While “shooting” a piercing seems a quick, easy and cheap option to get pierced, the APP Benelux does not support “shooting” earlobes or any other areas on the body. There are 2 different piercing gun designs, the spring loaded system and the pushthrough system. The difference between those is that the spring loaded system uses power provided by a spring to force the jewelry through the skin and the push through system relies on the force provided by the operator. Both systems have similar drawbacks and are therefore not supported by the APP Benelux. The main reasons why we don’t support these methods are: sterility, tissue damage and inappropriate jewelry design. Let’s explain what the risks are of shooting a piercing.
To pierce safely, all of the equipment used in that procedure must be sterile meaning no living organisms can be present on the surface of that equipment. Organisms, like bacteria and viruses, present on the piercing equipment can cause infections. Piercing guns are often made out of plastic and can therefore not be properly sterilized. The heat used to sterilize equipment will simply destroy the piercing gun. Also only few studios have sterilization equipment as this is very expensive and it takes training to operate. Contrary to what you might think, just cleaning the external surface of a gun with an antiseptic or alcohol wipe will not kill all pathogens within the working parts of the device. The danger is that blood from a client can become airborne in microscopic particles during the shooting of a piercing and land on and inside the gun. The gun is now contaminated. Those particles can become airborne again with subsequent use and may come into contact with pierced tissue of the next customer and potentially introduce harmful microorganisms into the piercing. So there is a real possibility of transmitting bloodborne diseases through a reusable piercing gun.
Diseases like the Hepatitis virus are able to live for extended periods of time on a surface and could remain active for weeks nested in the working parts of the piercing gun. Imagine how many clients came in contact with that same piercing gun. This is a cause for serious concern. People with immature or compromised immune systems are at a higher risk for getting an infection. (baby’s, young children)
People sometimes say that it’s “only lobes” and therefore these methods are ok. Even though lobes do heal faster than cartilage piercings for example you are at just as much risk of contracting an infection from unsanitary piercing methods as any other piercing. As soon as skin is broken, you are susceptible to infection.
A way some manufacturers try to solve this problem is with a sterile cartridge system. The jewelry comes pre-sterilized in cartridges that can be loaded into the gun and dont require to be opened. The cartridge is the only thing that touches the skin and is disposed of after the procedure. Even though this reduces the risks of infection, it still means that equipment is being used in that procedure that is not properly cleaned and sterilized after each use, the gun itself. And even though it poses a reduced risk, it still remains a risk as there is always the risk of contamination through blood spray.
Also, piercing guns can malfunction. Operators have reported that the gun often fails to release the jewelry after shooting it through the skin. When this happens the jewelry needs to be removed with pliers. The jewelry has been contaminated and now these pliers will also be contaminated by touching the jewelry that already went through the skin and by touching the device itself. That same plier may be reused on several customers without being fully cleaned and sterilized and spread infectious materials throughout the studio.
Other factors like lack of proper sterilization equipment, lack of ppe (for example, gloves) and lack of training in using ppe correctly and hygiene contribute to increasing the risks of infection.
Professional piercers are trained to work while maintaining a sterile field and have training and equipment to safely decontaminate used tools or they will work fully disposable where nothing will ever be used on a second customer. Stopping the potential of transferring something from one customer to another.
While getting a piercing shot with a gun of both types, the jewelry will act as the needle. The problem is that the jewelry is not nearly as sharp as a real piercing needle. To counter the dull point of the jewelry a fair bit of force is needed to get through the skin. This creates more damage to the skin and will also damage the surrounding tissue. It also leaves a different type of injury, more of a crush injury than a piercing (a piercing is the hole, not the jewelry). In medical terms this is called “blunt force trauma” and can result in pain, swelling, scarring and tissue disfigurement. The one clinical study on this sadly did not take proper piercing needles and proper piercing technique in account and therefore gave a somewhat questionable result.
Sometimes the pressure and speed of the gun is not sufficient to force the jewelry all the way through the skin, leaving the jewelry halfway into the skin and not coming out the other side. There are two options for the operator now. Remove the jewelry and repierce, risking contamination of the gun and surrounding environment by blood flow from the original wound. Or, force the stud through the flesh by hand, causing trauma and risking a needlestick. Gun operators have reported that gun malfunction happens frequently.
Even more serious complications can happen when a gun is used on cartilage like shattered cartilage and excessive scarring. Cartilage also takes longer to heal than lobes because it has less blood flow which increases the risk of infections.
A professional piercer will use needles that are specially designed to cause as little damage as possible and uses pressure techniques to reduce the risk of hypertrophic scar tissue.
inappropriate jewelry design and length
The studs used when pierced with a gun of both types are “one size fits all” which in practice often means that they prove to be too short. When a piercing is performed with a gun, the skin gets compressed when the jewelry gets through and then the jewelry is locked in.The short stud compresses the skin so that it can not return to its normal state. The skin is now doomed to get irritated and this will lead to longer healing times, complications and scarring. The pressure of such tight jewelry can also result in additional swelling and can cause the jewelry to become embedded. When one side of the stud or, even worse, both sides have disappeared your only option left might be having it cut out by a surgeon.
A fresh piercing with jewelry that is too tight can not be thoroughly cleaned which increases the risk of infection. A wound that heals normally secretes certain fluids containing cellular discharge and other products of the healing process. That discharge can become trapped when the jewelry sits too tight to the skin. These fluids will become sticky, trapping bacteria against the skin. If not thoroughly and frequently removed this becomes an invitation to secondary infection. The “butterfly” design of the clasp of most gun studs will contribute to this problem. Lots of nooks and crannies where these fluids can build up and harbor bacteria.
Most ear piercing studs are not made out of materials that can be worn safely inside the body for long term. Even coated in non toxic gold plating materials, the underlying alloys can leach into the human tissue, causing cytotoxicity and allergic reaction. The cheap materials used often contain nickel and other irritating materials that can cause allergic reactions, irritations and longer healing times.
A professional piercer will use a size and style of jewelry that fit your anatomy and the placement of the piercing. That jewelry is made of implant grade materials that are clinically proven to be safe for long term wear inside the body like astm-F136 titanium. This jewelry will be polished into a mirror finish and will be easy to clean.
We also have questions about the training the gun operators get.
Their training consists merely of viewing a video, reading an instruction booklet, and/or practicing on cosmetic sponges or other employees.
To learn how to pierce properly an apprentice piercer spends years learning about hygiene, jewelry styles, techniques, how to deal with different anatomy, etc. Without this training the risks to the health and safety of the customer is great and in our opinion, unacceptable.
Credits by APP at savepiercing.org
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