Taken from the wonderful www.bodypoetry.co.uk, run by Lara

Safety Issues

Firstly and most importantly there is no way to sterilise a piercing gun as they are not made of material suitable to be put through an autoclave. An autoclave is the standard sterilisation device used by medical professionals, piercers and scientists which heats to 120-134c, destroying bacteria and blood borne pathogens such as Hepatitis B, Hepatitis C and HIV using steam heated under pressure. The alcoholic wipes used to clean the gun simply remove certain types of surface bacteria and dirt and the microscopic back-spray of tissue and other debris caused by the high velocity action of the gun often cannot be seen by the naked eye. This leaves both the client and the piercer at risk of serious infection as the same gun will be used repeatedly - only the carriage with earrings in it is disposable and sterile. 

The skills learned to become a body piercer include human anatomy, basic first aid, detailed aftercare procedures, British piercing law, jewellery types, lengths, piercing placement and hygiene control and usually take a year or more of supervised training to master. Good Body piercers are also vaccinated against Hepatitis B and Tetanus. The training for a shop assistant using an ear piercing gun is as little as 30mins and only usually as much as a 3 day long course at the local college. They cover barely a fraction of what a professional piercer will learn and many of them will not have pierced a real person before they start work. This means if something goes wrong they often have no idea how to deal with it and cannot help you if you have trouble healing. A good body piercer, on the other hand, will have a good knowledge of piercing problems and be happy to hear and address your concerns. 

Jewellery Problems 

It may sound obvious to say it but; everyone’s body is different! Some people have curled cartilage at the top of their ears, small noses or thick ear lobes and body piercer’s can use a calliper called a Vernier Gauge to measure body parts to ensure that the selected jewellery is going to be the right for that person! The studs on ear piercing guns are all the same size.This often leads to the jewellery embedding in the back of the ear as the pressure from the swelling tissue on a bar too short causes the flat backed butterfly clasp to dig into the soft flesh and often the only way to remedy this is to have it cut back out.

The earrings can also irritate the side of the face as they have small points on the end to aid in the ‘piercing’ which can feel quite sharp and dig in to the soft tissue behind the ear. The butterfly backs keeping the earrings in place also trap dirt and dead tissue and can be very difficult to clean, (or to remove as they go on very tight!) complicating piercing healing time bygiving bacteria a place to collect and breed causing infection - exceptionally dangerous in cartilage piercings where trapped infections can cause irreversible ear collapse. 

The butterfly back earrings are also usually made from substandard or unsuitable materials - even 24k gold is not suitable for you to be pierced with as it doesn’t hold its shape well and is usually only gold plating over a cheap alloy. This plating can wear away and expose you to the poor metal beneath– causing allergic reactions. Ideally you should be pierced with Titanium (grade 5 or 23) or PTFE only. 

Damage and Complications 

Guns don’t, as most people think, use a sharp edge to make the piercing hole; they actually fire a blunt earring through the flesh. This is a great shock to the body as the stud forcefully tears through the skin bruising the flesh and making a jagged shaped hole, rather than the nice smooth crescent shape left by a needle. This means the healing process is a lot more complicated for the body to begin and the piercing feels much more painful due to the force damaging the tissue so much. The guns are also highly inaccurate because of this firing method – there is a ‘bounce’ back effect and the large surface area of the gun ‘nozzle’ makes it hard to see where the gun actually is in relation to the marking – this leaves many people with mismatched piercings as the placement will never be as exact as it can be with a needle! 

Finally ear piercing guns were designed to pierce the soft and more forgiving tissue of cows ears (they were originally cattle ear taggers) and were not made to be piercing any body part other than human ear lobes – especially not the thicker and more solid ear cartilage. Massive complications can come from piercing other body parts with the gun as not only will the stud not be long enough for other body parts but also not ‘thick’ enough causing what is known as the ‘cheese-wire effect’ (where the thin stud slices through skin like a cheese wire would) eventually forcing the piercing out of the skin altogether and causing a lot of scarring in the process.

When fired through cartilage the stress placed on the flesh by these studs causes the nerves in the cartilage to shatter, making it more painful than it should be for the person involved and prolonging healing time! This type of trauma to the ear is similar to what boxers endure in the ring and can cause cauliflower ear, where the cartilage comes apart from the tissue supplying it with nutrients and dies, causing deformed swelling resembling a cauliflower.

