Don't Pierce Your Daughter's Ears at the Mall


kid holding earsI remember getting my ears pierced for the first time (out of many) at 4 years old. It's actually one of my first memories, even. My mom made it pleasant and fun and made sure I was responsible enough to help take good care of them. She also let me know that it WOULD hurt. In fact, the little girl that went before me was older, but bawled and screamed like it was hideously painful. It scared me, so we walked around the mall a bit before I was ready. I ended up not thinking it was that bad after all.

I intend on piercing my own daughter's ears when she's old enough, but unlike my own experience, I won't be taking her to a piercing booth in a mall, and I especially won't be having the piercings done with a piercing gun. The Association of Professional Piercers and Body Modification Ezine, two of the largest information sources on contemporary body modification, are BOTH against gun piercings. Why? I'll tell you.

Sanitation of the facility: Piercing parlors are required to thoroughly and regularly clean their piercing area (which consists of easy-to-clean materials like a doctor's chair) regularly, and only allow paying customers into the area to prevent any contamination of their sterile equipment.

A mall booth, on the other hand, can be touched by everyone who walks by, is often just a cloth stool in a highly trafficked area, and the only part of their equipment that is sterile is maybe the earring studs -- which doesn't matter if the gun and gloves aren't.

Training of the piercer: 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.

A mall piercing employee often has one day of a seminar, or even a video, then practices a few times on a piece of cardboard with dots or a teddy bear. Sometimes pediatricians offer this procedure, but they're no more trained with a piercing gun than you are.

piercing needleQuality of the equipment: A piercing needle is incredibly sharp and cuts a crescent shape that then gently folds down the excess skin to make room for the jewelry. It's a clean cut with clean edges in a shape that helps relieve pressure, and therefore healing is often quick. The procedure is notably less painful than other methods and is always, always sterile.

A piercing gun -- originally designed for tagging the ears of cattle -- cannot be sterile (except rare metal guns, which are only sterile if autoclaved after every single use). It carries the risk of passing blood-borne diseases such as Hepatitis and even HIV (alcohol wipes are NOT sterilization), in addition to any dirty hands or machinery that touched it in packaging, if it's a flimsy one-time-use gun. They are inaccurate at best, and use blunt force to actually rip a hole in the ear (yes, even the "sharp" piercing studs are still considered blunt). It also shoves a back on too tightly, which doesn't leave room for normal swelling, doesn't allow for airflow, causes too much pressure on the surrounding tissue, and often can even swell and prevent any healthy drainage. Ick.

Jewelry itself: Real piercers use sterile implant-grade stainless steel or titanium jewelry that is tailored to each individual piercing -- the right shape, size, and width (gauge) to help allow proper healing, prevent migration, and also almost eliminate allergic reactions.

piercing earringPiercing guns use cheap metal that almost always contains high levels of nickel despite the fact a good 15 percent or more of the population has a nickel allergy. The studs are so thin that they have a tendency to migrate into the healing flesh, and they are not long enough to allow for normal healing in even the thinnest earlobes. How many times do you hear "The skin will close over the back of the earring if you don't twist it!" This isn't because of twisting (which is not advisable nor healthy!) but because of improper jewelry to begin with. The butterfly back earrings also have so many grooves that they can trap bacteria against the new piercing wound.

The aftercare: Real piercers have been trained to not just hand you a bottle and piece of paper, but show you how to care for a piercing and help recognize potential problems and solve them.

Piercing booths hand you a bottle of cleaning solution that is about 99.8 percent water ... and the remainder is Benzethonium Chloride, or they suggest a soap with Triclosan (like Dial) that actually damages healing tissue. Their healing care almost looks satirical to educated piercers, which includes twisting piercing daily, a move that unless the earring is totally free of "crusties" (dried healthy fluid) and totally clean, twists bacteria into and tears sensitive tissue in the newly healing piercing. BAD idea.

I know a lot of people don't want to take little children into piercing salons, under some false pretense that they're just like they were decades ago with slutty women and smoking bikers sitting around, but the truth is, if you can't take your child to the real professionals, you shouldn't have the procedure done. Wait until it can be a special, healthy memory, instead of something that has plenty of potential to go very wrong. You wouldn't have the Safeway bagger give you a flu shot, right? Don't let a store clerk pierce your children (or you!).

