Table of Contents > Alternative Modalities > Piercing Print



Related terms
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Related Terms
  • Amateur piercing, belly button piercing, blood borne pathogens, breast piercing, cartilage bumps, ear piercing, ear piercing gun, earring, eyebrow piercing, fistula, genital piercing, jewelry, keloids, needle, piercer, piercing artist, tongue piercing.

  • Piercing is the process of inserting a needle into some part of the body's skin or cartilage in order to create a hole for the insertion of jewelry. The word piercing also applies to the jewelry that is put into these openings in the skin.
  • The origin of piercing is not known. However, the practice has been documented in many cultures at different periods of time and has been practiced prehistorically as well.
  • The most popular form of piercing in the United States is ear piercing. However, other parts of the body may be pierced as well, including the lips, eyebrows, tongue, breasts, and genital areas. Some individuals also pierce the skin surrounding the belly button. Piercing is available at many shopping malls and businesses specializing in the practice. Some doctor's offices may also offer piercing services.
  • Piercing is generally regarded as safe in body areas with few nerve endings, assuming that proper standards of cleanliness, such as using sterile and single use needles, are maintained. The risk of nerve damage, undesired tissue damage, and infection is greater in certain areas of the body including the tongue, breasts, and genital areas.
  • Ear piercing is a commonly accepted practice in most parts of the United States. Currently, piercing of parts of the body other than the ears is popular among teen and young adults in Western cultures.


Author information
  • This information has been edited and peer-reviewed by contributors to the Natural Standard Research Collaboration (

  1. Association of Professional Piercers. .
  2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. .
  3. Jones R, Kingston A, Boag F. Post-coital bleeding due to penile piercing. Int J STD AIDS. 2007 Jun;18(6):427-8.
  4. Kloppenburg G, Maessen JG. Streptococcus endocarditis after tongue piercing. J Heart Valve Dis. 2007 May;16(3):328-30.
  5. Maheu-Robert LF, Andrian E, Grenier D. Overview of complications secondary to tongue and lip piercings. J Can Dent Assoc. 2007 May;73(4):327-31.
  6. National Institutes of Health. .
  7. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). .

  • In general, it is not recommended that individuals attempt to pierce any part of their body at home. Piercing should only be performed by a qualified individual who is trained in the hazards of blood borne pathogens and the practice of universal precautions. Attempts to sterilize piercing materials at home may be unsuccessful and result in infection. Further, the chance for undesired scarring and nerve damage increases when the individual performing the piercing has not been properly trained.
  • Before having any area of the body pierced for the insertion of jewelry, an individual specifies the type and location of piercing desired. Usually, specialized jewelry must be purchased along with the piercing service. This jewelry is made of metals designed to allow for the piercing to heal and to prevent infection. The individual performing the piercing should always tell the client which jewelry pieces are appropriate for piercings that are healing.
  • All piercing should be done according to procedures that abide by universal precautions. Universal precautions are a series of practices that aim to minimize the likelihood of disease transmission or piercing infection.
  • Before jewelry is inserted, a special sharp needle held by the piercer or by a sterile instrument designed for piercing is pressed up against or pushed through the skin. Usually, the piercer holds the skin in a manner designed to prevent slippage or undesired and unnecessary penetration into the surrounding tissues.
  • While the piercing needle is still in the body, the piercer pushes the back end of the jewelry into the new opening. As the jewelry is pushed through the opening, the remainder of the piercing instrument is removed from the skin.
  • However, for ear piercing, the ear piercing guns are sometimes used to create an opening in the skin and cartilage for ear jewelry. Piercing guns do not require the insertion of needles by hand.
  • When the opening that was created to insert the jewelry has healed, a type of scar, known as a fistula, is permanently formed to connect the two openings of skin.
  • There is no government certified body or organization for piercers, and there is also no government-endorsed training process for these individuals. However, piercers may undergo voluntary certification through piercing advocacy organizations. Most reputable studios require that piercers obtain and maintain this certification.
  • Piercers must undergo a blood borne pathogens training in order to reduce the likelihood of spreading disease to and between clients. These courses are offered by organizations such as the Red Cross.

Copyright © 2011 Natural Standard (

The information in this monograph is intended for informational purposes only, and is meant to help users better understand health concerns. Information is based on review of scientific research data, historical practice patterns, and clinical experience. This information should not be interpreted as specific medical advice. Users should consult with a qualified healthcare provider for specific questions regarding therapies, diagnosis and/or health conditions, prior to making therapeutic decisions.

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