How should the ear piercing process work?

Because earlobe piercing is the most common type of body art for adolescent girls, I'll focus on that process.

Typically when a girl gets her ears pierced, a piercing gun is used. As the gun shoots the earring stud into the girl's earlobe, the tissue of the ear is torn. This compares to the earlobe being surgically cut with a needle as professional piercers do. The gun is often described as a more painful experience.

Piercing guns should only be used for lobes and not for the rim of the ear or any other body part. The older piercing guns were hard to completely clean, let alone sterilize, but disposable, sterile cartridges have now been designed with a sterile earring in it for one-time use. However, many piercing professionals oppose all types of piercing guns. They state that there is no way to effectively sterilize the entire unit regardless of the sterile cartridge, and that the guns can crush tissue and result in embedded earrings and earring backs that may have to be surgically removed.

Kama says:

You know the drill. You've reluctantly capitulated and gotten your daughter's ears pierced. At first she is content with the tiny adornments in her new stylishly clad lobes but it doesn't last long and inevitably she has to have hoops. All the other girls and some of the boys are wearing them, and reportedly, she looks like a baby.

So what do you do? Give in? Before you do, remember that the dog jumps up on her when she walks in the door and unless your pooch is a mini, there is a real possibility that the dog will be wearing the new hoop earrings as paw rings. Don't have a dog? What about a roughhousing sibling? A torn ear lobe is a torn ear lobe, no matter how it happens. You will wish you'd stuck to your guns and your daughter will too.

Are professional piercers regulated?

Just like tattoo artists, professional piercers have created an organization dedicated to the health, education, and safety of piercers and the public. The Association of Professional Piercers (APP) requires its members to have at least one year of piercing experience, be trained in cardiopulmonary resuscitation and blood-borne pathogens, and have a current first-aid certificate. Further, the APP requires its members to get written parental consent before performing any procedure on a minor, and it considers nipple or genital piercings to be inappropriate for anyone younger than 18.

The APP recommends that before anyone undergoes a piercing procedure, he or she should check whether the piercing facility meets certain criteria, to include the following:

Use of a medical-grade autoclave with spore testing to ensure that all instruments have been properly sterilized;

Use of individually wrapped sterile needles that are not reused;

Use of piercing methods other than piercing guns; Use of new disposable gloves;

Availability of a diverse jewelry selection for the specific body part to be pierced;

Presentation of an "after-care" sheet to clients;

Licensing, if required, by local or state regulators; and

Membership in the APP by the person doing the piercing.

I think all of these recommendations are good ones and should be closely followed by anyone getting an oral, navel, genital, nipple, or facial body piercing. However, when it comes to simple earlobe piercing, good, clean, well-managed jewelry shops at local malls should work out just fine, even though they're not approved by the APP. Thousands and thousands of people get their ears pierced at these types of stores every year, and there doesn't seem to be much of a problem.

I recently went to a nearby shopping mall and visited a store that pierces ears to see exactly how the process works. The mother of the girl who was getting her ears pierced first had to sign a consent form. Then the employee washed her hands and put on a pair of new, clean vinyl gloves from a box. She next wiped the plastic piercing gun handle with alcohol swabs. She then wiped the girl's earlobes in the front and back with another alcohol pad and marked the earlobe-piercing site with a marker.

The employee next opened a package containing a sterile cartridge with a sterile earring and, without touching it, loaded the cartridge into the gun handle. When the employee pierced the girl's earlobe, only the sterile cartridge came in contact with her earlobe. The cartridge was then released and discarded. The girl winced when her earlobe was actually pierced, but she didn't seem to be in much pain. As a final step, the employee of the store provided the girl's mother with an after-care kit.

Of course, the entire experience hinges on the person doing the piercing. If your daughter is getting her ears pierced, you may want to call ahead and ask when the store's most experienced person is going to be working.

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