 Even the manufacturers of the guns recommend not using them anywhere except ear lobes! 

Other piercers regularly have to deal with covering up or repairing the blunders that guns and the undertrained people that use them produce: Misplaced jewellery, wonky piercings, embedded jewellery and infections are just a few of the issues we regularly see but we’re not the only ones dealing with this! The NHS see people with piercing problems on an increasingly regular basis and our doctors often don’t have time to deal with self inflicted problems such as piercing which usually results in the piercing just being removed. The frequency of these botched piercings are now also beginning to place a massive strain on the NHS. (BBC article source.) 

Solutions from the manufacturers 

The manufacturers of the ear piercing gun have tried to address some of the issues I have mentioned by releasing a piercing gun which is operated by a squeeze-handle rather than a coiled spring. The gun consists of a non-disposable squeezeable handle and a fully disposable jewellery casing and gun nozzle in one, the design of the gun means that no part of the reusable gun handle comes into contact with the skin. 

This radically reduces the contamination problems from the other gun model as everything that comes into contact with flesh is sterile and thrown away after use but since the handle is still reused it does not eliminate the issue altogether because any contact from the hand touching the handle to the piercing site can potentially still transfer contaminates left behind from previous piercings. In a small study BME found that the guns often became ‘locked’ after firing, facilitating the need to touch the piercing site in order to remove the gun and instigating the contamination problem. 

The ‘push-force’ method of the gun puts less pressure onto flesh, and so is suitable to be used in cartilage piercing as well as lobe piercing and because the stud can be lined up against the hole (rather than a gun nozzle) the placement issues should also be resolved. However it still takes a lot of force to get the stud through the tissue, so extra damage is still caused by the blunt stud being forced through - kind of like trying to push a nail into wood by hand, it will go in eventually but it’s likely to cause the wood to splinter under the pressure as it does so. 

Really however, I feel this only actually begins to address a few of the problems I’ve listed above. The jewellery in these guns is still generic, the people using these guns undertrained, not working in hygienic situations or with the right blood borne pathogens training and the blunt stud still causes the same bruising and damage to flesh, still has a butterfly back and still comes in cheap plated jewellery forms. In some circumstances the spring loaded gun also doesn’t actually manage to get all the way through the flesh either and can leave the stud half in - a problem which an undertrained person may not be able to deal with very well. 

These guns have also been manufactured with jewellery for other piercings, such as the nose, which is shaped (in my opinion) rather ridiculously. The nostril studs, for example, are straight which is uncomfortable to wear for long periods of time as you cannot close your nostril without the jewellery digging into the sensitive septum tissue on the other side, particularly painful when the stud is also pointed like a pin! The studs are also 1.2mm on the ball end and taper out to 1.6mm on the far end so that they stay in. When it comes to take out the stud the piercing has healed around the smaller end, meaning to get the wider end out you have to (often painfully) widen the piercing hole. This causes the piercing to be reopened in many cases as the fistula will be too weak to withstand the stretching. This is particularly worrying because the stud is likely to drag nasal debris through the reopened hole as it goes!

Posted: March 7, 2011 • 7:39 AM
With: 64 notes
  1. neutralino reblogged this from mistermay
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  4. doggirlsondrugs reblogged this from hayflick and added:
    Oh my god. Now I’m not surprised my eyebrow healed way better than all my cruddy-ass unever Claire’s piercings. Although...
  5. iwantyourbeautifulsufferingxox reblogged this from awfulmodifications
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  8. no-soy-jason-bourne reblogged this from fuckyeah-piercings and added:
    I have a standard offer going to my friends with kids that I will personally pay to have their kids’ ears pierced by a...
  9. fuckyeah-piercings reblogged this from awfulmodifications
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  12. poop-town reblogged this from hunterdearest and added:
    Oh god, definitely going to hold off on some piercings for a while…
  13. spoopyearthtolaney reblogged this from awfulmodifications and added:
    Honestly, I had to have an earring CUT OUT OF MY EAR. I only just realized that other than my taking shit care of the...
  14. ohtiffany reblogged this from awfulmodifications
  15. hunterdearest reblogged this from awfulmodifications and added:
    For my friends who need more details about why they should avoid guns, EVEN IF IT MEANS SHELLING OUT A FEW MORE DOLLARS.
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