FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS ABOUT BODY PIERCING FACTS & BODY JEWELRY FACTS

All informational facts is directly sourced from the The Association of Professional Piercers (APP) official website.

WHAT IS THE APP DEFINITION OF "PIERCING"?
WHAT IS THE APP DEFINITION OF "PIERCING"?

Body piercing is the insertion of an ornament into a perforation made in the tissue (1) for decorative, cultural, spiritual, or other reasons.

(1) Depending on the area of the body that is being pierced, tissue of various types will be perforated, (for example the cartilage of the ear, erectile tissue of the nipple, or mucous membrane and muscle of the tongue). Legislation sometimes excludes piercing of the ear under the definition of “body piercing,” but the health and safety issues concerning body piercing apply equally to the ear and to all parts of the body. This exclusion undermines the organization’s effectiveness in protecting the public health.

ARE SURFACE ANCHORS (AKA SINGLE-POINT PIERCINGS, MICRODERMALS, DERMAL ANCHORS, ETC.) SAFE? SHOULD PIERCERS BE ALLOWED TO PERFORM THEM?
ARE SURFACE ANCHORS (AKA SINGLE-POINT PIERCINGS, MICRODERMALS, DERMAL ANCHORS, ETC.) SAFE? SHOULD PIERCERS BE ALLOWED TO PERFORM THEM?

In a surface anchor piercing procedure, a tiny ornament is inserted into a single opening that is formed in the tissue with the same tools that are used for body piercing. This opening is the entrance as well as the exit. When properly performed by a skilled practitioner, a surface anchor piercing is no more risky than an ordinary body piercing and takes no longer to perform or to heal. They are considered to be body piercings by the Association of Professional Piercers.

Surface anchor piercings are similar to “surface piercings,” which are done on flat areas of the body, but placement options are greatly expanded. They are considered “long-term temporary”, meaning they are not expected to last forever. At some point, generally some time between 6 months and a couple of years, the body is likely to reject this type of adornment (pushing it out similar to a splinter). A longer lifespan is more likely in lower movement areas and placements that are less exposed to physical trauma and snags. Scaring is generally minimal, because of the small size of the base under the skin.

They can safely be removed with standard piercing tools and techniques. Surface Anchor piercings are much less invasive to insert and remove, and should not be confused with subdermal or transdermal implants, which are more extreme forms of body art that do not fall within the scope of the Association of Professional Piercers.

ARE ORAL PIERCINGS SAFE?
ARE ORAL PIERCINGS SAFE?

There has recently been considerable sensationalized derogatory press regarding oral piercings. Unfortunately many of the pertinent facts are not being reported. A well-informed and discerning consumer is subject to far fewer dangers. When performed by a skilled and experienced professional using appropriate sterile, disposable instruments the risks are minimal and the procedure is instantaneous and essentially painless. Proper placement and the correct style and size of inert jewelry are absolutely critical.

Proper care of the piercing is vital. Our oral aftercare guidelines are available for you to read here.

Properly fitted jewelry is also crucial to reduce risk of damage to oral structures like teeth and gums. Once the initial swelling has subsided, it’s your responsibility to return to your piercer to be fitted with shorter jewelry (aka downsize). You can read more about potential risks and ways to reduce those risks here.

Many of our colleagues have dedicated tremendous time and effort to become highly educated and skillful specialists. To disparage us and our field offhandedly without taking the details into consideration is not an accurate or helpful response. Particularly since many individuals still desire oral piercings, and intend to get them, it is far more constructive to provide accurate information and specific guidelines on what one should look for in a piercer. Please see our informational brochure Choosing a Piercer for details.

This organization of committed professionals upholds an extremely high standard of safety and hygiene. Members’ web sites can also be accessed for additional information.

If you would care to speak with a board member or if you have specific questions you would like for us to answer, please feel free to contact us.

