Body piercings have long since gone from fringe marker to mainstream fashion, and body piercers are professionals who take care to ensure your piercing goes well. There are some cases when you should not get a piercing, and we’ll go through common questions that might worry you.
Avoid getting piercings if you have health issues affecting healing time and the likelihood of infection. Take into account lifestyle concerns like military service, employment, and sports. Do not get piercings while pregnant, ill, or before events that don’t allow sufficient rest for healing.
My experience getting work done by different piercers taught me a lot. A good piercer will tell you what you need to know before your piercing, explain aftercare, and answer your questions. Everyone should be educated in their decision, including knowing when not to have a piercing.
When Should You Not Get A Piercing?
Getting a piercing is not nearly as frightening as some media would have you believe, and I’m a great proponent of being well-informed. Knowing what to expect can help lessen fears and help you avoid issues or mistakes that might compromise your health or your piercing’s healing.
Getting rid of an unwanted piercing is not that difficult – holes prefer to close. Anyone who has long since stopped wearing earrings after getting their ears pierced when they were younger can vouch for that.
The bigger problem is going into a piercing with underlying conditions that could affect your health or even the health of others. If you suffer from the following, you will either want to wait for the issue to clear up or avoid piercings altogether:
- Allergies to latex, metals, or disinfectants
- Bleeding or clotting disorders
- Bloodborne viruses
- Dental/Gum diseases
- Infectious diseases (transmitted via saliva, touch, or airborne)
- Heart defects
- Nerve damage
- Substance abuse (alcohol, drugs, smoking)
Some of these are a definite no-go – you should never schedule a piercing while you can infect others with a disease or virus. Offer your piercer the same courtesy you would offer to others. Others may require a chat with your piercer to see how and if they can accommodate you.
Always be upfront with your piercer before getting any body modifications – if your doctor has cleared you for piercing, an ethical piercer will likely require proof before proceeding.
Allergies to latex, metals, or disinfectants
Certain metals used in body jewelry can often trigger contact dermatitis, and many people have experienced allergies to latex and disinfectants.
Piercers wear sterile latex gloves and disinfect the area for piercing. A consultation with your piercer can help find a solution, such as using nitrile gloves and hypo-allergenic disinfectant.
Good piercers use only surgical-grade metals, like stainless steel, lowering the risk of reactions and infections. If you react to stainless steel, your piercer can discuss other options like surgical titanium or niobium.
There are also plastic options for extreme metal sensitivities. Some piercers may suggest using Tygon (a chemically inert plastic material) instead of metal for initial piercings.
Iron-deficiency anemia can result in much slower healing times. Some people with anemia have reported healing times for simple piercings of up to six months. For this reason, avoid getting piercings if you are anemic.
Anemia can also put you at a higher risk of developing an infection. Speak to your doctor before considering a piercing, and get iron to a healthy level.
Bleeding or clotting disorders
Different piercings have different levels of bleeding, but all piercing requires putting a hole in your body, which will bring risks of bleeding or infection.
Oral and genital piercings are more prone to bleeding than other body sites. No matter the piercing, you risk slower healing, blood loss, and higher infection rates if you have a clotting disorder.
Consult your doctor about the risk if you are on anti-coagulation or blood thinning medication or have clotting disorders.
If you have bloodborne viruses, such as hepatitis B, hepatitis C, HIV, or tetanus, you should avoid getting pierced to prevent cross-contamination. Discuss your options with your piercer, so they can take extra care and make any necessary adjustments.
Professional, ethical piercers will work with sterilized equipment and use brand new, single-use needles that will be discarded after use. Autoclaves completely sterilize any tools such as forceps and the body jewelry itself.
However, getting pierced while carrying a bloodborne illness can compromise your piercer and other clients. Informed consent is essential, and if you want a body piercing, you must find someone with previous experience piercing people with bloodborne viruses.
Bacteria in the mouth cause dental and gum diseases, and if you have an oral piercing, this heightens the risk of infection. First, clear up any existing oral disease issues before getting piercings.
Suppose you are prone to dental or gum diseases. In that case, your physician might put you on a course of preventative antibiotics beforehand to avoid the risk of future infections.
If your diabetes is managed and under control, you can still have a piercing, though you should always discuss this with your doctor and your piercer. Avoid getting piercings on sites you use for insulin injections.
Diabetes is a risk factor for healing from piercings and can increase the chances of ongoing infections. People with diabetes may also have reduced circulation, which is a factor that should be taken into consideration.
Infectious diseases (transmitted via saliva, touch, or airborne)
If you are already sick, getting a piercing can compromise your health further and make it harder for you to recover. Lowered immunity from sickness also means you are more likely to get infected, and the slower your piercing healing will be.
From an ethical perspective, you should not get a piercing if you have any infectious diseases such as colds, flu, or covid, as you are putting your piercer and their other clients at risk.
Heart defects or disorders
Heart disorders can make you more prone to developing deadly infections like infective endocarditis. If you have any heart condition, your piercer will need proof that you have consulted your doctor and they have okayed any further body modifications like piercing.
Some doctors may prescribe heart patients a preventative course of antibiotics before piercing. Heart conditions carry a risk of death, so if your doctor advises against piercings, you must follow their advice.
