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If you got your lobes pierced when you were younger, you might remember going to a shop in the mall staffed by people who were barely older than you. You held your mom’s hand tightly as the retail worker loaded a piercing gun with the new stud that you meticulously chose. You held your breath as the piercing gun was placed on your lobe and the jewelry was shoved through your skin.

Many of us share similar piercing stories, which lead us to wrongfully believe that there’s nothing wrong with piercing guns. After all, we all survived, right? 

However, piercing guns are actually quite dangerous. Besides the fact that piercing guns are bacteria-ridden, no piercer worth their salt would ever dream of wielding a piercing gun; use of a piercing gun is a good sign that the piercer doesn’t have the proper training.

Need more convincing that piercing guns are bad news? Here’s what you need to know.

Piercing guns can’t be properly sterilized

Multi-use piercing equipment must be sterilized in an autoclave. Autoclaving is an industry practice that uses pressure and steam to completely sterilize—kill all the bacteria—piercing tools.

Piercing guns are often made from plastic and, therefore, can’t be autoclaved. Most studios that use a piercing gun will commit to some sort of sanitizing, but sanitation only kills some of the bacteria. Many harmful forms of bacteria remain. 

Bloodborne pathogens can also survive sterilization making piercees susceptible to viruses like Hepatitis. 

You might shrug it off and say that you didn’t have any issues when you were pierced with a piercing gun, but truly, you were lucky. 

Piercing guns use blunt force to shove the jewelry into your body

If you’ve ever watched CSI, you probably know that blunt force trauma is not a good thing. The way a piercing gun works is that it shoves a piece of jewelry with a sharp end through the skin. This can cause massive trauma to the piercing site. Because of this, not only are you introducing harmful bacteria and bloodborne pathogens to your piercing through the improperly cleaned gun, you’re opening a larger wound than necessary, increasing your chances of developing complications.

If you use a piercing gun, you might as well shove a bacteria-ridden pin through your skin.

This is especially harmful in piercings that take place in the cartilage. Cartilage is more brittle than fleshier areas, and the blunt force can cause some serious damage. Use of a piercing gun in any piercing (cartilage especially) can increase your risk of developing scarring.

While, in theory, it might seem as if a piercing needle uses the same method as a piercing gun—you’re just shoving metal through skin, right?—piercing needles are much sharper than the jewelry that the piercing gun shoves through. No blunt force is used; instead, the needle slips smoothly through the skin, causing little trauma to the surrounding tissue.

Piercers who use piercing guns are often improperly trained

In many places that use piercing guns, especially the ones found in shopping malls, piercing is not the main job of the person handling the piercing gun. This means that they receive very little training in order to complete the procedure.

Not only does this mean that they might perform the piercing improperly, but you won’t have a resource to return to if something were to go wrong with your piercing. They might not be able to provide proper aftercare advice since they aren’t fully trained in the matter—how many of us were told to spin the jewelry every once in a while as our piercing healed? This information is completely incorrect. It’s likely that they won’t have the bloodborne pathogen certification that professional piercers must update regularly.

Would you trust a medical professional who only received a Bachelor’s in pre-med? Don’t trust a piercer who only has enough training to handle a piercing gun.

Reputable piercing studios will never use a piercing gun

You’ll probably pay more at a reputable studio, but you pay for the quality and expertise of the piercer.

If a piercer comes to you with a piercing gun, just say no. 

A professional piercer must undergo an extensive apprenticeship. These apprenticeships last a few years, and even after they receive certification, they continue to hone and learn more about their craft. They must attend regular blood-borne pathogen classes, even if they’ve been piercing for years, and they learn about sterilization, cross-contamination, and proper piercing techniques, including how to avoid nerve endings. Someone wielding a piercing gun at a minimum wage department store job won’t nearly have this level of expertise. 

At a professional piercing studio, their equipment will undergo regular tests to make sure that they’re running up to the industry standard. They’ll also use super sharp needles for the safety and comfort of the customer. In fact, each needle is only used once because that needle loses enough of its sharpness going through the skin the first time that it renders it useless for further piercings.

Piercing guns aren’t precise

With a piercing needle, the piercer can easily view the exact area where the needle will go through. This allows the piercer to pierce the exact area that you’ve meticulously marked on your skin.

Piercing guns are bulky. While the piercer can aim at the general area where the piercing will take place, it’s easy to miss the mark by a smidge. But, a piercing that’s even slightly askew can change the entire aesthetic of the piercing. If the piercing is off, you’ll have to wait a few months while the piercing heals before you can try again.

The moral of the story is that if your piercer comes at you with a piercing gun, run away. You might end up spending more money, but for your health and safety as well as the aesthetic of the piercing, it’s essential that you opt for the use of needles over a piercing gun. 

Opt for high-quality starter jewelry, too

While you’re investing in a reputable studio for your new piercing, you might as well invest in high-quality jewelry. After all, your piercing deserves only the best. Here are some options.