needles vs piercing guns: what’s the point?

   It seems to be a new trend now-a-days to bedazzle every part of ones body. From ears to eyebrows, and everything in between, piercings have become a large part of modern day culture. But, what exactly happens when that 16-gauge needle punctures your skin? Well, surprisingly, not much. The real trouble with this new fad, however, is the use of piercing guns. This method is often used to subsidize the nerves of the piercee by seemingly making it more quick and less painful. Though convenient, the choice to use a piercing gun often causes more harm than good. Here’s why. 

     Having thirteen of them myself, I am quite used to the discomfort experienced when receiving a piercing. The anticipation kills, and the penetrating of the needle through your skin is even worse. Key word: needle. With every trip to the tattoo parlor or piercing specialist, I (and every other person who has participated in this fad), is confronted with the decision to have a gauged, or hollowed out, needle versus a piercing gun. No, this is not a weapon, but with the damage it leaves behind, it might as well be.

     With blood borne illnesses and awareness of them spiking all over the country, it is important to address how piercing guns add to this peak. The main issue with these mechanisms is their transmission of pathogens due to lack of correct sanitization. In order to rid of all germs and prevent infection, all instruments the penetrate or even touch skin, such as many used in nail salons, must be put into an autoclave. An autoclave, as defined by, is a pressure chamber used to sterilize equipment and supplies by subjecting them to high pressure saturated steam at 121 °C (249°F) for around 15–20 minutes depending on the size of the load and the contents. Due to their plastic make, piercing guns cannot sustain the heat within an autoclave, thus they are not thoroughly cleaned. “Even if the antiseptic wipes used were able to kill all pathogens on contact, simply wiping the external surfaces of the gun with isopropyl alcohol or other antiseptics does not kill pathogens within the working parts of the gun. Blood from one client can aerosolize, becoming airborne in microscopic particles, and contaminate the inside of the gun. The next client’s tissue and jewelry may come into contact with these contaminated surfaces,” explains the Association of Professional Piercers.

       Along with increasing ones exposure to blood infection, piercing guns also can cause a large amount of damage to your skins tissue. The basic steps of a piercing gun include the loading of an earring stud to the front of the gun. This stud usually has a pointed tip, but according to research, it is not sharp enough to actually successfully go through ones skin. The piercer then pulls back the lever of the gun, to create momentum and tension. A button on the gun is then pressed to force the stud back towards the front of the gun which is pressed against the ear. This action protrudes the earring through the lobe and vuala; you’re decorated and done, at least you thought. According to, “The effect on the body is more like a crush injury than a piercing and causes similar tissue damage. Medically, this is referred to as “blunt force trauma.” At the least, it can result in significant pain and swelling for the client, at the most in scarring and potentially increased incidence of auricular chondritis, a severe tissue disfigurement.” From personal experience, bumps around the origin of my piercings have formed before. They are uncomfortable and irritating and take FOREVER to go away. After pursuing more research, I found that this bump actually comes from a lack of blood flow to the wound, which prolongs the healing process.

       Though it seems more painful and takes a longer time to get through the skin, the health benefits of using a needle overwhelmingly outweigh the swiftness of a piercing gun. The needle is gauged, as previously stated, so the earring will not need to be pushed through; it is simply placed within the hollowed out portion of the needle. Needles can be properly sterilized, and are accustomed and respond well to the heat of an autoclave. They are more precise, seeing as the piercers hand physically places the needle through your lobe. With a gun, backlash and partial penetration are an issue.

      So, next time you look to join the new wave, make sure you choose the needle, it proves to be a great “point.”




4 thoughts on “needles vs piercing guns: what’s the point?

  1. Shannon Bridget Obrien

    I really enjoyed this post! I got my first piercing with a piercing gun and had no problems but my second holes were a different story. I had my them pierced six months ago and they’re still not healed properly. I also had an infection on the second holes. In regards to pain, I’ve never felt a piercing done with a needle. However, I think that the act of using a gun is a lot more traumatizing. Here is a list I read of the pros and cons of using a gun to pierce ears. If i ever decide to repierce my second holes, I’ll definitely go to a parlor that uses needles.

  2. Shayla Ahamed

    I am thinking about going to get my nose pierced soon and that is why this post caught my eye. I’ve been talking to my roommate about it because she already has a nose piercing and she informed me not to get it done with a gun. I was confused as to why this was significant. I didn’t really think to much of it but she made it really clear to me that she did not think it was a good idea for me to go anywhere that would pierce my nose with a gun. After her constant reminders I looked it up and read why it was bad on this website. Your post helped reinforce those ideas so I will definitely make sure I am getting my nose pierced with a needle and not a gun!

  3. Jada Baity

    My parents are very strict and have always told me from the time that I was in middle school that I was not allowed to get my ears pierced until I was 16. When the time came for me to finally get my first piercing, my mom did tons of research to see the best place to take me to get my ears pierced. And what she found shocked both of us. It is no longer recommended that people go to their local mall and get their ears pierced at the Piercing Pagoda with a piercing gun. Because my mom did this research, I didn’t quite believe that piercing guns were worse than an actual, very sharp needle. But just like your post states, my mom found out through this article that piercing guns are not only unsanitary but also way more painful. I remember sitting there in the tattoo parlor expecting unbearable pain as the man piercing me got the needle ready after marking up my ears with a black marker of some sort. But when he did finally pierce my ear, there was virtually no pain. I felt nothing. Everything they say about piercing needles are true. The needles are much more sanitary and, not to mention, way less painful.

  4. Devon Amber Macdougall

    I really enjoyed reading this post!! When I was younger (around 7 years old) I got my second hole on my earlobe pierced with a piercing gun, only for it to become infected and close up almost immediately after being pierced. I still have the scars from that! After reading your post I am left here to wonder if the real reason behind the infection was due to a sterilization issue with the piercing gun.

    Here is an interesting post written by the Association of National Piercers claiming that “Without proper sterilization (of the piercing gun), the risk of spreading diseases, such as Hepatitis and staff infections increases.”

    Those who use the piercing guns claim “The ear piercing piece fits in our gun,” and “The gun never touches the ear.” However, professional piercer Mat Corper said there is still risk even if the gun never touches the ear and claims “you get microspray where blood can go back on the gun,” he said. “Alcohol doesn’t kill anything, it just removes dirt.”

    After reading your post and doing a little further research on the topic, I have concluded that piercing guns are not only completely unsanitary, but painful, and I will definitely never have a piercing done via gun ever again.

Comments are closed.