So you want to get pierced and, for some unexplainable reason, you want to do it in the shadiest, least safe manner possible. Great! The experts who wrote Piercing for Dummies are glad you've decided to ignore the risks of infection, hepatitis, and HIV because now they can make enormous amounts of profit by selling you a dinky piercing kit. I'm all for independence and liberty, but the idea of three 14 year olds in a bacteria infested bathroom trying to pierce one another with shaky bare hands scares me - and I hope it scares you, too!
A few things must be prefaced before I continue. First, I believe that some of my fellow piercers have a great point that piercing kits may be better than safety pins and sewing needles. However, let's examine the contents of a typical piercing kit to compare:
A sterile 16Ga. pre-lubricated piercing needle. I find it hard to understand how a "sterile" needle has been "pre-lubricated". Is lubrication sterile after it has been through the autoclave? Doesn't this lubrication compromise the integrity of the sterilization pouch? Wow. I can't believe anyone believes this crap. A clamp. Is it plastic or stainless steel? Does it really matter since it's not sterile? Another danger, no doubt. 18Ga. body jewelry. This might be the only legitimate component in the kit. But I wouldn't bet any money that this jewelry is from Industrial Strength. It's probably got more nickel than a five cent coin, and the fact that it's gauge is smaller than the needle makes for more blood than necessary when no gloves or professionals are around. For those who don't know, when the jewelry gauge is thinner than the needle there will ALWAYS be MORE blood, hence, more chance for contracting or spreading disease. Neosporin. Hasn't anyone read the back of this shit, yet? According to senior piercer Dave Gillstrap at Gotham Body Piercing in San Francisco,
On the back of each tube of Neosporin, it clearly states "not for puncture wounds" which is what a piercing is. Piercings also need plenty of oxygen, and patroleum based products will put a seal over the piercing. Neosporin also harbors bacteria. It will heat up with the body temp and when bacteria and dead skin cells are being secreted from the entrance and exit holes of the piercing and it will have a nice warm, cozy nest to hang out in and fester.
In addition, since working at Tribalectic I have received countless emails from people whose piercing is infected or irritated due to Neosporin. If a piercer recommends this stuff and you aren't washing it off and reapplying it several times a day … strike one!
An alcohol swab. This isn't the worst thing in the world (and surely better than nothing), but alcohol is clearly inferior to hosts of other antibacterial and antimicrobial preparatory solutions.
A q-tip. This would be fine if it didn't sit solo in the shipping box making a home for all types of bacteria.
Instructions. Is that what these are called? I'm still not sure how these went to print without even prefacing that one should thoroughly wash ones hands with antibacterial soap before touching anything in the box, let alone performing a piercing! And there's not a bit of information regarding proper placement or technique. Then again, why should there be? The people who sell these things aren't interested in what happens the millisecond after they ship you your kit.
This is just an example of a kit sold by a popular website that clearly sucks. Ebay has similar ones that even include gloves. But don't be fooled … these gloves have been sitting in some box next to the bacteria infested q-tip. And who knows what Charlie was doing with his hands before he handled the exterior of your "glove".
So why have piercing kits become so popular? Professional piercer BOZ asserts,
...we should be aware of the fact that we are the reason for these sites. What we do is now the cool thing … Those who would rather take their chances with infection etc. will continue to create scars upon their bodies. The larger our industry becomes the more we will be copied, imitated, and emulated.
And he's right. Whenever a market develops, it's basic economics that when regulated (e.g., age regulations) a black market will actualize to satisfy the illegal demand. In this case, young teenagers are demanding to get pierced and the law says "no". And how can you blame these teens from wanting to get pierced? An overwhelming majority of their idols are pierced, including Britney Spears (who was pierced as a minor).
The issue is similar to that regarding underage cigarette smoking: it's against the law, yet inevitable. The difference is that young people piercing themselves are risking permanent health hazards such as hepatitis and HIV, while underage smokers can quite once they shed their skin of rebellion. I'm not saying I have the omniscient solution, but I can testify that allowing young teens to get pierced with parental consent is much better than letting them do it themselves. If a parent can't oversee a professional piercing done on their 14 year old child, isn't the government playing dictator? Regardless, if societal forces condition our youth to desire piercings, then we have to adjust rather than act ignorant.
The other major population ordering dangerous piercing kits is cheap people. In a capitalist society you get what you pay for. And when it comes to your health and body, don't you want to get the best? The alternative is potentially contracting a permanent disease, receiving a crooked piercing, or worse, piercing a vein. Let's be honest. The reason why a piercer undergoes a supervised apprenticeship is to receive coaching when you get nervous and the adrenaline starts pumping. Only after performing numerous piercings can a piercer truly focus with pure intensity, line up perfect angles with the needle, avoid cross-contamination, and pull off a flawless performance. And even the best of us err every once in a while. So now imagine a young teenager who hasn't pierced anyone or anything and doesn't know the first thing about piercing safety or practice … a surefire recipe for a negative experience.
I could probably discuss the ills surrounding this issue for hours. But there's no point. All I aim to do is mention the very REAL side effects associated with piercing kits and self-piercing. If piercing a vein or contracting a disease doesn't phase you, then you're probably going to do it anyway. But for those who are led to believe that this practice is safe, or as safe as a professional sterile environment, don't believe the hype - think for yourself and be an individual.