Piercing as a way of self-expression or a symbol of social status has existed as long as, for example, a tattoo and other body modifications. And although any such interventions come with risks, with a competent approach they can be minimized. We figure out how to get pierced without complications - in a variety of areas.
Text: Ekaterina Khripko, Olga Lukinskaya
Why do people get pierced
Piercing is one of the oldest body modification practices that has existed in different civilizations and is loaded with many meanings in addition to the usual decorative. For example, the Maya pierced different parts of the body - earlobes, nostrils, lips, tongue - to make sacrifices to the gods. In India, nose piercing is associated with a woman's marriage - and according to another version, it should help to cope with painful menstruation. Tutankhamun's ears were pierced; earrings are mentioned in the Bible, and genital piercings are mentioned in the Kama Sutra. Some traditions have survived to this day. For example, girls of the Mursi people living in the south-west of Ethiopia, in adolescence, have their lower lip pierced and a wooden plate inserted into it; a woman with a puncture is highly respected in the community.
Today, piercing is also done for a variety of reasons: for someone it is a way to regain control over the body, for someone - a tribute to fashion, for someone - an opportunity to express involvement in a certain group of people. So, according to a 2013 survey of 195 American college students, the leading motives for piercing were self-expression and the opportunity to feel unique. Punctures can be associated with teenage rebellious behavior or the search for new sensations in sex. Realtor Anna, who has pierced tongue, navel and ears, notes that she always did piercings in happy moments, so that he would remind of them; and the journalist Oksana, who pierced her nipples, explains that she was primarily motivated by the desire to decorate her body.
Another survey noted that motivation can range from wanting to be trendy to self-harming behavior. Some observations show that piercings can actually go hand in hand with self-harming tendencies, although this is more common in people with multiple piercings. In another study, a survey was conducted among 432 people with tattoos and piercings - on average, participants had nine modifications. It turned out that the motivation for punctures was different for people who experienced sexual violence: they were more likely than others to say that they wanted to help themselves through a traumatic experience in this way. People with more than ten body modifications showed a kind of addiction - they felt that they could not stop.
Be that as it may, body modifications came out of the underground and became familiar to many. The ministries of health of different countries are increasingly raising the issue of regulating this area: salons must undergo inspections and obtain licenses, and customers must know what to look for. A 2017 clinical report states that it is important to keep in mind the hygiene aspects of the studio where the procedure is performed, and that while public acceptance of body modifications is growing, employment difficulties for people with visible tattoos and piercings are not ruled out.
What is the danger
According to 2019 data, 23% of piercing people had medical complications. Undesirable consequences include suppuration as a result of an introduced infection, irritation, allergic reactions, mechanical trauma, and others. Infections are perhaps the main problem, because any puncture is tissue damage that can take a long time to heal, and microorganisms can get into the wound from the skin surface.At risk are people with chronic diseases, such as diabetes mellitus: it may be more difficult for their immune system to cope with trauma and bacteria, says Alexander Latyshev, a surgeon at the Rassvet clinic.
The most common infectious agents are Staphylococcus aureus, group A streptococcus, and pseudomonas. An infection can be recognized by its typical symptoms: swelling, redness around the wound, burning sensation, throbbing, tenderness, and even pain in the area of the puncture. Of course, suppuration is also a signal that a doctor is needed. In the medical literature, cases of infective endocarditis are mentioned - inflammation of the endocardium, the inner layer of the heart lining the chambers and heart valves, due to an infection that has entered the bloodstream. First of all, the risk group includes people with heart disease, but those who have not previously encountered them can also suffer. So if, after a week or two after the puncture, there is an increase in temperature that is not associated with a cold, weakness and malaise, then you should immediately consult a doctor.