WHAT RESTRICTIONS AND PAPERWORK SHOULD BE EXPECTED WHEN GETTING PIERCED IF UNDER THE AGE OF 18?
WHAT RESTRICTIONS AND PAPERWORK SHOULD BE EXPECTED WHEN GETTING PIERCED IF UNDER THE AGE OF 18?

Regardless of any local legislation being more lenient, the following is an appropriate minimum standards policy on piercing minors:

It is important to check with your piercer on their paperwork requirements. These will vary depending on local laws/regulations , requirements of liability insurance, and studio policies. For any piercing of a minor, a parent or legal guardian must be present to sign a consent form. Proof positive, state issued photo identification is required from the legal guardian, and a bona fide form of identification from the minor. In the event the parent has a different last name and/or address from the child, court documentation is needed to prove the relationship, i.e., divorce papers, or a remarriage certificate.

Different studios will also have different restrictions on which piercings are available and at what age. Similar to paperwork requirements, local laws/regulations, restrictions of liability insurance, and studio policy will weigh in on this. Under no circumstances is it acceptable or appropriate for a piercer to perform piercing on the nipples or genitals of an individual under 18 years of age.

SHOULD MY PIERCER USE STERILE GLOVES?
SHOULD MY PIERCER USE STERILE GLOVES?

The APP mission is to promote and uphold minimal standards of safety and hygiene. As such, it is our official position that aseptic technique performed with clean disposable gloves is appropriate and acceptable. The above applies, except where sterile gloves are mandated by local laws. If a piercer wishes to use sterile gloves, naturally they may do so. Non-sterile gloves are the minimum required for membership.

WHAT SHOULD I DO WITH MY NAVEL PIERCING IF I GET PREGNANT?
WHAT SHOULD I DO WITH MY NAVEL PIERCING IF I GET PREGNANT?

Navel jewelry may be left in place; some women leave jewelry in during their entire pregnancy and delivery. Unfortunately the pieces marketed as “pregnancy piercings” or “pregnancy jewelry” are not made of safe materials.

Even long after the piercing is totally healed, it may or may not stay open without something in place. This varies from person to person.

In the event you elect to remove the jewelry entirely there is a chance it could be reinserted using an insertion taper even if the old jewelry won’t go back in readily. If it cannot be reinserted it is quite likely that it can be repierced.

As a side note, some women who lack sufficient tissue quantity or pliability for navel piercing prior to pregnancy are often well suited afterwards.

There is no special care that is required during pregnancy for healed piercings.

WHY IS IT IMPORTANT TO DOWNSIZE A PIERCING?
WHY IS IT IMPORTANT TO DOWNSIZE A PIERCING?

Downsizing refers to switching jewelry in a piercing to a shorter post, once initial swelling has subsided.

Because of the way piercings heal, most require initial jewelry with a noticeable amount of extra room to allow the tissue to swell in the early phases of healing. This is crucial to avoid jewelry embedding in the skin.

However, once the initial stages have passed, this initial swelling will have gone away. This will reveal the initial extra room and results in the initial jewelry now being too long. Jewelry that is too long can snag easily and move around excessively, leading to irritation and renewed swelling. In oral piercings, excessively long jewelry can lead to damage to teeth, gums, and other oral structures. At this stage, it’s important to return to your piercer to have shorter jewelry installed to reduce these issues. The piercing is not healed enough to safely change your jewelry by yourself at this point in healing.

If this window for downsizing is missed for piercings such as the helix, the excessive length may lead to migration or a change of angle of piercing, especially if the piercing gets slept on. This damage is irreversible and can get bad enough to result in the piercing failing.

WILL NIPPLE PIERCINGS AFFECT BREASTFEEDING?
WILL NIPPLE PIERCINGS AFFECT BREASTFEEDING?

In our collective, massive experience, we have no awareness of even a single case of a woman who wished to breast feed and could not as a result of having had a nipple piercing. The milk ducts are a multiplicity of little pore-like ducts. Therefore, the likelihood of closing them all off from a piercing of usual size is virtually nil.

