Medically Reviewed by Renee A. Alli, MD on April 01, 2024
4 min read

Are you thinking about getting an ear or facial piercing? Here are some key questions to ask yourself before you get pierced:

  • Do you have your parents' permission? Most places require you to have parental consent if you are under age 18. So be sure to check with your parents before getting pierced.
  • What does your school say? Some schools don't allow students to have facial piercings.
  • Are you looking for a job? Some jobs don't allow employees to have facial piercings. Make sure the piercing is appropriate for your daily life.
  • Are you thinking of donating blood? Some organizations don't accept blood from people who have been pierced within the last year.
  • Are you up to date with your vaccines? It's a good idea to make sure you're vaccinated for diseases such as hepatitis B and tetanus before you get a piercing.
  • Have you given it enough thought?  If you have any doubt, consider holding off on a decision to get pierced. 

When done in a clean and professional environment, piercing is usually safe. But if piercing equipment is unclean, there is a risk of getting blood-transmitted diseases. These include:

  • Hepatitis B
  • Hepatitis C
  • Tetanus
  • HIV

Even in a sterile (germ-free) environment, some common risks of piercing are:

  • An allergic reaction
  • Abscesses (pus-filled, painful areas of skin)
  • Inflammation
  • Nerve damage
  • Prolonged bleeding
  • In general, it's a good idea to talk to your doctor before a piercing if you:
  • Have diabetes
  • Have a heart or other chronic condition
  • Have a weakened immune system
  • Are pregnant
  • Take herbal supplements

A sterile environment is the most important thing to consider when deciding where to go to get pierced.

Here are some tips for finding a safe place to get your piercing done:

  • Check with your doctor. Some doctors' offices will do basic ear piercings.
  • Research piercing shops that use safe procedures or are licensed by the state. Regulations for commercial piercing locations vary by location, and licenses are not always required.
  • If you are going to get the piercing in a mall, make sure employees use a sterile, single-use piercing gun.

NEVER do this:

  • Pierce yourself or have a friend pierce you
  • Get pierced in a shop that looks unclean, makes you uncomfortable, or doesn't answer all your questions.

Many states regulate body piercing, but not all. Before getting your piercing, you should always check for these signs of a safe piercing environment:

  • The piercer washes their hands with germicidal soap.
  • The piercer wears fresh disposable gloves.
  • The shop is clean.
  • The shop uses an autoclave (a special sterilizing machine).
  • The equipment is sterilized or disposable.
  • The needle is new and disposed of in a special container after use.

Needles are generally considered cleaner and easier to sterilize than piercing guns. Your piercer should only use a piercing gun that is for one-time use or has sterilized disposable cassettes.

Piercing guns should only be used on earlobe piercings. That's because they can cause more damage to the skin tissue than needles. 

Healing times can vary depending on the location of the piercing. Here are the average healing times for common piercings:

  • Earlobe: 6 to 8 weeks
  • Ear cartilage: 4 months to 1 year
  • Eyebrow: 6 to 8 weeks
  • Nostril: 2 to 4 months
  • Nasal septum: 6 to 8 months
  • Tongue: 4 weeks
  • Lip: 2 to 3 months
  • Belly button: 4 months to 1 year

Remember, with mouth or lip piercing, jewelry can cause cracks in your teeth or receding gums. Lip piercings and mouth piercings can get infected more easily.

Your piercer will give you specific instructions for cleaning your piercing. Here are some general dos and don'ts for new piercings:


  • Wash your hands before cleaning the piercing.
  • Clean the pierced area with antibacterial soap or hypochlorous acid..
  • Soak the piercing in salt water. This will cleanse it and loosen crusty formations.
  • Rinse with an alcohol-free, antibacterial mouthwash or hypochlorous acid.(for tongue and lip piercings).
  • Use a topical antibiotic.


  • Pick at or touch the piercing. This can irritate it and lead to infection.
  • Use alcohol or hydrogen peroxide to clean the piercing. This can dry out your skin and break down new tissue.
  • Use public pools or hot tubs while the piercing is healing.
  • Wear makeup during the healing process (for ear or facial piercings).
  • Wear tight clothes (for body piercings).

Some temporary pain or swelling is normal after a piercing. But if pain continues, it could mean an infection.

Be extra careful if you get an oral piercing. These are more susceptible to infection because of bacteria in the mouth. Contact with jewelry against the teeth can also cause your teeth to crack or chip.

Watch out for these signs of infection:

  • Pain that does not go away after a day or two
  • Unusual pain or swelling
  • Yellow, bad-smelling discharge
  • Prolonged bleeding
  • Excessive redness

If you think your piercing may be infected:

  • Don't take out the jewelry. This will cause the hole to close up and may trap the infection.
  • See your doctor for treatment.

Some people have sensitivities to certain kinds of metal jewelry. Signs you could be allergic to your new piercing include:

  • Redness
  • Itching or burning when piercing is cleaned
  • Rash surrounding the piercing

 To avoid an allergic reaction, use only nontoxic metals, such as:

  • Surgical-grade steel
  • 14- or 18-karat gold
  • Titanium
  • Niobium
  • Platinum