No More Piercing Guns!

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supokku asked: Hi, I recently got my ear cartilage pierced with a gun, I had no idea using a gun would be bad because all my lobe piercing were done with a gun and they're fine. But I'm wondering if there's a way to fix it if I go to a professional or if I just have to go through with it now.

Definitely go to a professional piercer. As I told a previous Asker, it’s unlikely you’ll be charged just for having a pro look at your piercing and examine it. However, it is likely they’ll recommend changing out the jewelry for something that is made from high grade materials (understandably).

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fourli asked: Between the ages of 4 to 12, I had gotten my lobes redone 4 times, each time taking out the earrings after months of pain. From the ages 14 to 16 I only had my right lobe pierced,scared to do the other after the problems I'd had with my left lobe before. Finally when I was 16 I got it done along with my cartilage, both with a gun. I still have problems with both piercings one year later. I got another helix piercing a few months after. This time done with needle,no problems yet! Needle for life.

Also, the pain with a gun is lesser than the pain with a needle at the time but the healing process is longer. I found that when I got my second helix piercing done with a needle it hurt for 2 days total, but when I got my first helix piercing done with a gun it hurt for over a month.

Everyone’s pain tolerance is different, but what you said in your last sentence is very important. Some piercings will hurt more than others. For example, my ear piercings were a breeze, but my septum and lip piercings were much more painful. Even so, I would have never entrusted anyone to give me those piercings with a gun. A professional piercer using a sterile piercing needle in a controlled sterile environment is always the way to go. So good on you for learning the dangers of guns! :D

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bloggingnotsnogging asked: I just got my cartilage piercing done at Claire's a few days ago for my birthday, and as of yet I haven't noticed any bad effects. There was little pain upon piercing, and while I had some difficulty sleeping because of mild irritation the first night, I could sleep comfortably on the side that the piercing was on the next night. Should I be worried at all? Now that I found this blog I'll never use a gun for any future piercings, and I'm definitely freaked out about infection, etc. Any advice?

As someone who also learned the hard way how bad piercing guns are, I’d go see a professional piercer. It shouldn’t cost you anything to have one just look at your piercing and make sure its OK, but it is highly likely they’ll recommend you changing your earring stud for jewelry made of surgical steel or other body piercing approved material. That will cost you, but it will be worth it.

The problem with the studs that are used in piercing guns is that they don’t allow oxygen to reach the fistula (the hole created by the piercing). Circular barbells like these, for example, allow oxygen to flow freely into and out of the hole, allowing for faster and cleaner healing. Also, since they are made of non-porous metal, bacteria can’t find its way into the fistula or into the surface of the jewelry. The studs used in piercing guns are porous and CAN cause infections more easily.

If you’re still using the solution they gave you at Claire’s, stop immediately and instead use a sea salt solution. It’s way cheaper to simply make your own. You can find instructions here on how to make it and how to use it.

Good luck!

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Never ever get a piercing anywhere by a gun unless it’s on the lobe. Never anywhere near the cartilage. Never get it pierced at Claire’s. Ever. Unless you want a fracture or a really painful healing process. Possibly even an infection. All of which I got. I went to a professional and had them look at it 3 months ago. My darling piercer removed the piercing. I let it heal. Just got it re-pierced by him and he did an AMAZING job. So clean and I didn’t experience any pain. He’s doing my tragus this Friday along with my navel and nostril. Possibly even another helix 😜 got to love getting piercings done but a professional. 😍

You sent me a message and asked me to look at this post, but uh… You shouldn’t use a piercing gun EVER. E-V-E-R. Not even for a lobe piercing. I’m glad you went to a pro and know better now, but piercing guns shouldn’t be used for any piercing at all.

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faunyr asked: my friend and I want to get piercings so we're looking around at places/costs, and I've been doing lots of research, found a place in the city that has great reviews and the workers there have 7yrs exp. and they don't use guns, so I told her about it and she was like 'no no not there, guns are the best way and they're cheaper, needles have no hygiene and the people there are apparently rude'. help me omg she is fucking clueless how do I explain to her that she's wrong?

Show her this blog.

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mxtthewhealy asked: I have a question, and I figured this would be one of the best places to ask. I got my second lobe piercings done with a gun (yes, stupid on my part, I know) going on two years ago, and recently they've been giving me tons of problems whenever I put ANY type of earrings in. I've even bought the ones that are hypoallergenic (normally if I'm allergic to the metal, it'll react in my first holes as well, but these don't). They swell and get hot; is there anything I can do about this? Thanks :)

Hypoallergenic does not necessarily mean “good”. There may still be traces of material in hypoallergenic metal that people’s bodies can have bad reactions to. I know because it happened to me, as well. It’s the reason why piercings should be done in a professional studio because the metal used for jewelry there is specifically surgery quality material. Meaning, you can have it in your body forever.

