The Case for Piercings: Part 1

Body modification has become increasingly more popular among groups not typically associated with it. Between miniature tattoos, gold cartilage rings, and Brazilian Butt Lifts, people have found a new way to show off their individuality. In favor of self-love, the most critical eyes have averted their line of sight. Body modification isn’t only for the rebellious anymore. That said piercings have come a long way in the last 15 years. Gone are the days of thick-gauged stainless steel varieties and the stigma associated with multiple piercings. The era of the “fashion piercing has arrived and it shows no signs of leaving.

In the 80s, 90s and early 00s people were turned off from getting a piercing because of the rings and barbells piercers tended to favor for new piercings. They were large gauged, stainless steel and stood out among the yellow gold jewelry. You would very rarely see a clean cut thirty-something year old getting an intricate cartilage piercing unless they a little rebellious.

That said, piercings have always been popular among the rebellious. Having lived through a period where cartilage piercings were associated with rebellious teenagers I can attest to the fact that a lot of the people who got pierced were in fact rebellious. Piercers like Maria Tash of Venus by Maria Tash and J. Colby Smith of NY Adorned have worked for years to change people’s perception of piercings. One way they did that is by changing the jewelry. “What changed is that the jewelry is smaller and prettier, it’s custom-fit to your ear, and you can wear it continuously. Which is to say, you don’t have to remove your cartilage rings to shower, sleep, or swim. Twenty-somethings getting pierced today likely don’t realize this wasn’t always the case” (Farra 2017.)

The faults of rebellious teenagers should never have been the last word for piercings though. They weren’t exactly the poster children for aftercare. Piercings are essentially open wounds and they should be treated as such. I’ve always maintained the philosophy that if you are old enough to get a piercing then you are old enough to take care of it. At sixteen I received my first cartilage piercing. With no directions on aftercare given to me, I simply ran warm water over it in the shower and used the old standby, Bactine. In 2004 the only people who knew what sterile saline was were medical professionals. It wasn’t until I got my conch pierced in 2017 that I realized that aftercare changed as much as the earrings themselves. Bactine was no longer considered the old standby. A 0.9% sodium chloride solution or sterile saline is the preferred solution to clean new piercings with.  The Association of Professional Piercers recommends packaged sterile saline as the gentlest choice to clean piercings. According to Infinite Body Piercing, Inc.,

“The products you use on your piercing are not what make it heal—they only keep the piercing clean while your body works to heal it. Do not think of your cleaning solution as medicine, because it isn’t. Saltwater and/or saline solutions should be used to irrigate your piercing, but it is the action of flushing out the wound that helps to heal, not the saline itself. Likewise, soap should just be treated like soap; lather around your piercing and then rinse thoroughly. The single best thing you can do for your piercing is to keep a regular regimen of salt-water soaks. These flush out the piercing, help to draw out discharge, stimulate blood circulation, and soothe irritations.”

Piercing aftercare changed around the same time that the jewelry became dainty. When the jewelry changed the gauges became smaller, the backings shorter and overall, the earring more delicate. The jewelry looks stunning and chic but at what cost? It has always been widely believed that jewelry gauges can play a part in rejection and/or migration.  Even the APP states on their website that “the piercing is likely to migrate when unsuitable or insufficient tissue is pierced, or if your jewelry is too small in diameter, thin in gauge, or of poor quality.” There are no studies on this topic but among the piercing community, it’s believed that a thicker gauged earring would be less likely to migrate or reject. Up until the rise of the “fashion piercing” that thinking was the status quo. The tide has turned though and very few people want to be pierced with that kind of functional earring. Evidence of that tide turning can be seen scattered throughout Instagram and Twitter. Between the hashtag “piercings” and popular jewelry profiles such as BVLA and Maria Tash. It is clear that people want the delicacy, the diamonds, and the beauty of multiple piercings. People want to be pierced with the most beautiful jewelry but they don’t think about how it may interfere with healing. Based on my own experience, people will choose to heal second to a gorgeous ring. It is well known that a conch ring takes almost twice as long as a stud to heal yet the majority of conch piercings you see on Instagram are rings.

To Be Continued….


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