ear piercing advice
January 7, 2004 6:53 PM   Subscribe

I need some ear piercing advice. [more inside]

I got my ears pierced about 4 years ago. One lobe got really swollen and infected -- I had to go to the doctor to get it removed because my ear was kind of growing around the earring. I got that ear repierced after taking antibiotics for awhile. It seemed like it was getting infected again, so at that point I just gave up and let both holes close up.

Now I kind of feel like getting them pierced again, only this time with two holes in each lobe. So I have a few questions.
Will most places pierce two holes in each ear at once? Is this a good idea?
Should I trust Claire's to do the piercing?
And also this is pretty specific, but do you think there is a big possibility of them getting infected again since the one ear got infected twice last time (even with gold posts)?
posted by puffin to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (19 answers total)
do not go to claire's! you don't want to use a gun, because it essentially punches a hole in your earlobe (imagine a hole punch, except with FLESH)

i would suggest going to a piercing studio, where they use a needle. they will give you instructions on how to keep it clean, which should reduce your chance of infection. just generally, don't touch new piercings with dirty hands and try to keep your hair off of them as much as possible. and keep your pillowcases clean.
posted by sugarfish at 7:26 PM on January 7, 2004

Yes, go to a reputable piercing studio. The equipment is more likely to be sterile (I wouldn't trust ANY retail outlet to be able to maintain sterile conditions.) and a professional piercer, having gone through training that the retail clerk hasn't, will be able to give you proper care instructions.

As for the double piercings, that depends on where the closed hole from your last ear piercings are. IIRC, you shouldn't pierce through the scar tissue of a healed-over piercing, so there may not be enough room on your earlobe for both holes. Again, this is something that a professional would be able to determine.
posted by Ruki at 7:49 PM on January 7, 2004

Puffin - you may have been allergic to the metal in your earrings. This should help you out.
posted by lola at 7:54 PM on January 7, 2004

thanks for all the advice so far.
do not go to claire's! you don't want to use a gun, because it essentially punches a hole in your earlobe (imagine a hole punch, except with FLESH)

Yeah, that's where I got it done the first time. I didn't know the gun was that bad, though.

Out of curiosity, how does a needle piercing feel compared to the gun? (ie does it hurt a lot?)
posted by puffin at 8:10 PM on January 7, 2004

As someone with 8 ear piercings, I feel I can cover just about everything here. I've never got infections so I can't help you with that.

Two in the same lobe will hurt more than one, and probably take longer to heal. I know this is true for cartilage, but for the lobe there may not be as much of a difference. If you're only getting piercings on one side, it will suck more or less dependent on whether it's the ear you talk on the phone with or sleep on.
posted by stoneegg21 at 8:20 PM on January 7, 2004

A gun hurts a million times more than a needle, and it scars. I've had about a dozen ear piercings, and the only one that hasn't healed completely is the one I got with a gun thirteen years ago.

As for infections, the only problem with multiple fresh piercings in the same ear is that if one of them becomes infected, they'll all get infected. This happened to me, and due to the cheap-ass rings I had in at the time, I developed a reactionary allergy to nickel. Very poor. Keep them clean. :)
posted by Jairus at 8:47 PM on January 7, 2004

Anybody know where to find the "earrings made of plastic" referred to in that MSN Health article? I have super-sensitive contact dermatitis to all metal earrings, and it sure would be nice to find something I could wear for more than 20 minutes.
posted by Alylex at 9:19 PM on January 7, 2004

