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Piercing Risks to Teenagers
October 25th, 2011
I was asked to provide some information about risks of piercings specifically as regards teenagers (14 and up). Below are the questions and answers:
Q: What are some associated health risks that teens may be more exposed to when their piercing is healing?
A: Some teens pierce themselves or have a friend do it, or go to a piercer who is unethical (piercing minors without parental consent). In all of these situations, the risk of infection is MUCH higher than if they go to a professional studio and get pierced by a qualified practitioner. Sterilization equipment is expensive, and it is required for safe piercing. The piercing "kits" that are advertised as sterile do NOT provide everything needed for a safe piercing. These situations are all recipes for disaster. One of the likely problems is that the piercing won't end up in the right spot. When this takes place, it doesn't look good, and it won't heal well. Piercings that are not placed properly to the individual anatomy have a tendency to become irritated or infected; the can migrate and reject, and cause tissue discoloration and/or excessive scarring. Poor quality jewelry can cause the same problems. And teens are frequently on a tight budget, which means they often buy jewelry that is poor in quality
One of the common risks found with younger people (even those who do get a quality piercing) is that they may lack the discipline required to care for the piercing throughout an extended duration of healing. So they might change their jewelry too soon, which represents risks of infection, irritation, and healing problems. Also, they may become tired of doing the cleanings, and stop, which also represents risk of infection. A navel piercing can take 6-9 months to heal. That is a LONG period of time to keep up care procedures. That includes using a waterproof bandage to avoid exposure to pools, lakes, or other bodies of water. Teenagers are more likely to prioritize looks over safety, and not wear the waterproof bandage, which can lead to serious infections!
And, also for the sake of appearance, they may do inappropriate or dangerous things like hang charms from a healing piercing because it looks cute, even though that is not safe until after the piercing is fully healed.
Q:Do you have any pearls of wisdom for teens who are considering getting a body piercing?
A: WAIT until you can get it done properly. If you don't, you are much more likely to end up with an ugly scar than a pretty piece of jewelry in a healthy piercing! Become an educated consumer, because the risks are real. Hepatitis can live on hard surfaces for an extended period of time. If a piercer is not using sterile equipment, or doesn't keep up proper cross-contamination protocols, you CAN get Hepatitis from piercing (or tattooing). It is a very serious disease; this is no joke. It could affect the rest of your life. Piercing can be done safely, but it is not highly regulated in most areas, so you have to know what to look for so you can make good decisions.
Check out the checklist for picking a piercer: and other information from the Association of Professional Piercers. We are a non-profit educational organization dedicated to disseminating information about safe piercing. I'm the organization's President.
This is some advice from my book, The Piercing Bible--The Definitive Guide to Safe Body Piercing:
Practical Advice for Young People
If you sneak around behind your parents’ backs to get pierced, you are proving that you cannot be trusted. It is against piercer ethics—and usually the law—for a minor to get pierced without the permission of a parent or legal guardian (not a friend’s parent, yours).
If your mom and dad refuse to consent and you attempt to pierce yourself or have a friend do it, there is a very high risk of infection. You will get a bad piercing that will cause you endless trouble. Don’t count on being able to hide it, either—fresh piercings are difficult to conceal. Your parents will find out. Showing them you are patient will help you earn their respect.
Q: Lastly, any comments you'd like to include regarding teens and body piercing in general.
A: Also from The Piercing Bible:
Kids vs. Parents
Parents and their children often have disagreements over the subject of piercing. Kids who want to get pierced may perceive their parents as too strict, while parents view piercings as evidence of rebellion or a sign that a child is “bad.”
Piercees must be responsible and disciplined, but many young people lack these qualities, especially when faced with an extended healing time. Readiness cannot be determined by the achievement of a certain age, but young people should wait until their bodies are fully developed before getting a piercing below the neck. If their anatomy has not yet matured, a piercing could end up in an undesirable location by time the body has finished growing.
Parental attitudes vary, but even a mother who has piercings herself may not be ready to give her teen permission to get one. If you are an accommodating parent who agrees to go along with a nipple or genital piercing for your minor child (under the age of eighteen), take note: any piercer willing to perform this task has terrible judgment, poor ethics, and risks the possibility of being charged with sexual assault of a minor. Moreover, signing a consent form for your underage child to get an adult piercing could result in a charge of reckless endangerment of a minor against you.
Regulations for piercing vary on aspects such as minimum age requirements, the extent of parental involvement, and which piercings are legally sanctioned for minors. Studio policies also differ depending on the principles of the piercer. Some will pierce minors only with a parent present, even if the law is more lax.
I hope that this information can prove helpful to clarify what the risks are to teens, especially if you are thinking about piercing yourself or having a friend do it--or if you plan to go to a piercer who doesn't require ID or parental consent. That's definitely a piercer to run away from!