Did you know all this about piercings? Do you go to professionals?

Images via Clare and Jaidyn Franz; BMEZine; Amazon

girls, kid health, grooming


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Kritika Kritika

Eh...I had my ears pierced with a gun but also had my bellybutton and nose pierced in a professional parlor (I no longer have either of those piercings). And honestly, I'll probably still take my kid to Claire's or get a gun fron Sally's and do it myself. I'm not a prude and don't think they are evil places...they just don't bring warm fuzzy memories for my child to mind...

Jmum Jmum

Do bacterial infections give your child warm fuzzy memories?

I'll take my child to a professional piercer.

nonmember avatar Foxy.kate

I did know much of that, and still I took my 7 year old to a joint called sweet and sassy, where they had the single-shot disposable piercers, have you seen them? I regret it for a number of reasons, not the least of which being that it took 2 women to do the deed - one on each side - and my girl was being so big and strong and brave and was READY for it, but they said they were just measuring where the holes would go and they did it when she wasn't expecting. She felt tricked , and it ruined the otherwise great experience.

Shell... Shell__Beach

I was friends with a professional piercer for a few years when I was a little bit younger (18-21). She taught me so much about piercing, I've actually told ALL of this to my friends that wanted to get their kids ears pierced with a gun.

Personally, I had my ears done at the mall with a gun as a child, twice actually. It was traumatizing. It ended badly both times (they wouldn't stop bleeding, ended up infected and I had to take them out). Year and years later I got them done at a tattoo parlor and had no problems healing them.

You should link to the APP website and mention that, if you plan to take your child to a professional piercer, that is the place to start your search. Just because someone works out of a shop does not guarantee they are great at their job- APP piercers are the best of the best, but there are some others out there that are not members of the APP that are hacks at their jobs that will tell you to use Dial and peroxide on fresh piercings (I know, I've met some of them over the years).

I know many members will read this and blow it off because "well I got mine done with a gun and I'm fine!", but I'm glad you posted it anyway. Knowledge is power. It's great to try to educate people, even if some people chose to remain ignorant.

Magen Kauffman

I know my piercings were in a sterile environment b/c my mom got them done by my pediatrician. Apparently he had a LOT of young children come in with major infections from 'mall' piercings and botched 'at home' jobs so he decided to learn how to do it properly and offer piercings in his office to cut down on the 'casualties'. My mom says I didn't even cry (I don't remember, I was only 6 months old). And this was back in 1977!

Tonia Newton

I am also waiting for our daughter to tell me she wants the piercing, along with going to an actualy professional. I was 'one' of the ones mentioned above that had the backing (and earring) 'lost' inside my ear. I had to go to the doctors to get it taken out. I wanted earring so bad that I ended up getting them repierced again. This time only having the backing get 'lost'. I have had my tounge and belly done professionally, and the healing was much better and the act was very professionally done. They took the time I needed to ensure I knew how to take care of my new body hole. Not one infection I have had them both in for 15 years (wow).

Very great post, it's important to get the information out. Even if you choose to use the gun or you did not knowing. Sharing this information will give people a choice.

Steph... Stephensmom1214

I had mine done at the pediatrician's office when I was 8.  And now I have a son, so it's not a big concern at this time...

Melis... Melissa042807

My mom got my 1st ear piercings done when I was a baby, so I don't remember it, and she took good care of them so they healed fine. BUT. I got 2nd holes done when I was 18, at the mall with a gun, and those suckers never quite healed and a year and a half later, when they were STILL sore, I ended up just letting them close up. So that was a waste of money. 

A friend of mine who has multiple ear piercings (like half a dozen or more per ear) explained to me the difference between needles and guns, so if I ever get my 2nd holes re-done, I'm going needle at a shop. And I probably will for my future daughters. It just makes so much more sense to me. 

Ember... Emberbaby

Our pediatrician offers these for $50.

mtnma... mtnmama111

no I didn't know it.. and my daughter just got her ears pierced at Claire's.. with all of the stuff you just said (except she is 10 and is taking good care- no infection).. I hadn't even considered a piercing parlor actually.. as she is 10... and I am not familiar with piercing parlors.. I thought you were supposed to go to say Claire's... next child we will do otherwise... especially as I have a nickel allergy (due to piercing my own ear when I was 15) yes OUCH

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