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What are the Risks of Getting a Piercing

“I have been informed that there are inherent risks in piercing such as bruising, swelling, bleeding, scarring, migration, and rejection. I have been informed that there are possible complications of being pierced and/or my failure to follow the aftercare instructions and procedures outlined to me including but not limited to infection, allergic reaction, and rejection of the piercings. I have further been informed and agree that in the event of any complications is my responsibility to contact my piercer and/or seek immediate medical attention from a health care professional.


I acknowledge and understand that by having this piercing performed I am making a permanent change to my body that cannot be undone. I further acknowledge and understand that there have been no claims or guarantees made about the ability to undo any of the permanent changes that will be made by the piercings. ”


This is a selection from the consent forms at many studios. You may have read this before while getting a piercing. You also may have just checked the little box that says yes or I agree and never actually read what these things were saying. But what does it actually mean when you consent to the permanent change of a piercing or the risk of a piercing? What are the risks of getting a piercing done? Piercing used to be a more underground, subculture practice. Most folks getting pierced knew implicitly the risks they were taking to get a piercing, they had often researched piercings extensively online and talked with many who had them before getting them. Now with the rise in popularity, many clients are just popping in for a quick piercing, sometimes piercings they have done no research for reading on aside from seeing in an image and going “That’s cool! I’m going to get that done.” But when we don’t understand, fully, the risks of what we are doing, we may find ourselves in a situation where we have signed up for far, far more than expected. So today let’s take a real honest look at what the risks of getting a body piercing actually are. (Note: Specific piercings may come with risks unique to those piercings. This blog post covers general risks when getting pierced. Please always research risks specific to the piercing you are planning.)



Bruising


I actually have an entire blog post that covers bruising in relation to piercings in depth here. In short, bruising is a risk any time we break the skin, or even if we simply hit or catch ourselves too hard. Bruising occurs any time you rupture blood vessels in the skin, very common when we do piercings as we are puncturing the skin and there is always the risk of us nicking a blood vessel during that process. This is most common in softer tissue areas including around the eyes, the navel, oral piercings, nipples, and earlobes. But bruising can occur anywhere we pierce. Generally bruising is pretty mild, but it can sometimes be more serious. This is particularly a risk for folks with certain medical conditions or on some medications that can worsen bruising. If a bruise occurs, it’s always a good idea to get in touch with your piercer to ensure that it’s normal bruising and nothing to be concerned about. If it is more severe bruising or the sign of an issue, your piercer will be able to advise you further.


Swelling


Swelling is another potential risk with piercings, but it’s also a very normal part of the healing process. Inflammation occurs any time we have a wound, and it’s a very important part of how our bodies ultimately heal wounds. We know this, and so when we do new piercings we account for that. We use slightly longer jewelry initially to have that space for swelling. As piercers, we try our best to anticipate how much swelling someone will have, based on their anatomy, previous piercings, location of the piercing we are doing, climate, season, and a myriad of other factors. Sometimes people can swell more than we anticipate, and this overselling can be pretty scary. It is however a common risk with piercings, and a quick trip back to your piercer for some longer jewelry to accommodate for this swelling will take care of it. I talk about this in-depth here. But this is a normal side effect of getting pierced, with any piercing. Meaning if you are planning to get pierced on vacation or on a trip- consider if you would be able to make it back to your piercer to get something longer if you needed it. While we do our best to ensure this isn’t the case, we can’t always predict perfectly how your body will respond to every piercing. So get pierced knowing this is a potential risk.


Bleeding

Any time we break the skin, we risk causing bleeding. Anyone who has given themselves some paper cuts, scratches, or nicks knows this. Piercings do also often come along with a bit of bleeding, usually nothing more than a shallow cat scratch, and usually not past the first few days. Some piercings however are known for coming with fairly heavy bleeding during the first few days of healing. And with any piercing, there is the risk of heavy bleeding afterward. This can happen because of someone’s medical conditions, medications, drinking or drug use after piercing, caffeine consumption, from accidentally nicking blood flow during piercing, or from hitting or snagging the piercing good while it is fresh. Profuse bleeding from a piercing can be scary but is a normal risk when it comes to a new piercing. If this occurs for you, your best option is to get back in touch with your piercer. Most often it’s a simple solution and we can take care of you in the studio. Occasionally we may end up removing the piercing and redoing it at a later date. While this is not the ideal situation, it is a very real risk with any body piercing.