I would recommend going to a professional piercing studio, one with a good reputation, and have one of the piercers look at it. They may be able to salvage the piercing simply by removing the current jewelry, cleaning the piercing, and putting in new surgical steel jewelry. I’m guessing all you’d have to pay is the cost of the jewelry, which can be anywhere from $15 to $30.

Good luck. =)

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flowerphoenix-deactivated201403 asked: why are piercing guns bad?


It is the position of the Association of Professional Piercers that only sterile disposable equipment is suitable for body piercing, and that only materials which are certified as safe for internal implant should be placed in inside a fresh or unhealed piercing. We consider unsafe any procedure that places vulnerable tissue in contact with either non-sterile equipment or jewelry that is not considered medically safe for long-term internal wear. Such procedures place the health of recipients at an unacceptable risk. For this reason, APP members may not use reusable ear piercing guns for any type of piercing procedure.
While piercing guns may seem to be a quick, easy and convenient way of creating holes, they have major drawbacks in terms of sterility, tissue damage and inappropriate jewelry design. These concerns are addressed below.

Reusable ear piercing guns can put clients in direct contact with the blood and body fluids of previous clients.

Although they can become contaminated with bloodborne pathogens dozens of times in one day, ear piercing guns are often not sanitized in a medically recognized way. Plastic ear piercing guns cannot be autoclave sterilized and may not be sufficiently cleaned between use on multiple clients. Even if the antiseptic wipes used were able to kill all pathogens on contact, simply wiping the external surfaces of the gun with isopropyl alcohol or other antiseptics does not kill pathogens within the working parts of the gun. Blood from one client can aerosolize, becoming airborne in microscopic particles, and contaminate the inside of the gun. The next client’s tissue and jewelry may come into contact with these contaminated surfaces. There is thus a possibility of transmitting bloodborne disease-causing microorganisms through such ear piercing, as many medical studies report.

As is now well known, the Hepatitis virus can live for extended periods of time on inanimate surfaces, and could be harbored within a piercing gun for several weeks or more. Hepatitis and common staph infections, which could be found on such surfaces, constitute a serious public health threat if they are introduced into even one reusable piercing gun. Considering the dozens of clients whose initial piercings may have direct contact with a single gun in one day, this is a cause for serious concern. Babies, young children, and others with immature or compromised immune systems may be at higher risk for contracting such infection.
Additionally, it is not documented how often piercing guns malfunction. Some operators report that the earring adapter that holds the jewelry will often not release the earring, requiring its removal with pliers. These pliers, which contact contaminated jewelry immediately after it has passed through the client’s tissue, may be reused on multiple customers without full sterilization. Few, if any, gun piercing establishments possess the expensive sterilization equipment (steam autoclave or chemclave) necessary for such a procedure.

Piercing guns can cause significant tissue damage

Though slightly pointy in appearance, most ear piercing studs are quite dull. Piercings must therefore be accomplished by using excessive pressure over a larger surface area in order to force the metal shaft through the skin. The effect on the body is more like a crush injury than a piercing and causes similar tissue damage. Medically, this is referred to as “blunt force trauma.” At the least, it can result in significant pain and swelling for the client, at the most in scarring and potentially increased incidence of auricular chondritis, a severe tissue disfigurement.
Occasionally the intense pressure and speed of the gun’s spring-loaded mechanism is not sufficient to force the blunt jewelry through the flesh. In these cases, the earring stud may become lodged part way through the client’s ear. The gun operator, who may not be trained to deal with this possibility, has two options. S/he can remove the jewelry and repierce the ear, risking contamination of the gun and surrounding environment by blood flow from the original wound. Alternately, the operator can attempt to manually force the stud through the client’s flesh, causing excessive trauma to the client and risking a needlestick-type injury for the operator. How often such gun malfunction occurs has not been documented by manufacturers, but some gun operators report that it is frequent.

