Ear piercing is a rite of passage for many people around the world. Some people have their ears pierced as babies, while others wait until they are older and feel ready. No matter when it’s time for an ear piercing, you’ll have to know the places to get piercings (businesses as well as places to get piercings on your body).
This article focuses primarily on ear lobe piercings, although some retail locations will offer double lobe piercings and cartilage piercings as well. Tattoo parlors offer a whole range of more adventurous options for older customers. Read on to find out what you need to know to get ready for some new ear candy.
The Process for Getting Piercings
The piercing process is fairly standard in most cases, at least until the very last step (more on that later). The piercing specialist will examine each ear to determine whether a standard or long post is needed. During this process, the ear piercing specialist will also check for any scar tissue or cysts that could prevent a successful piercing.
The next step is for you to pick out starter earrings and complete a consent form, which usually includes signing a waiver. If the person being pierced is a minor, a parent or legal guardian will need to complete the forms.
Then, the piercing specialist will put on single-use latex gloves and ensure that all equipment is sanitized before performing the piercing. He or she will mark your ear lobe with a surgical marking pen in order to ensure that you like the location of the holes. If you approve, the piercing will proceed.
Methods of Ear Piercing
There are two basic methods of piercing. One is “gunned” piercing, which is the method employed by Claire’s, Icing, and Piercing Pagoda. These retail locations use a piercing gun that resembles a stapler. It makes a bit of noise, which can startle small children, but it is very quick and relatively painless. The feeling is more like a “hot” feeling afterward, and most people leave thinking, “That wasn’t so bad.”
Some people prefer to have two ear piercing specialists — one for each ear, simultaneously. This can be helpful with small children who may be too scared to do the second piercing after the first one happens. If you’re going this route, call the store first to ensure that two piercing specialists will be on hand that day.
The Association of Professional Piercers does not support the use of piercing guns because they cannot be thoroughly cleaned and pose a significant risk of tissue damage and blood-borne diseases like hepatitis.
Instead, the APP recommends piercing with a hypodermic needle. This is the method offered at most tattoo and piercing parlors. A needle will core out the skin to make room for an earring. On the other hand, the piercing guns used at retail locations don’t remove skin, but instead push it aside. This can lead to the annoying “bump” that many people experience on piercings that aren’t performed properly.
Plenty of people get a piercing with a gun and have no problems, but it’s important to know the options and understand the risks before you decide which method is for you.
- Locations: Claire’s has locations in malls around the world and have pierced more than 94 million ears worldwide.
- Cost: How much do ear piercings cost at Claire’s? Ear piercing is free with purchase a starter kit, which includes a choice of starter earrings, Claire’s Ear Care Solution and a 20% off coupon for the next visit. The cost of the entire starter kit depends upon the price of the earrings chosen, but typically ranges between $18 and $80. The Rapid 3-Week Aftercare Solution is available for an extra $12, which promises to shorten the amount of aftercare time needed to heal the ear.
- Available earring choices: Claire’s offers genuine 14kt yellow gold and white gold styles as well as medical-grade stainless steel, titanium, and 24kt gold-plated stainless steel. All of Claire’s starter earrings meet US FDA and EC European Standards & Regulations — the highest standards and regulations in the world. Claire’s piercing earrings are specially designed with ultra-fine points and thin posts that pierce gently and allow earlobes to heal quickly. They’re also safely stored and packaged individually in single-use cartridges that are sterile and disposable.
- Age requirements: Claire’s pierces ears of all ages. Infants will need to have had a DPT (diphtheria, pertussis, and tetanus) shot prior to the piercing. (That vaccine is typically given at eight weeks old.) Minors will need to be accompanied by a parent or a legal guardian to sign the consent form and show a government issued ID.
- The staff doing the piercing: Claire’s ensures that the piercing specialists are highly qualified. Ear piercing specialists at Claire’s must complete an intensive training and certification program.
- Piercing method: Claire’s uses a piercing gun.
- Locations: Icing has locations in malls around the country. Icing is owned by Claire’s, but caters to a more mature clientele.
- Cost: How much do ear piercings cost at Icing? Kits start at $19.99 and increase in price depending on the type and style of starter earring selected. The piercing itself is free with any starter kit, which includes the earrings, the aftercare solution, and a 20% coupon off the next visit. The Rapid 3-Week Aftercare Solution is available for an extra $12.
- Available earring choices: Icing offers starter earrings in 14kt white gold, 14kt yellow gold, stainless steel, and titanium.
- Age requirements: Icing pierces ears of all ages, but infants will need to have had a DPT (diphtheria, pertussis, and tetanus) shot prior to the piercing. (That vaccine is typically given at eight weeks old.) Minors will need to be accompanied by a parent or a legal guardian who will need to sign the consent form and show a government issued ID.
- The staff doing the piercing: Like the staff at Claire’s, ear piercing specialists at Icing must complete an intensive training and certification program.
- Piercing method: Icing uses a piercing gun.