Nipple jewelry should be removed during actual feedings, as it can pose a choking hazard and may interfere with latching. As a result, some milk may come from the site of the piercing during nursing, which is not harmful nor problematic. Some will use an insertion taper (a tool designed for this purpose) to facilitate reinsertion or to check regularly and make certain the holes are open.

There is no special care that is required during pregnancy for healed piercings.

IS IT SAFE TO GET PIERCED DURING PREGNANCY?
IS IT SAFE TO GET PIERCED DURING PREGNANCY?

The short answer is no.

The body’s immune system undergoes serious changes during pregnancy. These changes have a negative effect on healing, and may even prevent piercings received shortly before becoming pregnant from finishing healing. Sometimes even healed piercing will act up while you are pregnant. For these reasons, we even advise against stretching existing piercings during pregnancy.

There is also a slight but important risk that if you experience a complication, such as an infection, that your pregnancy or fetus would be negatively affected. While the chances are slim, it’s just not worth the risk, and no reputable professional would knowingly offer you services while you are with child.

It is best to let your body focus on the important, complex and demanding task that it is handling already.

WHAT ABOUT GETTING PIERCED AFTER PREGNANCY?
WHAT ABOUT GETTING PIERCED AFTER PREGNANCY?

We suggest waiting at least 3 months after delivery of your child to allow your body to recover from pregnancy and childbirth and to allow your immune system to return to normal. For nipple piercings, you should wait three months following the cessation of breast milk production.

IS IT SAFE TO GET PIERCED WHILE NURSING?
IS IT SAFE TO GET PIERCED WHILE NURSING?

With the exception of a 3-month delay after giving birth, we do not find increased risks in getting pierced while nursing. The body is not under the same type of demands as during pregnancy.

The exception is nipple piercings. We suggest waiting for three months following the cessation of breast milk production before piercing of the nipples.

DO I NEED TO REMOVE MY JEWELRY FOR MRI, CT, OR OTHER SCANS?
DO I NEED TO REMOVE MY JEWELRY FOR MRI, CT, OR OTHER SCANS?

Studies have shown that removing piercing jewelry is generally not necessary for magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), X-rays, and many other procedures, unless the piercing is directly in the area of examination or treatment(1). High-quality metal body jewelry is non-ferromagnetic (nonmagnetic), so it will not react to the MRI equipment. Beware, however, that cheap body jewelry may indeed be a dangerous problem when getting an MRI.

If you wear metal jewelry, it will be visible on the test results, of course, but this is only a problem when it obscures the area of concern. Computed tomography (CAT or CT) scan images, however, do become blurred if metal is present, so all metal jewelry in the region of the examination does need to be removed for this type of analysis.

Click here to download a .pdf of an article written by a an orthopedic surgeon about Piercings and MRIs.
ARE PIERCING KITS SAFE?
ARE PIERCING KITS SAFE?

Just say NO to piercing kits and those who sell them or use them!

As an association of dedicated, educated, highly experienced piercing professionals we are adamant that piercing kits for sale to the general public represent a serious potential health hazard. Much piercer education and training is necessary in order to perform a safe, sterile, accurate piercing. Simply providing such tools to an inexperienced consumer is a dangerous act of negligence.

Our main concerns are the direct risks of the kits and the components included in them, and critical components that are not.

Many of the kits have unsterile components or questionable sterilization of included pieces. Unsterile or improperly sterilized equipment greatly increases the chances of infections. Lack of proper training greatly increases the chances of contaminating equipment, even if it was sterile, causing the same problems. There is no way to sterilize equipment inIf needles or other pieces of equipment are used on more than one person, bloodborne pathogens including HIV and hepatitis can be spread. These kits rarely, if ever, include proper skin prep to disinfect the area to be pierced. Without this crucial step, the risk of infection is greatly increased.

