Body Piercing

Body piercing is a common way for women with brown skin to decorate our bodies. You might be interested in knowing that piercing has existed in different forms for as long as 5,000 years and body piercing is one of the oldest and most telling forms of decoration. Piercing has had many meanings over time and has signified marital status, social standing, and more recently, expressions of individuality and uniqueness. For example, in Africa, Ethiopian women pierce and stretch their ear lobes and lips as a display of wealth and high social status. In India, women use nose piercing to induce a state of submissiveness. Today’s urban vixens use piercing to enhance their attractiveness, allure, sexuality and individuality. The following sections describe the basics of piercings, including the what, where, when, how, and who of body piercing. These are general guidelines and this information is not a substitute for the advice or care of your health care provider. It is always advisable to explore many sources when making the decision to modify your body in any way.

The Piercing Process
After you have decided to have a piercing done, you must decide who will perform your piercing. The piercing process itself is usually simple and quick, and, depending on the body part, relatively painless. It is important to remember that the piercer should be a trained professional, since you are trusting this person to puncture your body. You want to be sure that your piercer has the proper credentials and experience. It is probably best to have the piercing performed by a licensed health care professional, either a doctor, nurse or physician’s assistant. However, if you decide to go to a piercing shop or studio, you must check out the piercer’s credentials. Rules differ by state and you will want to find out about licensing before you get any work done. Also, the work area in any shop you visit should be kept in a clean and sanitary condition and have good lighting. If the piercer refuses to discuss sterilization and infection control with you, go somewhere else. If at any time you feel uneasy or unsafe, it is best to leave that shop. Also, reputable piercing studios will not serve a minor without signed consent from a parent.

Immediately before piercing, the piercer should wash and dry his or her hands and put on a new pair of latex or vinyl gloves. (If you are allergic to latex, request the piercer to use vinyl gloves or other non-latex materials) These gloves should be worn at all times during the piercing procedure and gloves should be changed if the piercer leaves the procedure and touches other objects. The area you want pierced should also be washed and disinfected before it is pierced. Most piercers will cleanse the area with an anti-microbial soap and use an alcohol based swab or pad on the area. The piercer will most likely mark the spot with a pen (make sure it is a new pen, and that it is thrown away after its use, since there isn’t much point in cleaning the piercing area if you don’t know whose body the marking pen touched before yours). The piercer should have an autoclave (a heat sterilization machine) to sterilize equipment between customers or utilize a one-use disposable piercer. You must always make sure any tools that are used on your skin have been sterilized or are new. This will eliminate the risk of transmitting infectious diseases.

Now for the actual piercing. First, the piercer will pass a hollow needle through the chosen body part, which will create a tunnel. This is usually done quickly. Most people note the prick and minimal stinging- depending on the thickness of the area being pierced. This is followed by the insertion of the body jewelry in the tunnel and the type of jewelry will depend on the body part. A small amount of bleeding may occur as a result of the piercing, but this should not last long unless the piercer has nicked a vein. It is also advisable to discuss with your piercer or health care professional the discontinuation of aspirin and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications (such as Motrin, Advil, Alleve) 14 days prior to piercing, since these medications can cause excess bleeding. Starter jewelry should always be a captive bead ring (CBR), barbell, or piercing stud. Sometimes you will be allowed to choose the size of your jewelry. Remember not to select large or heavy jewelry. Avoid the use of a piercing gun (unless it is the disposable single use variety) because it cannot be sterilized properly and may crush the tissue that is pierced. Also, make sure the jewelry being used is made of a non-corrosive metal, such as surgical stainless steel, titanium, or 18-24K gold. This will help prevent allergic reactions that commonly occur with nickel-containing costume jewelry (even 14-karet gold jewelry may contain nickel).

Where To Pierce?
Piercing, like tattooing, is a form of body art, and you have many choices when it comes to decorating your own body. Although you can always remove a piercing, it is important to take time to consider what you want beforehand. There is little point in enduring the process only to regret it later. Remember to think beyond pure beauty and consider if the area is prone to infection, or if the piercing can affect your ability to continue your regular activities after you have been pierced. Below is a chart listing your various options once you’ve decided that piercing is for you. The chart is informational only, describes piercings that are available in most urban areas, and does not imply safety or endorsement. It is important to discuss with your health care provider or piercer the potential risks and consequences of infection, scarring, nerve damage, loss of sensation or allergic reactions from the piercings. The chart lists different piercings, along with some general information about those parts of the body, their average healing times, and recommended starter jewelry.


Location of Piercing General Information Healing Time Jewelry

Ear Lobes- non cartilage

The lobe is the easiest place on the body to pierce and has the highest success rate. It generally heals well, and accommodates many different styles of jewelry. However, ear lobes are the most common sites for keloids to develop. A lobe piercing can also be stretched.