It is important that during the procedure, the master uses sterile instruments and treats the puncture site with an antiseptic. Advisor to the Russian Association of Professional Piercers, chief piercer in the St. Scalpelburg Arseniy Andersson recommends always finding out how the equipment is sterilized in the salon. Usually, a special autoclave or dry-oven is used for these purposes. The first works with the help of steam, which, due to the high pressure inside the gadget, completely covers the surface of the instrument. In the second case, just hot air is used - this method is more suitable not for piercing devices, but for an instrument without internal cavities, since the heating inside and outside is uneven. The autoclave should be B- or S-grade, adds the piercer. Instruments should be sterilized before and after use, and stored in a clean, dry place; sometimes special autoclave bags or a UV camera are used for this.
Andersson recommends giving preference to masters who are members of associations of professional piercers (the Russian one is called RuAPP): membership in such an organization is impossible without the knowledge and tools necessary for safe work. It would seem that the risks and the need to comply with the rules of asepsis and antiseptics should be clear to everyone without unnecessary explanations - but in Wales in 2015 there was an outbreak of serious skin infections, which was associated with visits to tattoo and piercing parlors, which were not distinguished by good hygiene. Many of the clients of these salons were under the age of sixteen (and did not give their real age before the procedure).
How to care
Among the general recommendations for caring for a fresh piercing is washing the piercing with antiseptics or saline. Doctor Alexander Latyshev recommends using chlorhexidine or miramistin - but it is better to refuse iodine, peroxide and soap with triclosan, fragrances and dyes. It is better to treat the wound not with cotton swabs that leave fibers, but with gauze, and blot dry - with a paper napkin or a clean towel. However, the recommendations vary depending on the place: Russian piercers suggest using antiseptics and covering or sticking the puncture in the early days, and in European countries you can hear that there is nothing better than saline in a spray and the ability to heal in the air. Brian Skelly, member of the ASTM F04 Medical and Surgical Devices and Implants Committee, says that if the master has completely cleansed the skin and instrument, then the wound cannot be called contaminated, which means that additional cleansing is also not needed.
Barcelona piercer Angel Armengol notes that swimming pools are dangerous for fresh piercings, chlorinated water can cause severe irritation of the wound.When swimming in the sea, there should be no problems, but a high concentration of salt can lead to unpleasant sensations, and it is better to once again rinse the puncture with saline. Pets can be dangerous: small particles of wool from the air or furniture tend to stick to the wound - and this can cause irritation and infection. Awareness is important: if you forget about the piercing, then there is the risk of catching and pulling the earring with a towel, underwear, backpack strap (even through clothes) or injuring with a blow while playing sports. By the way, you can train right away, only then you need to wash off the sweat well in the shower, rinse the puncture with saline and air dry. To prevent the wound from getting wet, after washing, you can use a hairdryer at low power and temperature. Sleeping on the puncture side can contribute to squeezing and injury.
It is important not to touch, twist or change the earring until the puncture has healed. Otherwise, constant trauma will lead not only to pain and redness, but also to the proliferation of granulation tissue, when a volumetric formation appears under the skin (popularly - a "bump"). It is also not necessary to remove and disturb the thin crust that has appeared. Do not get any body creams, sprays, lotions, deodorant vapors or perfumes on the puncture site; during healing, it is better to prefer a shower to a bath. It should be borne in mind that the piercing will most likely not heal quickly, and even when it seems that the wound has completely healed, this may not be the case.
No matter how unexpected it may sound, after earlobes one of the most favorable types of piercing is a piercing of the nasal septum: it is easier to pierce the mucous membrane than the skin, it regenerates faster, and the nasal cavity constantly cleans itself. It takes six to eight weeks to heal (as for earlobes). The same applies to punctures on the genitals - they heal relatively quickly, although at first you need to be careful with hygiene procedures and sex and do not forget about condoms. The most problematic piercing is on the auricles, because even if during the day a person shows awareness and does not touch the jewelry with his hands, a hat, glasses or a comb, few people succeed in not sleeping on one side, and as a result, such punctures can heal seven- nine months or longer.
