Teenagers and Piercings: What You Should Know

When done correctly, body and facial piercings can enhance one's sense of self, but is it safe and what should parents know if their teen wants one? A local artist weighs in.

I was 13 years old when I started asking my parents for a nose piercing, but it wasn’t until I was 16 that they finally gave in.

Ten years ago, when I was finally allowed to have it done, piercings were a sign of rebellion. These days, piercings are all the rage with teens. They can be a great, and not-so-permanent, way to reward your teen for their accomplishments while letting them express themselves with beautiful pieces of jewelry. But there’s a lot that goes into a piercing that many teens – and even parents – might not be aware of.

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So, what should you consider if your teen asks you for a body or facial piercing? John Motyka, owner of Elite Ink, which has locations in Centerline, Dearborn Heights, Warren and Chesterfield, weighs in on the dos and don’ts of body piercing.

Keep it appropriate

Believe it or not, Michigan has laws on the books about putting holes in your face and body. But they aren’t strict.

“Michigan regulates piercings,” Motyka says. “There’s no minimum age for kids with proper parental consent.”

This isn’t necessarily a good thing though, the 24-year tattoo and piercing vet explains, because it leaves loopholes for kids and shops to do inappropriate work.

“It’s scary because there may be tattoo studios that might go along with it,” he says. “They might be able to do a tongue piercing on a 13-year-old, which is unethical, and I think for a parent to allow that type of procedure should be put into question.”

Motyka has set a minimum age limit of 16, with proper parental consent, for all piercings in his shops. Once a teen has hit that magic number, he will only perform his unwritten “Category A” piercings on them.

“Category A would be something less invasive, something you’d perform on a minor,” he explains. “This is the ear, the nose and other piercings that add value.”

“Add value” means piercings that are meant to enhance a person’s natural looks.

He puts more risky piercings, like the lip and tongue, into Category B and in Category C are the private piercings, such as the genitals or nipples.

“I don’t believe most tattoo studios would do (Category C) on a minor even with parental consent,” he says.

Think on it

Once your child has asked for a “Category A” piercing, like the nose, ears or even naval, it is best to let them think on the piercing for a while to be sure that they actually want it.

“It should be well thought out,” Motyka says. “Think about it for several months first, and if it’s a good idea, find a reputable establishment to have it done at.”

According to WebMD, some pediatricians will do basic ear lobe piercings in-office. If it’s a more elaborate piercing than that, you want to find a shop that is licensed by the state and steer clear from mall kiosks that offer piercings.

“I think mall kiosks are best to buy accessory jewelry and not having the piercing performed,” Motyka says. “Piercing with a piercing gun is not the best way to go. The type of jewelry used in that sort of piercing is blunt, it can shatter the skin or the cartilage, and it’s a longer healing process.”

It you do opt for a mall kiosk, WebMD notes that you should make sure that the employees use a sterile, single-use piercing gun. Teens should also be taught to never allow a friend to pierce something for them.

Reward badass behavior

Before taking your child to get the piercing, consider if there’s a goal you could implement that your child needs to reach beforehand. This is common practice with Motyka’s teen clients, and it’s a shift from what he’s seen in the past.

“Parents who were totally against the piercings are setting parameters or rewarding them for good behavior,” he explains.

When he does have teen clients, many times they are looking to get a piercing because they received straight A’s or reached another goal. Their parents aren’t necessarily thrilled at the idea, but use the piercing as a way to motivate their kids to set and reach their goals.

“If there are certain parameters set then it’s OK to offer that reward,” he says.

Visit the parlor and piercer

After your child has met the goal, thought about the idea for a while and picked out a parlor, consider setting up a consultation and meeting with your piercer.

“There’s going to be a lot of anxiety at first,” Motyka says. “The experience of going to the establishment will help the teen and their parents feel more comfortable.”

Once you’re at the parlor for a consultation, the piercer should be professional, but personable, and should answer all of your questions.

“The right piercer should have so many qualities,” he explains. “They should have an outgoing personality and really connect with their clients. I get that people are nervous and I try to ease them from that.”

If you like your piercer and they answer all of your questions, the final step – before setting up the appointment, according to WebMD – is to make sure that the shop looks clean and that the piercer washes their hands, wears gloves and uses either sterilized or one-time use equipment.

Procedure and aftercare

In order for a minor to get a piercing, they must have proper parental consent. This means that a parent must be present and must bring a copy of the minor’s birth certificate and photo ID for both themselves and the minor. They will also have to fill out and sign paperwork in the shop.

Your piercer will then take you through the aftercare procedures for that particular piercing.

“The aftercare is important and the person being pierced is responsible for it,” Motyka says. “We recommend using sodium chloride that is iodine-free (sea salt) and water.”

Healing times vary widely based on the type of piercing. Earlobes take six to eight weeks, while the nostril takes two to four months, according to WebMD.

All piercings will be sore for several days following the procedure, Motyka says.

A piercer will clean and prep the area before piercing with a sterile needle and will insert surgical-grade jewelry in the new piercing.

“Most piercings only take a few seconds to do,” Motyka says.

What to watch out for

While your piercing is healing, there are a few things that you should avoid, according to WebMD.

  • Do not pick or touch the piercing.
  • Do not use alcohol or peroxide. This can cause chemical burns, according to Motyka, and can break down amino acids that aid in healing.
  • Don’t use public pools or hot tubs as it’s healing.
  • Don’t use makeup on or near the piercing .
  • Don’t wear tight clothing over the piercing.

Pain and swelling after a piercing is normal, but if the pain does not go away in a couple of days, or if there’s excessive bleeding, redness or foul-smelling discharge, leave the jewelry in and seek medical attention.

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Teenagers and Piercings: What You Should Know
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