3-6 weeks

16-12 gauge CBR (if stud jewelry is used it should not be too tight, to allow for proper cleaning and healing)

Lobe Orbital

A rare piercing performed only by a very experienced, professional piercer. Jewelry will hang side to side through the lobe, rather than from front to back.

3-6 weeks

16-12 gauge CBR


Piercing through the curled (cartilage) ridge on the outer edge of the ear. May be painful and slower to heal.

2 - 12 months

16-12 gauge CBR or barbell

Helix Orbital & Anti-Helix

Piercing of two holes required rather than one. Jewelry is placed from side to side rather than front to back or it may "orbits" the helix like rings around a planet.

2 - 12 months

16-12 gauge CBR


Piercing above the tragus (cartilage). Technically difficult depending on the thickness of the tragus and requires an experienced professional. Infection more likely.

2-12 months

16-12 gauge CBR or mini curved barbell


Piercing above the tragus through a thick section of cartilage. Requires longer healing process, as a larger wound is created. Infection more likely.

2 - 12 months

16-12 gauge SSS or Titanium CBR or small Curved Barbell


Piercing the thick layer of cartilage just below the rook. Technically more difficult. A popping sound may be heard with this piercing. Infection possible. Anti-Tragus piercing is located across from the tragus.

2-12 months

16-12 gauge CBR or mini curved barbell


Piercings that are connected with an extra long barbell.

2-12 months

The piercer will determine the best gauge and length based on each person.


Also called a "shell" for the way this part of the ear resembles a seashell. As with all cartilage piercings, will be subject to soreness and infection.

2 - 12 months

12-16 gauge CBR

Conch Orbital

Piercing runs perpendicular to the regular conch piercing, which requires 2 holes allowing the ring to "orbit" the ear's cartilage.

2 - 12 months

12-16 gauge CBR


Piercing General information Healing time Jewelry


Piercing along the brow line. Migration is possible if not pierced deeply enough or the jewelry is too thin. Meticulous care required to avoid risk of infection. Waxing and hair removal products should be avoided during the healing process.

4-6 weeks

16-12 gauge captive bead ring


Piercing horizontally across the bridge of the nose, on the skin surface, between the eyes. Migration possible and technically difficult.

8 - 12 weeks

Piercer recommended

Beauty Mark

Piercing is through the outside of the lip area. Also called the "Monroe" or "Madonna", this piercing simulates a beauty mark. Thicker lips will have more flesh to pierce. Requires both meticulous internal and external care.

8 - 12 Weeks

16-12 gauge labret stud


Piercing in the dimple area of the cheek to simulate the look of a dimple. Requires internal and external care. Avoid waxing or facial hair removers during healing.

8 - 12 weeks

16-12 gauge labret stud


Piercing under the lower lip in the center. Requires external and internal care. Inner disc must not rub teeth or gums. Watch for tissue growth around the piercing. Requires a longer stud to accommodate for swelling, but must be replaced with a shorter one once the piercing is healed.

6 - 8 weeks

16-12 gauge labret stud


A mirror image of the labret with jewelry placed in the center dimple above the middle of the upper lip. Requires external and internal care

6 - 8 weeks

16-12 gauge labret stud


Any piercing of the soft tissue on the outside of the nose. Difficult healing due to bacteria in the nose. Do not do procedure if you have a cold with a runny nose or during allergy season. Meticulous care required.

6 - 12 weeks

16 - 12 gauge captive bead ring


Piercing through the center of the nose in the soft tissue in front of the cartilage. Meticulous care also required.

4 - 8 weeks

16-12 gauge captive bead ring or circular barbell


Vertical piercing through the septum and out through the underside center of the nose. Requires pierced and stretched septum.

2 - 4 weeks

piercer recommend labret stud


Piercings are done at the front of the tongue. Slower to heal due to moisture and bacteria in the mouth. Swelling of tongue common. Requires longer piercing barbell that is later replaced by a shorter stud version. The web of the tongue may also be pierced but may be prone to infection. Care not to swallow jewelry.

8-10 weeks

16-12 gauge barbell.


Piercing General information Healing time Starter Jewelry


Piercing of the outside skin of the belly button. Easier to pierce "innies," than "outies"

6-12 months

16-10 gauge curved barbell or ring


The actual nipple is not pierced. Piercing inserted either vertically or horizontally through the areola then beneath/ behind the nipple and then exits on the other side of the areola. Possible interference with breast feeding, especially if infection develops.