What to look for
A good master will spend a lot of time with you talking not only about preferences, but also about habits and lifestyle. According to Angel Armengol, most clients worry about a few seconds of upcoming pain, but do not think about the healing period, which can take six months, a year or even longer. It is very important to understand whether the puncture is compatible with habits and whether you are ready to change something - for example, not sleeping with your pet or not going to the pool for six months. Those who regularly wear a motorcycle or bicycle helmet will find it difficult to heal a puncture in the cartilage of the auricle; people who are keen on rock climbing are unlikely to work with navel or nipple piercings. For swimmers, piercing is a bad idea at all: chlorinated water simply won't let the wound heal.
Informed consent is an important preliminary step. It must be documented: you sign a paper or electronic form and receive a copy of it. This is a confirmation that you received full information about the possible risks and care for the puncture, asked all your questions and received answers to them. If you feel like thinking, take a break to come back with an answer later.
As for the puncturing process itself, it is preceded by markup. With a special dye (for example, an antiseptic gentian violet) and a thin instrument (it can be a wooden toothpick), the master marks the entry and exit points of the needle, evaluates the markings with you in front of the mirror, and discusses your wishes.After that, the area of skin or mucous membrane is thoroughly disinfected and the actual puncture is performed with sterile instruments; all sterile packages must be opened before your eyes. Usually, there is an indicator on the package itself or inside it that the sterilization was successful, that is, heating to the desired temperature has occurred. Piercing anesthesia is usually not used - and the use of a skin cooling spray should be a red flag. These products "freeze" the surface of the skin, making it more difficult to pierce, and this has a negative effect on healing, which is usually harder than the puncture itself.
It is normal to keep in touch with the piercer after the procedure, to come for a check-up and contact in case of any doubts. Therefore, it is better to choose a master with whom you can keep in touch. If you have any questions, but you cannot contact your piercer or you doubt his competence, you can contact the closed group on Ask a Professional Piercer on Facebook, whose experts are carefully selected by administrators.
Earlobe punctures cause the least complaints (both among people of a conservative warehouse, and among doctors and piercers), but only if the procedure is not carried out with a pistol. As Arseny Andersson explains, such a device is pierced not with a needle, but with an ornament with a blunt end, so that the resulting laceration heals worse. It is also dangerous that the gun cannot be fully sterilized - it will simply break in an autoclave or dry-oven cabinet. Compared to earlobes, cartilage punctures are more risky - they have a higher risk of infection and development chondritis (inflammation of the cartilage): they take longer to heal, and even hair more often clings to the decoration, dirt from which gets into the wound. Another popular type of modification of the lobes is tunnels. To obtain the desired appearance, the puncture is gradually stretched, increasing the size of the decoration. It should be borne in mind that too heavy an accessory can lead to rupture of the earlobe. In addition, complete healing and return of the lobe to its original state is almost impossible - the elongated tissue can only be corrected surgically.
Piercings in the mouth, nose and face
Alexander Latyshev explains that there are a lot of microbes in the mouth, so it is impossible to keep a fresh puncture sterile. Before getting your lip or tongue pierced, it is very important to have any dental problems cured and get professional hygiene done. If the oral cavity is healthy, then due to the constant washing with saliva, infections do not become the main problem of piercing in the mouth - but it is easy to injure a puncture due to the high mobility of tissues. With punctures of the nostrils, hematomas and perichondritis are likely - inflammation of the surface of the cartilage. Observations of the owners of lip or tongue piercings show that the most frequent "side effects" are enamel chips (the frequency of cases in different studies varies from 37 to 50%) and gum recession - pathological exposure of the tooth root due to constant contact with the earring. There is a risk of swallowing the jewelry; there are known cases of infective endocarditis, brain abscess and other complications. Speech clarity is not affected by tongue piercings, as one small study has shown.
The main recommendations for caring for such a piercing include regular rinsing with alcohol-free antiseptics and / or saline, while treating both the mouth and throat. In the first days after tongue piercing, resorption of small ice cubes will help relieve swelling. Doctors also recommend not to play with jewelry, avoid spicy and hard food and refrain from oral sex (you can get - you can't do it): there are a huge number of microbes in the partner's genitals, which have no place in a fresh wound. The piercing on the tongue heals for at least three months, although you can return to your usual diet in a week.