Just a note for y'all. Only Cowboys Use Guns

Here are some key reasons for making the banning of the stud gun across the UK a legal requirement;
  • The gun cannot be sterilised in an autoclave machine. This means that it is never cleaned to the kind of standards tattooists / body piercers accept legally. There is a risk of cross-contamination associated with this practise. Wiping the instrument with alcohol or other cleaning solution is not the same as an intensive steam clean which can only be provided with an autoclave of medical standard.
  • The studs it fires go through at such a velocity the piercings are rarely accurate, and more often than not heal 'wonky'.
  • Due to this speed, when the gun is fired, it disperses a very fine (invisible to the naked eye) mist of blood and bodily fluids, which is then virtually impossible to clean from in the studio.
  • The gun method, which fires a stud with a dull point through the flesh, rips through and displaces the flesh around the piercing site - as opposed to actually removing a sliver, as is the case with proper cannulae / needleblade piercings - and therefore many people, especially on cartilage piercings, experience the forming of lumps (keloids), bruising, infection due to itty bitty bits of shattered bone and torn tissue still being present inside the piercing wound.
  • Even for normal ear lobe piercings, the posts on the studs are so short they often cannot accommodate swelling, therefore causing pinching, discomfort, can end up embedded in the lobes and can lead to ever more risk of infection. They are also too thin - being 1mm, as opposed to the generally accepted standard 1.6mm used in body piercing - which means if caught on clothes, etc the piercings tear far easier.
  • The jewellery used is not of a standard / accepted grade for use in skin piercing techniques.
  • Despite being quicker and cheaper, the gun method is actually more painful than the proper needle method, due to the factors listed in points 3-5. The needle can pass through almost as quickly, and will not traumatise or permanently damage the tissue, and the risk of infection, if pierced in this way will be down to poor aftercare, as opposed to bad piercing technique. On top of which, the gun makes a loud 'click' when fired, which can cause the subject to jump, and result in an even more inaccurate and uncomfortable piercing.
  • The discharge of lymph - a thin, whitish fluid - is a natural, normal part of the piercing process which is often mistaken for the onset of infection. If the jewellery from the gun fits the piercing too tightly, this fluid may become 'trapped' in the piercing, thus leading to further complications. It can also 'seal in' fluids and germs which can lead to serious infection. There are a number of isolated cases of infected cartilage piercings resulting in loss of hearing.

  • posted by five fresh fish at 9:31 PM on January 7, 2004

    I've had my ears pierced with a gun (in high school) and by needles (as an adult) and I had much more trouble with infection the first time around. I can't wear my earrings every day (I'm an attorney) but I still don't have too much trouble taking them out on Monday morning and replacing them on Friday night. (Yes, I have to work on the weekends, but then the dress code is casual.)

    As for pain, the only time a piercing ever really hurt was the one time I'd had a few beers at lunch before going to the piercer (and fibbing on the form about whether I'd consumed alcohol). I was pretty poor then, so I couldn't afford to have these particular piercings performed in the same pay period (well, I could have, but I didn't want to wait two weeks). Tipsy hurt a hell of a lot more than sober, letmetellyouwhat.

    Alylex, could it be Tygon or Teflon? Check out this site [flash]. I've been to their brick-and-mortar shop, and they're very, very professional.
    posted by subgenius at 9:36 PM on January 7, 2004

    It has been said a few times in this thread: go to a piercing studio. I have gone under the piercer's needle a lot and the Claire's gun a couple of times. The inital ring a pro will put in may be a little thicker than claire's, but a good captive ball or curved barbell will be easier to take care of than a claire's free piercing with purchase pair. Get the stainless and you won't have a weird reaction because some alloy is inside your ear. Plus a good trip to the piercing studio (shop around first, find one you are comfortable at) can be a very ritualistic and powerful experience where as a trip to a mall store is a.....trip to a mall store.
    posted by spartacusroosevelt at 9:39 PM on January 7, 2004

    Good advice above. I have done some body piercings for friends and would add/agree with:
    1. Make sure the equipment that touches your ear is sterile or even disposable. I use IV needles that are single use.
    2. Be sure the earrings you get are hypoallergenic. The gold posts you had before may have been cheaply plated, allowing the base metal to leech through, so spend extra for quality jewelry. Ideally something that you know from prior experience is non-irritating to you.
    3. One piercing in each ear at a time. Not only for the reasons above, but so you can find out if whatever technique you choose is effective for preventing infection.
    4. Pay close attention to keeping the piercings clean afterwards; whoever does it should be able to give you detailed advice on wound care. I have had good luck using a slight dab of triple antibiotic ointment on sites that are prone to infection. Also, try to avoid irritating the sites until they are healed