6-8 weeks

Piercer will recommend


Multiple types of piercings involving the genital area have been described. May include the vagina, clitoris, fourchette, inner or outer labial areas. As the genital area is responsible for sexual arousal and the sensation of pleasure during sexual activity, it is strongly recommended that you discuss any piercing with your gynecologist and dermatologist as infection, bleeding, loss of sensation, or transmission of infectious diseases would have devastating effects.

12-16 weeks

10-12 gauge curved barbell


Taking Care of Your New Artwork
After you're done in the chair, the most important part of the piercing process comes in—aftercare! Taking good care of a piercing can make all the difference in the world, and slacking on aftercare can cause lots of problems, from infection to rejection of the jewelry. Many people let instructions from their piercer go in one ear and out the other and quickly lose the instruction sheet after leaving the shop. Proper care of the pierced area is extremely important. Poor care may lead to serious complications, including infection, rejection of the jewelry and scarring. It is important to understand that the outer layer of your skin, which is mostly dead cells, protects your internal organs from the outside environment including organisms such as viruses, fungus, and bacteria. However, once the needle pierces your skin, it is no longer protected and microorganisms may enter and cause an infection.

It is important to realize that piercings are very susceptible to infection during the healing period; therefore, appropriate aftercare is crucial. You must follow the instructions of your health care provider or piercer. Certain piercings may require more specialized care, especially genital, nose and inner mouth piercings, given the bacteria that proliferate in those areas. In general, caring for your piercing is similar to caring for most other injuries. It begins with washing your hands thoroughly with antibacterial soap and water before touching your piercing or jewelry. The pierced area should be cleaned at least twice a day while it is healing; but more frequent cleansing is required if the area has been exposed to dirt, sweat, or bodily fluids. Cleaning an ear piercing or facial piercing is easiest when done in front of a mirror so that you can see what you are doing. However, for body piercing, the best place to clean your piercing may be in the shower. Allow clean water to run over and saturate the piercing before you begin to wash it. This will help to soften and wash away some of the dry, crusted discharge or blood from around and on the jewelry. You will be instructed by your doctor or piercer as to what cleansing agent to use on the area. This may vary, from an anti-bacterial soap, to a medicated cleanser, to a saline (salt) solution. You may also use a cotton ball or swab to aid in cleansing. When you are done, rinse for a minute or so to make sure all the cleansing agent has been removed from the wound. When you are finished, pat (do not rub) piercing dry with a clean, dry paper towel or similar paper product. Many piercers will tell you to rotate your jewelry. This is to make sure that skin doesn’t stick while healing, but always be careful and never force a turn or you could tear the piercing. If it becomes a problem, or is painful, see your doctor.

Remember that just because your piercing looks and feels fine doesn’t mean that it has healed. Continue to thoroughly clean your piercing twice every day for the duration of the estimated healing time for your particular piercing. Remember, this is an initial healing period only. Your piercing will not be completely healed until many weeks or months after the initial healing time is over. Continue to thoroughly clean your piercing for the entire duration that your piercer recommends. Furthermore, do not use any ointments, creams, or astringents on your new piercing and don’t allow your piercing to come in contact with any bodily fluids while it is healing.

Special care is required after tongue piercing because the warm, moist environment of the mouth is an ideal place for bacteria to reproduce. The care of an oral piercing usually involves frequent rinsing of the mouth with an antiseptic mouthwash as directed by your doctor or piercer. In the first two weeks it may require rinsing the mouth every 3-4 hours, as well as after eating or drinking. During the first 24 to 48 hours following the piercing the tongue usually swells to almost twice its normal size, but applying ice can reduce this. Swelling and discomfort should steadily recede during the next 3 to 5 days. It is important to check threaded jewelry, such as tongue barbells or a circular barbell in the lip, since cleansing may loosen it and lead to losing or swallowing parts of your jewelry. Remember, oral jewelry will collect plaque, especially in the crevice between the ball or disc and the bar. Removal is important. Also important is to avoid all oral contact, including kissing and oral sex until the piercing has healed. Avoid allowing any of your facial piercings to come in contact with cosmetics, lotions, or perfumes. Typically, most oral piercings show rapid signs of healing and this can deceive some people into thinking that they no longer have to care for their piercing. You must clean your piercing for at least the minimum time recommended by your piercer. Many people worry about eating after being pierced, but generally your body will let you know if certain foods aggravate it.

Following body piercings, avoid wearing tight-fitting clothing. Rubbing of the clothing can irritate the skin surrounding the piercing and the clothing can trap sweat that may promote infection. You may also want to watch out for loose knits because they have the habit of catching on piercings and can cause you to jerk or tear a piercing.

It is also important with all body piercings to avoid public swimming pools, hot tubs and ocean swimming because of bacteria that may infect these waters. Also, chlorinated and salt water are both drying agents and prolonged exposure may cause irritation. While bathing, avoid bath additives or bubble baths while the piercing is healing because they often contain ingredients that may irritate your piercing.