The needle itself poses risk of injury by its very nature. It’s very easy to accidentally puncture other areas or to pierce into your fingers/hand as the needle exits the piercing site without proper training. If one person is piercing another, this poses a serious risk of bloodborne pathogen transmission. These kits do not provide a safe way to dispose of the needle after use, potentially exposing other family members or anyone handling the trash to bloodborne pathogens, or possibly having needles re-used from person to person.

These kits contain little to no instructions on how to properly use the needle and other tools and how to properly place the piercing. These are aspects that professional receive training for months if not years. Improper placement of the piercing site, including angles, depth in tissue, and other aspects are one of the most common causes of healing problems. It cause also cause excessive scarring or lead to a piercing migrating or rejecting.

The jewelry included is low quality and is not sized to individual anatomy. Low quality jewelry can cause immediate problems like allergic reaction, or longer term problems with prolonged healing or excessive scar tissue. Improperly sized jewelry can cause excessive swelling, embedding of the jewelry under the skin, or even cause a piercing to fail.

These kits do not come with a piercer to consult with when problems inevitably come up. They also don’t contain a clean, hygienic environment to perform the piercing in.

An area of particular concern is that of underage folks performing body piercings on themselves and their friends using readily available piercing kits sold readily available online and through other vendors. Young people are particularly at risk because, without parental consent, minors are denied professional piercing services in virtually all states where legislation has passed. However, they can still obtain the kits and get pierced without their parents’ consent or knowledge. Should an infection or other complication occur, no responsible adult will be on hand to oversee the situation or provide access to appropriate medical care.

A reputable piercer, on the other hand, will have training on sterilization, proper anatomical placement, aseptic technique, and jewelry sizing and quality. They’ll be licensed and inspected, if applicable. They have access to a variety of quality jewelry pieces to fit your anatomy, proper sterilization equipment, and a clean environment to perform the piercing in. They provide aftercare guidelines. They’ll also be available to answer questions and help with any issues during the healing process.

As professional piercers we want to keep the art of body piercing safe for all who give and receive piercings. We take our field seriously and understand that the risks can be substantially minimized with proper training, equipment, and sterilization. Over-the-counter piercing kits undermine all the work we and our legislators have done to protect the public health while allowing our art form to flourish.

Just say NO to piercing kits and those who sell them or use them!

ARE GENITAL PIERCINGS SAFE?
ARE GENITAL PIERCINGS SAFE?

Genital piercings are often assumed to be the most painful and easily infected of body piercings. Both the piercers who perform them and the clients who request them are sometimes reported to operate in questionable hygienic and ethical territory. However, with a properly trained piercer operating in a well equipped studio, this is not the case. Due to the elastic and resilient nature of much of the genital tissue, as well as the protection from contamination offered by clothing, genital piercings often heal more quickly and with fewer complications than do other piercings. Furthermore, the act of piercing the genitals is for many clients a conscious act of reclaiming and redefining their bodies as a source of pleasure rather than of misplaced shame. Because genital piercings represent an integral facet of sexual freedom, it is important that they be available to adults who seek them. However, it is equally important that they be provided by an experienced, reputable professional in a clean, safe environment.

In the interest of public safety, the Association of Professional Piercers would like to clarify the facts about genital piercings and their risks. Our comments are based upon decades of professional experience, research and extensive clinical practice by several hundred exemplary piercers. While we are not ourselves doctors, we do work in conjunction with medical practitioners and researchers. We trust that our comments will be taken in the spirit intended, as an effort to round out the existing dialogue. With full and appropriate information, it is our hope that consumers will be better able to make educated choices about their bodies and the ways in which they choose to celebrate them. It is also our hope that those who seek to protect and regulate the health of the public do so circumspectly, without unduly limiting or denigrating free bodily expression in its many forms.

