Image by Anna Anjos via Flickr Creative Commons
Most people approach mall kiosks or jewelry stores to get their ears pierced. While this is a cheap and accessible way to get piercings, the risks involved are not worth it. The major reason behind this is the equipment that they use – the ubiquitous piercing gun. Piercing guns are dangerous and should never be used for piercings of any kind.
Here is why you should avoid them:
Piercing Guns are Unhygienic
Piercing guns are small, handheld machines, and generally, an unhygienic method that exposes you to infection.
Often shaped like a gun, it has an earring adaptor, which holds a sterile piercing stud, and the earring back cradle. The cradle holds the earring back in place, and also supports the earlobe during the piercing process. A trigger will snap the stud into place, pushing through the earlobe and out the other side.
But if it uses a sterile stud, why is it is so unhygienic?
The problem is the design of the gun itself – Both the earring back cradle and the adaptor still touch the skin during the piercing process. It also has so many moving parts, that they are nearly impossible to sanitize, and will require the use of an autoclave to kill all the bacteria on it.
Unfortunately, most jewellery stores do not have autoclaves on hand, and most guns cannot be used in an autoclave anyway. A quick wipe down with alcohol is also usually not enough.
Since the piercing gun penetrates the protective skin barrier, this increases the risk of introducing all kinds of bacteria and viruses into the bloodstream.
The Piercers are Often Untrained for the Job
People working at a jewellery store may be professionals when it comes to selling fine earrings, but they are not trained to perform piercings. First off, they probably only know the very basics of sanitation, which probably just translates to a quick rub down with alcohol.
Think about it – when did you ever see one of those sales people wear gloves during a piercing procedure? Even if a piercing stud is sterile coming out of the package, chances are, they will end up handling it without gloves to insert the stud into the machine. This means that whatever bacteria was on their fingers, will now be transferred to the stud, and straight into your skin.
In fact, did you know that the risk of being infected with hepatitis is 2-3 times higher if you get pierced in a non-professional setting?
It’s More Traumatic to the Surrounding Tissue
On top of the risk of infection, the results themselves are not good. Though piercing studs look sharp, they are quite blunt. Piercing guns result in blunt force trauma as it forces the jewellery into place – instead of cutting through the skin, it tears it. The damage to the surrounding tissues means that the wound will take longer to heal.
On the other hand, a piercing needle or lance, which is what professional piercers use, has the sharpness and precision of a hypodermic needle. It cuts cleanly through the ear, with minimal damage to the surrounding tissue.
It Could Shatter Your Cartilage
If piercing guns are dangerous when used on the earlobes, then even more so when used for a cartilage piercing. The cartilage is the stiff, upper part of your ear, which is also called the helix.
The cartilage is flexible, but it is also brittle. One misplaced piercing using a piercing gun could shatter it, leading to a condition called cauliflower ear. Cauliflower ear occurs if the ear sustains blunt force trauma, or if the skin somehow separates from the cartilage. It leaves you with a permanently disfigured ear that resembles a cauliflower.
Instead of going to a mall kiosk, go to a professional instead. A trusted tattoo parlor is often the best place to get a piercing. In fact, many parents in other countries have started bringing their children to tattoo parlors instead because they have the training and the equipment needed to perform piercings correctly.
True, it is more expensive than the “Free Piercing with Every Earring” deal you get at the mall, but do you want to risk hepatitis and disfigurement to save a few pesos?
Learn more about piercings and aftercare here.