Scarring


Any wound has the risk of leaving a scar. Piercings are no exception. Many folks consider piercings to be a temporary modification that they can just take out if they don’t want them anymore. And yes, you can remove them- but you will be left with a scar in many cases. Some folks are lucky and they heal up with such minimal scarring it would be unidentifiable to anyone except a professional who knows what to look for. Some folks will be left with a small scar where it’s visibly obvious there was a piercing there- usually a scar that looks like a small hole or enlarged pore. These scars are very prominent with things like oral piercings. And some folks may end up with severe scarring from their piercing. This can range from raised tissue, discolored skin or hyperpigmentation, flat or bunched tissue, hard thick scarring, and even large formations of scar tissue that protrude from the area. Scarring is a very real risk for piercings, and you should be sure you are comfortable with the scar any piercing you get will leave. There is a lot we can do to minimize scarring from piercings, by piercing them correctly with quality jewelry, caring for them well, and removing them if they begin to migrate or reject. But scars are a very real risk when you get pierced, and you need to be ok with having a scar from your piercings.


Migration


Migration is a risk that can occur with any piercing. Over time from sleeping on the piercing, snagging it, improper aftercare, accidents, or even just the nature of some piercings, the placement of the piercing can shift and change.





Migration can be frustrating since we have spent so much care in making sure your piercing is perfectly placed and angled, and then something shifts or changes and is no longer sitting how we wanted it. Sometimes we can do everything correctly for a piercing and it still ends up dealing with migration. This is the nature of piercings. We are trying to get the body to heal a wound with a foreign object embedded in it, and heal it perfectly around this foreign object. This is a major task to ask our bodies to do, and it won’t always go perfectly. If you suspect your piercing is migrating, please get back in touch with your piercer as soon as possible so they can take a look and advise you on how to proceed.


Rejection


Rejection is the other half of migration. Rejection is the process by which the body pushes a piercing out to the surface of the skin, rejecting it from the tissue. Migration is often the first stage of rejection, and piercings will begin to migrate closer and closer to the surface. Sometimes this migration can be halted, but if it is not, it will eventually become full rejection. This can leave some of the most severe and serious scars one can have from piercings, along with no longer having your piercing. Some piercings are more prone to rejection than others, and likewise prone to worse scarring. If you suspect rejection at all, please contact your piercer.


Infection


Infections are a risk any time we break the skin and have a wound. Infection typically occurs when microorganisms, such as bacteria or fungi, invade the injured tissue. Initially, when a wound is created, the body's immune system works to clean the area and prevent the entry of harmful pathogens. However, if the wound is not properly cleaned and protected, or if the immune system is compromised, microorganisms can proliferate and cause infection.


These pathogens may come from various sources, including the surrounding environment, the skin, or even medical instruments. Once inside the wound, they can multiply rapidly, leading to inflammation, pus formation, and delayed wound healing. Additionally, factors such as poor blood circulation, foreign objects in the wound, or underlying health conditions can further increase the risk of infection, highlighting the importance of prompt and adequate wound care to prevent complications. With piercings, proper care is essential for prevention of infection.


I would say genuine infections are very uncommon in piercings, but when I do see them it’s often because a client has gone swimming or otherwise exposed themselves to unsafe bacteria during crucial parts of the healing process. With piercings being such long healing words, theres an extended period of time where they are susceptible to infection, and it’s important to understand that risk and your responsibility in caring for them to prevent this.


A Permanent Change


Piercings really should be viewed as a permanent change to your body. If you keep the piercing, you now have a hole in your body where there wasn’t one before. If you remove it, you may be left with scars. If your body decides to remove your piercing itself via rejection or migration, you are also left with scarring. All of these things are permanently altering your body. On top of that, in the process of getting and healing a piercing you may encounter unexpected side effects- like bruising, bleeding, swelling, and more. Piercings are a serious process that should be respected for the risks they carry. Anyone interested in getting a piercing should ensure they are fully informed of the risks of doing so and prepared to handle them should they arise.

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