    Hope this helps
    posted by TedW at 6:38 AM on January 8, 2004

    The MSNBC article mentions stainless steel; you really need to get the surgical grade steel for the best anti-allergic results. It's used for scalpels and other invasive tools and is very pure. My ear piercings reacted to everything until I got surgical steel hoops.
    posted by carter at 7:32 AM on January 8, 2004

    One thing I used when I was younger and hadn't let my piercings grow over (or, err, almost grow over, since it's been 13 years since I wore earrings, and they're still half there), was little plastic slip on things that went on the back of ordinary cheap earrings and covered the posts. I don't know if you can buy them anymore, but they were cheap and easy and worked pretty well.
    posted by jacquilynne at 8:32 AM on January 8, 2004

    I've been thinking about getting an ear pierced. However, I have no idea how much it ususally costs - what are some baseline rough-estimate figures for the procedure alone? $20? $50? etc. I know it depends on where in the country, and the particular piercing studio, but a good average of "around how much to expect" would be cool. None of the places around here will tell me in email, they just say "come in".
    posted by mrbill at 8:44 AM on January 8, 2004

    A high quality CBR runs me between $15-20 at my favorite piercing studio, Infinite, and I suspect that the actual cost of the piercing is in that range as well--I can't access their site from work but I believe they do have prices somewhere on the site. The last piercing I got there was $65 total, but it was a, ah, below-the-belt piercing and was more expensive than ears would be.

    You can buy the jewelry yourself (I'd recommend Body Circle--I love love love love their CBRs) and you can take it in to the piercer and have them sterlize it in the autoclave before using it (most studios are okay with this). If you want to be able to wear regular earrings after the piercing heals, you're going to want to get pierced with at most 14 gauge, but probably 16 gauge.

    I concur with what everyone else has said: go to a qualified and accredited piercing studio, preferably one that only does piercing (and not piercing as a sideline to tattoos). They should open the needle and jewelry in your presence and they should wear some sort of gloves on ther hands (either latex or a non-latex alternative if you're sensitive to latex). They should take their time and be willing to answer any questions you may have about the procedure and the aftercare.

    For aftercare, touch the piercing as little as possible. Clean crusties off it when you're in the shower. If it hurts, dissolve some sea salt or kosher salt in hot water and soak the piercing in it--for ears, I use a new cotton pad and immerse it in the salt water and rest it on my ear.

    Can you tell that I'm a total piercing junkie? The only reason I'm not completely full of metal is that going to a really great piercing studio and getting really high quality jewelry is expensive and I'm kind of poor.
    posted by eilatan at 9:15 AM on January 8, 2004


    perhaps MSN health meant acrylic piercing jewelry?
    posted by crush-onastick at 9:57 AM on January 8, 2004

    Pierce your ear for free. Just before Junior High School, I pierced my right ear by myself (used a heavy duty sewing needle and white thread). It was a trend amongst my classmates. It was really easy. I just sterilized the needle with a lighter flame, threaded the needle, numbed my earlobe with an ice cube, held a cork against the back of my ear, and pushed the needle through. It was alot harder than I imagined, cartridge is pretty tough stuff. Then just knotted the thread together loop.

    When the hole healed, I pulled out the thread, but since I didn't have the courage to do the left ear, I let it heal up completely. My mom freaked out and took me to doctor who pierced both ears with a gun.

    My husband recently pierced both his ears the same way. He just put the earrings in right after the piercing instead of using the thread.
    posted by lola at 10:28 AM on January 8, 2004

    Apologies for my tardiness in getting back. Thank you all for your suggestions. I'm looking for basic feminine earrings -- at least now I know that acrylic ones exist, even if I haven't found my style yet. AskMe rules!
    posted by Alylex at 11:43 PM on January 8, 2004

    I used titanium-post studs on my last ear piercings and had no trouble at all. I agree about getting them done in a piercing studio and not with a gun.
    posted by biscotti at 2:01 PM on January 11, 2004

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