When used on structural tissue such as cartilage, more serious complications such as auricular chondritis, shattered cartilage and excessive scarring are common. Gun piercings can result in the separation of subcutaneous fascia from cartilage tissue, creating spaces in which fluids collect. This can lead to both temporary swelling and permanent lumps of tissue at or near the piercing site. These range from mildly annoying to grossly disfiguring, and some require surgery to correct. Incidence can be minimized by having the piercing performed with a sharp surgical needle, which slides smoothly through the tissue and causes less tissue separation. A trained piercer will also use a post-piercing pressure technique that minimizes hypertrophic scar formation.
Cartilage has less blood flow than lobe tissue and a correspondingly longer healing time. Therefore infections in this area are much more common and can be much more destructive. The use of non-sterile piercing equipment and insufficient aftercare has been associated with increased incidence of auricular chondritis, a severe and disfiguring infection in cartilage tissue. This can result in deformity and collapse of structural ear tissue, requiring antibiotic therapy and extensive reconstructive surgery to correct. Again, medical literature has documented many such cases and is available on request.

The length and design of gun studs is inappropriate for healing piercings.

Ear piercing studs are too short for some earlobes and most cartilage. Initially, the pressure of the gun’s mechanism is sufficient to force the pieces to lock over the tissue. However, once they are locked on, the compressed tissue cannot return to its normal state, is constricted and further irritated. At the least, the diminished air and blood circulation in the compressed tissue can lead to prolonged healing, minor complications and scarring. More disturbingly, the pressure of such tight jewelry can result in additional swelling and impaction. Both piercers and medical personnel have seen stud gun jewelry completely embedded in ear lobes and cartilage (as well as navels, nostrils and lips), even when pierced “properly” with a gun. This may require the jewelry to be cut out surgically, particularly in cases where one or both sides of the gun stud have disappeared completely beneath the surface of the skin. Such consequences are minimal when jewelry is custom fit to the client, allows sufficient room for swelling, and is installed with a needle piercing technique which creates less trauma and swelling.

Jewelry that fits too closely also increases the risk of infection because it does not allow for thorough cleaning. During normal healing, body fluids containing cellular discharge and other products of the healing process are excreted from the piercing. But with inappropriate jewelry, they can become trapped around the hole. The fluid coagulates, becoming sticky and trapping bacteria against the skin. Unless thoroughly and frequently removed, this becomes an invitation to secondary infection. The design of the “butterfly” clasp of most gun studs can exacerbate this problem. Again, these consequences can be avoided with implant-grade jewelry that is designed for ease of cleaning and long-term wear.

A further note on ear piercing studs:

Most ear piercing studs are not made of materials certified by the FDA or ASTM as safe for long term implant in the human body. Even when coated in non-toxic gold plating, materials from underlying alloys can leach into human tissue through corrosion, scratches and surface defects, causing cytotoxicity and allergic reaction. Since manufacturing a durable corrosion- and defect-free coating for such studs is extremely difficult, medical literature considers only implant grade (ASTM F138) steel and titanium (ASTM F67 and F136) to be appropriate for piercing stud composition. Studs made of any other materials, including non-implant grade steel (steel not batch certified as ASTM F138), should not be used, regardless of the presence of surface plating.

Misuse of ear piercing guns is extremely common.

Even though many manufacturers’ instructions and local regulations prohibit it, some gun piercers do not stop at piercing only the lobes, and may pierce ear cartilage, nostrils, navels, eyebrows, tongues and other body parts with the ear stud guns. This is absolutely inappropriate and very dangerous.

Although gun piercing establishments usually train their operators, this training is not standardized and may amount to merely viewing a video, reading an instruction booklet, and/or practicing on cosmetic sponges or other employees. Allegations have been made that some establishments do not inform their employees of the serious risks involved in both performing and receiving gun piercings, and do not instruct staff on how to deal with situations such as client medical complications or gun malfunction. Indeed, surveys conducted in jewelry stores, beauty parlors and mall kiosks in England and the US revealed that many employees had little knowledge of risks or risk management related to their procedure.

Considering that a large proportion of gun piercers’ clientele are minors or young adults, it is not surprising that few gun piercing complications are reported to medical personnel. Many clients may have been pierced without the knowledge or consent of parents or guardians who provide healthcare access. Therefore, the majority of the infections, scarring and minor complications may go unreported and untreated. Furthermore, because of the ease of acquiring a gun piercing and the lack of awareness of risk, many consumers fail to associate their negative experiences with the stud gun itself. They believe that, since it is quicker and easier to acquire a gun piercing than a manicure, gun piercing must be inherently risk-free. Often it is only when complications prove so severe as to require immediate medical attention that the connection is made and gun stud complications get reported to medical personnel.

