SAY NO TO THE GUN
As a professional Piercer people often ask me “why are piercing guns so hated by professional piercers?” It’s difficult to explain all the reasons why piercing guns should not be used in just one appointment so the following information is to help clients and parents to make an informed decision before booking their children in with a local shop or salon for a piercing. This is the information I have collated over the years about piercing guns and I also detail my own experience with piercing guns and why I personally stopped using them.
I have been a certified body piercer since 2017. Prior to this, I worked in the Beauty industry for 6 years. Being a beauty therapist just out of college, I felt I knew everything there was to know about every aspect of the industry. Including piercing, even though I only had one day of training. Luckily, I quickly wised up to the fact that I knew nothing about piercing.
I would say I had maybe three months of ‘qualified piercer’ life, before I realised something was not right. Every so often, clients would return to the salon, either with an issue or question, looking for my help as a ‘professional’. My one day of training did not set me up to begin to provide answers.
I experienced all sorts of issues when doing ear piercing with guns, thankfully nothing overly serious but I genuinely believe I was just lucky. Several times the gun would get stuck on the client’s ear which would often be distressing to younger clients. I particularly remember one appointment with a lovely teenage girl, who was having her ears pierced for the first time after years of begging her parents. She arrived at the appointment so excited to finally get her piercings. I pierced the first ear and then started to prepare the gun to get the second ear pierced when I realised the gun had broken. The mechanism in the gun which allows you to pull the earring adapter back, know as the tension regulator (see diagram, apologies, I am not an artist) had broken. The tension regulator also provides the force needed to drive the earring through the ear. This meant I could not load an earring into the gun and pierce the second ear. Feeling awful, I had to order a new gun and rearrange the appointment meaning my client had to leave with just one ear pierced. She, of course, was quite upset.
Risk of Infection
Thankfully, I never had a client return with infections. Again, this I am sure was just luck. But in my opinion, this is the biggest problem with piercing guns.
They are designed for multiple use and being plastic, cannot be autoclaved sterilised and therefore not up to medical standard. Which in an industry that deals primarily with breaking the skin, this is not acceptable.
When an ear is pierced, blood (in microscopic particles) can become airborne which then settles on surfaces. When using an ear-piercing gun, these blood particles settle on the gun and penetrate the plastic covering which are then held in the mechanism. This means, even if the operator of the gun attempts sanitisation, the inside of the gun would still be contaminated. Blood, even on a microscopic scale, can carry infections. Blood-borne pathogens cause diseases which alter the human blood on a long-lasting scale. Hepatitis B & C are common and dangerous diseases spread through blood mishandling.
Diseases such Hepatitis have been found to live in and on surfaces for long periods of time, often several weeks. These diseases are considered serious threats to public health when they are present on reusable objects such as piercing guns. This is concerning when you imagine the number of clients these guns can come into contact within a single day, many of which are younger children who are often more susceptible the infection due to their lower immune systems.
You cannot learn all you need to know about blood-borne pathogens, infections disease and medically acceptable cleaning and sanitation that is required to work with open skin in one day of training. Gun operating piercers tend only receive a single day of training.
Piercing guns work in a similar way to a stapler. Staplers work by using spring loaded force to push a blunt object (the staple) into paper. The good thing about paper is it does not feel pain or react to such trauma by swelling. Most earrings used in piercing guns are quite blunt meaning the loaded force of the gun is used to drive the jewellery through the ear. This is known as ‘blunt-force trauma’ which causes tissue damage.
If piercing guns are used on areas of the ear or body which are made up of cartilage, this can result in issues such as the shattering of the cartilage or scarring. Another result of damage caused by piercing guns is the separation of subcutaneous fascia from cartilage tissue, this can create cavities in which fluids collect. This can lead to both temporary swelling and permanent lumps of tissue at or near the piercing site. These can, in severe cases, result in disfiguration which only surgery can correct. Cartilage takes longer to heal due to the fact it has less blood flow than softer tissue areas such as the earlobes. Therefore, if unsterilized equipment is used or insufficient aftercare is provided, client s could experience serious issues which may result in the collapse of structural tissue leading to reconstructive surgery.
Piercing Gun Jewellery
When an area is piercing, a common reaction is for the area to swell. If the length of the jewellery is insufficient, this can cause the jewellery to be absorbed by the swollen tissue (which in most cases leads to a trip to A&E). Jewellery used in piercing guns is most commonly too small to allow for this swelling. The Metal used in some jewellery used in guns is not of a medically suitable grade, this can lead to allergic reacts which can cause severe problems for some clients.
Use of Guns
When I was trained to use a piercing gun, we were told it was perfectly fine to pierce other areas of the body such as cartilage and noses. I personally never thought it was safe to pierce anything another than earlobes with the guns so never attempted to. I have watched videos online of piercers using guns to pierce areas of body which it was never designed to be used on. Areas like the lips, eyebrows, navels and even tongues. If a piercer ever offers to pierce any area other than the lobe (even though I strongly disagree with this as well) please take this as a sign of their lack understanding of the damage it can and will cause.
Why are needles better?
I don’t want anyone to read this and be put off piercing altogether, when done correctly, with needles, properly sterilised instruments and a professional and by a well trained piercer, having a piercing is completely safe, hygienic and enjoyable. Professional piercers use needles as they are sharp enough to pierce the skin without excessive force, giving the best possible chance for good quality healing. These needles are single use only, decreasing the chance of cross-contamination. All reusable instruments such as clamps, scissors and kidney dishes are sterilised between clients using a medical standard autoclave which removes the blood particles and therefore the chance of infecting clients with blood-borne diseases. Professional piercers receive comprehensive training on not only how to pierce but also understand and dealing with the risks of cross-contamination and blood-borne diseases. This means that they understand the risks both to clients and themselves so are more likely to take appropriate steps to help combat these threats.
Professional piercers have a detailed knowledge of the jewellery and what types, size etc are suitable for each areas of the body. They also ensure they use appropriate metal such as implant grade quality titanium, with continues no nickel. Nickel is the material that people react too when they have a metal allergy.
To conclude, when you are searching for a piercer for either yourself or A loved one, please just ask if they use needles or guns. As detailed above, it is important to consider the risks surrounding piercing guns before making an impulsive decision.