There are many people who choose to do their own piercings. This can be a good thing or a bad thing. However, if you have a good idea of what you are doing, what you should use (and shouldn't use), how you should care for your piercings you can do a good job doing several piercings and types of piercings.
It should be noted that the advice and information provided here is the information and experiences I have had. I am not a doctor (or other medical professional) and have no training in piercing. Therefore the results can not be guaranteed and you are piercing yourself at your own risk.
What Types of Piercings Can Be Done At Home
Ear and cartilage piercings are the safest options for doing your own piercings. While cartilage takes a long time to heal, these are relatively safe piercings with few complications.
If you approach the piercings and their care correctly it is also safe to pierce the lip, eyebrow, nose, and belly button at home.
On the other hand, you should never pierce your own tongue, nipples, or genitals. There is a lot more risk in these piercings. You can cause nerve damage and infections are much more likely. It is always best to go to a respected professional for these piercings.
When dealing with piercings needles and body jewelry the question of gauge will come up. Gauge is the size of the whole that you want to make with 20 being the smallest (usually used for nose piercings) to a 00 which requires a plug rather than an earring. Here are a few things to consider when choosing your earring and the jewelry you want to use.
- 20g is typically used for nose piercings and it is hard to find a nose "bone" in any other size. It can be used to pierce the ears if you can't find 18g needles.
- 18g is the size of most standard earrings. This size works well for your ears and cartilage if you want to wear standard earrings in the piercings.
- 16-14g can also be used to pierce your ears, cartilage, and other body piercings. These are good sizes if you want larger jewelry in your holes. However, you shouldn't pierce at a larger gauge even if you are wanting to make really big wholes.
To increase your gauge. Should you want to make your wholes larger you will simply put in larger jewelry. This will stretch the whole out. This process if often called gauging and should be done slowly (usually one size at a time). You place your new jewelry in and let the whole heal for at least a week. Then you put in the next size and so forth till the whole is the desired size.
People use a lot of different things for piercings of all sorts. Here is a list of some of the common ones and why you shouldn't use them.
Piercing gun. When piercing became more popular so did piercing guns. They are still used in many locations that sell earrings. However, a piercing gun causes blunt force trauma that isn't good for your ear and it should never be used on other locations (including cartilage and body piercings).
Sewing needles, safety pins, and such. A lot of people pierce themselves in the spur of the moment and grab whatever they find. This causes more trauma too and is often unsterile which increases the risk of infection. It is also important that you use a hollow needle to remove flesh in piercings of larger size.
Should you use either of these methods you can still follow the after care methods below to help keep yourself from getting an infection or to help get rid of an infection should you have one.
It is important that you keep things sterile. This is the biggest thing when it comes to piercing at home. You want to get supplies that are completely sterile. Equipment needs really depend on what you are piercing.
Ears - To pierce your ears you will need:
- straight, hollow piercing needles. They should be sterile and in a sterile package. You will need one for each piercing and you should never reuse them. Standard jewelry found in all stores that sell earrings is an 18 gauge. For the easiest results you will want a needle that fits the jewelry you want to wear.
- cork. The best thing you can do is buy a package of piercing corks. They are really inexpensive and are the best material to put your needle into. They come in standard cork and rubber. The standard option is fine.
- jewelry. You will want sterile jewelry of high grade. It is important that you are using something that can stay there for some time without causing a problem. Titanium is often the best choice.
- skin marking pen. It isn't safe to use a magic marker and getting an ink pen to make a small dot is hard. The best option is to invest in a skin marking pen which can be purchased for a small fee.
- rubbing alcohol. The best option is to get individually packaged wipes.
- rubber gloves. With piercing of the ears you can usually get away with a good washing. However, there may be bleeding and the safest option is always going to be the most sterile option.
Body piercings. Most body piercings will require a fair amount of additional equipment.
- needles. You will still need sterile needles in a gauge that works for the jewelry of your choice. For most body piercings you will want a curved needle. The one exception is the lip which can be done with either since you can pull it out. One needle per piercing!
