Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Piercing

By Sarah Matthews

Elaine Davidson wasn’t content with holding the Guinness World Record for being the woman with the most piercings in 2000, when she was found to have 462 piercings all over her body – including 192 just in her face. No, she went one step further, and in 2001 she broke her own record with 721 piercings.

But even that wasn’t good enough for the Brazilian nurse, who claims she hates being pierced. Amazingly, as of 2019, Elaine was found to have a whopping 11,003 piercings, including more than 500 in her genitalia, both internally and externally. The total weight of all her piercings today is over seven pounds of hardware – ensuring that she jingles when she walks.

“I don’t enjoy getting pierced, but to break the record you have to get to a high level,” Elaine said in an interview with The Daily Telegraph from Edinburgh, Scotland as she helped open a new piercing studio. “My family don’t even like tattoos or piercings. But I am happy. I decided to change myself and be me.”

If you want to be you – or be like Elaine – you may be considering getting some part of your body pierced, be it your ears, your tongue or even your genitalia. But before you do, make sure you it’s the right decision for you – and that you have the procedure carried out safely and correctly.

Many people are thrilled with the body piercings they get, believing they make them infinitely more attractive, both physically and aesthetically. But some people end up with a lot more than just a cute little stud in their belly button or clitoral hood – such as an infection, excessive bleeding, keloid scarring or even worse…

All types of piercing carry an inherent risk of disease if the equipment is not sterilized properly (see below), which can result in life-threatening illnesses such as Hepatitis B and C and HIV, as well as tuberculosis and syphilis. Piercings can also cause infection, sometimes a systemic one such as sepsis, as well as splitting of the skin and scarring. Allergies to specific types of jewellery can also be problematic.

Popular Piercings

Below are the most popular types of piercings explained, along with risks inherent to them:

Belly Button Piercing. The upper bend of the tummy is pierced with a needle. This can take up to one year to heal completely due to bending etc, so be patient. RISK: Jewellery can get caught on clothing and take even longer to heal, causing infection. Sometimes excessive bleeding and/or nerve damage can result.

Ear Piercing. The only piercing that can safely be done with a piercing gun. RISK: Allergies to certain jewellery can occur so only use stainless steel stud in the beginning, and make sure you follow after-care instructions carefully.

Mouth Piercing. Usually the lip area, either around the lip or on the lip itself. Takes about one month to heal. Piercings are given specific names, called bites, according to the location of the lip. RISK: Can increase risk of periodontal, or gum, disease. Can also increase possibility of tooth chipping.

Nose Piercing. Nostril piercing is the most common, and takes second place in the piercing stakes after ears. Nasal septum and bridge piercings are considerably less common – and less attractive as well! RISK: having the wrong type of jewellery placed in your nose can cause pain. As the nose is full of bacteria, it’s easy to get an infection. And there is also the danger you could inhale a stud.

Eyebrow Piercing. Usually the piercing is at a right angle to your eyebrow line. Rings or barbells are used. RISK: If positioned wrongly can cut nerves in the face.

Cheek Piercing. Often called the Madonna, the Crawford and the Monroe, to look like moles on these famous people. RISK: Cheek piercings can contribute to gum disease and infections are common.

Nipple Piercing. Suitable for both men and women, either one nipple or both. RISK: The nipple can harden and scar, which could eventually result in difficulties breastfeeding.

Female Genital Piercing. Several types are available, such as internal or external piercing. RISK: Can cause condoms to split and increase risk of sexually-transmitted infection and pregnancy. Clitoral or triangle piercings are not always recommended as they can result in loss of clitoral sensation. Safer ones are labia and inner labia piercings, as well as the clitoral hood.

Male Genital Piercing. A plethora of male piercings exist. Ask and ye shall receive. RISK: Can cause condoms to split and increase risk of sexually-transmitted infection and pregnancy. Nerve damage can also occur, resulting in a loss of sensation in the penile area.

Guide to Proper Piercing (with social distancing, of course)

ALWAYS make sure the facility is licensed as a piercing studio, that their credentials are up-to-date and that they are members of professional piercing organizations.

ALWAYS make sure the surroundings are clean and hygienic, that the equipment is up-to-date, and that staff are willing to answer all your questions courteously and knowledgeably. Tools should be sterilized in an autoclave, and spore testing carried out monthly, at least. The piercing area should be sterile and kept spotlessly clean following every piercing.

ALWAYS make sure sterile gloves are worn throughout the entire procedure. Ask your piercer to don new gloves if he or she leaves the room to do something else.

ALWAYS make sure that jewellery made from non-corrosive metal is used for your initial piercing. Stainless steel is usually a good choice.

ALWAYS make sure you know about the right after-care procedures. You should be given material to take home with you and re-read, as often there is too much information to take in all at once. Following it to the letter is important.

Body piercing, in most cases, can be safe and worry-free. Most piercings can be reversed simply by removing the jewellery, although scarring may remain. If you decide this is the route for you, play it safe and choose a safe place. If you’re not sure, leave. Don’t gamble with your appearance – or your health.

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