When Not To Get Pierced
I've covered a lot of this in the other blogs but I thought it might have a list of things to consider before getting a piercing and cover some of the reasons why I wouldn't suggest getting a piercing. It always is difficult for me to refuse to pierce someone because I love piercing, my income depends on it and I really hate to disappoint someone that has a strong desire to get a piercing. Even though most of my clients have been thinking about getting the piercing for sometime, there is a number of people that get a piercing on an impulse. There nothing wrong with that but if the piercer is unwilling to take the time to give the client the information they need to make a somewhat educated decision then the results can be disastrous.
I bring up the education part because often people are surprised and in some cases annoyed by the fact that I go through a consultation with every client. The part that is surprising to me is that the one's that seem the most put back by this are the people with a number of piercings and I was the first to go through a consult. When they say that they have never had a piercer go through all that information before hand, I always ask what their experiences at other studio was like. Time and time again their telling of the piercing procedure is something like this, fill out the forms, pay for the piercing, set up and do the piercing and then they are handed a piece of paper and sent on their merry way.
Something I learned early in my career is it is an uneasy balance between flat out refusing and giving the client enough information to make an educated decision. Let's face though I great enjoy piercing, I'm in business to make a profit and it would be great deal more profitable to pierce anyone and everyone that comes through the door with cash in hand. Often my ethics and my need to make an income are in conflict. However one thing I discovered early on is that talking someone out of a piercing or flat refusing to do a piercing that I know there will be a bad outcome not only reduces the number of clients I see coming back with issues but also begins building a level of trust between piercer and his clientele.
There are a number of reasons not to get a piercing on a personal level but here are a number of suggestions that might affect the outcome of healing a piercing completely without issues and some cases where delaying the piercing maybe in your best interest. We'll start with the reasons why you flat out shouldn't get a piercing.
Reasons that a piercing may not be in your best interest:
- Health - If you have any chronic health problems that effect healing, blood clotting or where increased stress may cause a bad reaction:
- Diabetes, Ischemia, Venous stasis and other circulatory diseases - Since an important part of the healing of piercings involves a steady supply of blood to supply the growing tissue with oxygen and nutrients, those with diabetes and other diseases that affect the delivery of blood, will have an increased likelihood of prolonged healing and infection. Areas of the body where there is poor circulation and injection areas should be avoided. The biggest risk is the increased period that the piercing is an open wound. Since for example an average healthy adult may take 8 to 12 weeks to heal an ear piercing, those with circulatory dysfunctions may take as much as twice as long thus increasing the likelihood of contamination of foreign pathogens that could result in infections or other problems. However in most cases if the client is healthy, on medication and follows the aftercare instructions, I've seen little or no problem with healing. However, with any prolonged health condition, you should consult your doctor before getting a piercing.
- Hemophilla, Anemia, and other blood clotting disorders - Since the act of piercing is puncturing the skin, the piercing will bleed. I know that there are some piercings that seem to not bleed at all but the reality is if you cut or puncture the body, it will bleed. Some areas of the body are more prone to bleeding than other like genital areas and the mouth that can in some cases bleed a small amount for a few days. They also heal faster due to increased blood flow. Unlike a normal puncture of the skin, with piercing we insert a piece of material that forces the wound to stay open and doesn't allow the body to close the wound completely. Thus bleeding can last longer. However with those with blood clotting disorders the blood lacks the ability to harden and reduce the loss of blood. The danger is in prolonged and major blood loss which could lead to dangerous results of the bleeding doesn't stop. I can not stress enough that if you have a clotting disorder you consult with your doctor before getting a piercing.
- Anticoagulation Medication or other medications - Of course the concern is the same as blood clotting disorders. With medications and other drugs side effects and other concerns can effect how the body heals a piercing. If you are unsure how the medication may effect how your heal, talk to your doctor or pharmacist.
- Keloids, fibrosis and other scarring disorders - Though in most cases there is not a health risk, if you are prone to scarring when healing wounds, there is an increased likelihood that the piercing will cause scarring. With the case of keloids especially it will more than likely require a medical procedure to remove the scarring. Keloids has been a word that has been thrown at just about every bump that may form around a piercing and often incorrectly. Keloids are fibrotic tumors that result of an overproduction of granulation tissue at the wound site and will often involve a needle-like pain and itching. Keloids are more common in those with dark pigment. Many times Hypertrophic scars are mistaken for keloids. Though the cause is the same, Hypertrophic scarring will not increase if left untreated the way Keloids will. At any rate if you are prone to producing raised scars from cuts and abrasions then there is a high chance that a piercing will increase resulting in scarring.
- Immunocompromised conditions: cancer, radiation therapy, AIDS - If your body's immune system is already depleted getting a piercing will only increase the possibility of infection and prolonged healing. It could also increase your chances of developing other infections or reduce your body's ability to fight off foreign pathogens. If you have a decreased immune system I highly suggest that you consult your doctor about the risks of having a prolonged open wound on your body.