- jewelry. You should always have sterile jewelry to place into your piercing. Alcohol and fire aren't good ways to try to make your jewelry sterile.
- skin marking pen. This is the safest and easiest option and it isn't expensive.
- rubbing alcohol.
- rubber gloves.
- piercing forceps. These will hold the flesh while the needles are put in.
It is a very good idea to have someone help you, especially with body piercings. You can guide them through the piercing and it can go very well. This will make it so that you won't feel like you need an extra set of hands to get the piercing done.
Piercings hurt. Some worse than others. We all have a different level of pain tolerance which should be kept in mind when getting a piercing. Ice is the best way to numb the area and should be done before the rubbing alcohol. However, it should be noted that ice makes the area stiffer and harder to get the needle through. This could lengthen the time that it takes to get the piercing done with.
Step by Step Instructions
- Wash the area. You want to be as sterile as possible. So make sure you wash the table before laying out your sterile supplies.
- Wash your hands. If you are getting help, and I would suggest it a lot, then you will want everyone to wash their hands and wear gloves.
- Put on gloves.
- Wipe down the area where you will be piercing. This should be done with rubbing alcohol and on both sides of the piercing to make it as clean as possible.
- Mark the spot. For accuracy it is best to mark the location you would like the piercing. This will make it a lot easier to pierce and will also make it more likely that you will like where the piercing ends up. Use a skin marking pen for safety reasons.
- Prepare your needle. If you are using a stud and have gotten the correct size needles you can place your stud into the needle and slide the needle through and the earring into place. This makes it much easier. Either way you want to open your sterile needle now.
- Hold the flesh with the forceps or the cork in place. For body piercings you will hold the flesh with the forceps. Your dot should be in the middle and your needle will go through the eye of the forceps. For ear piercings the needle will go through the skin and into the cork so you want to hold the cork on the other side of the ear.
- Push the needle through. You will need to push the needle through. In most cases this will require quite a bit of pressure and may include several "pops". The needle will feel different going through skin, cartilage, and other types of tissue. Cartilage is the hardest to get through so be prepared if piercing the top of the ear or the nose.
- Pull your needle the rest of the way through. Just as if you were sewing you will need to pull your needle through the other side. If you are doing an ear piercing you should simple pull the cork away from the ear with the needle in it.
- Put your jewelry in. You will now want to put your jewelry in the new piercing. If you used a stud (such as one your ear and it went into the hollow needle) then you only need to put the back on. Other types of jewelry will need to be put into the hole. You will want to do this quickly to make it easy to find the whole.
- Wipe up any blood and clean with rubbing alcohol. Some piercings will be very blood, others won't bleed at all. Sometimes one ear will bleed a lot and the other one not at all. Just clean it up and wipe the wound (yep you just wounded yourself) with rubbing alcohol.
If you are doing more than one piercing you can mark them ahead of time, but you should open your needles and finish the rest of the steps one piercing at a time.
There is a lot of debate about the best after care methods for keeping your piercing clean, healing it, and making sure you don't get infected. There is even a lot of debate about what you should do should you get an infection. Here are my suggestions.
- After care is important. Sure it is easier to just leave it alone and hope for the best. However, you are likely to have more pain, get an infection, and have a problem. If you take care of your piercing you are much less likely to have these problems.
- Salt water (known as saline) is better for after care than rubbing alcohol. Rubbing alcohol will clean it, but it also slows down healing. Saline will clean it, sooth it, and will aid in healing.
- Always, Always, Always wash your hands before you touch your piercing. The idea is to keep it clean and healing. If you don't wash your hands you are introducing germs. Germs are bad.
Ears. Your ear lobes are one of the easiest places to keep your piercing clean and healing. Healing takes about six weeks. Once a day you should wash the piercing with salt water (either purchased as saline or made with salt dissolved in water). Leave the earrings in for the six weeks that it takes to heal it.
If you get an infection start washing with it with antibacterial soap once a day. Try not to remove the jewelry because this could cause more pain. Make sure that you rinse it really well.
