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Stop Letting Mall Employees Do Your Piercings

Woman getting her ears pierced by someone using a piercing gun.
Iryna Kalamurza/Shutterstock

It seems like a good idea, right? You want to get your ears pierced quickly and cheaply (but you don’t want to do it yourself), so you head down to your local mall to get it done at one of those kiosks. This is the worst thing you can do.

Getting your ears pierced at the mall is dangerous: you’re putting yourself at risk for infection, a painful procedure, and subpar results. Here’s why you need to stop letting mall employees do your piercings.

The Equipment Isn’t Sterile

Most mall employees using piercing guns, like the one seen above. Sure, the piercing guns are cheap and easy, but they also aren’t sterile. Piercing guns can be disinfected, but they can’t be sterilized, which puts anyone who’s pierced by them at risk for infection.

According to the Association of Professional Piercers, there’s a significant risk of spreading diseases like staph infection or hepatitis with piercing guns that have been used multiple times. The needles, jewelry, and tools used by professional piercers, on the other hand, can be easily sterilized for each patient. That means you’re drastically reducing your risk of infection by going to a professional piercer.

You won’t be able to tell that your piercing is infected right away, but you may be forced to remove your new jewelry if your ear starts to be painful or ooze pus. These are risks with every piercing, but they’re much higher with any piercing done with a gun.

The Piercer Isn’t Professionally Trained

Professional piercers have to be licensed and go through apprenticeships where they’re trained on how to get optimal piercing results. If you go to a mall employee, there’s no guarantee they’ve had any more training than the senior employee at the location in showing them how to use the piercing gun.

A mall employee might place your piercing improperly or cause the experience to be more painful than it has to be. Similarly, when you work with a professional, they’ll be able to give you explicit instructions on how to care for your new piercing. They’ll tell you what to look out for and how to treat the piercing so that it’s healthy and lasts for a long time.

You Can Hurt or Scar Your Ears

The piercing experience isn’t the only thing that can be painful if you go to a mall piercer. If you use a gun on something like cartilage, you risk your ear’s cartilage collapsing, which can take surgery to correct.

Even if your piercing goes fine, the increased risk of infection can lead to scarring.

What to Look For In a Professional Piercer

If getting your ears pierced at the mall is a bad idea, just walking into any ol’ body modification shop or tattoo parlor to have it done isn’t the solution either.

Here’s what you should look for in a professional piercer:

  • Training: A professional piercer has had an apprenticeship that lasts anywhere from a year to 18 months. During that time, the piercer is trained in sterilization and piercing techniques, among other things.
  • Cleanliness: The piercing studio you choose should be extremely clean. If the studio is visibly grimy or dirty, go somewhere else.
  • Tools: Your piercer should use a new pair of disposable gloves for each customer. Similarly, he or she should only use needles that have been sterilized (or are sterile and disposable). If your piercer isn’t using gloves or sterilized equipment, head out.

Take Piercing Seriously

Piercing your ears might seem like a simple choice. But while the actual piercing process might be over in seconds, you need to make sure your piercer is properly trained and licensed to make sure you get to enjoy your new accessories — not struggle with them.

Hayley Milliman Hayley Milliman
Hayley is a former Teach for America teacher turned curriculum developer and writer. Over the past five years, she's written hundreds of articles on everything from education to personal finance to history. She's co-author of the book Museum Hack's Guide to History's Fiercest Females. Read Full Bio »

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