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Jewelry for Initial Piercings

It’s the day you’ve been waiting for- the day you are getting a new piercing! Maybe it's a piercing you’ve been planning for a while, something you’ve been eagerly awaiting an appointment for. Or maybe it's something impulsive, a desire to just finally go get your piercing. Whatever the case may be, you go into your studio, and pick out the fanciest, most beautiful piece in the case- your dream piece. The piece you’ve pictured wearing all along! It’s going to be amazing!

….Until your piercer informs you that you can’t have that piece to start.

This is a common situation that happens on repeat in studios around the world. Clients who have a clear vision in their mind for their piercing and the jewelry, only to have their dreams dashed when their piercer tells them they can’t be pierced with the piece they want. And why- they see so many folks online with this jewelry? Why can’t they have it right away? Well, piercings take a while to heal, and while they are healing some jewelry pieces are great for healing, and others…wouldn’t be a great idea. So today, let’s discuss jewelry for initial piercings! What it is, why it matters, and what limitations it may have.

Fresh vs Healed

The primary point to consider here is a fresh piercing vs a healed piercing. When piercings are initially done, they are going to experience swelling, redness, secretions, and even sometimes bleeding, bruising, and irritation. And many piercings can take months to fully heal, meaning these things can happen on and off throughout the healing process. Because of this, we need to pierce people with jewelry that accommodates for the ups and downs of the healing process. For example, many folks have heard horror stories about clients' ear lobes pierced with piercing guns and their ears “swallowing” the earring and it becoming embedded in the skin. This often happens because piercing guns use one size fits all jewelry that doesn’t have enough room for swelling and healing. And it's a prime example of why it matters that initial piercing jewelry accommodates for healing. You can learn more about this in my article Size Matters: Initial Piecing which discusses jewelry sizing for fresh piercings.

Because of this, jewelry that’s suitable for a fresh piercing is significantly more limited than what you can wear in a healed piercing. Swelling is arguably the largest factor- jewelry in a fresh piercing needs to leave space to accommodate for the natural swelling a piercing experiences while it's healing. If you don’t leave enough room for that, things can embed, they can migrate, they can have all sorts of issues. Beyond that, a fresh piercing is an open wound. So the jewelry we put into it needs to be biocompatible. You might be able to safely wear costume jewelry in your healed piercings, but those materials in a fresh wound can be disastrous.

Once a piercing is healed it’s a very different story. The piercing is no longer an open wound, meaning the skin is entirely healed and stable on the inside. It’s also not likely to swell up randomly, meaning jewelry that’s a perfect fit can be worn. And healed piercings are much more stable- they can support big fancy pieces or teeny tiny decorative ends. But this all happens only once the piercing is entirely healed!

These fun chains and bold ends were added only once this bridge was fully healed- I made Izzy wait a full year to ensure this was healed correctly before we got fancy!

Material Matters

One of the largest factors for fresh piercing is materials. It has to be a safe material for piercing for things to heal well. I cover these topics in depth in my blogs about surgical steel, acrylic, and gold vs titanium if you want to learn more. The bottom line is our bodies heal best with material that’s what’s called biocompatible. In simple terms, it’s a material that is compatible with living tissue. When we get pierced with something that works with our body, our body mostly leaves it alone and allows it to stay. But when we get pierced with something lower quality, something not compatible with our body, that our body doesn’t like, it tries everything in its power to get rid of the material it doesn’t like. That can mean irritation bumps, excess swelling, and even migration and rejection. Sometimes it's piercings that just never truly heal, even for years. Because our bodies can’t heal- there’s something they hate in the way of that happening!

Biocompatibility is a complex thing, something that piercers, and also medical professionals, spend lifetimes studying, researching, and learning more about. One person's body might be ok with something another person’s body hates. And if we don’t know exactly what is in a piece of jewelry, we have no way of knowing if it's safe or not. For this reason, with fresh piercings, it’s best to stick with materials from trusted brands that we know are strict about their materials and processing. Seeing a piercer you trust is also huge, as sadly many piercers and jewelry companies lie about the materials they offer. If you want to learn more about safe materials, I suggest reading the blogs linked above!

If you like it, you should probably wait to put a ring on it

Many clients have a goal for a number of their piercings of a delicate and dainty hoop. And many clients are heartbroken when they find out they can’t get that to start. A number of piercings simply don’t heal well with hoops. A number of others may heal with hoops, but the healing will be much more difficult than most folks are prepared for. And if a piercing can be healed with a hoop, normally the hoop needs to be much larger and thicker to allow for swelling and healing then the client would prefer the look of. Conch, helix, and nostril piercings are great examples of this.

This delicate hoop is best left for healed conch piercings

Here's a fresh conch with a hoop- see the larger diameter and thicker gauge? In order to pierce with hoops successfully we need to size things a little differently- make sure this is an aesthetic you are ok with!