Despite these pronounced risks associated with gun piercing, most areas allow gun piercers to operate without supervision. Recent legislation has begun to prohibit the use of guns on ear cartilage and other non-lobe locations, and the state of New Hampshire has made all non-sterile equipment illegal, but these changes are not yet nationwide. It is our hope that, with accurate and adequate information, consumers and the legislatures will understand and reject the risks of gun piercing in the interests of the public health.

References Cited:

  • Pediatric Emergency Care. 1999 June 15(3): 189-92.
    Ear-piercing techniques as a cause of auricular chondritis.
    More DR, Seidel JS, Bryan PA.
  • International Journal of Pediatric Otorhinolaryngology. 1990 March 19(1): 73-6.
    Embedded earrings: a complication of the ear-piercing gun.
    Muntz HR, Pa-C DJ, Asher BF.
  • Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery. 2003 February 111(2): 891-7; discussion 898.
    Ear reconstruction after auricular chondritis secondary to ear piercing.
    Margulis A, Bauer BS, Alizadeh K.
  • Contact Dermatitis. 1984 Jan; 10(1): 39-41.
    Nickel release from ear piercing kits and earrings.
    Fischer T, Fregert S, Gruvberger B, Rystedt I.
  • British Journal of Plastic Surgery. 2002 April 55(3): 194-7.
    Piercing the upper ear: a simple infection, a difficult reconstruction.
    Cicchetti S, Skillman J, Gault DT.
  • Scottish Medical Journal. 2001 February 46(1): 9-10.
    The risks of ear piercing in children.
    Macgregor DM.

    Cody Vaughn - APP Outreach Committee

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Why Ear Piercing Guns Are Bad


Ear piercing guns may seem like a quick, easy and painless way to get some new body bling. However, there are many reasons why they should be completely avoided and you should opt for the needle instead.

First of all, piercing gun technology comes from that of the contraptions used to put tags on cow and sheep ears. Then someone must’ve thought it was a genius idea to use that same device for body piercing. Which it could possibly have been, if it weren’t for the following reasons…

The biggest issue is that piercing guns can not be sterilised.
The companies that produce these guns have tried to solve that by creating one use cartridges. However, the actual gun itself is still used for each piercing and there’s an enormous risk of contracting a blood borne virus, because when the earring stud goes through the lobe, blood spatter can end up on the gun, which can then be transferred to the next person the gun is used on, and the next, and so on. There was once a case in the US where 300 people’s hepatitis was traced back to the one piercing gun. Scary huh?
And simply wiping them with alcohol wipes, or some kind of disinfectant will not be anywhere near enough. Piercing equipment needs to be sterilised in a device called an autoclave, which uses steam at a precise temperature and pressure to kill any bacteria that is present. Piercing guns can not be put in an autoclave. Where as piercing needles are sterilised before use and are completely thrown away afterward. There is no re-use.
Would you like hepatitis with that piercing? Didn’t think so.

"Oh but they are so quick and they don’t even hurt!"
A piercing gun uses quick force to brutally shove a somewhat blunt object through your ear. Which causes tissue trauma and excessive scarring. It literally tears a hole in your flesh. At the very least, it can cause pain and swelling. It can even shatter cartilage when used on upper parts of the ear, which can be very painful, ugly and irreversible. The fact that the earring stud is blunt, means that it is more painful, yes MORE painful, than a sharp and smooth surgical needle we use for piercing.

But needles = pain, right?
It is a common misconception that the gun will hurt you less, which is really just myth and a psychological thing. A piercing needle is sharp, thin and will be lubricated by the piercer for an easy and smooth insertion. The piercing will pretty much always hurt less than you thought. And because the needle is sharper it makes a perfect passage through your flesh for the jewellery to then be inserted in to, and you will find the piercing will heal a lot quicker and more comfortably than that which was done with a gun.Yet while piercing guns are quicker, a needle will go through just as fast. It’s the jewellery insertion that will take that extra moment. A good body piercer can perform the piercing in under 30 seconds, it will be over before you know it.

Piercing guns jam.
Quite often the device can jam halfway through the piercing being performed, causing a backless earring stud, which has only made it half way through your flesh, to be often taken out so the piercing can be performed a second time. Or a lot of uncomfortable tugging and pulling while the gun is detached from your new, fresh (bloody and sore) earring. Also maybe the use of pliers to try and remove the jewellery from the device, pliers which probably won’t be sterilised (as establishments who use piercing guns don’t usually have proper sterilisation equipment to sufficiently clean these pliers between clients) properly and used on several people, passing the germs on as the days go by.

