Guide to Body Piercing

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Although it may seem like a relatively new trend, certain forms of body piercing have been around for centuries. Ancient civilizations in Egypt used body piercing as a symbol of wealth and family status while African tribes practice piercing as an expression of their religious beliefs. In America, most piercings are seen as act of rebellion or artistic expression, but as they become more mainstream, piercing enthusiasts are finding new areas to pierce to stay one step ahead of the ordinary.

Types of Body Piercing

After ear piercing became the norm a few decades ago, fans branched out by putting jewelry on other parts of their bodies. Almost any area of the skin can be pierced, with some sites remaining more popular than others.

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  • Belly button or Navel Piercing: Naval piercings are particularly popular amongst young women. Piercings in this area can be difficult to heal. It's important to make sure your clothing or bed linens don't rub against the body jewelry and snag it.
  • Nipple Piercing: Nipple piercings are popular with both men and women, but can take up to six months to heal. Some woman report having difficulty breast-feeding after they've had their nipples pierced, so talk to your piercer about any potential complications if you plan to breastfeed.
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  • Tongue Piercing: Tongue piercings heal quickly, so you can use your tongue normally soon afterward. However, the amount of germs that live in the mouth can target your new piercing and cause an infection. Dentists also caution that the metal balls in tongue rings can damage your teeth, even cracking them.
  • Facial Piercings: Facial piercings include eyebrow, nose, lip and Monroe piercings. Face piercings can be extremely eye catching, but there are also drawbacks as well, such as infection in nose and mouth piercings and rejection in eyebrow piercings. Consider the specific facial area and possible complications carefully before getting pierced.
  • Tragus Piercing: The tragus piercing is a variation on the traditional ear piercing, done on the small nub of cartilage that attaches to skin next to the ear. A tragus piercing can take considerably longer than a traditional ear piercing to heal.
  • Labret Piercing: Like the lip and Monroe piercings, the labret piercing is also a facial piercing that goes into the mouth cavity. It carries many of the same concerns as lip and tongue piercings.
  • Genital Piercing: Men and women alike can get various parts of their genitals pierced. Be sure to talk to your piercer ahead of time about proper placement; loss of sensation or extreme heightened sensation may be present in the area after a piercing has been done.
  • Surface Piercings: Some less common sites to get pierced involve surface piercings of areas like the wrist, neck, forehead, hip and between the eyes. All surface piercings have a high degree of rejection so plan yours carefully.

Potential Problems

All piercing sites may come with some potential problems. While proper piercing procedure and aftercare can go a long way to prevent these, some possible after effects of a piercing may include:

  • Infection
  • Scarring
  • Keloids
  • Piercing rejection
  • Nerve damage and potential facial paralysis
  • Tooth and gum problems (for any jewelry in the mouth)
  • Loss of sensation in the area being pierced

Always talk to your piercer about any concerns you may have before you get pierced.

Choosing Your Piercer

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Just like tattoo shops, most piercing studios are regulated by the state they are in. Many states require the person performing the procedure to not only become licensed in the state, but to also undergo training for infection control.

When choosing your piercer, make sure to ask for their certifications. Check to ensure they are registered and licensed with the state, and ask about any training or certifications they may posses. Remember that this person will be opening your skin with a needle; stay safe and ensure they meet your state's criteria before you get pierced. If you are unsure whether or not your state regulates piercers, check with your state's health association.

Body Piercing Aftercare

Taking care of your piercing properly from the beginning can be the difference between a long-lasting, attractive piece of body art and a nasty infection that has to be taken out. Always follow the specific instructions that your piercer gives you and make sure the tattoo shop where you get your piercing is clean and uses new needles each time. Once you get home, keep the following in mind to prevent infections:

  • Keep the piercing clean. Make sure your hands, and anyone else's, are clean before you touch it. Always wash and dry your hands before going near it.
  • Avoid clothing that rubs the area. Some clothing that fits tightly against your body, such as a bra for a nipple piercing, might help it feel better, but clothing that rubs against it can make the skin swell.
  • Clean the area daily. Your piercer will be able to tell you what to use, but usually antibacterial soap and water will do the trick. Avoid alcohol-based products since these will just dry out the skin.
  • See your piercer, or a doctor, if the area around the piercing becomes swollen, hot or red. These could be signs of an infection.

Make an Informed Decision

While a body piercing is less permanent than a tattoo, it will alter your appearance and does carry with it some degree of risk. Choose your piercing site, type of jewelry and piercer with care. The end result should be a means of expressing yourself that you don't live to regret.

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Guide to Body Piercing