. For example, keep your phone clean if you have an ear piercing.
- Wear loose, clean clothing with soft fabric for navel piercings. Avoid wearing jeans because the material can be irritating.
- Check your jewelry many times during the day to see if any parts have become loose, especially if you have a tongue piercing. If a bar becomes loose, you can accidentally swallow it or damage a permanent tooth.
- Do NOT use a hot tub or swim in public pools until your piercing has healed. This will cut down on the spread of bacteria.
- Rinse tongue or lip piercings after every meal or snack. Rinse for 30 to 60 seconds after eating with an antibacterial, alcohol-free mouthwash, or a warm salt water rinse. Or, alternately, make a mix with one part water, and one part hydrogen-peroxide, and apply it directly to the piercing site with a cotton swab.
- Throw out your old toothbrush and get a new, soft-bristled toothbrush if you have a tongue or lip piercing.
- See your dentist for regular checkups. People who have piercings in their mouth are much more likely to have injuries to their teeth and gums.
- Eat healthy foods. Foods rich in vitamins and minerals help your body heal.
Be on the lookout for signs of infection: redness, swelling, discharge, bad smell, a rash at or around the piercing site, or a fever. If you think you have an infection, make an appointment to see your health care provider.
If you're concerned about getting a body piercing, here's a tip on how to bring it up with your health care provider: I want to get a piercing, how can I do it safely?
Tattoos are made using a machine that is like a sewing machine. It's a small machine with tubes of dye that are connected to a needle...