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Parents F.A.Q

Body Piercing Question:
Q: Is a piercing gun safe?
In the past / present ear piercing was or still is done by stud-guns that could not be properly sterilized and could easily spread diseases like hepatitis (and did). At this point, most piercing booths are using disposable tools that have far less potential for spreading disease, but it is still possible if the staff don't have a solid understanding of the issues involved (in the same way that a modern firearm is less likely to blow up in the shooter's hand, but people still do get hurt by guns).

In addition, most industry professionals and piercing gun manufacturers agree that ear piercing studs are not appropriate jewelry, especially for anything other than earlobes due to their short length (which means they can not properly compensate for swelling) and dull point (which means additional damage during the piercing may be done).

Realistically, if you get your ears pierced at the mall you're probably going to be just fine. It's just not the best way to do it.

Q: Is piercing at a piercing studio safe?

If you go to the effort to seek out a quality piercing studio, they will practice levels of sterility control similar to what your dentist uses. Anything that the client comes in contact with is either single use (for example the needles) or can be sterilized in an on-premises autoclave. In addition, they will take care to not contaminate any of these items either during or before the procedure.

Finally, while ear piercing gun method tend to have a few hours of training, most piercers serve an apprenticeship of a year or more and many of the better ones will also have additional training such as recognized blood-borne pathogen courses, CPR, and other medical skills.

Q: How can I find a good studio? What are some questions I should ask?

Nowadays most larger urban centers have multiple piercing studios. We strongly urge you to visit as many of them as you can to get a feel for your options. Never just go to the first one; you can't make a good decision without knowing your options.

When you first enter the studio, notice how the general appearance of the studio is — is it clean? Is there dust on the shelves? If they're not willing to keep their reception area clean, do you trust the rest? Do you get a good "vibe" off their staff? Piercing is a service industry, and a studio that doesn't have friendly and receptive counter staff isn't one that I'd trust personally.

Next you'll want ask about their sterilization protocols and general procedures. Any decent studio will be able to explain quite clearly what they are doing to keep you safe — they'll be willing to show you the procedures they use, as well as showing you a spore test (where an independent medical laboratory verifies that their autoclave is functioning properly) and explaining what the local health regulations are. In areas where there are local health regulations studios may be granted certificates stating that they have met or exceeded these standards.

Trust your gut though; if you're not comfortable with a place you visit, find a better studio.

Q: What should be done before getting pierced?

It is essential that a person being pierced be well rested and in good health. In addition, it is important that they eat before getting pierced. Not eating makes a person far more likely to get woozy or even faint.

Q: Will I be able to go in and hold my child's hand during the piercing?

Most studios will permit this depending on the layout of the piercing room.

Q: Can I get a piercing too?

It is not uncommon for a parent to get a piercing — often even the same piercing — along with their child. This is an excellent way to strengthen the familial bond, and it helps you understand what they're going through. Assuming you have some interest in a piercing, this can be a very rewarding experience for everyone.

Q: What is the piercing experience like, start to finish?

Following is roughly the procedure that will occur. If any of these things are omitted, you may want to consider patronizing a higher quality studio (although I will say that different studios do things differently).

You enter the studio and see that it's a clean and friendly place.
You tell the person at the counter what piercing you want, and they answer any questions you might have about it.
You show them ID, and fill out a consent form which should contain general questions about your health that are relevant to the piercing procedure. If the consent form does not include questions about allergies, medical conditions, and so on, and the piercer doesn't ask them to you directly, you should avoid that studio as they may be overlooking essential issues.

You pay either before or after, depending on the studio.

You may have to wait for your appointment depending on how busy the studio is that day (piercing is usually done on a walk-in basis).

You'll enter the separate and private piercing room (quality studios don't pierce people in public), and sit down either at a chair or on a bench. The piercer will explain the procedure to you (perhaps as they're doing it).

They will have their tools, needles, and some cleaning supplies on a tray and will open these in front of you. You'll see that they're handled carefully and that nothing "dirty" is touched to contaminate them.