Some criticism of genital piercings focuses on the perceived risk of piercing nerve-laden genital tissue. It is unquestionably true that some genital tissue contains much higher concentrations of nerve tissue than many other areas of the body. However, it is also true that this same tissue is physiologically designed to take increased abuse from friction, pressure and manipulation. Both women and men describe the pain of the most common genital piercings as being similar in intensity to other body parts, and sometimes less so. The more advanced genital piercings (such as clitoris and ampallang) may be more intense, but these are usually performed only by the most experienced piercers who have greater technical and anatomical expertise. However, they tend to also be requested by, and are often limited to, clients who have already received and healed other piercings. Since anesthetics are not used in accepted practice, the continued existence of these piercings should attest to the manageability of the pain.

As to the risks of excessive bleeding or neurological damage from common genital piercings, these risks are minimized when piercings are performed by a skilled and educated piercer using accepted techniques. Piercing-specific anatomical knowledge coupled with inspection of the area should allow a qualified piercer to perform the common piercings without incident. Specialized tools and procedures have also been developed by industry professionals in order to most successfully and safely manage the piercing procedure. When properly employed, these further reduce the risk of unanticipated consequence.

There is also concern that genital tissue may be more susceptible to infection than are piercings of other body parts. When performed by a conscientious professional piercer using proper aseptic technique, the risks of complications from the piercing itself are minimal. When these conditions are paired with appropriate and thorough aftercare on the part of an educated client, negative consequences are extremely rare. The physiologic function of genital tissue requires that it be extremely elastic and vascular and therefore quick to heal. Women’s genital tissue is by necessity well equipped to stretch, because to the rigors of childbirth, and give and quickly repair itself, often with little pain or consequence. With few exceptions, genital piercings will heal within a month or two, while tougher tissue such as ear cartilage, navels and nostrils may take six months or longer. Because healing time is often so short, this implies a very small window of opportunity for infection to set in. Furthermore, genital tissue is not subject to frequent exposure and casual contact with the external environment and dirty hands the way other body parts may be. (Certainly an office worker lost in thought would not be toying idly with a labia ring as she might be with an earring or nostril ring.) Clothing further protects the piercing from airborne contaminants, which can be a cause of infection and irritation for facial piercings.

The predominant cause of contamination and infection for genital piercings is most likely unprotected sexual contact. Even in the case of monogamous partners, body fluids, unwashed hands and oral bacteria can easily lead to infection if introduced in a wound. Fortunately, this exposure is preventable. In addition to explaining appropriate cleaning protocol, a responsible piercer will emphasize to the client that during healing, all sexual and oral contact must be made fluid safe, either through abstinence or the use of barriers such as condoms and dental dams. Furthermore, undue stress, abuse or manipulation of the piercing site and/or jewelry should be avoided during healing. Of course it is the responsibility of the client to follow through with these instructions after leaving the piercing studio. Providing the client with thorough written instructions and an invitation for follow-up care can greatly improve compliance and healing success.

In this discussion, it bears mentioning that the average genital piercing customer is a more informed consumer than the usual navel, ear or tongue piercing client. While often no more complicated from a piercer’s standpoint, genital piercings are a more advanced step in the mind of the piercee. Therefore those who elect to get them have usually already received and healed at least one other piercing, and are often more informed about the piercing process and aftercare. They are more likely to do advance research than are navel or facial piercing customers, and may be more likely to follow up with the piercer should questions or concerns arise. While of course genital piercings should never be done on anyone under eighteen (even with parental consent), these piercees are generally not eighteen-year-olds who are hiding the piercing and any consequences from their parents. In fact, these piercings are just as often being done on parents and other middle-aged adults, who are looking for new ways to appreciate their bodies and their relationships.

As with all piercings, genital piercings should only be performed on consenting, sober adults by a skilled and licensed (where applicable) practitioner. All piercing studios should be designed to provide a sanitary, controlled environment that conforms to appropriate local and state regulations, as well as to OSHA Bloodborne Pathogens standards. All tools, needles and jewelry must be sterile, and all needles must also be single-use. The practitioner must have specific knowledge of both aseptic technique and of the procedure at hand. He or she must also make every reasonable effort to maintain the physical and psychological comfort and safety of the client.