- Alcoholism, drug addiction, smoking. obesity, etc... - Since the act of getting a piercing involves not only fighting off infection but your body's ability to heal, anything that may affect either will increase the chances of problems during healing, prolonged healing or infection. If you are unhealthy you will more than likely see a longer healing time and have an increased likelihood of infection
- Pregnancy - I will refuse to pierce anyone that is pregnant. There is a number of reasons that I will not pierce during Pregnancy. The number one is that I'm unwilling to put the unborn child and the health of the mother at risk. Of course the concern is that a healing piercing will put additional strain on the mother's immune system but also the stress that many may encounter during a piercing may cause unforeseen problems including a miscarriage. It is a risk that I'm unwilling to take. Also there is the concern that the changes in a woman's body during pregnancy may cause problems with the healing of a piercing. This would especially be true with navel, nipple and genital piercings.
Employment, Sports, the Military, etc..
- Employment - This is especially true if the piercing will be visible at work. Though today many employers don't flat out ban visible piercings, it is best to talk with your employer before getting the piercing to have a clear understand of what they will accept as far as piercings and jewelry. Some companies may allow a piercing but have restrictions on the type of jewelry worn or how many piercings you can have. There is also health or safety concerns that they may have. This is especially in the food prep and manufacturing industries. You should also consider how the piercing may impair your ability to do your job. For example, if your job involves talking a swollen tongue may not be the best thing to show up to work with.
- Sports - Many sports organizations have began to ban or limit the number of piercings their athletes are allowed to wear when competing. In part this is due to safety concerns but often it maybe more about uniformity than safety. Regardless of whether or not your piercing presents a health risk for you or your teammates isn't the issue. If there is a rule banning or restricting the wearing of jewelry, you may have to remove your jewelry to compete. If you are active in a sport, it is always best to consult your coach and/or study the leagues regulations before getting a piercing.
Military - I don't know how to stress this stronger than to state removing jewelry for long periods of time during or after the healing period can mostly likely result in the piercing closing. If you are active in the Military, I would suggest waiting until you are out before getting a piercing. Each branch has different regulation and like any regulation they are subject to the interruption of those in command. When in doubt ask.
U.S. Air Force AFI-36-2903 -
- In Uniform: Members are prohibited from attaching, affixing or displaying objects, articles, jewelry or ornamentation to or through the ear, nose, tongue, or any exposed body part (includes visible through the uniform). EXCEPTION: Women are authorized to wear one small spherical, conservative, diamond, gold, white pearl, or silver pierced, or clip earring per earlobe and the earring worn in each earlobe must match. Earring should fit tightly without extending below the earlobe. (EXCEPTION: Connecting band on clip earrings.)
- Official duty: Members are prohibited from attaching, affixing or displaying objects, articles, jewelry or ornamentation to or through the ear, nose, tongue, or any exposed body part (includes visible through clothing). EXCEPTION: Women are authorized to wear one small spherical, conservative, diamond, gold, white pearl, or silver pierced, or clip earring per earlobe and the earring worn in each earlobe must match. Earring should fit tightly without extending below the earlobe. (EXCEPTION: Connecting band on clip earrings)
- Off duty on a military installation: Members are prohibited from attaching, affixing or displaying objects, articles, jewelry or ornamentation to or through the ear, nose, tongue, or any exposed body part (includes visible through clothing). EXCEPTION: Piercing of earlobes by women is allowed, but should not be extreme or excessive. The type and style of earrings worn by women on a military installation should be conservative and kept within sensible limits.
- U.S. Army AR 670-1 - "No attaching, affixing, or displaying objects, articles, jewelry or ornamentation to or through the skin while in uniform, in civilian clothes, while on duty, or in civilian clothes off duty on any military installation or other places under Army control. This change supersedes the current male earring policy. This message does not change the current policy regarding female wear of earrings. Female soldiers are authorized to wear earrings on Army installations while on duty in civilian attire and may also wear approved earrings while in uniform."
- U.S. Coast Guard - "Our policy regarding body piercing is also changing significantly. No piercings, other than those for earrings as described below, shall be made through the ear, nose, tongue, chin, eyebrow, or any other body part that would be visible while in any uniform. This prohibition applies to male and female members alike and is specifically intended to limit the less than military appearance associated with vacant holes in the face and other exposed areas of the body. Other piercings concealed by the uniform such as the navel or nipples are strongly discouraged due to the potential for infection and medical complications. Under no circumstance shall such concealed piercings and accompanying jewelry be visible through, or interfere with, the professional appearance of the member in uniform. Piercings in the ear shall not exceed two per ear lobe and shall be small and inconspicuous. Additional piercings in the ear lobes and cartilage are prohibited. Guidance regarding the wearing of earrings by women while in uniform, can be found in Uniform Regulations, COMDTINST M1020.6 (series). All members are prohibited from wearing forms of facial jewelry (other than earrings for women) while in uniform, on board a military installation, or while attending a command sponsored event. Those personnel with preexisting unauthorized piercings shall discontinue the use of those piercings to allow for eventual healing."