Assuming you didn't already choose the specific size and style of jewelry already, that will be done now. Everything will come out of sterile packages.
The piercer will clean your skin around the piercing location, and then mark where they think it should go. They'll show you and make sure you're happy with the placement. You may be offered some options, but remember that the piercer will recommend what they thing will work best.
Depending on the piercing (and the piercer's style), they may put a clamp over the piercing marks to help them keep everything on target — there's nothing wrong with not using a clamp. It's simply a matter of their preferred technique.
The piercer will put a little lube on the piercing needle, and then quickly pass the needle through the piercing. This only takes an instant, and shouldn't hurt terribly. They will then hold the jewelry up to the back of the needle, and simultaneously remove the needle and insert the jewelry in one smooth motion. This may be done as a single step depending on the piercing. If a clamp is being used, it may be removed either before or after the jewelry is followed through, depending on the piercing and the piercer's style.

The piercer will clean the piercing if needed, and assuming the client is ready, everything is done. Most piercers will talk to you for about five minutes after the piercing itself just to make sure you're OK and not feeling lightheaded.

Aftercare will be explained, and an aftercare sheet to take home is given. It's important to keep the aftercare sheet, because in the excitement of the piercing, most people forget the vast majority of instructions they're told.

I heard that tongue piercing can lead to brain infection. Is that true?
Perhaps in something like one in a million cases. You are far, far more likely to be killed in a car crash on the way to the piercing studio. Not only that, but you are actually more likely to be hit by lightning.

Piercing isn't risk free, but don't mislead yourself by focusing on these far-out risks. There are far more likely things such as minor scars (sort of like acne scars) from removed piercings, or chipped teeth from a tongue piercing that's got too long a barbell in it (tongue piercings are done using long jewelry to accommodate swelling, and are then shortened a month later).

That said, there are certain heart conditions such as mitral valve prolapse which can make piercing dangerous. If you suffer from any medical conditions you should definitely consult your doctor and be sure to inform the piercer as well.

Q: How old should a person be to be pierced?
It is not uncommon in our culture for babies to have their ears pierced. In many cultures young people got piercings, tattoos, or scars, as a part of growing up. From a physical point of view, assuming that there will be no major growth changes, there is no reason why young people can't be pierced, so ultimately it's an ethical question.

That said, there may well be legal reasons (see above) — if you live in a jurisdiction that does not permit piercing below the age of 16 or 18, then outside of any other arguments, it means that quality studios are not an option. That alone should be enough reason to ask your child to wait. Many studios will permit younger people to get pierced if their parent accompanies them and signs a release form.

If you maintain a good relationship with your child then you should be able to answer this question on your own. In my personal experience, most children are mature enough to understand the implications of a piercing (and to care for it) by the age of sixteen.

Q: What if it gets infected?
If your piercing gets infected or you have ANY questions at all about the piercing, you must contact your piercer. If that is not an option for some reason, contact your doctor (understand though that while doctors are medical professionals, they may have little to no experience in the care of piercings).

That said, the vast majority of the time what is assumed to be an infection is simply normal discharge from the healing (some white or yellowish discharge is normal). Infections are far more rare than most people assume.

Q: What if they decide to take out their piercing?
Piercings should only be removed if they are not infected. If a piercing is removed and it is infected, it is possible to trap this infection under the skin where it can grow into an abscess (although this is uncommon). Other than that, piercings can be removed any time, generally leaving no more than a dot-sized scar (in the case of an eyebrow piercing there may be some damage to hair follicles causing hair not to grow back in that spot).

Q: Can they take the piercing out for school/work/church?
Realistically, no. Taking a piercing in and out is just begging for additional scarring due to all the irritation. In addition, regularly covering up a piercing with a bandage (as some dress codes ask) can easily irritate both the piercing and the surrounding skin. By forcing a person to take a piercing out or cover it on a regular basis that person's health (and the piercing) are put at risk.

If a person gets a piercing on "public skin", they must be willing to show it pretty much all the time. If this isn't an option, then they'll need to decide which activity is more important to them.

Q: My kid just got suspended for their piercing. What are my options?
If you're attending a private or religious school, most likely there is no option short of removing the piercing since a non-public school has a great deal of leeway to institute dress codes as they see fit.

If the school is a public school, then odds are they are overextending their rights in restricting students freedom on this level. Courts in the US and other countries with "freedom of speech" rights have tended to rule in favor of the students in the case of dress codes that are not implicitly gang related or damaging to other students.

