So your 13-year-old has asked for a body piercing..
“Everyone has them!” (apparently) and “It’s not that big a deal!”. It used to be that getting your ears pierced was risqué enough, I remember my own mother almost had a coronary when I got a second hole pierced in my ears in 1995!
But these days more and more kids are getting piercings, in the very strangest of ways and places.
Body piercing is exactly that, puncturing a hole into the skin’s surface for the purpose of housing a piece of jewellery. If your teenager has expressed an interest in getting a piercing, especially if it is stretching/gauging the earlobe, here are some things you need to know.
Whether you are for or against piercing, the fact is that when done in a sterile, professional environment, the actual procedure is completely safe.
It’s the aftercare you need to worry about, but if your teenager is responsible enough to maintain the hygiene a piercing requires, then it can be as safe as an earlobe piercing. Make sure your teen has done their research, find a reputable body piercing shop and check for the following:
- The piercing should be done in a hygienic facility by a trained, experienced worker
- Sterile, disposable equipment should be used
- Jewellery of the correct material, size, and style should be inserted
- Proper aftercare instructions should be provided
Laws Relating To Body Piercing
You will more than likely need to attend the appointment with your teenager, as most places will not perform a body piercing on a teen, however, laws relating to body piercing are different in each state or territory.
In some parts of Australia, it is illegal for a piercer to perform ‘intimate’ body piercing on anyone under the age of 18 years, whether or not consent has been given. This includes piercing of the genitalia, anal region, perineum or nipples.
In most states, it is also illegal for a body piercer to perform body piercing on a person under 16 years of age, without obtaining written consent from the parent or guardian of the person to be pierced.
Some piercers have their own age restrictions and may ask for parental consent if they warrant it, even if the law does not require this.
What Kind Of Piercings are Available?
You might be very surprised about what you can have pierced these days. Below are listed the piercings you can choose from at most piercing providers:
- Nose (including bridge and septum as well as nostrils)
- Earlobes (including stretching/gauging)
- Belly button
- Genital piercings
- Body Surface piercings
The newest trend in earlobe piercings are those you could probably fit your hand through. Ear stretching is confronting, to say the least, and most teenagers start out with small piercings and gradually move up a size to eventually end up with incredibly large holes in their actual earlobes. Whilst it is classified as body piercing, ear stretching can have long term disadvantages as it can cause a build-up of scar tissue and reduction of flexibility in the ear lobe.
And what happens when you want to remove it?
When stretching is done properly (ie; made bigger slowly over time) the channel should shrink down to leave a minimal mark when jewellery is removed. Stretches over 1.5-4centimetres however, will probably not return to a normal appearance and plastic surgery is required to rectify the hole.
What To Expect During the Piercing
It’s not a bad idea to have some kind of information on what the process of piercing will involve. Firstly, the piercer will clean the area thoroughly with a germicidal soap and maybe alcohol wipes. The piercer will then use a hollow needle to create a hole in the body part your teenager wants to be pierced. The shaft of the body jewellery is then inserted through the hole in the needle, then the needle is removed. The piercer will then screw the balls onto the threaded ends of the jewellery.
Sometimes a longer barbell is used to allow for swelling and your teenager may be required to come back in a week and have smaller jewellery inserted, once the swelling goes down.
A piercing gun is never, ever used, as these cannot offer the same sterility and crush the tissue being pierced. The pierced area is then cleaned and adjusted and specific aftercare instructions will be given and recommendations for cleaning solutions will be offered.
Costs Involved in Piercings
There are two costs involved in getting a body piercing, the jewellery and the actual piercing procedure. Your teenager will need to choose jewellery at the body piercing provider, very few will pierce with jewellery that has not been purchased from them. This is to ensure the highest quality metal is used, as cheap body jewellery often causes infections and body rejections.
Each body piercing provider is different and therefore charges for body piercing varies. But you may need to question if you choose a cheaper provider, what they may be cutting back on to give you a reduced rate.
The body piercing provider should educate your teenager thoroughly on aftercare, giving them written as well as verbal instructions. This is the most important part of getting a piercing, as poor maintenance and hygiene can lead to infection and, in worst-case scenarios, blood poisoning and diseases such as Hepatitis B and C.
Here are a few of the basics for after piercing care:
- Keep the piercing dry
- Be extremely vigilant about cleaning the pierced area
- Do not touch or turn the jewellery unless cleaning it, and don’t share jewellery with others
- Don’t remove the jewellery before the wound heals (your teenager will be told when this is likely to occur)
- Do not use alcohol-based cleansers as this will only dry out the area
- If the area gets crusty, don’t pick at it. Rinse gently with saltwater.
- Avoid tight clothing around the piercing site.
Signs Of Infection
If your teenager experiences pain or swelling at the piercing site that does not go away within a day or two, redness or pussy secretions, see your health care provider. Do not remove the jewellery. If the jewellery is removed, the openings of the piercing may close and trap the infection, which can create an abscess.
Don’t Go There!
There are some piercings that even body piercers warn teenagers and adults alike to avoid. These include:
Face: eyelid, lip surface, chin, cheek, between the cheek and gum line, under the tongue, uvula (at the back of the throat)
Torso: outie navel, small or inverted nipples, under the collarbone
Genitals: deep clitoral shaft, female urethra opening, deep penile shaft
Other body parts: anus, between fingers and toes or anywhere on the hands and feet, close to skin’s surface through a small pinch of tissue, behind bone or tendon
People Who Shouldn’t Get Pierced
There are a select few who should avoid piercings altogether due to their increased risk of infection, including:
People taking anticoagulant drugs, immunosuppressive medications and corticosteroids
People undergoing chemotherapy, which affects your immune system making you more susceptible to infection
People with breast implants (in the case of nipple piercings)
People who suffer from heart valve disease, rheumatic fever and severe skin infections
Keep in mind that piercings, unlike tattoos, are not permanent and can be removed.