- Locations: Piercing Pagoda has locations in malls across the United States and has over 40 years of experience piercing ears.
- Cost: How much is it to get your ears pierced at Piercing Pagoda? Prices are similar to Claire’s, at an average of $40 for the piercing and the earrings together.
- Available earring choices: Piercing Pagoda offers 14k, 10k, and 24k overlay earrings, as well as alternative metal styles.
- Age requirements: Piercing Pagoda pierces ears of all ages, but infants will need to have had a DPT (diphtheria, pertussis, and tetanus) shot prior to the piercing. (That vaccine is typically given at eight weeks old.) Minors will need to be accompanied by a parent or a legal guardian who will need to sign the consent form and show a government-issued ID.
- The staff doing the piercing: The piercing professionals at Piercing Pagoda are trained and re-certified every year. The specialists at Piercing Pagoda have specialized training on piercing infants and children, including piercing both ears simultaneously to avoid stress and discomfort.
- Piercing method: Piercing Pagoda uses a piercing gun.
Tatoo Parlors and Piercing Parlors
If you are reading this as a parent, you may shudder at the idea of taking your child to a tattoo parlor that does piercings, but there is no need to worry! Many reputable tattoo parlors are exceptionally safe and sterile places to get a piercing. In fact, many professionals in the piercing industry assert that the needle method used at piercing parlors is much safer and healthier than the piercing gun method used at retail chain stores.
- Cost: The price of an ear piercing at a tattoo parlor varies, but tends to be an average of $40. However, this doesn’t include the price of earrings.
- Available earring choices: Piercing parlors will offer a range of earrings available for lobe piercings. If you aren’t able to find earrings that are suitable for a younger child, the piercing parlor may be able to special-order a pair in advance of the piercing appointment. Reputable parlors will not pierce ears using jewelry that is not medical grade, and most will not allow customers to bring in outside earrings because of the risks associated with using lower-grade material.
- Age requirements: Varies among different parlors. Many locations will not pierce a child younger than eight. Minors must be accompanied by a parent or guardian.
- The staff doing the piercing: At a tattoo/piercing parlor, the piercing specialists are highly trained, and most parlors are state-regulated to meet strict health regulations.
- The process: The process used to pierce ears at a tattoo parlor can vary based on the individual piercer and location.
- Piercing method: Tattoo parlors use a hypodermic piercing needle.
If you choose a tattoo parlor for you or your child’s piercing, do some research first. Maybe even stop in and visit beforehand. Also, make sure to warn your child that he or she may see some people there that look different, but this doesn’t mean that they are scary or mean. In fact, this could be a good lesson in tolerance!
The Doctor’s Office
If you’re nervous about the safety of getting your or your child’s ears pierced, it may be a no-brainer to get it done at the doctor’s office. However, your physician may not take appointments for ear piercings, since they are cosmetic procedures, not medical. Also, they most likely don’t pierce ears often, so it shouldn’t be assumed that a doctor will do it any better than someone at a retail location or a tattoo parlor.
Doctor’s offices don’t accept walk-ins either; you have to make an appointment. However, peace of mind is most important, so if you or your child feels more comfortable getting pierced at a doctor’s office, go for it.
- Cost: Varies
- Available earring choices: None
- Age requirements: Dependent upon the physician
- The staff doing the piercing: Doctor or nurse
- The process: Dependent upon the physician
- Piercing method: Dependent upon the physician
Regardless of where you choose to get your ears pierced, proper aftercare is important. The following tips should help:
- Try not to touch your ears unless you are cleaning them. Make sure you wash your hands immediately before cleaning your ears.
- Watch for signs of infection. Redness, swelling, and pain are not normal after an ear piercing. Contact your doctor if you experience any abnormal symptoms.
- Periodically check behind your earlobe to ensure that the earring “back” is fastened securely to the post.
- Clean your earlobes with aftercare solution. It is not necessary to rotate your earrings while they are healing.
- If you have long hair, be careful when brushing it, since hair can get stuck in the earring and tug at it when you brush it.
- Try to avoid swimming or submerging your ears in a hot tub within the first six weeks after the piercing. If you do, just make sure you clean the piercing thoroughly afterward to ensure that any germs from unsanitary water are removed from the piercing area.
- If you’re nervous about an allergic reaction to the earrings, remember that surgical steel posts are the least likely to cause an allergic reaction.
- It may be tempting to switch your earrings before the six-week healing period ends, but doing so could increase your risk of infection, and the holes could close if you remove your earrings for any period of time.
You can read more about recommended aftercare guidelines on the Association of Professional Piercers website.
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Now you know the places to get ear piercings. Ear piercing is always an exciting process, whether it’s your child’s first ear piercing or you’re getting a new piercing for yourself. The odds are good that you’ll have a nation-wide chain, like Claire’s, Icing, or Piercing Pagoda close enough to you to get a piercing. You can also investigate local tattoo parlors, which are typically state-regulated, highly certified options for ear piercing. Your own doctor’s office could also be an option.