Getting a new piercing should be an exciting, happy moment! Getting to go to the studio with your moral support of family or friends, looking at all the gorgeous jewelry, picking your perfect piece and placement. A quick pinch of a piercing and then a gorgeous new sparkle to admire in the mirror. But, sometimes this experience has some….unexpected turns. Probably one of the most common, and the most startling, is fainting. If you’ve gotten any piercings before you’ve probably filled out paperwork that asks “prone to fainting?” Most of us check no without a second thought (that is if we even actually read the paperwork we are signing…) But fainting during part of a piercing or tattoo procedure is actually far more common than most folks expect. When this happens it can be scary and embarrassing. I want to assure everyone reading this that it’s perfectly normal to feel lightheaded or even faint during a piercing procedure. You don’t have anything to be embarrassed or feel bad about. And a well-trained piercer is more than prepared to deal with fainting and help you if that happens. Today's blog is going to look at what happens to cause fainting during piercing, how we can avoid it, and what we do when it happens.
Why do we Faint?
Fainting, also called syncope, is a sudden, brief loss of consciousness and posture due to decreased blood flow to the brain. A lot of different conditions can cause fainting, including heart conditions, low blood sugar, anemia, and blood pressure issues. Anxiety, stress, panic, and mania can also all be causes of fainting. When it comes to getting a piercing, there are a few factors that all tie in together to make fainting a somewhat normal response. Ignoring other medical conditions that can affect fainting, just being pierced can bring about this response in folks! Often people are getting pierced in the middle of their day, so it may be a while since their last meal- meaning lower blood sugar. Blood sugar can drop further thanks to the adrenaline and endorphin rush of piercing. Getting pierced and things like needles and blood can be anxiety-inducing, and cause folks to stress out. And many piercings are done lying down or seated, so when clients stand up too fast they can become light-headed or feel faint. All of these factors combine in piercing, and when they combine in the wrong way, you may be going down. Fortunately, when we understand how fainting happens and how many factors that contribute to fainting are present when we pierce, it makes perfect sense that fainting would be a common response to piercing! Because of this piercers are well trained to handle fainting when it happens, and it's perfectly normal and nothing to be ashamed of.
What Happens When We Faint During Piercing?
I find that a lot of anxiety and stress often come from the unknown. Especially if you faint during a piercing, it’s easy to come to and think oh my god, I passed out. How embarrassing, I bet everyone is judging me. But the truth is the furthest thing from that. So what happens if you faint getting a piercing?
Well, piercers are trained in how to handle these things. We are often always watching our clients for signs of lightheadedness, paying attention to the color in your complexion and your lips, watching for sweat on your brow, and watching how you communicate and stand. We are often hyper-aware and quick to ask “Feeling ok?” If anyone seems even slightly off. We can often spot signs you may faint before you even realize it and will often ask you to sit or bring you water or glucose.
If you do pass out, we always make every effort to have you laying on the piercing table for this. Occasionally this happens when you are already in the lobby or moving, in which case we are super quick to catch clients. You may wake up in the arms of your piercer, gently welcoming you back. You’ll often wake up with cool, wet paper towels, an ice pack, or a saline compress on your brow and the back of your neck- this helps you feel comfortable and come to quicker and also helps soothe the lightheadedness and dizziness. We’ll likely have a trashcan and water ready the moment you wake up, just in case. And most importantly, we are not judging you. In fact, when the client does faint my first thought is always…well actually I don’t really have a first thought. I spring into muscle memory-trained action focused on keeping you safe and comfortable and making sure you are okay. I think everyone in the whole studio does. There’s a certain tone in our voice when we say “Water in my room?” That everyone in the studio knows and just jumps into activation making sure the client in question is ok. Fainting happens, and I’ve even fainted after some piercings. While I know it’s perfectly normal I also know how overwhelming and intimidating it can be when you come to. You often still feel pretty dizzy or light-headed, sometimes sweaty and uncomfortable, and that can take a while to fade. So my goal is to make sure you are as comfortable as possible and come to as gently and easily as we can.
Then we will hang out for as long as it takes for you to feel better. And I truly mean it. You might feel perfect in 5 minutes or it might take you 50, and no matter what someone from the studio is going to sit with you and make sure everything is ok. We’ll hang out, ask you about your pets and your favorite movies, and tell you all our best stories of passing out to make you feel better.
How to Prevent Fainting
Now that we understand what often causes fainting when it comes to piercings, what can we do to prevent it? Well, blood sugar can play a big role in fainting as we know. A great way to help prevent this is to eat a good meal about 2-3 hours before your appointment. This gives your body some time to digest the food and create more glucose to give you energy, but it's still close enough to piercing to keep you feeling ok. You can also sip on a sugary drink or have some little snacks right before your piercing for an extra boost. When I suggest eating a good meal a few hours prior to piercing I do mean a good meal- one banana or one protein bar doesn’t count. My favorite before-piercing or tattoo meal is Mac and cheese or some pasta! Lots of carbs for fuel and maybe some protein for energy. I love to treat myself to a big meal the morning of my tattoo or piercing appointments and my body definitely thanks me for that. I usually like to bring a Gatorade or juice to my appointment, something with some sugar and electrolytes that will help keep me feeling good.
Speaking of keeping your blood sugar up, most piercers will have glucose tabs around for folks who do faint or feel light-headed. These are little tabs of pure glucose and flavoring, and they are kind of like giant Smarties candy. These can perk you right up very quickly if you start to feel faint. But they can also be used preventatively. I like to give my clients who I know are prone to fainting one before we start piercing so they have that little extra boost of blood sugar as we work. Many of my clients who usually get lightheaded or dizzy after every piercing have told me taking glucose right before often keeps them feeling good for the entire process! You can even get a travel pack of glucose tabs to keep on you or in your car if you need them more often. And don’t hesitate to ask your piercer for one before you start, that’s what we have them for!
Now the mind can be a powerful thing, and I have absolutely watched people think themselves into fainting as I mentioned. It helps to take some deep breaths before, during, and after piercings, and try to focus on positive thoughts. Try not to let the anxiety take over and panic about the “what ifs”. Relax, and remind yourself that you are strong and capable, and you are going to absolutely do so well for this! Asking for extra communication and reassurance from your piercer can also help, and many piercers offer longer appointment times for clients who may prefer to work at a slower pace to help with anxiety and nerves.
And sometimes, no matter what food we eat or how we prepare, we still end up fainting. Some folks may have medical conditions or take medication that makes them prone to fainting, and some piercings may be more intense physically or even emotionally and we pass out. There’s no shame in that when it does happen, and honestly, as long as you are safe, that’s all that matters! If you know you are prone to fainting please let your artist know so we can take proper precautions like keeping you laying down for a bit after piercing, having water and sweets ready, and being ready to make sure you are ok!
Fainting is a real risk when it comes to getting piercings, tattoos, or even just routine bloodwork at the doctor. But it’s a very normal risk, and it’s my hope by talking about it openly I can help others realize that it's ok if you do faint. When we acknowledge that this does happen we can also start to have more honest conversations about how to handle it when it does, and how we can prevent it! As a client, there is so much you can do to help ensure you don’t faint or feel rough after a piercing. But even if you still do, piercers are trained to handle that and prepared to make it no big deal at all.