Tale of a New Piercing
Two things have been happening in our family. I have been thinking about getting a second piercing in one of my ears for a while. And as it turns out, my 11 year old daughter has been thinking about getting her ears pierced for longer than I realized.
So I started thinking about how these two things could go together. I thought that I could kind of lend moral support to my daughter by getting a piercing at the same time as she did. We have been thinking about her getting her ears pierced this summer, but the more I thought about summer activities (swimming pools, vacations) the more I thought that it would be especially nice to past this first 6-8 week healing period before summer vacation even begins. If we were to do that, we should not wait too long. (This is not really a problem!)
So on Saturday, we went out to the mall to have our adventures. I planned for us to go to a place at the mall that was a real piercing studio with a needle that had been recommended to me by a friend, called Expo II. (Who knew you could find such a place in a mall?) We signed in, gave the required information. I got my ear pierced first (my left, for no particular reason). My daughter wanted to see the process and after seeing it, decided this was not the way she was going to get her piercing done.
I had still held out an offer of getting her piercing at the kiosk with the piercing gun, figuring that even though this is not the "preferred" method, it may somehow seem more predictable to someone a little nervous.
So my daughter's gun piercing seems also to have worked out okay, though for the first evening, she was still experiencing some pain and discomfort, and was so stressed out before going to bed that night, that she truly wanted to take them out. Fortunately, after about a day she was already feeling much better about them.
I will base my suggestions on the idea that you, too, are a person who may get your ears pierced, and have these sorts of choices to make. I'll assume for now that you either know you have an allergy to nickel, or that you want to avoid one. (To me, this would mean "everyone.") First, you have some decisions to make:
Where Do You Go?
As far as I've been able to determine, there are two clear options about where to get your piercing done. One is to go to one of those mall kiosks with a piercing gun. The other is to go the a professional piercer in a piercing / tattoo studio. You can usually get a recommendation by asking someone you trust who has a piercing, especially if they have more than one piercing.
Really, the more I learn about piercing guns, the less scary those needles look in the piercing studios. First of all, there is no real way to sterilize piercing gun needles, and they ARE used again on other people. (collective EWWW) This does allow for infections to be passed, including Hepatitis C. In addition, the force used on the earlobe is more traumatizing to the body, more similar to "blunt force" than a needle going through cloth.
True, the needle at the studio may look scary (if you're smart you won't look) but it delivers a much gentler impact on the body. Of course there is still pain, but the body is more receptive to healing, and has an easier time adjusting. Furthermore, you tend to have a much wider range of options you can choose from for your first earrings. If want to learn more about piercing guns, take a look at this article.
Of course, you should always notice how clean the place is, how knowledgeable and caring the staff is, and how complete the information is.
At the piercing studio, you may be able to bring in your own starter earrings, or choose from titanium hoops or studs - you don't have to be stuck with just a few choices. Ear piercing kiosks generally have a little stand of earrings you can choose from, because these are the ones already in little packages to fit with the piercing guns. At the kiosk, you are typically shown a range of Surgical Stainless Steel, 14k Gold, or Sterling Silver. Any of these can contain nickel, though since I have successfully used 14k Gold, that's what I got for my daughter. She seems to be doing fine with it too. Unfortunately, even 14k is not a guarantee.
No matter where you go, let the piercer know that you have a nickel allergy, or you would like to avoid one. If they get that glazed-confused look in their eyes, go somewhere else.
Perhaps you have figured out by now that I'm an earring-centric person. Ever since I got my ears pierced again, I can't get enough of them, but of course I know there are piercings for all types. Just keep it clean, and consult your piercer, or your doctor if you have symptoms you think are unusual. A little bruising or bleeding, or tenderness at first is not unusual - you have just inflicted a wound in your body. Oh, by the way, if you're thinking about one of those exotic piercings (even upper ear) - don't even THINK about going to that recently trained 17-year-old with the piercing gun. I can't think of anything scarier.
As for cleaning, ignore that stuff in a bottle they gave you at the kiosk. Even if you succumbed to the lure of the "free ear piercing" behind the counter, you're not stuck using this stuff. The best thing to use for any new piercing is a solution of Sea Salt and water. I haven't been exactly sure how this works, until I've been doing it myself this week on my new piercing. First of all my piercer gave me some sea salt right at that time. You could ask your piercing professional if they carry it or sell it too. It is available at health food stores, or even at some regular grocery stores.
The exact proportions to use for sea salt and water seem to be somewhat flexible. The studio I used said 1/4 tsp sea salt to 1/4 cup warm (almost hot) water. I have seen recommended as little as 1/8 tsp in 1 cup. I think the exact mixture I'm using is about 1/8 tsp in 1/3 cup water, but that's just the size of cup I'm using. The important thing is not to get the mixture too potent, or use it too often. Do not use regular table salt. It does not have the same effect. Clean only two to three times a day. Over cleaning can be harmful, so do not do it more than this. Warm distilled water is recommended, though we have been using tap water in a cup, and find it's easier to get the right temperature.
In doing the actual cleaning, I'm finding that a combination of a q-tip and a cotton ball work well for me. I have a hoop to work around, so I suppose it depends on the actual shape of your starter earrings, and of course, the location of the piercing. I soak for about 4-5 minutes. The directions are to soak it for 5-10 minutes, so don't fudge it too much. Some people find that they are irritated by something in the swabs. Cotton balls and q-tips have some additives when they are made, that some people have problems with. If you are one of these people, just us a soft, clean cloth, laundered in non-allergenic soap.
Keep the regular cleanings going for a full 8 weeks. Recommendations are between 6-8 weeks, and I prefer to play it safe. The exact time I will stop this particular cleaning regimen will also depend on how my piercing is feeling.
Okay, you're almost in the clear. The initial healing has gone well, you're choosing your own earrings to wear, but (there's always a "but") you'll still need to be a little patient before going for those full-sized dangle earrings. The weight and shape of the hook can sometime be enough to elongate your earring hole, which can become the permanent shape of it if you're not careful. It takes 4 - 6 months for the scarring tissue to become completely firm.
I know it's tough for those of us who love the little dangles, but stick to mostly posts until this time is up. When you start to wear dangles, choose lightweight nickel-free earrings.
The First Year
You're kidding, right? A year? Really, this is the easiest part. Even that lady at the kiosk told you this, if you were listening - keep earrings in your ears for at least a whole year. Going overnight without earrings is enough time for them to begin to grow shut. Find some posts or some trim little hoops you like to sleep with and use them every night. If you have let them grow partially shut do NOT just jam your earring through anyway. You will need to go back to your piercer or your doctor. Depending on how much they have healed you may need to get them re-pierced, or they may be able to give you other specific advice.
So it's not so scary, really. It's nice to know that even with a nickel allergy, you have the choice to wear the jewelry you want to wear.
**as always, no part of this information is intended to replace your doctor's advice.