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The Truth About Piercing Guns

piercing gun

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So you’ve decided to get a new piercing. If you’re getting a lobe or helix piercing, it would be really convenient to go to your local mall, where they pierce with a gun for free. But you’ve heard somewhere that piercing guns are “bad”. You may have never been to a piercing studio before and you don’t want to go (or bring your children) to a new place where you aren’t familiar with the environment. Is a piercing gun bad enough that you should pay more, go out of your way, and potentially be uncomfortable in an unfamiliar space? The short answer is yes. 

What is a Piercing Gun?

A piercing gun is basically what it sounds like. It’s a small plastic “gun” that pierces the skin at a very high speed. It’s a device that is used in jewelry stores or kiosks at the mall so anyone can easily pierce. Because you’ve always wanted to be stabbed by someone who has little to no training, right? Instead of piercing with a needle, piercing guns are “loaded” with starter earrings that get blunt-force-pushed through the ear.

Piercing Guns Cannot Be Fully Sterilized

It’s true! Have you ever heard that you should never use a dirty needle? Exactly. Anyone who works with a piercing gun will tell you they “clean” it. All that means is they wipe it down with an antiseptic wipe. Because piercing guns are made of plastic, they cannot go in an autoclave and therefore can never be sterile. You may think that’s no big deal, but sterilization is very important. Without being sterile, even after being cleaned, a piercing gun is still full of microorganisms. Disturbingly enough, APP has found that piercing guns can spread hepatitis and staph infections to those with compromised immune systems. Thinking about getting your baby’s ears pierced at the mall? Think again.

Longer Healing Times

Piercing guns pierce with the earring instead of a needle. Although they might appear slightly pointy, ear piercing studs are actually quite dull. Because of this, piercing guns have to use an excessive amount of pressure on a relatively large section of the ear in order to shove the stud through the flesh. Medically, this can be referred to as “blunt force trauma”. Any doctor will tell you that blunt force trauma takes longer to heal than a pierce when they are both relatively the same size in the same part of the body.

The ear studs that piercing guns use are also far too short for a healing piercing. Healing piercings swell and leak and with a short post, they are forced to swelled even farther. Without the adequate blood circulation needed to heal from trauma, your piercings will be forced to heal at a lower rate. Add in that piercing guns have a higher chance of causing infections than needles and you’ve hit the slow healing trifecta.

Cartilage Shattering

Previously we’ve mentioned that piercing guns actually cause blunt force trauma instead of piercing. In order to do this, they use excessive force on a large section of the ear. While not overly damaging to a lobe, this can be particularly traumatizing to cartilage. Imagine a flat piece of plastic. You could shove a needle through the plastic easy enough. What if you used a nail gun? It might break. Cartilage shattering occurs with blunt force trauma and it causes permanent scarring. It appears as a break or line from the area pierced with the gun to the outside of the ear. Some people say their ear easily folds down after cartilage shattering. Not fun!

Piercing With a Needle: What to Expect

Now that we’ve decided piercing with a gun is terrible and should never be done, lets discuss the alternative. In order to get pierced with a needle, you will need to visit either a piercing studio or a tattoo shop. Some piercing studios are walk-in only while some are appointment only, so its good to call first and check. If possible, you should also visit an APP piercer. If you are bringing your child to get pierced, you should know that different studios have different age requirements. For the most part, lobe piercings require an age of around 5 while other piercings are around 14-16.

When it is your turn to get pierced, your piercer will bring you to a private area and they will likely give you a choice of piercing jewelry. After that, they will get everything cleaned and ready, they will put on gloves and they will mark where your piercing is going to go. After you give the okay, they will begin the piercing process. Piercing with a needle does not feel much different from piercing with a gun except that there will be a brief pause after you are pierced while they swap out the needle for the jewelry. Once you are done they will give you a place to sit if you feel you need it and they will give you your aftercare instructions.


Although most people will say that getting a piercing is more painful with the needle than the gun, the truth is that they both hurt. But to avoid potential infections, cartilage shattering, and a slower healing time, you should always go with a professional piercer and a needle. If you do decide to get your ears pierced with a piercing gun, you’ll pay for it in more ways than one.