If you are thinking of getting a nipple piercing before you begin breastfeeding, it is important that you consult with your gynecologist or pediatrician. Avoid nipple piercings until breastfeeding has been completed for 8 weeks.

Problems with Your New Piercings
As with any sort of body modification, piercing comes with many potential problems. Below is a chart explaining a variety of potential problems or complications associated with piercings:


Signs of infections include tenderness, pain, swelling and redness at the piercing site. A discharge of yellow, brown, or green pus may be visible. It is important that you contact your doctor for treatment that may include topical or oral antibiotics. Infections involving the nipples could spread to involve the underlying breast tissue. Infections in the eye or genital area may be particularly dangerous.

Allergic Reactions

Many people are sensitive to nickel and other metals found in earrings and this can lead to complications in the healing process as well as on-going problems after the healing process has finished. Signs of an allergic reaction include redness, weeping, or soreness in the area where the jewelry touches your skin, or a discolored, dry, flaky and itchy area. Silver and lower grades of gold, mixed with other metals, nickel in particular, are often the cause of allergic reactions. The jewelry should be removed and you should see your doctor for treatment. In the future, obtain jewelry that is less likely to cause an allergic reaction such as stainless steel, titanium and acrylic.


Jewelry sometimes travels through the skin and settles in a different position from the original piercing. The distance of the migration is usually a few millimeters from the original site. This is also called "parking". Migration may be due to an allergic reaction to the metal or because the jewelry used in the piercing is too big or heavy for the skin to support. Alternatively, very thin jewelry (1-2mm) can migrate easily because it is so small. Abdominal and genital piercings are most prone to migration due to the use of small gauge jewelry. Migration may lead to rejection.


This phenomenon occurs more often in the eyebrow and navel areas where your body is literally pushing the jewelry out. The area of skin that is undergoing rejection will become red and sore. You will notice the skin appears to be thinning as the jewelry migrates closer to the skin’s surface. As time goes on, there will be a tiny amount of skin holding the jewelry and when the weight of the jewelry becomes too much, it will fall out. This will cause scar tissue as well as an indentation or cleft where the jewelry made its final exit. To avoid rejection and prevent scarring, it is best to remove the jewelry before it happens.

Keloid Scarring

Although keloidal scarring can happen to anyone, it is more common in people with brown skin. A keloidal scar can appear as a large red or brown bump or mound at or near the site of the piercing. Keloids can be sore, painful or itchy. The earlobes are the most common area for keloids to develop. Treatment of keloid scarring may involve cortisone injections, pressure earrings or even excision. If you develop a keloid from a piercing, it is recommended that you not get any new piercings.


If a piercing lies close to the edge of the skin, the tissue may be stretched too thin. The skin then becomes fragile and prone to splitting. This splitting occurs commonly on the earlobes and can lead to laceration of the ear lobe. It is often necessary for the piercee to visit his or her doctor to stitch the tissue together.

Torn Lobes


Because piercings are susceptible to the environment around you, they are often caught on objects and torn. This is especially true of earlobe piercings. For those of you who have ever caught a piercing on a shirt or on your hair, you know the tweak of pain it will cause, and can imagine how it would feel to tug out the entire piercing. Also, wearing heavy jewelry can tear the earlobe. Stretching existing piercing with weights can also lead to a torn lobe. A tear in the earlobe or margin of the ear leaves a notch in the otherwise smooth continuous edge. This defect is usually very visible and will require repair by your doctor.

Depending on the deformity, reconstruction can take several forms. In all methods, the skin lining the slot of the piercing is removed to create a raw edge. The raw edges are brought directly together using a combination of dissolvable stitches in the deeper layers and skin sutures that are removed after 10 days. In this operation, you lose the piercing hole, but after several months of healing, the ear can be pierced again if desired. A second method is sometimes used for repair where a flap is used to redistribute tissue and sculpt the shape of the ear. If your ear piercing has been closed and you want a new hole pierced, it is best to wait six months after surgery. With all repaired lobes, it is best to avoid heavier jewelry. Clip on earrings may be worn six weeks after surgery.

Bottom Line

Although you now know the basics of piercing, it is recommended that you explore many sources when making the decision to modify your body. What has now become a fashion trend began thousands of years ago with tribes and clans, and spread from Africa, South America, India, and Asia through ancient Greek and Roman civilizations. Now more than ever, piercing has gained popularity. Piercing is, was, and will always be, a form of personal expression, and a form of social and cultural distinction. More so today, your piercing may be what makes you unique, sexy and beautiful-- what sets you apart from all others. With that in mind, it is important to remember to choose carefully. The changes you make in yourself today may influence you for the rest of your life.

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