The safest and most reliable choice for ear piercing may be a surprise.
A mere 3 months ago, I took my 9- and 12-year-old daughters to a tattoo parlor.
Hold the phone before you call CPS, y’all. I took them to a tattoo parlor to get their ears pierced by a certified professional piercer. Said piercers can only be found in tattoo parlors, and they most certainly do not pierce ears with a glorified nail gun, minimal training, and insufficient sterilization.
Contrary to what you might think, tattoo parlors — at least the one I went to — are actually bastions of cleanliness. Some states regulate them, and reputable ones use disposable needles and sterilize all their equipment in an autoclave. In contrast, mall piercers and many jewelry stores use piercing guns that have been associated with complications and can’t be completely sterilized. Armed with that knowledge, which would you choose?
I’ve had the dubious advantage of experiencing the aftermath of both jewelry store piercings and tattoo shop piercings. My oldest daughter’s ears were initially pierced with a jewelry store gun. They were lopsided and infected for almost 3 solid months post-piercing, at one point so badly that she had to take oral antibiotics. They still get irritated often, and she finally gave up wearing earrings in them at all.
Her second ear piercing was at the tattoo shop, along with her little sister’s first. It took a long, long time … nearly three hours, in fact. The piercer was patient and deliberately slow, making sure each of my girls understood exactly what she was going to do and how, and exactly how to care for her earrings. Once she was satisfied that they were ready, she pierced each of their ears carefully and deliberately. They breathed deeply and stayed calm throughout, both expressing surprise that it “didn’t hurt at all!”
Their ears have not once been infected. In fact, they healed so quickly that the girls are already begging to change them out with a solid 3 months left before it’s a possibility. The piercer was very specific about her instructions for follow-up care as well — in a week we will have them re-checked with an APP certified piercer, and then a follow-up (though NOT final) recheck and change at 6 months.
One thing I learned from her that I had not learned in my 26 years of being the proud owner of pierced ears is that there is never a final check on piercings, never a time when they’re “healed” for once and forever. They can always get infected, which is why it’s a good idea to have them professionally changed rather than doing it yourself. Our piercer explained that this gives professional piercers the opportunity to check for infections or complications.
It was an astounding experience, chock-full of information I had never known about my own ear piercings. It was like the difference between having a surgeon stitch up a wound and having your cousin superglue it shut … one knows what to do, how to do it, and what complications to look for. The other has superglue and is almost certainly not even being paid minimum wage.
Regardless of how you feel about tattoos, ear piercings are ubiquitous in our culture. If you’re going to get your children’s (or your own) ears pierced, make sure you choose a certified ear piercer. It can make the difference between a positive experience and enduring enjoyment, or a negative experience and enduring pain.