In short, genital piercings can be done safely and healed easily, provided the clients follow through with appropriate aftercare and abstain from unsafe contact. Since these clients are often the most educated and conscientious of the piercing clientele, compliance with suggested care is more likely than it is with other piercings.

While the idea of genital piercings stirs up fears of sexual taboos and contagious diseases for some (particularly for those physicians who see only worst case scenarios), the reality is truly quite different. Genital piercings today are being performed on a wide variety of people of all ages, sexualities and professional backgrounds. When performed under hygienic conditions by ethical and educated piercers on clients who follow suggested aftercare procedures, they represent a safe and creative way to assert bodily ownership and redefine the acceptability of pleasure. It is the challenge of professional piercers and those who regulate them to assure that these piercings remain both safe and available to those who choose them.

HOW DOES THE APP FEEL ABOUT OTHER FORMS OF BODY MODIFICATIONS?
HOW DOES THE APP FEEL ABOUT OTHER FORMS OF BODY MODIFICATIONS?

Established in 1994, The Association of Professional Piercers is an international non-profit organization dedicated to the dissemination of vital health and safety information about body piercing to piercers, health care professionals, legislators, and the general public. Socially and legislatively, body piercing is situated within the greater body modification community. As a result, we recognize that our role extends beyond the discipline of body piercing. Our position on body art practices such as tattooing, cosmetic tattooing, branding, scarification, suspension, and other forms of body modification is as follows:

We support the right for all adults to adorn or modify their bodies in a safe, informed, and consensual manner when performed by a qualified practitioner under appropriate asepsis. While the APP does not directly regulate, perform outreach, or offer procedural guidelines on practices other than body piercing, we support health and safety organizations that do.
 
Our most fundamental principles as expressed in our environmental criteria and ethical standards extend to the greater body modification community and its practices.
 
 
ARE INFECTIONS COMMON IN PIERCINGS?
ARE INFECTIONS COMMON IN PIERCINGS?

Infection is one of the most frightening and potentially serious dangers associated with body piercing. Two distinct phases are of concern: If you get pierced in unsanitary conditions, or with unsterile implements or jewelry, an infection can be transmitted during the piercing. Or, if you fail to care for the wound properly throughout its healing period, you can get an infection after the piercing is done. Studies show that the risk of infection increases when either the piercers technique or the aftercare is poor.

The incidence of infection is difficult to calculate because there is no reliable information about how many piercings are actually being performed. Some smaller studies done on college campuses usually reveal more about the quality of nearby piercers than they do about the rate of infection for body piercing in general.

Our world is full of microorganisms (germs, including bacteria, fungi, and viruses). Many of these are harmless – or even beneficial – to us, but some are pathogenic (capable of causing infection or disease). We are all routinely exposed to countless germs, but many complex factors impact how they affect us, including the potency and amount of an organism entering the body, and how it gets in, as well as the strength of the immune system.

The viruses hepatitis B and C and HIV are examples of bloodborne pathogens (microorganisms that can cause disease when present in the blood). They are of particular concern because if the needles or jewelry are not sterile, there is potential for these serious bloodborne diseases to be transmitted during piercing.

HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, is quite fragile and dies quickly when exposed to air; there have been no documented cases of HIV transmission through piercing. The hepatitis virus, however, is easier to transmit because it is quite hardy. Studies show that hepatitis B can live on a dry surface for at least seven days! Even though the virus is robust, improperly performed body art accounts for a very small proportion of hepatitis transmissions.

Bacterial infections can range from minor skin eruptions to deadly infections of the brain or lining of the heart. Never ignore a suspected infection: left untreated, certain kinds that start out as trivial can become lethal. Local bacterial infection (at the site of the piercing) is the most common sort, and deeper, larger, or systemic infections in healthy piercees are fairly rare.