Punctures in skin folds - for example, on the eyebrows or the bridge of the nose - heal well if injuries are avoided and hygiene is carefully observed. Before doing such a piercing, the artist should at least ask if you wear glasses and check if they are compatible with the desired jewelry.
Unfortunately, piercing this area also has its dangers. These are infections, and injuries, and the still poorly understood question of the connection between piercing and breastfeeding. Most nipple piercings are believed to have no effect on feeding, but infants have reported poor nipple grip and milk leakage from the mouth; theoretically, there is a risk that the child will injure himself on the jewelry, swallow or inhale it, therefore, the jewelry must be removed during breastfeeding. To prevent the puncture from closing completely, a plastic retainer can be used, which is removed before each feeding, and then put back.
Surgeon Alexander Latyshev notes that the scar resulting from an injury can squeeze the ducts, prevent milk from escaping and contribute to its stagnation, and where there is stagnation, there is infection and inflammation, the doctor warns. It is difficult to predict such a reaction, but girls who have previously formed keloid scars should be more careful. The Australian Breastfeeding Association confirms that such an outcome is possible, but clarifies that most owners of nipple piercings do not face this problem. In one Australian study (albeit with only three mother-infant pairs), milk flow was severely impeded, and as a result, milk production itself was reduced. Other doctors believe that the opposite is more common - punctures, on the contrary, help outflow, making it easier for the baby to suck.
A pierced nipple will take six to twelve months to heal, and in the event of injury or infection, even longer. It is believed that infections after nipple piercing occur in 10-20% of cases. Due to the increased risk of infection, it is worth asking the partner to be moderate in petting: saliva may cause the wound to become inflamed. Of course, it is worth remembering the basic safety measures - try not to catch the jewelry with clothes, linen or a chain. Among the tips for caring for a fresh puncture are the same antiseptics, saline, dryness and cleanliness. Cases of galactorrhea (milk production) and hyperprolactinemia (increased levels of the hormone prolactin) have been reported as a result of nipple stimulation with jewelry. As for changes in nipple sensitivity, everything is ambiguous, and it can increase, decrease or remain the same (this is also confirmed by a mini-survey on the Reddit website).
Another popular option for piercing the body is the navel. Because of the wrinkles, it is difficult to handle and it is important to cleanse the skin very well before piercing. You can not pierce any navel - if it is convex, then it is difficult or even impossible to do it.
In the case of typically female genitals, most often it is a puncture of the clitoral hood, which can add to the sensation, because the jewelry will stimulate the clitoris. But a puncture of the head of the clitoris itself, for example, can cause trouble: the procedure can be very painful, and in the future, due to damage to the nerve endings, the sensitivity can decrease. Piercing on the labia majora or labia minora serves rather a decorative role - it can add variety to sex, but rather due to visual arousal (oneself and that of a partner or female partner), and not due to physical stimulation. For men, there are also a lot of options: punctures on the head of the penis, piercing of the frenum, foreskin, the space between the testes and the base of the penis, between the scrotum and the anus.
A puncture in the genital area can be complicated by an infection caused, for example, by E. coli.The first time (at least 2-4 weeks), you need to avoid unprotected sex, remember the risk of injury to the wound and pay increased attention to hygiene. The "Journal of Forensic Medicine" published a case of examination of a victim of sexual violence - abrasions were found on the external genitals, inflicted, as it turned out, by an adornment on the penis. Theoretically, if a piece of jewelry is capable of injuring a partner or female partner, then the risk of transmission of infections also increases - after all, their pathogens can get into the wound. A case of a rare parasitic infection in the area of genital piercing was reported in a woman who was in an environment with a large number of flies carrying the causative agent of this infection - this suggests that with unhealed punctures it is better to refrain from traveling to regions with an unfavorable sanitary and epidemic situation. … Barrier contraceptives can suffer from sharp edges of jewelry - and in women, the main risk of intimate piercing is considered to be an increase in the likelihood of pregnancy and STIs. In men, the reported complications include urethral rupture, paraphimosis, and urinary disturbances.
