Common Piercing Myths You Probably Think Are True
“My friend’s cousin’s coworker got a cartilage piercing, and his ear fell off!”
We’ve all heard the tales. When you tell your friends and family that you’re thinking about getting a new piercing, everyone has some distant connection with a piercing horror story. We’ll usually just roll our eyes and ignore it. As members of the piercing world, we know that these far fetched tales are largely urban legends, and as long as we choose a reputable piercer, we’ll be just fine.
However, there are many smaller myths permeating the piercing world that cause damage because they’re believable. Some of these myths are even perpetuated by piercers and other professionals that you trust.
Part of the reason for these myths is misunderstanding terms. Another is because piercings are still being studied, and many old practices have been found to be incorrect.
Whatever the source of these myths, we seek to shed the light of truth. Here are some common piercing myths and the real story behind them.
Myth: You should twist your jewelry in a healing piercing
If you got pierced in the ‘90s or early 2000s, you were probably told to twist your jewelry within your piercing one or two times a day as part of your aftercare regimen. Your piercer likely told you that it kept the skin from growing onto the jewelry and broke the crusties away, which aided in healing.
Since then, this practice has been found to be false and detrimental.
Fact: You should keep your jewelry as still as possible during healing
In reality, twisting your jewelry within your piercing causes more harm than good. Your skin will not grow onto the jewelry; this is pure fabrication. When it comes to removing crusties, while twisting the jewelry will break the crusties away, doing so will also irritate the healing skin. This can cause issues like piercing bumps, jewelry rejection, and general discomfort.
The crusties will flake away on their own. If they start bothering you, soak a paper towel in piercing aftercare saline solution, and gently soak the crusties, dabbing them away with your paper towel. Try to move the jewelry as little as possible through this process.
Myth: Piercing infections are very common
The biggest piercing complications that you’re warned about during healing is a piercing infection. The way that they’re talked about, you’d think that they run rampant.
Those who have been pierced often say that they’ve suffered from a piercing infection or that they’re currently suffering from an infection. They see red, swollen skin, discharge, and other symptoms associated with piercing infections, and they incorrectly self-diagnose it.
Fact: Piercing infections are quite rare
The symptoms of natural healing look a lot like a piercing infection. This is because, in both cases, your immune system takes control to flush out harmful microorganisms. Your skin swells as blood is rushed to the area so that white blood cells can kill any germs, your body forms discharge to push those germs out of the wound, and you’ll feel some throbbing and heat around the piercing site as those things happen.
If you experience these symptoms, and they begin to go away on their own, then you did not experience a piercing infection. If these symptoms are extreme, then you will need to visit a doctor. True infections do not go away on their own, and they will require more than your standard piercing aftercare regimen.
If you’re keeping your piercing clean, following proper aftercare practices, and practicing basic hygiene, it’s unlikely that you’ll see a piercing infection.
Note: Just because piercing infections are rare doesn’t mean that they don’t happen. If you think that you have an infection, visit your doctor. True piercing infections can be dangerous, and you don’t want to take the risk.
Myth: Keloids occur frequently in cartilage piercings
The term “keloid” has become synonymous with “piercing bump.” This could not be less true. Piercing bumps are small bumps that appear near the piercing site as a result of a number of factors, including poor aftercare, trauma to the piercing site, or skin irritation due to non-biocompatible jewelry materials.
Although unsightly, piercing bumps will usually go away on their own. They are a minor inconvenience and nothing more.
Keloids pose a much more serious issue.
Fact: Keloids appear due to a rare genetic condition, and it’s highly unlikely that you have one
Keloids appear in less than 10% of the world’s population. Although scientists are still trying to learn what exactly causes them, they do know that they’re hereditary.
These bulbous scars form as a result of the body producing too much collagen as it heals a wound. Those who suffer from keloids can see them appear in wounds as small as a bug bite. Keloids are quite large, and they typically appear after a wound has fully healed. They will not go away on their own, and they require special treatment to remove.
If you’ve never had a keloid before, then your piercing bump is probably not a keloid. Furthermore, if the bump is just a small thing (two or three millimeters in diameter), it’s not a keloid. In fact, we can safely assume that what you’re experiencing is not a keloid, since this condition appears in such a small portion of the population, and as an adult, you’d already know whether or not keloids are something that you suffer from.
Stay away from the term “keloid.” Calling your piercing bump a keloid is a lot like calling a papercut a mortal wound.
Myth: Piercing guns are safe to use
Many of us (this author included) got their lobes pierced with a piercing gun. They seem pretty slick; in one motion, the piercing gun pushes the jewelry through the skin, conducting the piercing while inserting the jewelry at the same time. Easy peasy!
However, there are quite a few aspects to the piercing gun that make it not only a terrible tool, but a danger to your piercing.
Fact: Piercing guns are dangerous and should be avoided at all costs
Piercing guns are a hazard for a few reasons.
Since there are plastic parts, it can’t be sterilized in an autoclave sterilizer (a machine that uses intense heat to completely sterilize tools), so a piercing gun is never properly cleaned. It can easily pass pathogens between piercees.