- U.S. Marine Corps -According to the uniform order for the Marine Corps, Male Marines are not authorized piercings or any form of body modification including the attaching, affixing or displaying objects, articles, jewelry or ornamentation to, through or under their skin, tongue or any other body part. Female Marines, however, may wear earrings with service and dress uniforms at the individual's option, according to the following regulations: Small, polished, yellow gold color, ball, or round stud earrings (post, screw-on, or clip), not to exceed 6 millimeters (about 1/4 inch) in diameter, may be worn with the service, blue dress, and blue-white dress. Small white pearl or pearl-like earrings (post, screw-on, or clip), not to exceed 6 millimeters (about 1/4 inch) in diameter, may be worn with evening dress uniforms and with the blue dress "A" and blue-white dress "A" uniforms when worn for social events. When worn, earrings will fit tightly against, and will not extend below, the earlobe. Only one earring will be worn on or in each earlobe. Earrings will not be worn with the utility uniform, or while participating in a parade, ceremony, or other similar military functions.
- U.S. Navy - "Intentional body mutilation, piercing, branding/intentional scarring that are excessive or eccentric are prohibited. Some examples are:
- a split or forked tongue;
- foreign objects inserted under the skin to create a design or pattern;
- enlarged or stretched out holes in the ears (other than a normal piercing).
- intentional scarring that appears on the neck, face, or scalp. Waivers may be requested for prior service and existing body mutilation, piercing, branding/intentional scarring from the Chief of Naval Operations.
When you should consider delaying getting a piercing:
- Vacation and travel - Time and time again, I have clients come in to get a piercing and leave without one because they are planning on taking a vacation where they will be submerging the piercing area in natural waters. Before getting a piercing you should consider if you will be traveling not only because of swimming but also because you will not be able to control how clean the environment you will be staying in will be. Another thing you should consider is if you really want to be dealing with a healing piercing the whole time you are on vacation.
- Drinking and other controlled or uncontrolled substances - First off and foremost, I will not knowingly pierce anyone that is intoxicated. The reasons are not only the fact that often the person judgment is impaired but also because of the increased risk involved. It is a misconception that if you are intoxicated that the piercing is going to hurt less and the client will be more relaxed. The reality is that since most substances are amplifiers and only increase the person's mental state and sensations they experience. So if you are stressed and nervous about the piercing it will only be worst if you are drunk. It can also cause a person to be more prone to light headedness and passing out. There is also the concern that alcohol and other substances thin the blood which would cause the blood to not clot. Then there is the issue of memory loss and the ability to focus which affects what the client retains from the instruction on care for their piercing. Even if you are sober at the time, you should consider any plans you have for the near future that might involve drinking or other intoxicating substances. This would especially be the case with healing oral piercings where your diet would need to be constricted to reduce swelling and other problems during healing.
- Trying to conceive or planning on getting pregnant in the near future - This should be of a special concern if you are wanting to pierce your navel, nipples or genitals. In some cases the changes during the pregnancy will require that the jewelry be removed and the piercing abandon. This is especially true of navel piercings. If you are planning on breastfeeding it may require that you remove your nipple piercing jewelry while feeding.
- Medical Treatment - If you are going in for surgery, MRI scan or other medical procedure that may require removing the jewelry it would be best to wait until after the procedure is done. Removing the jewelry especially during the healing period can result in prolonged healing, loss of the piercing, infection or other problems.
- Summer time activities - If you spend a majority of the summer in or on the water you might want to consider waiting until fall to get pierced. Also if you camp, access to clean running water to clean the piercing may be an issue.
- Sexual activity - Mainly with genital piercings and other sexual piercings, if you are in a relationship you should talk with your partner beforehand about the precautions that will need to be taken to avoid infection and to allow the piercing to heal. Understand getting a genital piercing or other piercing will involve a period where sexual activity will be limited and in some cases painful. If you are planning a romantic weekend getaway with your partner, it would be best to delay the piercing until afterwards.
- Holidays and special events - I think one of the worst piercing experiences I had personally was getting my tongue pierced right before Thanksgiving. It is a good idea to consider what activities and functions you may have in your future. For example if you are planning on spending a day at an amusement park or playing football at the family picnic, having a tender healing piercing being subjected to abuse all day will not only be uncomfortable but may cause problems in the healing. Is there an event in your near future where the piercing may not be appropriate is something to consider since the jewelry should not be removed during the healing period.
- Sports - I covered this above but even if there isn't an issue of regulations against piercings, you may want to consider waiting until after the season is over before getting the piercing. Main because with sports there is an increase contact with the piercing or likelihood of damage to the piercing. It really depends on the location of the piercing and the sport but it should be considered.
I'm sure that I haven't covered every single situation that might delay or prohibit you from getting pierced and as always if you don't see your concern listed here, please contact me. The key with any decision that may have a life long result is to make an educated decision. Often I've dodge the bullet of having an unhappy client with a problematic piercing by simply spending the time to explain the care needed to heal the piercing and the risks that might be involved. I have designed my consolation and release form to address a majority of this not only because it is the ethical thing to do but it limits problems I would have to deal with later. However, some of this responsibility needs to fall on the shoulders of the person getting the piercing. Whenever in doubt ask.