The medical field has developed specific infection-control practices, called Standard Precautions (formerly Universal Precautions), for dealing with blood or other potentially infectious body fluids and any equipment that could be contaminated with them. Safe piercers are educated about these procedures and adhere to them meticulously.

WILL MY HEALTH CONDITIONS AFFECT MY PIERCING?
WILL MY HEALTH CONDITIONS AFFECT MY PIERCING?

Certain medical conditions make piercings riskier, and in some cases inadvisable. Health problems that weaken your infection-fighting defenses, including diabetes, lupus, HIV/AIDS, and other immune system disorders, can make you slow to heal. You might be more vulnerable to infection, and if you do contract one, it could be more severe and harder to cure.

Some heart disorders make you susceptible to infective endocarditis (a potentially deadly infection of the lining of the heart or heart valves, previously referred to as bacterial endocarditis). If you have a history of this illness or serious cardiac problems like a valve replacement, an ethical piercer will require proof that you have consulted with your doctor before proceeding. If you ordinarily must take antibiotic prophylaxis (preventive treatment) before dental procedures, your physician may recommend this before piercing. Cardiac ailments are one of the few preexisting conditions that can increase the risk of a fatal outcome: if you are advised against piercing due to your health, heed your doctors word!

Rashes such as eczema or psoriasis, scars such as keloids, and other skin abnormalities are less serious health issues. If you are considering a piercing in an area affected by one of these conditions, seek an evaluation by an experienced piercer and a piercing-friendly doctor.

Some states have regulations that require piercers to ask clients specific health-history questions on the release form before piercing, whereas other states have laws that prohibit piercers from asking certain health questions. Be honest about your medical history and respect a piercer who has the principles to decline to pierce you if the risk is unacceptable.

WHAT CAUSES A PIERCING TO REJECT OR MIGRATE?
WHAT CAUSES A PIERCING TO REJECT OR MIGRATE?

Two rather distinctive piercing complications are migration (the piercing moves from its initial placement, then settles and heals in a new location) and rejection (the jewelry is expelled completely from the body). The piercing is likely to migrate when unsuitable or insufficient tissue is pierced, or if your jewelry is too small in diameter, thin in gauge, or of poor quality. Inexperienced and untrained piercers often make these errors.

Migration and rejection can also result from using a harsh aftercare product, following poor health habits, or experiencing excessive physical trauma or emotional stress during the healing period. And, unfortunately, sometimes even when everything is done properly, a piercing will migrate or reject for no known reason. This is simply a risk of placing a foreign object through your skin: it may not stay in the desired position.

CAN I GET PIERCED WITH A SKIN CONDITION OR METAL ALLERGY?
CAN I GET PIERCED WITH A SKIN CONDITION OR METAL ALLERGY?

All sorts of bumps, lumps, and skin irritations can crop up around a piercing, coming and going as healing progresses and occasionally remaining permanently. Some of these are caused by mechanical stress against the piercing; others are caused by a cleaning product or jewelry material. Skin disorders can be difficult to diagnose, even for dermatologists, so experimentation is needed at times to identify and correct a problem. Conditions can also have a combination of causes, which further complicates diagnosis and treatment.

Metal sensitivities or allergies can also cause complications and difficulties with healing. Nickel is the most common metal allergy, and is a common component of low quality jewelry.  Allergies to other metals are pretty rare. If you suspect you have a problem wearing jewelry,  it may be worth having allergy testing performed by a dermatologist or allergist so that you know exactly what materials you need to avoid. The good news is that quality piercers will have a selection of multiple materials with a proven history of success inside the body (see Jewelry for Initial Piercings).

WILL MY PIERCING LEAVE A SCAR?
WILL MY PIERCING LEAVE A SCAR?

A piercing has the potential to be a temporary adornment (especially when compared to a tattoo), because the jewelry can easily be removed. There is a risk, however, of irreversible changes to the body, including discoloration, a mark such as a scar, bump, or dimple, or a permanent hole.

