I talked to a lady (who shall remain nameless) who works in a jewelry boutique at a local mall. She said that she has been doing piercings there now for about 6 months. Her "training" took all of 2 weeks, which consisted of watching others and practicing on a teddy bear. (huh?) Although she claims that in the time she has been piercing she has only gotten one complaint, that does not mean this procedure is entirely safe.
The first concern when it comes to piercing is sterilization. Any kind of procedure which involves contact with blood or bodily fluids requires strict adherence to cross-contamination prevention. Piercing guns are usually made with plastic and cannot be sterilized in an autoclave. Sure, they wipe it with alcohol or antiseptic in between uses, but how sterile is that? It is not unreasonable to guess that in a 2-week training course, these mall piercists are not being taught about infection control and blood-borne pathogens. A quick wipe with a sterile pad is not effective in removing disease-carrying blood.
Some will argue that the piercing gun never comes in contact directly with the customer's skin. This might be true, but the piercers hands do - if they touch the customers skin and then touch the gun, the gun is now contaminated. Period. And when the gun drives the stud through the flesh, if the skin starts to bleed there is no way of knowing whether or not tiny particles of blood could have been dispersed into the air contaminating everything around it.
But Doesn't The Gun Hurt Less?
Sterility is just one of the possible problems with gun piercing. Tissue trauma is another. The gun forces a blunt stud through the skin, causing it to literally rip in order to make room for the jewelry. Then, it pinches the back of the jewelry in place snugly against the skin, allowing no way for the new wound to breathe and heal properly. The customer is then told to turn the jewelry a couple times a day, which only further pushes growing bacteria into the wound, causing infection.
True, many customers get pierced with guns and never have any problems with it. But why put yourself at risk when there is a safer, less painful way to go about it?
Why the Needle is So Much Better
In comparison to the two-week training of the mall piercer, a professional body piercer goes through extensive training that can last as long as two or three years. They learn about the human body and how piercings affect the circulatory system. They learn how to avoid hitting nerves that can cause severe pain to the customer. Most importantly, they learn about cross-contamanation prevention and how to properly sterilize their instruments. Anything that touches the customer that cannot be autoclaved is thrown away immediately. Work stations are fully disinfected before and after every piercing procedure.
The piercing process itself is also much safer and less painful than having a blunt stud forced through your skin. A piercing needle is actually hollow and extremely sharp. It slices through the skin, safely pushing the tissue aside to make room for the jewelry to be inserted. That may not sound too appealing, but it is actually a very quick process and the method is virtually painless for most body parts.
The jewelry that is used in professional piercing shops is also much better for you. Barbells and Captive Beads Rings are specially designed to allow removal of dirt and bacteria effectively during the healing process. Allowing for full movement of the jewelry makes it much easier for you to clean it without counter-productively pushing more bacteria into the pierce. The metals that are used in this jewelry are also better for your skin and less likely to cause a reaction. High-grade Surgical Stainless Steel and even Titanium (which is virtually nickel-free) give you the best chances of an infection and reaction-free piercing.
Although it is true that professional piercing prices run higher than those performed in mall stores, why put a price on your safety and well-being? The quality and personalized service you receive by going to a professional are certainly worth a few extra dollars. These trained professionals are also happy to follow up with you should you have any questions or complications. Your mall piercer might offer their opinion on how to treat an infection, but who do you think will be more qualified to help you? The answer is obvious.