In caring for a fresh genital puncture, the same hygiene principles described above are recommended. True, you should not abuse antiseptics - they can adversely affect the natural microflora - so it is better to treat the wound with saline. Any genital sex will have to be abandoned for a while. Healing usually lasts from two to twelve weeks, during which time it is worth getting regular check-ups with a doctor. As for pregnancy, the 2006 recommendations say that it is advisable to remove jewelry from the navel and genital piercing at a later date in order to avoid tissue rupture.
There is also a piercing, in which the jewelry is immersed under the surface of the skin - most often this is done on the back of the neck, on the face, sternum and forearms. For this, different types of jewelry are used: the so-called skindivers and microdermal implants. Skindiver is a cone-shaped piece of jewelry that is inserted into the puncture perpendicular to the skin; according to 2017, this type of piercing is usually rejected by the body literally within a few months. A microdermal implant consists of two parts: a decorative removable wrap and an element that is fixed in the skin. The implant is inserted through an incision or puncture and is sometimes held in place with suture material. Some of them have holes that are designed for better fixation; during the healing process, they are filled with granulation tissue.
The dangers include, as usual, infections and inflammation - and for such a piercing it is very important to choose the right anatomical region. Rejection has been reported to occur more often in folds of skin or on raised surfaces; there is evidence of rejection of microdermal implants on the abdomen during pregnancy in two women. In addition, metal jewelry that cannot be removed without surgery can interfere with diagnostic procedures. If the wrapping is lost, the microdermal implant can be completely tightened by the skin. Angel Armengol notes that he recommends that you be careful when deciding on microdermal piercing: on the one hand, it leaves scars, on the other, it is usually asked to do it on visible areas of the body (face or chest).
The choice of material must be approached responsibly. The option "I will order something on AliExpress" is not the best one: the correct jewelry designed for prolonged contact with the skin is made using a special technology, at a certain temperature, in a vacuum (this reduces the likelihood of foreign microscopic impurities), with a special firing technology, and so on Further. It can be expensive, but it's worth it.According to Armengol, high-quality jewelry is much better not only in the composition of the metal, but also in the polishing, which means that it is easier to insert them into the puncture, which then heals better.
Many people mistakenly believe that there is nothing better than surgical steel - since it is used during operations. Nevertheless, it usually contains nickel, to which many people are allergic to one degree or another, and healing is in the range from problem to impossible, explains Arseniy Andersson. In the company with nickel, among the most potentially allergenic metals are cadmium and lead. Usually, the onset of such reactions is preceded by a period of sensitization - the accumulation of antibodies, due to which, over time, a full-fledged allergy will begin, which might not have been in the absence of provoking factors. Then the reaction can develop not only to the earring, but to the belt buckle that touched the skin, for example. In five European countries, nickel sensitization was detected on average in 14.5% of people, with the percentage being higher in women. According to other data, metal sensitization was observed in 4% of people without piercings, in 11.1% of people with a single puncture, and in 14.6% with multiple punctures.
At the moment, titanium of implantation quality of the ASTM F-1295 brand is considered safe. The easiest and safest way is to give preference to individual brands that have proven themselves in the market and are approved by the American Association. Among them Industrial Strength, Auris Jewelery, BVLA, BodyGems, Anatometal, specializing directly in piercing jewelry. Gold jewelry is also suitable if it does not contain nickel, cadmium and other impurities. Silver, for example, can provoke argyrosis - blackening of the skin due to silver oxide. There are also decorations made of borosilicate glass - it is more often used for tunnels and large-sized decorations. By the way, you can replace jewelry with glass, plastic or wood if you are waiting for an intervention in which metal is prohibited - for example, an MRI.
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