Cartilage. The upper portion of the ear is a lot harder to heal. Many believe that this is the hardest part of the body to heal. It takes at least six months, but often an entire year to heal. You will want to make sure that you take care of it the same way you would a lower piercing, but for a lot longer. Don't remove your jewelry for at least three months. Always soak new jewelry (or clean your old jewelry) in saline solution.
If it gets infected then you should wash with antibacterial soap and make sure that it is rinsed really well.
Body piercings. Most body piercings should be taken care of in the same manner. You will want to make sure that you keep them clean and don't snag them with clothing (should you be piercing your body).
Around the mouth. It is important that you work on keeping your mouth clean if you have pierced the area around your lips. Brush your teeth at least twice a day, floss, and use mouth wash to reduce the bacteria in the mouth. Also clean the piercing area with saline (it is best if you clean both sides with saline. While salty it is safe for your mouth).These piercings also take longer to heal, often about three months.
*If any of your piercings get infected really bad then it is best to see a doctor or a piercing specialist. If you are careful to keep things sterile during the piercing and you clean once a day then you shouldn't have this problem.
*Some are sensitive to metals. If you are using an inexpensive earring such as steel (even surgical steel) you may have a problem with the jewelry. You can often get a better result by replacing it with something of better quality (gold or titanium is preferred over sterling silver because sterling silver may tarnish in the piercing. However, sterling silver is better than steel).
*Some say that if you remove the piercing due to infection that you will spread the infection throughout your body and that you can even die from it. This is an exaggeration. You won't die from it and if your piercing is bothering you badly you can remove it and allow it to heal up.
With care you can do a number of piercings at home. It is easier with a friend, but can be done on your own. Remember that you should plan ahead and buy the proper supplies. While you will need to wait longer than if you did it without the proper supplies, you will get much better results with the right supplies. Now is the time to make your statement, but make sure that you are making it safely!
michelleklimas on April 22, 2012:
i truly thank you very much i was gonna percied my cousins lip however im scared to death and have been putting it off cause i truly have never done it before and have no clue what i am doing.. it was to save money however i thought you could use a gun when i bought my gun it clearly said nose eyebrow lip n ears oh and belly after looking at it and using it on my ears i don't think id use it for anything other then ears and honestly i think it hurts worse doing your ears with a gun then using a needle.. i truly love this and am so glad i read it before i did any other percings..thanks so much..
aidenofthetower (author) on April 20, 2012:
Okay...anyone appalled or offended by this article...
You are welcome to leave your comments, but you need to follow some basic rules.
1. Share your opinions without insulting me or those who choose to do piercings at home.
2. Leave your bad language in your pocket. I don't want to read it.
3. Sharing your opinion is good, but remember that this article is for those that are going to do it anyway. I wrote it because there are lots and lots of people out there who don't care what you think and are going to do it at home for whatever reason (cost is a big one and why I choose to do my own ears at home).
4. While you may be a well trained professional who knows exactly what you are doing, there is no way that you can claim that of every person out there who is doing piercings and researching who is good and who isn't, isn't really an easy task.
I will publish your comments (just like some of the ones above) if you are nice about it and have something worth while to say. I will not publish your comments if you don't follow basic manners. Just because it's the Internet doesn't mean you should say whatever you are thinking in whatever terms your brain uses.
Rae Rae Rae on February 05, 2012:
Actually, most piercings should NOT bleed much unless the person really jacks them up. If you bleed a lot something is wrong. You can also cause A LOT of damage is you do a lip piecing wrong and most people should not be doing them themselves.
