Ear piercing without a piercing gun

When I was a kid ear piercing seemed like a simple business - you visited a beauty boutique at the mall, hemmed and hawed over the earring choices, and then received a quick shot to the ears with the piercing gun. Easy peasy!

Unfortunately in my personal experience, the months and years that followed my first piercing weren’t an easy experience. My ears were forever getting infected. Even pure gold earrings seemed to cause problems, and I got so frustrated I decided to take them out. To this day (at the age of 38) my piercing holes regularly become infected, even without earrings in there!

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So when my 6 and 9 year olds started asking about piercing their ears, I knew I wanted to do things differently. First, I waited almost one year to be sure they were really serious about the decision. We talked about it a lot - about how it might hurt a bit, and how you needed to properly clean and care for your ears.

During this waiting period I happened to come across this post from a local tattoo parlour here in Ottawa. I had NO idea the risks associated with piercing guns, and hadn’t really considered the issue of consent. Piercing guns cannot be properly sterilized, can sometimes cause blunt trauma to the ear lobe and the advice given for cleaning/care is not accurate or thorough enough to always avoid infection.

We made the decision to use a qualified piercing artist, and started the process. The following is a bit about our experience: what to expect, the aftercare process, cost and other issues.

The Consult

The entire process began with a very thorough consult with the piercing artist. She walked us through the procedure step-by-step, talked about consent, and spent a lot of time going over aftercare. She said she would refuse to do the piercing if my daughters could not demonstrate that they had learned the 4-step aftercare process by the time the actual piercing appointment was made (we booked about 4 weeks after the consult, but you could certainly do sooner!)

The Big Day

Piercing day arrived for my first daughter. Appointments can NOT be made together, as it’s possible one child’s experience will impact the other child (seeing your sister in pain may make you wary to go ahead!) We went over all the aftercare again, and then the piercing took place. A small dot is drawn onto the lobe to map out the spot where the needle will go. My daughter was asked if she was ready, and then asked to count to three. The needle went in, and she barely flinched. Her ears were quite red and sore that evening, and we gave her a dose of Advil. The following day the pain was gone!

The Jewelry

The quality of jewelry is excellent. The earrings are titanium studs, and for an extra few dollars my kids had the option to have them coloured (my oldest chose “blurple” which is a combination between blue and purple…so pretty in the sunlight!)

The Aftercare

My daughters have to clean their piercings morning and night, with a process that involves: a sterile saline solution, water to rinse, and proper drying using a hair dryer. Furthermore, the girls were instructed to NEVER touch their ears (except during cleaning and after a good hand washing) and not to allow any friends to touch either. They can’t go to bed with wet hair (the damp can cause infection) and they were instructed not to swim to 4-6 months. So far we’ve had no problems getting them to do their cleanings, and their piercings are healing very well - we recently did our follow-up appointment to have the posts shortened now that risk of swelling has passed.

Time

Your investment of time is going to be really significant compared to a piercing done at the mall. The consult alone was over 1.5 hours, the piercings were about the same, and then we’ve got several follow-ups. There is also the time that you need to dedicate to aftercare. The parlour seemed to regularly be running late, so we were often waiting 20-30 minutes just to get into our appointments. I would suggest bringing water, snacks and activities for your kiddos.

Cost

This is where we ran into the most trouble, and caused a bit of stress throughout the whole process. When I asked for a quote from the tattoo parlour I received a “rough estimate” that was SO far from the total cost. If I had known the real costs I probably would have decided not to go ahead with both kids in the same year (it was really my youngest daughter who wanted the piercing done, so I would have told my oldest she had to wait another year!) To be clear, I think the service is worth what we paid; but I wish we’d known how much it was before we went ahead.

One of the variations in cost is dependant on the type of jewellery your child chooses. Of course mine wanted the pretty sparkly earrings rather than the round (and boring!) balls. In total we spent about $200 per child - that includes everything, including follow-up appointments.

In addition to the unexpected cost, the parlour also did not accept any type of debit or credit. So we had to trek down the street to an ATM.

I would strongly suggest that you get a very clear quote for the ENTIRE process, and find out if the tattoo parlour will take debit or credit.


In the end, I would say we are glad we went this route for ear piercings. I think that in the long-term this will pay off. The piercing will heal properly and unlike me, my daughter’s will be able to keep their earrings for life.

Have you taken your child to a piercing artist for their ear piercings? What was your experience like?