If you’re the parent of a little girl, chances are the subject of ear piercing has or will come up.
And if you’re the parent of a teenage girl or boy, be prepared for the conversation to possibly resurface again, this time perhaps with a different part of the body, such as a nose or lip piercing.
While there isn’t necessarily a “perfect age” to get a piercing — after all, we see babies with their teeny-tiny earlobes pierced — there are points to consider and discuss with your child, whether it’s a 5-year-old girl asking to get her ears pierced with sparkly studs or a 16-year-old wanting to make a statement about his or her individuality with a nose piercing.
Experts like Jeremiah Currier, owner of Good Life Body Piercing and Fine Jewelry in Akron, and a longtime member of the Association of Professional Piercers, frequently bring up the word “consent” when discussing piercing, referring to the concept of the child actually being ready and willing to make the life-changing choice to get a piercing.
“When I do get the opportunity to talk to parents ahead of time, that’s usually my opportunity to weed out some people who maybe aren’t actually ready [to get an ear piercing],” Currier says. “I’m not going to talk about pain or needles, but I do want you to talk about it with them and to be responsible by maybe watching videos with your kids of kids getting pierced. You know, sometimes kids walk in the door and everything changes. I’ll tell parents that a big part of what we do, a big theme, is that we have to have consent from the kids, and when these kids are ready, we don’t really have to do too much.”
Natasa Agatonovic, owner of Stranci Tattoo & Piercing Co. in Cleveland, says she always makes a point to have a conversation with the parents about piercings for children.
“The first thing I ask the parent is how the child does at the doctor’s office,” Stranci says. “Do they want this done? When people are adamant, I recommend they talk to their pediatricians.”
Getting a piercing is considered a rite of passage for many children and anything new is always a little scary. For parents of children who want to get their ears pierced, the experience very often is one of the first times they must sit on the sidelines and watch their children take the reins. For adolescents, there’s all the unfamiliar sensations that come along with the experience, like the pungent smell of rubbing alcohol; the feel of stiff, sharp piercing equipment; and the mixed emotions of suddenly having to put trust into a stranger. A teen may counteract their nervousness with overdramatic actions and behavior.
“I always tell parents to be prepared to not really be the parent and to just be your kid’s fan,” Currier says. “You’re going to be in the bleachers watching this big moment in your kid’s life. When they are nervous or shy, you don’t need to step in. We take those moments and we get on their level.”
When emotions run high, piercing professionals have tons of ways to keep things calm and cool. Currier, for example, plays the “Frozen” soundtrack on the shop’s speakers. Agatonovic tells parents to bring along their child’s favorite stuffed animal so she can pierce its ears, as well.
“I set aside two hours for a child’s piercing and if they’re too nervous, I would refuse service,” Agatonovic says. “It’s not something you have to do; it should be something you want to do. It’s this big thing in a child’s life and it should be a fun, welcoming experience.”
Master Piercer Julie Semock, of War Horse Ink, with locations in Kent and Ravenna, says she makes sure to explain everything that is happening and schedules children’s ear-piercing appointments for evenings or on quiet Sundays.
“We’re big on making sure the person consents to what we are doing,” Semock says. “If another staff person is available, we offer tandem piercing so it’s a nice, easy experience. It’s very cool watching these kids make adult decisions and for them to learn at a young age, especially little girls, that they are in charge of their own bodies.”
Parents, too, can take a cue from Semock and take the time to explain to their child what it means to have a piercing and the choices they are making with their body.
When it comes to the piercing procedure itself, that can depend on where you go. Stores in the mall likely are using piercing guns for ear piercing, while body piercing shops use single-use needles. At Piercing Pagoda, a chain with hundreds of locations across the country, professionals undergo training recertification each year, says Michelle Dellow, manager of store operations. She recommends that parents discuss the piercing thoroughly before coming to the store and that the child brings along a favorite toy or stuffed animal. Piercing Pagoda professionals also make sure to bond with the child and have conversations about the procedure.
In many parent circles, it’s becoming increasingly popular to go to a body piercing/tattoo studio. Semock credits the internet for the shift.
“It’s more popular today for parents to do online research and read online reviews,” Semock says. “I think society in general is more aware of where they are taking their business. It’s really cool to see the industry changing and parents more understanding of it.”
Currier acknowledged the shift, as well.
“We talk about it in my industry, that piercing kids is really like more of a cause,” he says. “Piercing kids is a lot tougher, it’s more involved and their appointments take time, but we want to create a healthy, safe option that historically hasn’t been there.”
Currier thinks a piercing can serve as a template for any life-changing parent/child moment.
“When you see the moment to want to coddle them, don’t do it,” Currier says. “You’re just watching what’s going down.”
Ear Piercing After-Care
Reminders and Tips from the Professionals
- Initial healing takes about eight weeks. Full healing can take roughly six months or up to a year.
- Cleansing tips can vary, with professionals recommending either a saline spray/wound wash, a soap-and-water cleanse, a salt-water rinse or an ear care solution. Regardless of where you take your child, expect to receive take-home material and a thorough explanation of how to clean the piercing. Many places include cleaning solutions in their piercing packages.
- Advise your child not to touch or play with their new piercing and jewelry, no matter how tempting. Hands off!
- Twisting or “turning” the earring throughout the day is generally not recommended by body piercers, as it works to constantly contradict the body’s natural response to heal around the hole and piercing.
- Jewelry should generally not be changed until after six to eight weeks. Always opt for nickel-free earrings. Avoid inexpensive earrings, shopping instead at a jewelry store until you learn what metals agree and don’t agree with your child.
- Practice care when your child changes clothes/gets dressed, wears headphones, combs or brushes their hair around the piercing and uses a heavy bath towel. Have your child avoid wearing thick, knitted sweaters and frequently swap out their pillowcase for a new, clean one. Do not swim for at least two months.
- Some immediate redness, heat and soreness is normal, but watch for any signs of infection like itchiness, swollen skin and/or dark-colored discharge. Many places offer a four-week check-up following the piercing.