Why You Need To Say No To Piercing Guns

by Clint Edwards
Originally Published: 
Scary Mommy and Pisit Rapitpunt/Getty

When my oldest daughter Norah wanted to get her ears pierced a few years ago, we took her to a place in the mall, which is pretty typical for most ear piercings. Now, I don’t want to say it was an “ordeal,” but it was definitely more complicated that we expected. Keep in mind that I’m close to 40, so everyone at the mall looks young to me, but this “ear piercing professional”, or so she called herself, could have very easily still been in high school. To be honest, though, I didn’t really think about any of that at the time. I just tried to support our daughter as she got her ears pierced.

She cried getting it done, and ended up with an infection in her right ear that had to be treated by a doctor, and then re-pierced, and frankly I wonder if we should do things differently with our youngest daughter, Aspen, when she wants to get her ears pierced.

I’ve been doing some research, and I now realize that the first mistake we made was by taking our daughter to the mall.

If you are reading this and suddenly feeling bad about taking your daughter to get her ears pierced at the mall, don’t. You are not alone. According to a recent article in Glamour, “In the four decades Claire’s has been in business, the accessories chain has pierced more than 100 million ears around the world.” That’s a lot of ears. But during those four decades and millions of piercings, people have started to rethink ear piercings, and the real concern has more to do with bodily autonomy than the piercing gun.

But if a child does truly want their ears pierced, according to a recent article in Parents Magazine, experts recommend that parents avoid getting their child’s ears pierced with a gun, a technique commonly used at stores in the mall for a few reasons, the foremost being that they don’t actually pierce the skin. They force a blunt-backed earring through the ear, and this can cause blunt-force trauma. It is also difficult to properly clean piercing guns, which likely explains why my daughter’s ear got infected.

Michael Mims/Unsplash

Now to be real, I know that piercing ears is just a small hole, but at the same time, it is a hole in the human body, and an infection in the ear can get serious. During a 2017 interview with University of Utah: Health, Troy Madsen, MD mentioned that complications could get pretty serious pretty quickly.

“If you get enough swelling in there and enough long term issues, you could have some sort of, at least, hearing impairment or hearing issues. So … maybe an infection from an ear piercing sounds pretty minor but there’s just so much going on around the ear.”

Not to mention, even with a less serious infection (like my daughter’s), it’s painful.

So what is a parent to do? That’s a good question, and I’m trying to figure that out for myself right now. There are a lot of people who recommend taking your child to a tattoo and piercing shop to get your child’s ears professionally pierced with a hollow needle instead of a piercing gun.

One of the best places to try is a dermatologist. In fact, many dermatologists do in-office piercings, which makes me feel a lot better than having it done by some twenty-something at a mall kiosk. But if your dermatologist doesn’t do piercings, they often have a list of reputable places they recommend for this sort of thing.

Pisit Rapitpunt/Getty

Additionally, here are a few rules to follow, according to Lisa Garner, M.D., a dermatologist in Garland, Texas: “Make sure the technician has had at least a year’s experience doing several piercings each day. Check that the technician follows basic safety protocol. Make sure she has washed her hands or used antibacterial hand gel, put on new gloves, cleaned your daughter’s earlobes with an alcohol pad, and taken an individual sterile ear piercer out of its previously unopened packaging in front of you for each ear.”

You can also make the ordeal a little more comfortable by asking your doctor to prescribe a topical numbing cream with lidocaine derivatives that can help anesthetize the earlobes. This won’t completely remove all pain, but it will help settle what can already be a nerve-wrenching experience for a young child.

Of course, after-care is key. Follow the directions given after the piercing.

The overall goal here is to get your child’s ears pierced safely and as pain free as possible, and it sounds like visiting the mall is not the best route. There’s no judgment here. At this moment, I am confident that children are getting their ears pierced at malls all over the world, and most are just fine. But at the same time, I also think it’s best for all parents to take a moment and realize that piercing your child’s ears at the mall isn’t your only option, and there are safer and less painful ways to get it done.

For my next kid, if she wishes to pierce her ears, we will be opting for that hollow needle.

This article was originally published on