Vol.2, No.4

What is it like to get your ear pierced?

Ear piercing has been popular for thousands of years, and most women today have pierced ears. If you're thinking about getting your ears pierced, here are a few things you need to know.

Woman's ear piercings
If you're thinking about getting your ears pierced, then know that you'll be in good company. Most women in the Western world do go through the process of ear piercing. It's simply much more convenient and comfortable to have piercings than to try to find and wear clip-ons, magnetics, or cuffs.

Though some families opt to have a baby girl's ears pierced in infanthood, most young women make the decision and pierce during the pre-teen or teen years. This decision must typically be supported by a parent. Though laws vary state to state, most piercing establishments require parental permission for individuals under the age of eighteen.

For previous generations, ear piercing was often done at home using ice for numbing and a sewing needle pushed through the ear and into a soft base like cork or potato. With the development of the earring gun, jewelry and department stores began offering piercing services during the 1960s and 1970s.

Today, there are several options for those considering ear piercings:

1. Jewelry/Department Store - The local mall and downtown shops continue to offer gun piercings.

2. Do-It-Yourself Kits - Large general merchandise stores now carry one-time-use kits. These include an inexpensive gun device and directions for the home piercer.

3. Piercing Shops - Specialty stores for body piercing and/or tattooing offer hollow needle piercing by trained professionals. Most communities now have piercing parlours, and tourist towns generally have several such establishments.

The decision on "where to go to get a piercing" boils down to personal preference. Visiting the local mall for a gun piercing is simple and inexpensive. Most families enjoy this rite of passage followed by shopping and lunch or dinner. The home option has enjoyed a revival now that kits are available. A professional looking gun has more appeal than a needle and thread. The biggest concern with home piercing is placement. Make sure the person doing the piercing has a steady hand. The newest trend is to visit a specialty piercing establishment. Hollow needles are less damaging to ear tissue, so such piercings are less painful and are quicker to heal.

There are two types of ear piercings—lobe piercing and cartilage piercing. The most traditional type of piercing is lobe piercing where the bottom portion of the ear is pierced with one or sometimes multiple holes. Very few problems are associated with lobe piercings. Piercings along the edge and top of the ear are cartilage piercings. Such piercings are more painful and take longer to heal. You're more likely to end up with an infection when having the cartilage pierced. If you're planning to pierce cartilage, visit a professional piercer and go with the hollow needle option.

Before having your ears pierced, be sure to look around the shop and talk to the person doing the piercing. The establishment should be clean and professional looking in appearance. Employees should be knowledgeable and should be willing to discuss the process. If you have any doubts, wait and visit another shop.

The basic steps involved in ear piercing are as follows:

1. The lobe or cartilage will be swiped with a cleansing agent. In some cases, a numbing lotion will be applied.

2. A marker will be used to mark the spot for the piercing. Be sure to check the placement. If you're not happy with the location, the mark can be wiped off and a new mark made.

3. The gun or needle will be used to make the hole. In cases where a gun is used, the earring posts make the hole and are inserted at the same time.

The biggest question asked about ear piercings is: Does it hurt? The answer to that is: Yes. Just a little bit. Though the experience varies from person to person, most individuals would compare a lobe piercing to being lightly snapped with a rubber band. A cartilage piercing is a bit more painful but less so than being stung by a bee or getting a shot at the doctor's office. The pain is not lingering. Once the piercing is complete, it's almost impossible to tell that a procedure has been done.

Once your ears are pierced, you'll need to remember the following:

1. Turn the earrings daily to keep the tissue from healing around and sticking to the posts.

2. Wash around the piercing daily and wipe with an antibacterial to prevent infection.

3. Leave the starter earrings (which typically have larger posts) in for 6 to 8 weeks.

4. Be sure to wear earrings religiously the first full year. The piercings can close if you don't continue to wear earrings.

Most people have no problems with ear piercings. If your ear begins to ache or to look red, then be sure to wash carefully and often. Check with a doctor if the ear does not clear up within a day or two. Most often problems are associated with sensitivity to nickel in the posts. A different metal may be substituted for those with allergic reactions. In cases where infection sets in, it may be necessary to take a round of antibiotics.