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The hole truth. Body piercing is one of those things you either love or you hate. Whether you think it’s sexy, wild or just a bit weird, it’s a centuries-old way of showing bravery and enhancing beauty. Before you (or your gutsy mate) step up to the needle, though, it’s good to find out what to expect.
Step 1: Decide what you’re going to pierce. Eyebrow, ear cuff, belly-button, lip (labret), nipple, genital and tongue piercings are some the most popular, but there are dozens of other options. The basic rule is: if you can pinch it, you can pierce it.
Step 2: Find a piercing parlour that you feel comfortable with. This should be a place that not only has a good reputation for health and safety, but also helpful staff who will make you feel comfortable. Ask how long they have been piercing – the more experience he or she has, the more likely it is that your new body bauble will turn out looking fantastic.
Step 3: Do the paperwork. Every reputable piercing parlour will ask you to fill in a consent form and a short questionnaire about your general health.
Step 4: Sterilisation. You can’t be too gleaming clean when it comes to piercings. Your piercer will use antibacterial spray to sterilise the booth or area where the piercing will take place. The needle used should be brand new from a sealed, sterilised packet, any tools such as clamps must be sterilised beforehand in an autoclave (this uses extremely high temperatures to kill bacteria) and the piercer will also ‘scrub-up’ like a surgeon and put on surgical gloves. Snap.
Step 5: Checking you out. Not all piercings are suitable for all people, so your piercer will size-up the area you want pierced to see if there are any potential problems, such as scarring or skin conditions.
Step 6: Marking up. If everything looks hunky-dory, your skin will then be prepped with antibacterial cleanser. Some piercers are happy to do the piercing by eye, but some will use a hygienic, single-use disposable pen to mark the entry and/or exit spots.
Step 7: Clamping. If you’re having a genital piercing, don’t panic – not all piercings require clamping and some piercers choose not to use them at all. If you are having something like a bellybutton or tongue piercing, though, a small pair of forceps with an elastic band around them will be used to keep the skin steady and ensure you don’t get a crooked piercing.
Step 8: Crunch time. Your piercer will only now remove the sterile, surgical steel needle from its packet and check that you’re ready. He or she will then push the needle quickly and cleanly through the skin.
Step 9: Starter jewellery. No matter how bling or bizarre you’d like your piercing to be, to start off with you will need a simple bar or ring made of surgical steel, titanium or gold – high-quality starter jewellery will reduce the chance of infection or allergic reaction. The sterilised starter jewellery will be inserted immediately after passing the needle through.
Step 10: Aftercare. Your piercer will give you a detailed aftercare sheet specific to your piercing. Treat it like your bible, because cleaning and caring for your piercing properly will save you all sorts of nasty infections.
That’s it – you’re now the proud owner of a brand new piercing. The whole process only takes between 20 minutes to an hour and you’ll be looking metallically marvellous for years to come.
If you’re not sure about getting a piercing, it can sometimes help to buy magnetic or stick-on body jewellery to see what it might look like first.
A lot of people say that once they’ve popped their piercing cherry, they become a little addicted to the adrenaline rush. If you decide to go for a few more, make sure you’re doing it for the right reasons – after all, you don’t want to end up looking like a piece of Swiss cheese.
If you look after your piercing properly, you should have no problems, but it’s important to bear in mind that a small percentage of people find that their piercings ‘grow out’ or migrate slightly even with the right care.