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Opinion: Safety first — just say no to piercing guns

Keeping up with trends can be nearly as exhausting as keeping up with the Kardashians. Trends are not easy to avoid, especially when more than half of the population lives on social media. When most people hear the word “trend” their first thought is fashion, however, there are so many more options —  social media challenges, memes, and even political movements to name a few. In 2018, one particular trend at an all-time peak is piercings.

Piercings date back to ancient Egypt. Mummies have been discovered with holes in their ears. Even portraits of William Shakespeare show him sporting the style. Piercings are even a part of religious ceremonies in some countries. The jewelry itself can be made out of glass, wood, ivory, bone and shells.

According to the Association of Professional Piercers, piercing guns have “major drawbacks in terms of sterility, tissue damage and inappropriate jewelry design.” (Photo courtesy of Ana Glosson)

In American culture during the 1920s, piercings were seen as taboo because they were believed to show a lack of moral character. As a result, women during that time resorted to wearing clip-on earrings. However, piercings only gained popularity over the years.

In 1975, Jim Ward, who is known as the granddaddy of the modern piercing movement, started Gauntlet, the first piercing studio of its kind. Piercings were no longer just limited to earlobes. Ward and his mentor came up with a menu of options for piercings —multiple types of ear and nose piercings, surface piercings and even genital piercings. This attracted clients who labeled themselves as “queers,” “punks,” “rebels” and “creatives.” As a result, piercings were associated with outcasts. This can be seen in ‘90s  films like “Clueless” with characters like Travis, who were not associated with any cliques.

Musicians of the time hopped on the trend, too. Scary Spice of the Spice Girls had a tongue piercing. Christina Aguilera had up to 12 piercings at one time. P!nk and Gwen Stefani of No Doubt had multiple piercings as well. To this day, Lenny Kravitz still has his iconic nose piercing.

Despite the popularity of piercings, many people have little or zero knowledge of the safety precautions that should come with them. I have 16 ear piercings. Each time I have gotten a new piercing, I’ve gone to a piercer who has educated me on the danger of piercing guns as opposed to needles.

Many people go to mall kiosks for piercings because it’s cheap and convenient. Mall kiosks often use piercing guns. One reason this is not the way to go is because piercing guns cannot be properly sterilized. Not only does the spot chosen for a piercing need to be cleaned, but the tool used needs to be cleaned as well. If the tool is not cleaned the piercing will not heal well. Piercing guns can cause infection and hurt more because they jam dull jewelry into your ear.

Another issue is that employees at a mall kiosk also tend to put on piercings way too tight, causing swelling issues. Swelling is a natural part of the healing process and piercings should be large enough to allow for that. In addition, if a piercing gun is used on cartilage, it can literally shatter your ear. Surgical grade steel should be the only thing in a healing piercing. When piercing guns use bad metal (copper, silver, etc.) it can irritate ears.

Needles used by professionals are designed to allow for minimum damage, thus, less pain. Employees who work at a trendy jewelry store, such as Claire’s, may have no idea what they are doing. Many tend to just “wing it” after watching a one-hour training video, whereas most professionals train for at least a year under the watchful eye of a mentor.

The next time you or someone you know is considering a piercing, make sure you do research on the piercing as well as the piercer you choose to do it for you. Piercings can also take months to heal correctly. The aftercare process of getting a piercing is just as important as trusting your piercer to make a hole in your ear. No one likes a post-piercing horror story, so make sure you know everything you need to know beforehand.

The views, thoughts, and opinions expressed in this article belong solely to the author, and not necessarily to New Mexico State University, the NMSU Department of Journalism and Media Studies, Kokopelli, or any other organization, committee, group or individual. 

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