Guns should NEVER be used! Scary reading the comment about someone getting a freaking nose ring done with a gun. Exactly why those guns should be illegal to use especially because the people using them have no idea about how to do piercings to begin with.
me nigga on May 03, 2011:
u dumb boys nothing is wrong with it whoever is reading this the people above are just trying to sound smart just go for it but do it the right way
aidenofthetower (author) on February 16, 2011:
@MiRaNdAa...I highly recommend that you go to a professional for snake bites. It is really important that it be done in a manner that is sterile because of the access that this particular type of piercing has to the germs in your mouth. It will hurt a bit at first, but it won't be too bad. It isn't a good idea to do it yourself though.
callum coady on December 23, 2010:
s your sayin that people who own tattoo and piercing shops don't know how to do it?? bull shit. my uncle owns one in llandudno called tribal child. hes had no complaints in the 15 years hes been doing it. ive done other peoples and they have gone fine, but when i did mine it went wrong. i used a clamp a needle and proper jewelry and it still went shit. i know how to pierce but piercing yourself is stupid unless its an easy piercing like an ear lobe. you also forgot to say "check for nrve clusters under the skin, veins that arnt visable to the eye and other things like lumps of fat unde the skin"
ttrash from Australia on December 19, 2010:
Lip and any other facial piercings should never be done by an inexperienced piercer, and certainly not by the person themselves. It is unbelievably easy to cause nerve damage if you have no idea what you're doing. If people complain that "professional" piercers aren't doing it correctly, they either need to better research their piercer or their bodies have naturally rejected the piercing. Just for the record, I have a lip piercing which was done by a professional and I have seen some catastrophic damage done by self piercers.
Allison age 15 on September 28, 2010:
I went to a shop and got snake bites and they got infected 6 times so i took them out and peirced my menro and my lower lip myself.Plus on the right side of my nose has 3 holes and i re-did them my self ya it hurts but it all depends on who you are if you know what you're doing then go for it but if not then naw.Im getting my hips done for my 16th birthday by a pro
Daye Wanat from Castroville, Texas on September 17, 2010:
It is best to use sea salt, not Iodized salt. It will heal faster. Some places also recommend Bactine. Just do your research. You don't want to use hydrogen peroxide, because it will dry out and not heal correctly.
aidenofthetower (author) on September 02, 2010:
It's best to remember that care is very important since infection can and does happen (both to self piercings and those gotten in a shop or at the mall).
Joyce...While there would be some legalities that one would have to do to legally pierce others at home for money, you can easily report money that you make to the IRS. I make a lot of money at home (albeit not from piercing) and simply inform that IRS of how much I make and then pay them any owed taxes.
Michele. Make sure that you get the proper needles. This is particularly important for belly piercings since you need to remove more tissue and not just poke the hole. Keep things clean and make sure that you are taking care of it everyday, but not playing with it.
Michele on June 29, 2010:
My friend and I want to pierce each other's belly buttons and your information's really helped. Thanks :)
joyce on April 08, 2010:
well katie you know that trying to do at home piercings and make a living from it is illegal...because you won't actually be reporting it to the IRS. allalalalalala
Katie on April 06, 2010:
Well... I know doing piercings at home can be bad.. But i'm really interested in piercing others when i am old enough i want to be a piercer for a while.. Maybe a few years or my whole life.. But i believe all professtional piercings are over priced. This information here helps me a a lot of what and what not to do.. But being kind of young at only 15 this helps in being aware other then lots of my friends who just go and do it then things just get infected cause they don't take care of it... So it's better to know a jist of what your doing then norhing at all.
cameron on February 22, 2010:
people should do piercings at home i have done all 8 of my piercings at home and got one of them at the shop and the one i got at the shop went wrong so i had to do it myself again and if you go on ebay and order the small piercing kits often around £5.00p then you get a cleansing wipe gloves needle and jewellry so its really easy and safe to do but MAKE SURE YOU KNOW WHERE TO DO THE PIERCING!!!!
aidenofthetower (author) on January 08, 2010:
One other thing that you should consider is that most piercers don't know what they are doing. Many use piercing guns and cause a lot of issues. Just the other day I answered someone's request for more information because they had their nose pierced with a standard stud and a piercing gun. These are far worse then doing your own piercings at home and knowing how has the right knowledge isn't something that is easy to do.
Raye from Seattle, WA on January 07, 2010:
People should NEVER do piercing at home. Clean technique, which is what you talk about here, is NOT sterile technique. Rubbing alcohol does not make things sterile. Having a knowledge of anatomy is also important.