Artists and front-desk staff alike are all too aware of the countless myths and misconceptions surrounding body modification. Because it was, for so long, a “behind closed doors” industry, there was not a lot of opportunity to put good information out there. Until now. The internet has allowed a sharing of facts, stories, and information that was completely unheard of just a couple of generations ago. While this exchange can help us in combatting myths, it also leaves the door open to them – seemingly everyone has a friend that has a friend that has a cousin whose face was permanently paralyzed after getting a piercing, or was refused an epidural because of a tattoo on their back. It can be hard to tell which of these stories are true, and which are urban legend. Of course, the ideal solution is to talk to both medical and body mod professionals about any concerns you may have, but this article aims to clear up at least the most common of these misconceptions.
#1 : PIERCINGS CAUSE NERVE DAMAGE
This is perhaps the most pervasive of mod myths. Countless stories have been told over the years about paralyzed faces, developing migraines, even going blind or deaf, as the result of a badly placed piercing. “Nerve damage” is a very frightening sounding term, so it’s understandable that people take this concern seriously. No one in their right mind would risk blindness just to get their eyebrow pierced. But is there any truth to it?
To date, not a single medical case of blindness or deafness as a result of a piercing has been recorded. Doctors that have spoken on the subject do include nerve damage as a possible complication, but also stress that this is incredibly rare, and generally due to dirty equipment or poor aftercare, not the piercing itself. Going to a clean, professional shop and taking proper care of it afterwards reduces your risks of such damage to almost zero.
#2 : TATTOO INK IS MADE OF (INSERT SOMETHING GROSS HERE)
From cow’s blood to urine, we’ve heard every possible rumour, myth, and legend about the ingredients found in tattoo ink. The truth is much less exotic. Tattoo inks, just like most other inks, contain numerous ingredients, but the majority of them are plant and carbon based. Even in Ancient Rome, long before FDA regulations or knowledge of allergies, tattoo ink was made of pine bark, vinegar, and leek juice. No cow’s blood necessary.
#3 : IT IS DANGEROUS TO GET AN MRI OR X-RAY IF YOU HAVE A PIERCING
I can’t count how many times I’ve heard that the magnet in an MRI machine will rip out your piercings, or that an X-ray cannot be performed on someone with piercings. High-quality piercing jewelry is most often made of non-magnetic metals, such as stainless steel or niobium. And, common sense should be enough to tell us that X-rays can still be performed – afterall, people with metal pins or plates in their bodies not only can, but often have to, get them. The reason you are asked to remove all piercings before these procedures is not that it is dangerous, but that the piercings can obstruct vision – that piece of jewelry will show up on the X-ray, and if there is anything beneath it, your jewelry may hide it.
#4 : NIPPLE PIERCINGS CAUSE CANCER/ LOSS OF SENSATION/PREVENT BREASTFEEDING
Nonsense. While some of the other myths and misconceptions are at least based on some tiny kernel of truth, this one is just straight-up wrong. There is absolutely no correlation between piercings and cancer, breastfeeding is still completely possible, and it is actually more likely sensitivity will increase, not decrease (though, even likelier is it that your sensitivity won’t change at all).
#5 : YOU CANNOT GET AN I.V. OR EPIDURAL WHERE A TATTOO IS PRESENT
A few reasons have been offered for this myth: the ink will seep out, the tattoo blocks entrance to the veins, the ink will get into your bloodstream and poison you, your pores are covered, etc. All untrue. There is absolutely no medical reason why you cannot get an I.V. or an epidural, nor is there any truth to ink “seeping” when such procedures are done. The ink in a tattoo sits under the epidermis – it is well beneath your pores, is not “blocking” your veins, and will not just spontaneously start to travel if pricked.