Body Piercing

A practice dating far back in the archeological record that is still live and well today. Only today we use a stainless steel mechanical pliers-like tool and a heat sterilizing autoclave.

Risks:

In a study of 230 university students all of which had body piercings, 1 in 5 reported having a complication. Body piercing is not without risk, so if you do it, do it right and diligently care for the pierced area after it's done.

Bleeding: Whenever you break the skin and force a metal object through your tissue, you bleed. So If you have a blood disorder make sure you talk with your doctor and follow the doctor's advice when considering a body piercing.

Injury or Tearing: It's a lot easier to rip your nipple off if there is a ring attached to it. If you are a kultz and prone to injury, you may want to avoid attaching a catchable piece of metal to your body. Or pick jewelry that is less likely to get caught. You may want to avoid rings, hooks and other sharp objects.

Infection: If the piercing device or anything that touches it is not properly sterilized you could develop an infection, which could then lead to illness, deformity or scaring. You could also contract a serious or even life threatening disease such as tetanus, tuberculosis, hepatitis, or HIV. Luckily, hospitals and reputable piercing studios do sterilize equipment and limit your risks of infection. So if you do decide to get a piercing, limit these risks by putting the establishment to the following tests.

Warning: If you're a heavy bleeder, allergic to metals, have a weakened immune system, or easily form scars, talk to your physician before getting a body piercing.

Who should do the piercing

You should not attempt to do the piercing yourself, or to have a friend or amateur do it. This will leave you more vulnerable to infection and scarring. You would also carry a risk of transferring blood born diseases between you and your friend.

Your doctor may be able to do the piercing for you. A physician will use a sterile, stainless-steel needle or a sterile, stapler-like instrument. It will be virtually painless and the physician may even use an anesthetic cream to ensure comfort during the piercing. Hospitals are held to high standards by the government and do provide a clean sterile environment. If complications occur such as excessive bleeding, you have quick access to the emergency hospital facilities.

Your other option would be to go to a professional body piercing studio. Few states have hygienic regulations for piercing studios, and those that do don't always monitor or enforce standards. So be smart, investigate a few studios, make sure the one you pick strictly adheres to all of the following guidelines. If it fails even one item on the list, cross it off and find yourself a studio worth your skin.

Piercing studio guidelines

Autoclave: This is an instrument, regulated by the FDA (Food and Drug Administration), that heat sterilizes all non-disposable instruments used during the piercing process. Make sure you see it before considering the studio's services. Make sure they use it to sterilize every instrument they don't throw out after use. And make sure they store the sterilized instruments in sterile bags. Also make sure you see their spore test results. A spore test measures the effectiveness of the autoclave. Every studio should run spore tests on a regular basis. If they cannot show you their autoclave and spore tests run away!

No piercing gun: Some hair salons, department stores, jewelry shops, etc. may still use this device. a piercing gun cannot make a precise piercing. They are made of plastic and thus cannot be sterilized in an autoclave. Instead the device is simply treated with rubbing alcohol which does not guard against the transfer of deadly disease. So if you see one, take your body elsewhere.

Everything else should be disinfected: All non-disposable equipment that is unable to be sterilized in an autoclave, should be disinfected with a commercial disinfectant or bleach solution. Anything that is not sterilized in an autoclave should not come in contact with the piercing site.

Gloves: A fresh pair of disposable gloves should be used for each piercing. This pair of gloves should touch you and the sterilized equipment only. If the artist opens a drawer, picks up a phone, picks his nose, or touches anything that is not sterilized, they will be exposing you to possible infection.

Proper jewelry: The jewelry used to keep the whole open should be made of a non-allergenic metal, such as stainless steel (300 series), 14 carat-gold, niobium, titanium or platinum. It should also have never been used and should have been sterilized in an autoclave.

A clean environment: Check out the floor, counters, bathroom, etc. Case the joint like a spy. It should look clean and surfaces should look frequently disinfected. If you find a few studios that pass all these guidelines, pick the cleanest one.

APP accreditation: The Association of Professional Piercers is an organization based in San Francisco that does accredit piercing studios that pass strict safety and health requirements. Some studios falsely claim to have APP accreditation. To find a studio in your area that has APP accreditation...

  • visit www.safepiercing.org
  • Scroll to the bottom of the page and click the "find an APP member" icon.
  • Choose your state to find a studio near you. If you live in a country other than the U.S. the accredited studios may be quite limited. In this case you may want to check with the local government instead.