Many clients want hoops for these piercings initially and could they be pierced and healed with a hoop? Yes. But the healing process would often take much much longer than with a stud and be much more difficult to heal. With hoops, clients are often more likely to catch and snag the jewelry and deal with irritation bumps and issues. I can’t tell you how often I have clients come back in and want to swap to a stud because hoops are causing too much irritation and are far more difficult to heal with than they expected. Climate also plays a role in healing, and in areas that are more humid or prone to swelling, it’s even worse of an idea to start some of these piercings with hoops. Most clients will have a much easier and more comfortable healing experience healing with a stud and swapping to a hoop once fully healed.

The above diagram shows why hoops can cause irritations if they are too small or cause too much pressure on the piercings. Thanks to that if you are insistent on hoops, they will need to be a much larger diameter and a much thicker gauge to be stable for healing- and many clients do not like that look. While I personally am comfortable starting a selection of piercings for clients with hoops, they have to be properly sized and a proper fit. This means they won't be super snug, super thin, or super dainty. You must be ok with this aesthetic, and the added difficulty healing with hoops can bring!

Because of this difficulty, many piercers opt not to start certain piercings with hoops because they know how many irritations and issues they can cause for healing, and don’t want their clients to experience that difficulty and discomfort. If your piercer opts not to use rings for certain things please respect that they have your best interests at heart!

Exceptions to this are piercings like daith, septum, and a variety of genital piercings where the anatomy and the tissue heal better with a hoop. In a daith, curved barbells can rotate inwards can cause pressure and irritations, whereas a hoop does not. And in septums curved and straight barbells would shift and hang to one side or the other, also causing irritation and being very difficult to heal. And a range of genital piercings supports hoops better initially than anything else. But even in these placements often rings are used that have a diameter that accommodates for swelling and healing.

Fashion vs Function

Many folks have a specific vision in mind for their initial piercings. They imagine a big beautiful cluster bursting with gems or the tiniest, smallest, most delicate hoops they could possibly fit. And these are great goals for your piercing- but many of them are just that. Goals. While for the client your primary focus may be the look and aesthetic of your piercing, for us piercers our goal is for the piercing to be able to heal correctly. And, unfortunately, those goals quite often don’t align. Many pieces you see online and love the look wouldn’t be practical for your piercing while it heals.

When it comes to healing, larger decorative pieces work in some piercings but not all and they often can require more cleaning and care during the healing process than smaller simpler pieces. Depending on the design the size may be prohibitive to healing, or placement might need to be adjusted to accommodate for them. On the flip side, pieces that are very very small can sink into the piercing or even be pulled through while the piercing is a fresh wound and still healing. Lip piercings are notorious for this, so even though many clients wish they could use the tiniest little gem, they often need something more medium-sized to be safe for healing.

Another good example of this is spikes- I have so many clients who love the look of big bold spikes on jewelry. But these pieces are often not the most practical to actually heal with and are very prone to getting caught, snagged, and causing irritation. I generally try to convince clients to start with simpler easier-to-heal styles and save spikes for full healing. But Every now and again I'll give a persistent client spikes to heal with- and about half the time they return asking to swap to a bead with a grumpy piercing!

Anatomy, Always

And of course, all of this is variable on your anatomy. One person's anatomy may be perfect, and able to safely start with an endless selection of decorative fun choices. Someone else may have anatomy that’s more unique or may be trickier to heal with, and as such may be easier and safer to start with simpler jewelry for initial healing, and once things heal can move to fun fancy pieces.

A great example of this is navel piercings. Some clients have anatomy for what we call a double gem navel where there is a gem or adornment on the top and bottom of the jewelry. But some clients have better anatomy for a floating navel, where there’s just a simple disc or bead on the inside. For those clients, if we pierced them with a large gemstone on the bottom of their piercing it would cause irritation and issues every time they sat or moved- their navels usually collapse when they sit and there’s simply no room for a gem there! So even if that piece is their goal, their anatomy doesn’t allow for it initially. But that doesn’t mean they can’t wear something like that eventually, often once healed they can wear double gem curves or J curves for a similar look. But for healing, it would be awful to start folks with that anatomy with a traditional piece. It simply wouldn’t heal well! So your anatomy does play a huge role in the pieces you can start with initially.

Trust Your Piercer

The biggest thing in all of this is to trust your piercer! If you are seeing a reputable, skilled, and safe piercer I promise they have your best interests at heart. None one of us ever like having to break a client's heart or tell them the piece they really want won’t work for their piercing initially. But a good piercer will always put your well-being before your wallet, and suggest pieces to start that are the safest for you. After all, it’s often not a great business decision that we steer you toward usually cheaper, simpler, easier-to-heal pieces. But we want your piercings to heal really well! Once they are fully healed we can worry about making them fancy and fun, but my priority is them actually healing, not looking pretty right away.

A good piercer will always be honest with you about what is best for your anatomy, what is safest for you to start with, and how that affects your healing. We promise we don’t say no to be mean, but rather to be safe! Our priority is always your health and safety first, and the health of your piercings. And sometimes, that means making the boring but responsible choice to start with a simpler piece of jewelry, or something different than what you expected.

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