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If you’re considering a body piercing, here’s what you should know:

  • The industry isn’t regulated by the state.
  • If piercing tools aren’t properly cleaned and stored, you’re at risk for infection, hepatitis or HIV.
  • The American Red Cross and Canadian Red Cross won’t accept blood donations from people who’ve had piercings within the last year.
  • The American Dental Association opposes tongue, lip, and cheek piercing, calling it a public health hazard.


  • pain, inflammation, chronic infection;
  • prolonged bleeding;
  • hepatitis B and C (which can be fatal) and bacterial infections;
  • HIV;
  • skin allergies to the jewelry;
  • abscesses or boils (infected cysts under the skin) which may need to be drained;
  • scarring and permanent holes in the skin;
  • chipped or broken teeth; and
  • speech impediments.

What to expect

Always trust your instincts. If something doesn’t feel right, leave. When choosing a piercer, look for:

  • a sink with hot and cold running water;
  • five separate areas – a piercing room, sterilization room, counter area, waiting room and restroom;
  • cleanliness in all areas;
  • sterilized cotton swabs, gauze, needles, forceps and other tools;
  • new latex gloves worn for each person;
  • piercing needles that are discarded after one use; and
  • membership in the Association of Professional Piercers (APP).

Ask to see their autoclave, a machine used to sterilize equipment. If they don’t have one, leave.

Ask to see results of the spore test (it’s the only way to see if the autoclave is working properly). If they don’t run regular tests, leave.

More information

  • Regularly and carefully clean the wound to avoid infection.
  • Don’t use rubbing alcohol, betadyne or hydrogen peroxide to clean the wound. They may irritate or burn the piercing.
  • Belly buttons have higher infection rates than other piercings. Avoid tight clothes or belts.
  • Don’t go in a swimming pool, hot tub, Jacuzzi or the ocean before the wound heals.
  • Avoid oral contact, rough play and contact with others’ bodily fluids on or near piercings until they’re completely healed.
  • Because of allergies to certain metals, the first jewelry inserted is usually made of surgical steel. Ask what’s being used.
  • Genital piercings create additional complications. Condoms and dental dams must be used; you may need condoms with extra room for a piercing (such as Pleasure Plus) and extra water-based lubricant.
  • Don’t pierce yourself or have a friend do it. It doesn’t get much less sterile than your bedroom on a Friday night!