Complaint free: Call your city or county health department and ask them if any complaints have been reported toward the piercing studio. Every piercing studio needs a permit to operate and your city government is usually the authority that grants this permit.

Referral: If you have a trusted friend that received a piercing, and had no complications, and the piercing looks very well done, find out where they had it done. Make sure to not rely on their referral alone. Evaluate the establishment according to all of the above tips.

Taking care of external piercings

Healing time: (external sites)
Healing time varies. As long as the area is still sensitive and secreting a yellow liquid, it is not fully healed.

Cleaning:(external sites)
Clean the site at least once at the end of each day, and no more than twice daily. Once in the morning and once at night is a common practice.

Use a mild liquid antimicrobial/germicidal medicated soap such as Provon or Satin, and water.

  • Wash your hands with an antibacterial soap and hot water. You could use disposable latex gloves as well.
  • rinse or soak the area with warm water. If some of the crust does not dislodge, remove it using a Q-tip under the running water.
  • Using a small handful of cleaning solution gently clean the area of skin and the jewelry. For the first few times, when the area is particularly tender, leave the jewelry in place. When you are more comfortable, gently rotate the jewelry to allow the solution to reach all surfaces.
  • Let the cleaning solution cover the area for a minute
  • Rinse well under running water while rotating the jewelry back and forth.
  • Gently pat the area dry with disposable gauze or tissue.

Salt water rinse to promote healing: (external sites)
Solution Recipe: Dissolve 1/4 teaspoon of non-iodized (iodine-free) sea salt into one cup (8 oz.) of warm distilled or bottled water.

At least once a day you should soak the pierced area for a few minutes with this solution. You should also soak the area for a minute or so several more times throughout the day, especially before physical activities. Immediately after each soak you should rinse the area with fresh water and pat it dry with disposable gauze or tissue.

For soft external skin sites such as the navel, mix the solution in a clean cup. Press the cup against the skin to create a seal, and lie on your back to soak the pierced area for a few minutes at least once a day.

For boney external skin sites that cannot be submerged in the solution, or sites close to the eyes such as the eyebrow, soak a clean piece of cotton or gauze in the salt water solution and apply it to the area for a few minutes.

Limit swelling

(external sites)
Take a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory over-the-counter drug like ibuprofen, advil or motrin according to its package instructions for the first few days to reduce discomfort and swelling.

For piercings above the neck, keep your head above your heart when you sleep the first few days, in order to reduce overnight swelling.

Hygiene

(external sites)
Avoid touching the area with your hands unless you have just cleaned them with antibacterial soap. Only touch the piercing to make sure the jewelry is secure. and to wash the external site.

Live healthy so you heal faster: Sleep well, eat well, exercise safely, and avoid drugs and alcohol.

Piercing and sex

(external sites)
Until the piercing site is completely healed, you should avoid having someone else's mouth or genitalia coming in contact with the site. No biting sucking, licking, or kissing the site, until it's fully healed. These actions will expose your open wound to bacterial infection.

What to avoid:

(external sites)
Avoid cigarettes, drugs, and alcohol to allow effective healing.

Avoid picking at the crusted secretions with your finger nails.

Avoid touching the area during the healing process with your hands unless you have washed your hands with antibacterial soap and need to clean the site or to check to make sure your jewelry is secure.

Avoid scrubbing the area with anything other than the cleaning solution. You can take showers as you normally do. Just make sure to clean the area with the cleaning solution alone. Baths are not encouraged as they do harbor bacteria.

What to expect:

(external sites)
Bleeding may occur off and on for a few days. and bruising may also be present.

The piercing area will probably feel tender and uncomfortable for several days or longer. You may experience aching or occasional pinching-like pains.

All piercings secrete a small amount of yellowish liquid during the healing process that forms into a crust.

In case of infection: (external sites)
If the liquid yellow secretion turns into a thick cloudy pussy discharge see a physician. If you have an infection the physician will probably prescribe antibiotics. Leave your jewelry in to allow the infection to drain. If the jewelry is removed, the piercing can close, and produce a nasty abscess.

External Piercing Pointers
Twice a day, wash your hands thoroughly with antibacterial soap and check to make sure the jewelry is secure.

Wear breathable clothing over the piercing site.

Ear Piercing Pointers

The ear lobe is one of the safest places to pierce your body because it heals easily and thus reduces the amount of time your body is exposed to infection. When piercing other parts of the ear, keep in mind that cartilage takes longer to heal and thus carries a higher risk of infection, so like always keep it clean.

Once the earring has been inserted by a trained technician, the earring should be worn for the next 6 weeks. Don't remove or replace the earrings until the ear has completely healed. Post earrings are the best earrings to wear for the first 6 months, resulting in a nice small round hole.

Taking Care of Oral Piercings the tongue, lips, or cheeks

Healing time: (oral piercings)
Healing time varies. As long as the area is still sensitive and secreting a yellow liquid it is not fully healed.

Cleaning: (oral piercings)
Rinse your mouth for 30 to 60 seconds (according to package instructions) after ever meal with an alcohol-free, antimicrobial or antibacterial mouth rinse. Two examples are Tech 2000 and Biotene. We say alcohol-free because alcohol is absorbed into the oral tissue easily, inhibiting natural immune mechanisms within your mouth and leaving you prone to infection. Do not use this type of rinse more than 4 to 5 times a day and space your rinses well throughout the day.

Buy a fresh brand-spanking-new soft-bristled toothbrush to brush your teeth twice a day. Old tooth brushes can retain bacteria that you would want to keep away from your mouth. Clean your new tooth brush well before and after each use.

Salt water rinse to promote healing: (oral piercings)
Solution Recipe: Dissolve 1/4 teaspoon of non-iodized (iodine-free) sea salt into one cup (8 oz.) of warm distilled or bottled water.

Make sure the solution is warm as opposed to hot for the first few days. Rinse your mouth for 10 to 15 seconds no more than twice a day. If your tongue takes on a white or yellowish hue, you're rinsing too much.

warning: If you have high blood pressure or heart problems, use a plain warm water rinse without the salt.

Limit swelling: (oral piercings)
Swelling will likely occur for 3 to 5 days.

Take a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory over-the-counter drug like ibuprofen, advil or motrin according to its package instructions for the first few days to reduce discomfort and swelling.

Keep your head above your heart when you sleep the first few days, in order to reduce overnight swelling.

Suck on small pieces of ice to reduce swelling.

Hygiene (oral piercings)
Avoid touching the area with your hands unless you have just cleaned them with antibacterial soap. only touch the piercing to make sure the jewelry is secure. and to wash the external site.

Live healthy so you heal faster: Sleep well, eat well, exercise safely once you feel up to it, and avoid drugs and alcohol.

In case of infection: (oral piercings)
If the liquid yellow secretion turns into a thick cloudy pussy discharge see a physician. If you have an infection the physician will probably prescribe antibiotics. Leave your jewelry in to allow the infection to drain. If the jewelry is removed, the piercing can close, and produce a nasty abscess.

Oral piercing pointers Eat slowly, gently, and take small bites until you get used to having a hard piece of jewelry in your mouth. You can damage your teeth if you are not careful. Metal is way harder than anything in your body. If the metal of your jewelry challenges the enamel of your teeth, your teeth will lose. Think of all the times you've bitten your lip or the inside of your cheek. Your lips and inner cheek will heal easily from a small accidental bite, but your teeth will not.

Avoid opening your mouth really wide during the healing process.

Twice a day, wash your hands thoroughly with antibacterial soap and check to make sure the jewelry is secure.

During the healing process avoid chewing on anything other than your food. No chewing gum, pencils, eyeglasses, or sucking on your hair.

Avoid hot temperature or spicy foods and beverages for the first few days.

Always carry a spare piece of jewelry in case the one in your mouth breaks to avoid closure of the piercing.

After healing, excessive play with oral jewelry can result in permanent damage to teeth, gums, and oral structures. It is difficult for most people to not play with something that is constantly in their mouth. Have you ever had something stuck in your teeth. Did your tongue constantly fondle that piece of food. If so, you may be prone to injuring your teeth if you get your tongue pierced.

Avoid French kissing and oral sex with a pierced tongue during the healing process. These actions will expose your open wound to bacterial infection.

Avoid asprin, cigarettes, drugs, alcohol and large amounts of caffeine to allow effective healing and to limit swelling, bleeding and discomfort.

Avoid touching the area during the healing process with your hands unless you have washed your hands with antibacterial soap and need to clean the site or check to make sure your jewelry is secure.

Depending on the individual, oral piercings can shrink or close within minutes without a piece of jewelry keeping them open. This can occur many years after the piercing has healed. So if you want to keep your tongue piercing, keep a piece of jewelry in it at all times. Have a professional piercer replace the jewelry once the site is healed.

Back to Top

Related Info

Get Your Dream Tatoo in 3 Easy Steps!

Body art like tattoos and piercings have become more acceptable in mainstream society today than they were a decade or so ago.