Especially if your child has good grades or at least isn't a problem student a call to the local media almost always immediately reverses these decisions.

Q: What is play piercing?
Play piercing is temporary piercing (that is, piercing is done, but no jewelry is inserted) done (usually) for the feeling. Pain, sensation that we shy away from, is still a valid sensation and some people enjoy experimenting with it. Many people use these activities as a positive form of self discovery.

About Tattoos:
Q: Is tattooing safe?
Done responsibly, tattooing is relatively safe. As long as no blood is being passed between clients, the primary risk is esthetic. Blood can be passed between clients of low-grade tattoo artists who either share needles, re-use ink, or do not properly clean their equipment and/or work surfaces. To be perfectly honest, assuming the tattoo artist is meeting all industry standards, the artist is at more risk than the client.

But I will emphasize that the biggest risk is ending up with a tattoo you don't like five years later, either because (a) your life outlook changed dramatically, or, more commonly (b) it's too small and has wrecked a "good canvas".

Q: How old should a person be to be tattooed?

Legally the age is 18 in almost all areas, with very few studios being willing to tattoo those under 18 even if it is legal. That said, young people tend to change their minds a lot (and when I say young people, I'd extend that up to 25 or so). While piercings can be taken out with minimal long-term implications, removing a tattoo is a costly and painful process that should no more be treated as an option than abortion be treated as birth control.

If a person wants a tattoo, they would be strongly advised to make the decision, then wait a few months. If they still feel it's the right tattoo for them, go for it! That said, I would strongly urge parents — and friends — to urge people under 25 to give serious consideration to whether they have reached a point in their lives where they can make decisions that will affect them for the next fifty years or more.

My feeling on this subject is that children should be strongly discouraged from getting tattooed until they are adequately mature.

Q: What does the process of tattooing involve?

It will vary slightly from studio to studio, but to generalize it usually goes like this:

You enter the studio, and see that it's a friendly and clean place. The staff will answer any questions you may have, including technical issues like showing you a recent spore test for their autoclave. You ask to look at the artist's portfolio (photos of tattoos they have done) and you ignore the "flash" on the walls (it has no bearing on the quality of the artist — they just buy it from suppliers). If you like the quality of this artist's work (emphasis on "if"), you will speak to them about the tattoo you want. You'll describe what you want, and show them any source artwork you've brought with you.
Assuming you see eye-to-eye, you'll leave a deposit and an appointment will be made. By the time you return (usually a week or two later), the artist will have drawn up the custom design for you, and, assuming you're happy with it, the work can begin. If not, you'll work with them to get it to exactly what you'd like.
The location being tattooed is cleaned (usually including shaving), and a stencil of the drawing is applied.
The artist will confirm that you are happy with the placement.
Before tattooing, you'll see that the artist has their supplies laid out on a clean desk or table, and the tattoo machine has a plastic "condom" over it and the first length of its power cord. Anything that comes in contact with you is either disposed of or thoroughly cleaned.
The tattoo is applied. When this is completed, all ink left in the caps on the desk is disposed of (since tattooing the next person with the same ink could pass disease).
Your tattoo is bandaged, you will be given aftercare information, and sent on your way. Healing should take one to two weeks.

Q: What is involved in tattoo removal?

Tattoo removal involves going through a fair amount of physical pain (although methods are improving all the time), and, perhaps more importantly, spending a great deal of money. In addition, the results are not always satisfactory. Tattoo removal should not be considered as an option.

Q: What about these temporary five year tattoos?

There are some artists offering tattoos done using organic inks that can in theory be broken down by the body over time. However, to generalize: THEY DON'T WORK. This should not be considered as an option. Odds are stronger that there will either be no fade at all, or the tattoo will partially fade, leaving what looks like a badly scarred and horribly done tattoo.

Q: Is henna a kind of tattooing?

No, henna is just a temporary dying of the skin and is entirely different. Real henna(light brownish color) lasts a week or two and is more like a form of body painting than a tattoo. Be aware that many shops with lower standards will do Henna using chemical "hair dye" instead because of( color black simulating a real tattoo) which is toxic ,will cause an irritation and damage marking the skin.