I got my ears pierced when I was 10. My aunt took me to Claire’s at the mall, where I browsed a display of birthstone earrings, picked out a sparkly crystal pair, and then sat in a chair and hugged the giant comfort bear as a young employee aimed at my lobes with a piercing gun. Thirty seconds later, I had pierced ears!
Three days after that, I had crusty green stuff coming out of said pierced ears, and it sucked.
Fortunately, for the piercees of today, the warning has been made clear: Don’t get a hole put in your body by some teenager at the mall, for chrissakes.
Piercing guns are bad news. You’re puncturing the skin by blunt force, which can cause excess scar tissue and lead to an infection. The Association of Professional Piercers (APP) describes the effect as “more like a crush injury than a piercing.” Guns are also not sterile, and the people operating them likely lack adequate training—the certification process might consist of a seminar, or even a video, and some target practice with a piece of cardboard or a teddy bear.
For a safe and hygienic piercing experience, you’ll need a very sharp, hollow needle and a professional who really knows what they’re doing. You can find both at a tattoo and piercing parlor.
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If you’re nervous about bringing Little Ella into a place called Big Daddy’s where there’s skull art on walls and spikes on foreheads, don’t be. There’s actually a growing movement of piercers advocating for parents to pierce their kids’ ears (or other parts) at tattoo shops instead of the mall. The Instagram photos are pretty amazing. Brian Keith Thompson, owner of Body Electric Tattoo in Los Angeles, regularly posts pictures of his youngest clients.
Here’s a video of the process:
Good piercing parlors are exceptionally clean. Set-ups are sterilized by autoclaves—devices used in the medical industry to kill microorganisms and spores through high heat and pressure. The needle, which makes a clean cut for quick healing, is thrown away after it’s used.
And piercers often have extensive training. Writes CafeMom: “Piercing artists undergo often one year or more of internships, take bloodborne pathogen courses, often take CPR just in case of a medical emergency with a client, have to learn about aftercare, potential medical problems, and proper jewelry choices for each piercing type, and have to watch procedures many times before being very closely monitored while learning to perform them.”
To find a reputable shop, read reviews, and call ahead to make sure it welcomes children.