Like many of us I had my first ear piercings sitting in the window of Claire’s Accessories. Completely none the wiser about gun or needle piercings with my mum's priority being a good quality earring that wouldn’t irritate my precious ears and mine, the ability to have two guns firing studs into my ears at the same time so the process was over and done with as fast as possible. How many of us can relate to that? I know many of my piercing clients definitely can!
So when I trained as a body piercer this was in fact one of the very first questions I asked: Why is it better to pierce with a needle rather than a gun?
Healing and hygiene. Now let me explain that a bit more… When we pierce with a needle, the needle comes in different sizes and this size corresponds to the needle thickness. When the needle goes through your ear it cuts away away a piece of your ear. That's why you will often see earrings sized by gauge - 18G for example. An 18G needle has a diameter of 1.3mm so this is the size of the hole we take away from your ear and replace with a stud. By creating this space for the earring, it’s far kinder to your ear and easier for it to accept the new jewellery. Combined with an appropriate length bar, you'll get a lovely heal on your new piercing.
Now, the piercing gun.. The piercing gun has almost a stapler mechanism. It punches a stud with a pointed end through your ear with enough force that is breaks the skin. The skin is then expected to stretch in order to accommodate the piercing. Something it won’t naturally want to do. A super tight butterfly back fastening clamps the earring shut not allowing for any swelling and barely allowing any air to get to the piercing to heal. Gun piercings often come with the upsell of an aftercare lotion that wouldn’t be necessary with a needle piercing as homemade salt water will do the job just as well.
Now for the hygiene part. I can tell you that when I trained in piercings, I spent just as much of my course learning about the importance of using sterile instruments, needles and jewellery as I did actually piercing. As a professional piercer I have to ensure that once I have used my clamp to pierce someone’s ear that it goes straight into disinfectant. Once my client leaves it goes into an ultrasonic cleaner before it goes into an autoclave - an oven like machine used by doctors and dentist that kills all bodily fluids and returns the clamp to a sterile state. Now that’s just for the clamp! The piercing needles come individually packaged and are binned after a single use. The jewellery itself arrives sterilised and pre packaged also. If not then I repeat the same sterilising process as the clamp.
So here is the problem with gun piercings - you quite simply cannot sterilise a piercing gun. An antiseptic wipe just isn’t going to do the job of removing any drops of blood, serum or skin. Therefore you have a risk of cross contamination. Especially if the earrings have to be positioned in the gun before they are forced through your ears, just think of what bacteria they could pick up on the way. Google it if you dare.
Now the chances of catching anything sinister are very low so my intention with this blog post is not to terrify you but to give you the facts. And the fact is that you cannot guarantee the same level of sterility that you can with the piercing needle.
On a final point, yes gun piercings can shatter cartilage and under no circumstances should the cartilage in your ears or nose be pierced with a gun. Cartilage will not stretch to accommodate a stud like the lobe eventually would, it’s more than likely that not only would it be extremely painful - you’d run a much higher risk of an infection, shattering the cartilage which can cause the ear to collapse, and the piercing closing as soon as an earring is removed.
So if like me, you sat in a shop window at 8 years of age and had your first piercing with a gun, then don’t panic. Chances are that your piercings healed fine. But the future of piercings is definitely with a needle by a trained professional. Let me know your own experiences below!