Piercing guns can not be lined up straight.
You can hardly see the angle that the earring stud is on while it’s inside the gun, ready to be plunged into your ear. Meaning that the operator will have a difficult time making the earring stud go in on a perfect angle as she pulls the trigger, resulting in a crooked and poorly placed piercing. A good body piercer has complete control over the needle and will be able to see the exact angle it is on before and when she inserts it through your flesh.

One size does not fit all!
Piercing gun jewellery is generally a one size stud with a firm fixed butterfly clip on the back of it. These pieces of jewellery do not accommodate excessive swelling nor the fact the thickness of everyone’s ear lobes is different. The butterfly clips on the back also are a fantastic way to harbor bacteria, thus an increased risk of infection during and after the healing time, and the fact they are fixed on so firmly makes the earring stud more difficult to remove, especially if your lobe is swollen and the jewellery is too short. When the piercing is done with a needle, you can get what’s called a barbell (a bar with a ball/gem on each end) put in the piercing, so no bacteria-collecting and hard to remove butterfly clips. You also have the option to wear a ring straight away, so no waiting until you can change the jewellery if this is the initial look you were wanting.

Oh so convenient to walk in to the chemist, salon or beauty store and get your ear pierced.
That may be as such, but the people who work in chemists do not have anywhere near the knowledge and training to be able to give you the right advice on healing and after care. They will not know the correct hygiene practices needed for the sterile environment that a piercing needs, they may perform the piercing on the shop/salon floor, and sometimes they will not even wear gloves. They will more than likely give you some kind of medical solution or spray to use for after care, and sometimes those can be worse than the actual gun itself. A piercing is not like any general wound, you’re trying to heal your body with a foreign object inside it so specialised care is needed.

"But I had my piercings done with a gun and there’s nothing wrong with them!"
Lucky you! Many people have been pierced with a gun and have had no problem at all, but that does not make everything I’ve just said completely void and it does not mean it will be the same for everyone else.

"But I had my ears pierced with a needle and they got infected!"
It’s not the fact it was done with a needle that gave you the infection. The majority of piercing infections are not caused by the studio you had it done at, but by your own poor aftercare. And just because you had it done with a needle, does not mean the person who did it knew what she was doing.

"But at the chemist/salon, you can get 2 people to do it so both ears are pierced at once!"
That generally is true, though if you visit a proper studio and ask to have both done at once they will more than likely be happy to offer tandem piercing. If not, you can always find another great studio that does if your heart is set on it.

"But I went to a proper studio where they used a needle and (insert complication here) happened!"
Did you note that I was saying “a good body piercer”? Unfortunately not all piercing studios are top of the range and just because someone used a needle, does not mean they know what they’re doing. My advice to you is to do a little bit of research on the studio/piercer you’re going to see.
-Does it look clean?
-Ask them how they sterilise their equipment, even get them to show you their autoclave.
-How long have they been piercing for?
-Look in their portfolio.
-Check out their website or Facebook page.
-Do they ever use piercing guns in their studio?

And you know what, sometimes even the best of the best will make a small mistake. We piercers are only humans, but a professional will know how to handle and fix a mistake. A young girl working in the hair salon, wielding a piercing gun, will not.

"But you can’t pierce children’s / babies’ ears with a needle!"
This is very wrong. I once pierced a 4 year old girl’s ears with needles and she didn’t complain or freak out. She was really cool about it because I explained everything that was going on and guided her through the process AND she said it hardly even hurt. (A good body piercer will do that) Obviously not every child will react the same, but if they can’t understand and handle the process of getting a piercing then they aren’t ready to have their ears pierced!
As for babies? As much as you probably don’t want to believe it, piercing your child’s ears is child abuse. Holding down a baby while purposely inflicting them with pain (yes the piercing gun will hurt you baby no matter how much you think it won’t) while they don’t know what’s going on, is child abuse and someone really needs to sort out some laws against that shit. Would you hole down your 18 months old baby while they got a tattoo? No? Didn’t think so…holding them down while they get a piercing is no different.

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All in all, taking the extra time to do a little bit of research to find a reputable, safe studio and an experienced piercer to give you a beautiful new piercing that should not only heal well but be a lot less painful and won’t come with a free gift of HIV, is most definitely worth it.

Because you’re worth it! You only get one body, so treat it with care!

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Here is what the Association of Professional Piercers (APP) has to say about piercing guns: