I-Kandy, as well as every other reputable shop on the planet, I presume, has seen the result of not-so-great ideas many, many times: tattoos by Some Guy in a Basement, piercings by My Friend and a Safety Pin, and, of course, the infamous I Did it Myself. While we understand the reasoning (and have indeed made a lot of those same errors ourselves), we hope to save you the time, money, and even pain, that can come of them. Below are the five most common body-mod mistakes, and how you can avoid them.
1. Piercing yourself/having a friend pierce you
It seems simple, right? Just take something sharp, clean it, and poke it through your ear (or lip, or nostril…). Put in a piece of jewelry, and voila! You have a piercing! Except…that’s not at all how it really goes. Professional piercers don’t just pierce you – they know the right tools to use and how to keep them sterile, they know all about cross-contamination, pathogens, and bacteria, they know the appropriate placement, size, and depth for your piercing – all very important things to know if you’re going to be putting holes in people’s bodies. There is a very good reason that professional piercings have such a high success rate, while self-done piercings will more often than not need to be taken out to avoid infection – no matter what you do, no matter how much rubbing alcohol you take to your safety pin or how thoroughly you wipe down your bathroom counter, you are not working with safe equipment, or all the necessary information.
Do yourself, and your piercing, a favour and have a professional do it. Not only will you be in good hands with clean equipment and jewelry, you will also have someone to go back to if you have questions, concerns, or need help changing the jewelry later.
2. Getting tattooed in someone’s basement
Tattooing is, more often than not, a “get what you pay for” industry. A tattoo for the price of a case of beer seems like a really awesome deal – until you see a few tattoos done for the price of a case of beer. The sketchiest of the cheap tattoos are, of course, those done in someone’s basement or garage or living room “studio”. That’s not to say there has never been a good home-artist, or even a good home-studio, but they are few and far between, and the chances of you happening to stumble upon one are small. It’s really difficult to set up a studio at home that will meet the same health & safety standards that professional shops are held to – we have specialised equipment, autoclaves and ultra-sonics, specific types of chairs and flooring, etc, for the express purpose of cleanliness and safety – home studios are unlikely to have the same. Professional artists have also gone through some form of training – even those that are mostly self-taught are well-researched in sterilisation and safety, and work in shops with others, learning from one another and honing their skills in a safe environment.
No one gets a tattoo thinking they won’t mind if it sucks. With cheap basement artists, there are just too many chances being taken – going to a professional may cost you a little more, but those extra dollars are guaranteeing you are being tattooed with sterile equipment in a clean environment by someone that knows what they are doing and has a reputation and business backing them up.
3. Getting pierced at the mall
I expect some hate-mail for this, but it needs to be said: mall piercings are terrible.
Piercings done at the mall are done by a non-professional with a piercing gun. What’s wrong with that, you ask? Well, everything.
Non-professional piercers are trained via a brief lesson, and a video tutorial. Contrast this with the months upon months upon years upon years that professional piercers spend learning about health and safety, cleaning tools, changing and adjusting jewelry, reading books, practicing on one another and themselves, trying out new techniques, piercing numerous parts of the body, talking to other piercers and sharing ideas and issues, and absorbing any and all info about jewelry, tools, trends and body modification in general, and the slightly higher price may start to make sense.
As for piercing guns, they have many issues unto themselves. First and foremost, they cannot be sterilized. The sterilization process involves extreme heat, and piercing gun cases are plastic; they would melt if they were put in an autoclave. Sterile equipment is extremely important. Think about it – the person who got pierced before you may have had an infection or contagious disease, and now you are about to get a piece of jewelry that has been in that same gun shot through your body. Gross.
Many mall-shops have gotten around that problem with single-use guns, which is certainly an improvement, but does not make guns any better of an idea. Piercing guns cause more trauma to your body than a needle – there is no sharp end on them, so they are literally shooting the jewelry into you. This means no clean incision has been made, making your risk of slow healing, pain and scarring much higher.
Lastly, malls also do not offer appropriate aftercare. While professional shops differ somewhat on what they offer, the one thing they all agree on is to not use alcohols, which is exactly what most mall shops will give you, along with antiseptic wash. Both will dry out your skin terribly and prolong the healing period.
4. Not thinking through your tattoo
Many of the regrets we hear from our clients involve old tattoos that were not exactly well thought out. People who got tattooed on impulse, or saw something cool in a magazine and went and got it done a couple of days later. People that got tattooed while drinking (I could devote a whole new article to all of the things wrong with that idea), or were not completely prepared to follow the process through. People who got their first boyfriend’s or girlfriend’s name tattooed on their chest, or something vulgar across their knuckles. Getting tattooed is actually kind-of a big deal, and it needs proper consideration – you can assume it’s going to be there for the rest of your life, and that should be in your mind the entire time. You may think a flaming 666 on your hand is an awesome idea, but are you sure you’re still going to think that when you’re forty, or even next week when you have that job interview? That’s not to say you should compromise – tattoos are all about self-expression and personalization – but it may be a good idea to take some time to really think about what you will still be happy looking at a few years from now, and whether or not you’ll want other people looking at it.
5. Listening to your friends
I know, I know. They’re your friends, and you trust them. Some of them probably have lots of tattoos and piercings, and sound like they know what they’re talking about. Hell, some of them probably doknow what they’re talking about. But, here’s the thing: what happened to them will not necessarily happen to you. Everyone heals at different speeds, everyone reacts differently to the process. Every piercing or tattoo is a unique experience. It would be hard to count the number of times someone has come in with an irritated piercing or a tattoo that hasn’t healed nicely, only to tell us that their “friend said it would be fine” if they went swimming or changed the jewelry or picked the scab. What needs to be kept in mind here is that shops do not make a profit from giving you aftercare instructions. We aren’t trying to sell you anything – by that point, we’ve already made our money. We tell you these things because we want you to have a beautiful finished product. We want you to be able to proudly show off your mods, and we want to be proud to say we did them.
Aftercare and forethought are not pushed on you to take the fun out of the experience, or to make anyone any money. We’re not here to lecture you; we’re here to give you a cool experience and an impressive piece. We can’t give that to you if you are sitting in someone’s basement or in the window of a mall shop, however. Body-modification should be a personal and pleasant experience that leaves you with something you are proud to show off – do it right the first time, and we promise you, you won’t regret it.
Getting a piercing can be a wonderful experience. It can be a magical, spiritual moment for some and an awkward and funny moment for others. Some think it hurts, some enjoy the sensation. A lot of people plan and prepare for their piercings and even more come in on the spur of the moment. All, inevitably, have questions. Below are some of the most commonly asked.
Does It Hurt?
This is, without a doubt, the most common question of all. And the answer is yes. And no. And sometimes.
When it comes to the pain, there are three things you have to keep in mind.
1. Not all piercings feel the same. It’s impossible to say that every piercing hurts or that none of them do, because different parts of your body will feel different being pierced. Some parts are more sensitive than others, so where you get it will make a big difference.
2. Not everyone feels the same amount of pain, or in the same places. It’s always hard for us to tell you if the piercing will hurt you – we can only tell you if it hurt us, or if a lot of clients have given us feedback. Everyone is different, and will react in their own way – I didn’t find my nostril painful at all, but several of my friends did, likewise, I found my microdermal quite uncomfortable while others enjoyed the sensation. Only you know how your body handles being pierced.
3. A piercing is over in seconds. Even if you do find it painful, it’s over before you can even say “ouch”.
How Long Will It Take To Heal?
How long a piercing will take to heal depends on where it is, how you treat it and how quickly you heal. The average is 6-12 weeks, but some can take up to 6 months to be fully healed. Of course, it’s different for everyone, but the general rule is, the less important that body part is, the longer it will take to heal. That means your navel (bellybutton) or ear cartilage will likely take longer to heal than your tongue or lip, because you need a functioning mouth more than you need a healed navel.
How you treat your piercing will make a big difference in healing time, as well. Using saline solution to clean it, rather than alcohols or peroxides, will speed up the healing process significantly; alcohols dry out your skin and kill all the good bacteria (yes, there is such a thing!) that helps you heal as well as the bad bacteria. Keeping it clean is vital – if it’s a facial piercing, make sure your pillow cases and hats are clean as well. Also avoid swimming or getting make-up in your new piercing.
What Are The Risks?
If done in a clean, professional shop, the risks are minimal. It is a shop’s duty to have safe and appropriate tools – it is your job to find that shop. Assuming that you came to see us at I-Kandy, or an equally reputable shop in your city, the main risk is irritation (not infection, as many believe!). This is when the area around the piercing seems angry. It will be red and not feel so great. Generally, irritation is caused by the piercing getting dirty, or being bumped or played with before it’s healed. This doesn’t require you take the piercing out, or go to the doctor – it just demands a little extra love.
Can I Get Something Tiny?
Girls especially appreciate cute and dainty piercings — a tiny bead on a lip stud or a little jewel in a nostril. As much as you may hate it, however, it has to be a little bulky to begin with. The reason for this is that a lot of piercings swell at first – sometimes just a little, and sometimes a lot! That’s why people talk funny after they get their tongue pierced; it’s not because it hurt, it’s because it’s swollen. If you put a tiny bead or really short barbell in your new piercing and it swells up, your skin can literally swallow the jewelry, and you can only imagine how great it feels getting that out! It’s worth having a bulkier piece of jewelry for a couple of weeks to avoid the pain of a too-small piece.
These are just a few of the most commonly asked questions, and another FAQ may follow this one up. These are of course NOT meant to replace speaking with your piercer – take care to not only find a good one, but to listen to the instructions and advice they offer. A professional piercer will happily answer any and all questions you have, and will go over aftercare with you in detail. Hopefully, however, we have at least answered a couple of the more pressing questions on your mind so that you can make an informed decision on whether a piercing is right for you or not.
Body piercing is, perhaps, the most common type of body modification – everyone and their mother has their ears pierced these days, and even those that were once frowned upon (at least in Western culture), such a nostril, lip, and navel piercings, have slowly become acceptable. But where did they come from? Who was the first person to say “let’s punch a hole in ourselves and fill it with metal”? It seems a bit of an odd idea to have come out of nowhere, and yet, someone had to have it!
While we of course have no idea who did, or had, the very first piercing, we can be sure it was long ago. Mummified remains dating back over 5000 years were adorned with earrings, and, in the Middle East and India, both ear and nostril piercings have been common for at least four thousand years. Piercing, and stretching, lobes and lips, has been standard practice in Africa for as far back as we can trace, and ancient Greeks often used piercings as a way to make clear their status or profession. Suffice it to say, body piercing is not a new fad, and, in fact, Western society is very much playing catch-up with many older cultures in this regard.
The reasons for piercings vary as much as the cultures that practice(d) them. In the Bible, we can read about a bride-to-be being gifted with gold earrings and a nostril ring. This made their marital status clear, and also served as a sort-of insurance in case of divorce or the death of their spouse – gold was of high value back then, and could be traded for money or goods. In India, it was thought that piercing the left nostril would aid in fertility and an easy childbirth. Aztecs, Mayans, many Native and African tribes, as well as some Greek and Roman warriors, would pierce their septums as signs of their wealth, status, and virility. One of the most common, and wide-reaching, reasons for piercing, however, was magical protection. Several different cultures were of the belief that demons, or negative energy, were deterred by metal, and so piercing the various openings in one’s body (ears, nostrils, mouths, etc.) made it harder, if not impossible, for these negative entities to enter.
How, then, did piercing become popular among cultures that did not hold such beliefs, or engage in these rituals? We can point in a few different directions to answer this. The Punk Rock era helped to popularize piercing in the United States, when punks, in an act of defiance, began piercing themselves with safety pins. This was taken even further when Jim Ward and Doug Malloy opened the first professional piercing shop in the U.S., distributing pamphlets on the art (which later gained widespread criticism for their inaccurate history, but still succeeded in garnering interest and attention), and making their own customized jewelry. Perhaps the most important person in Westernized body piercing, however, is Fakir Musafar, founder of “Modern Primitivism”, and Master Piercer. Musafar developed an interest in ancient tribal practices at a very early age, and began experimenting on himself with piercing, scarification, tattooing, and suspension in his teens. Over time, these separate subcultures became more and more familiar with one another and their respective practices and rituals, and a new subculture was born. In a relatively short period of time, these groups brought piercing from an underground practice to a mainstream form of expression. While many of the ways and reasons piercings are performed have changed, the one thing that seems to remain throughout all cultures and eras is the declaration of self. From ancient times, right up to present day, people are adorning themselves with these markings to claim ownership of their bodies, to make clear their position on individualism and to claim their status, whether as individual, part of a subculture, or as a walking piece of art.