They pierce the skin by forcing an earring with a sharpened end through the ear. The sharpened end of the jewelry is not nearly sharp enough to safely pierce the skin. It can cause trauma, especially in cartilage piercings, and it’s much more painful than getting pierced with a proper needle.
Piercers who use piercing guns are rarely properly trained. Often, they are used by minimum wage workers at a retailer rather than by a piercer who has the proper certifications and an apprenticeship under their belt. Because of this, there’s a good chance that you’ll be pierced incorrectly.
If a piercer comes at you with a piercing gun, run away.
Myth: Piercings will affect security scanners
A common concern among those with multiple piercings, especially if they’re pierced in intimate areas, is that their piercers will alert the scanners, leading to extra searches. In fact, piercings rarely cause any issues, and the jewelry does not affect the scanners.
Fact: The jewelry is too small to get picked up by the scanners (but you might need extra screening)
Security scanners today are very high tech. They’re designed to only pick up items that could cause alarm. Your jewelry is not among those.
However, you should be aware that, depending on where you travel, your jewelry might raise a red flag. This usually just means that you’ll get pulled to the side for an extra pat down, something everyone—pierced or not—has been subject to.
In this case, it’s important to know your rights as a traveler. If you have a piercing in an intimate area that security wants to check out, you can request to be searched by an agent of the same gender. The agents should also treat you with respect; if you feel as though you are being taken advantage of, say something.
That being said, even the most pierced people rarely report problems when it comes to their piercings and security, and you should be just fine.
For more information about traveling and piercings, visit our blog on the subject here.
Myth: You can wear jewelry made out of any material in a healed piercing
You probably already know that a healing piercing can only accept certain materials. The healing skin is sensitive, and certain materials irritate the skin. It makes sense.
But, once the piercing has healed, it also makes sense that you should be able to wear anything you want in the piercing, right?
According to the Association of Professional Piercers, this is not the case. Throughout the life of your piercing, you need to be careful of the materials that you put in your body, and very few materials are acceptable.
Fact: You need to be careful of the materials you put in your healed piercing
Just like everything you put into your body, you need to be aware of the materials that you put into your body piercing. Not everything is biocompatible (compatible with your body), and these materials can cause skin irritation and other complications.
A big example is nickel. Many metals, sometimes even 14k gold, are mixed with nickel to achieve a certain color and increase durability. However, nickel often causes a skin reaction. If you’ve never had a reaction to nickel, it’s still possible to develop one. Because of this, none of your body jewelry should contain nickel. (All of FreshTrends’ jewelry is 100% nickel free, so your piercings are safe with us.)
When shopping for body jewelry, stay away from retailers that use cheap materials. Research their product and ensure that all of their pieces are free from nickel and use materials approved by the APP.
Myth: A piercing is fully healed when it looks healed
Many people claim that their piercings have fully healed without issues in only one or two weeks. We can say, with confidence, that this is false. Even the piercings with the shortest healing times take a minimum of four weeks to heal. Most piercings take a few months.
The reason why people mistakenly believe that their piercing has healed is because it will look and feel healed well before the piercing has actually healed on the inside. This is a problem because, thinking that their piercing has healed, they will stop aftercare practices and change their jewelry, which will cause complications and potentially prolong healing.
Fact: You will need to visit a piercer to confirm that healing is complete
While there are some telltale signs that your piercing has healed, these signs aren’t foolproof. The only way to confirm that your piercing has fully healed is to have a piercer take a look and confirm.
This is because the piercing takes longer to heal on the inside than it does on the outside. It might look and feel healed, but it still has months of healing to go.
If you can’t visit a piercer to confirm that your piercing has healed, then you should wait until you reach the maximum healing time before you stop aftercare practices (which, in some cases, might take up to a year). Even then, be aware that your piercing may not be fully healed.
Myth: You can use products like ointments and essential oils on a healing piercing
You might think that you can use the same products that you’d use on a minor wound—like Neosporin, rubbing alcohol, or numbing cream—on a piercing, but these products can be detrimental to a healing piercing.
The key to piercing is working with your body so that the body can accept the piercing. Your body doesn’t naturally love having foreign objects and holes in it. Because of this, you need to be extra gentle with a healing piercing. This includes keeping harsh chemicals away from the piercing.
Fact: You should only use piercing aftercare saline solution or a sea salt mixture
Saline solution is the only product that you should use on your healing piercing. The salt and water mixture will clean your piercing and clear out bacteria while being gentle to the skin. You don’t need anything else.
Recently, people have been using essential oils, like tea tree oil, on their healing piercings. While tea tree oil does have antiseptic properties, it also dries out the skin. Additionally, essential oils are incredibly concentrated and need to be diluted properly. It’s easy to get the dilution wrong which will irritate the piercing.
Once your piercing has healed, you can use some of these products—some have claimed that tea tree oil has helped clear up their piercing bumps—but they should only be used on a fully healed piercing and only after talking to a piercer to see if the product is safe to use.
Getting a piercing is more than a fashion statement. It’s a responsibility. Before you get pierced, be sure to educate yourself on the most updated piercing practices so that you know how to safely and successfully take care of your piercing throughout its life. Getting pierced isn’t dangerous, but it does require a level of responsibility.