Many piercings shrink or close quickly, but some piercings will remain open indefinitely without jewelry in them. The placement of the hole, the length of time you have worn the piercing, the thickness of the jewelry that was in it, and your individual tissue all impact whether or not your piercing stays viable after removing the jewelry.

Piercings that are stretched to large dimensions commonly leave significant voids that may be considered disfiguring; to correct them, plastic surgery is required. Stretching a piercing too quickly or attempting to expand unsuitably thin tissue leads to problems. One potential consequence of overzealous stretching is a blowout (part of the interior channel is pushed out, leaving an unsightly lip of flesh on one side of the piercing). This distortion will usually be a lasting reminder of your hasty actions unless it is surgically removed. Piercings that are stretched improperly can also suffer from thinning tissue that does not regrow. A worst-case scenario is tissue necrosis (death) and the loss of the piercing and some of the skin in the area. Jewelry that exerts excessive pressure against underlying bone can cause bone necrosis.

There are piercings that have a tendency to effect changes such as the hardening or thickening of the tissue surrounding the openings, and this can be irreversible. For example, nipple piercings are known for causing permanent enlargement, especially in underdeveloped (small) anatomy.

Scarring and tissue discoloration at the piercing site are relatively normal occurrences, especially if you have a history of darkened scars. This can happen even when a piercing is performed properly and heals uneventfully. Migration often leaves a small track of scarring or discoloration from where the piercing was initially placed. Rejection usually results in a split scar. Piercings of the ear cartilage are prone to disfigurement if a serious infection develops. The cartilage can collapse, causing a cauliflower ear appearance.

Excessive scarring sometimes occurs in reaction to piercing, and it can be very difficult to resolve. If you have a history of problems with scarring or keloids (large growths of fibrous tissue), piercing is generally inadvisable.

HOW DO I AVOID HURTING MY PIERCING?
HOW DO I AVOID HURTING MY PIERCING?

Accidents happen, and there is a risk of catching jewelry and tearing a piercing. An act as simple as taking off your shirt can be dangerous for a piercing on the torso, face, or ear. Strenuous workouts, airbags, pets, children – even sexual activities – can cause ripping or splitting. Obviously, healing piercings are more delicate and vulnerable to injury, but older piercings are still susceptible.

You must be aware of your jewelry and your movements, take steps to protect your piercing, and avoid activities that could lead to such accidents. If you engage in sports or other behaviors that pose a risk to your piercings, wear protective gear.

Jewelry that is too thin can carve through the flesh like a wire slicing a wedge of cheddar: hence, I coined the term cheese-cutter effect to describe this unpleasant (and largely preventable) occurrence. Wearing charms or heavy weights on thin-gauge wires makes trouble likely.

Somewhat less predictable incidents can take place when jewelry in oral or nasal piercings is swallowed or, more seriously, inhaled. The best way to prevent this is by wearing quality jewelry of the proper fit and checking the closure (bead or ball) daily to ensure that it is tightly affixed.

WHY DO PEOPLE GET PIERCED?
WHY DO PEOPLE GET PIERCED?

The urge to decorate the body and control your appearance is a universal human trait. Each of us uses clothing, hairstyle, and so on to express our individuality and to make the most of the gifts or curses, perceived or real, bestowed by nature. Nowadays we have more choices than ever to manipulate our looks. The options range from minor adjustments such as hair dye and teeth whitener to more extreme but still socially acceptable practices such as liposuction and breast implants. Although body modification is still less conventional than, say, getting a nose job, it has become prevalent in todays world.

Piercing and other types of body modification are methods of changing the actual physical form, which is empowering in a way that may not be fully understood by those who have never participated in it. Womxn, in particular, are bombarded by the medias unrealistic notions of beauty, which deeply affect self-esteem and body image. They may turn to piercing or other forms of body art to help them embrace a positive attitude about themselves. While there is no unanimous consensus about whether body jewelry enhances appearance, aesthetics is a widespread motivating factor for piercing.