You should discuss this with your piercer if you have prior nerve damage. The reasons for your nerve damage are essential, and you may experience further damage from piercing or have compromised healing time.
The consensus among professional piercers is not to get piercings while pregnant. The risk factors are hard to judge, as people react differently to body changes during pregnancy. People can have heightened immune and allergic reactions, slower healing, and additional infection complications.
Many piercers suggest that pregnant people replace metal navel piercings with Tygon ones and that you do not stretch existing piercings.
Ethical piercers suggest waiting three months after the end of a pregnancy before getting new piercings.
Substance abuse (alcohol, drugs, smoking)
People who routinely use substances that compromise their health will likely have longer healing times. Substance abusers are generally more likely to suffer from infections at the piercing site.
Who Should Not Get A Piercing?
Some of us may need to avoid getting piercings for reasons other than health. These include social reasons such as your place of employment, active military duty, and certain sports.
Most places of employment these days won’t ban tattoos or visible piercings, and you may have a job that encourages a distinct look. However, some conservative businesses still do not allow visible piercings or body art.
If you are in a job that values a certain conservative look, consider where you will have your piercings done. You have many options for piercings that can be hidden under regular work attire, and you might want to discuss some ideas with your piercer.
Certainly, some visible piercings are accepted at most places of work. Women with single lobe earrings are usually not frowned upon, for example.
Consider that there may be some health and safety issues, and some work areas may not permit jewelry that could get caught in machinery.
Before you get a piercing, consider how the piercing may affect your ability to do your job. If necessary, you might need to get a piercing at a time when you have sufficient leave to allow you to recover before returning to work.
Can You Get A Piercing While In The Military?
If you are in or plan to join the military, there are strict rules regarding piercings. Facial piercings or those on exposed body parts are not allowed, and women may only have a pair of plain, matching earrings.
If you already have piercings, you will need to remove them before starting boot camp, and you will not be allowed to use a piercing retainer to keep the hole open.
Even when off-duty or not in uniform, strict rules still apply. Commanders may also restrict the use of non-visible piercings if they think it will interfere with your ability to do your duties.
Since piercings will close if there is no retainer to keep the hole open, I strongly discourage anyone who plans to go into the military from having piercings.
Can You Get A Piercing If You Play Sports?
While small piercings like single lobe earrings may be permitted, some sports organizations have rules concerning body piercings and what is allowed. Especially in contact sports, there is a chance of jewelry being ripped out of the skin.
If you would like to get any body piercings and play a sport, first speak to your coach about governing body legislation and whether they think it is suitable. Healing time is also a factor; if you are allowed a piercing, it’s best to get it done in the off-season.
Is It Ok To Get A Piercing While On Your Period?
While for cleanliness’ sake, I would avoid genital piercings while on your period, it should not affect getting piercings elsewhere. Some piercers are comfortable performing genital piercings on people on their period, provided they wear tampons. Always check with your piercer beforehand.
Some people find they are hyper-sensitive to pain or get light-headed and dizzy while on their period. If this problem regularly affects you, I would reschedule your piercing for after your period has ended.
When’s The Best Time To Get A Piercing?
The best time to get a piercing is when you have sufficient time to rest and heal. Some piercings heal very quickly, and you don’t need to worry beyond appropriate aftercare, while others may cause swelling and affect your ability to do your job.
For example, a swollen tongue from a tongue piercing can make talking difficult, so if your job requires a lot of talking, schedule your piercing for your leave.
The warmer weather in spring and early summer can help speed up the healing process, and some people find that their healing time is compromised by winter cold. Others prefer to pierce in winter because they swim more in summer, and it is not recommended to swim with new piercings.
Avoid getting piercings before significant events where you might not have the time to care for you new piercing properly. If you plan to get pregnant, avoid getting new piercings.
If you are traveling on vacation, you may want to avoid getting new piercings. It is much harder to keep up with aftercare while traveling, and you may be more prone to infections from foreign bacteria.
In relationships, you may want to discuss logistics with any sexual partners before getting genital piercings to avoid pain and infection.
What To Avoid Doing Before A Piercing?
When going in for your piercing appointment, you should avoid the following:
- Consuming alcohol or drugs
- Fasting or avoiding food. Fasting can tank your blood sugar levels, so eating a small meal six hours before your piercing is advisable
- Get spray tan or apply make-up as they increase the risk of infection
- Drink too much tea, coffee, or caffeine drinks as this thins your blood and makes it harder for your blood to clot
- Taking any medication or painkillers which can thin your blood in the week before your piercing. These include aspirin and NSAIDs such as ibuprofen.
Should I Shave Before Getting A Piercing?
It’s best to avoid shaving beforehand to avoid nicks and ingrown hairs.
If your piercer decides that hair removal is necessary, they will shave the area themselves with appropriately sterilized razors. Shaving the area yourself can increase the risk of infection.
It’s best to leave any shaving for the piercer. Even with genital piercings, shaving is unnecessary. Piercers can work around hair growth. Itching and regrowth from shaved areas can also work against optimal healing.
Always make sure you get your piercing done by a professional piercer who will follow all the guidelines to ensure your piercing is as safe as possible. Be upfront about any possible medical issues, and check with your physician if necessary. Never get pierced using a piercing gun