There is a lot more involved with performing a successful body piercing than most people realize. This invasive procedure is much more intricate than simply sticking a needle through the skin and inserting jewelry.
First and foremost I will address the issue of sterility. Soaking an item in alcohol or bleach does NOT sterilize, it only sanitizes the item. To achieve proper sterilization you must use an autoclave. These machines can be very expensive, but they do the job. Autoclaves like anything else can break or malfunction, so each autoclave must be tested for accuracy at least once a month. This process is called spore testing. If you are under the assumption that if you use a new needle and jewelry you are safe, you are seriously mistaken. New needles and jewelry are a must, but need to be autoclaved before use.
Even if you have purchased a sterilized needle and a piece of jewelry, there is still lots of room to contaminate them once the sterile pouches have been opened. Keeping them clean and safe can be tricky. A professional, knowledgeable piercer knows how to keep your piercing clean. A dirty piercing can cause a huge variety of illness and diseases, some of which can be life threatening! Some diseases such as Hepatitis C may take years before you notice any symptoms, but when it does it is fatal. So, even if you have pierced yourself or your friends before and the piercing healed OK, how do you know you did not give yourself or them something they did not bargain for? Piercings done by true professional piercers do not pose any threat of disease. A piercing professional uses a spore tested autoclave, universal precautions and aseptic techniques to insure your safety.
Infection in a healing piercing is always a possibility. If germs get into the piercing while it is healing you may develop an infection. If you were pierced by a professional piercer he/she will gladly assist you with any problems you may have with your piercing.
Proper jewelry size, style and metal are very important. You should never wear "earrings" in a body piercing. Your piercer will know what is right for the piercing you have chosen.
A proper piercing needle is hollow, allowing for the removal of a tiny piece of tissue so the jewelry can sit in the hole comfortably. A solid needle just spreads the tissue and holds the jewelry too tight, not allowing for adequate blood flow needed for healing. Piercing needles are razor sharp, which means less discomfort. A sewing needle is considerable less sharp, not only hurting more to push through, but can also cause tissue damage. The needle should match the gauge thickness of the jewelry being worn. There are some exceptions to this, and a professional piercer will know and explain them to you. If your needle is too thin, your jewelry will not fit. If the needle is too thick, you will experience bleeding.
Where you place your piercing is very important. If you pierce too deep you will take longer to heal, if ever, and increase chances of infection. If you pierce too shallow (not enough skin) it can result in migration. This is when the jewelry slowly grows out toward the surface; it is being rejected by your body. You will lose the piercing and be left with a nasty scar. It is also important to know the human anatomy. Do you know how to find veins before doing a piercing, so you do not pierce through one? A professional would know.
Caring for your piercing in the wrong way will greatly increase your chance of infection or irritation. It is important to know how often to clean your piercing and what aftercare products to use. This varies for different body parts. Often people think that they have an infection when actually they are irritating the piercing by using the wrong products, cleaning the piercing the wrong way, handling the piercing, etc. A professional always stands by their work and will assist you throughout your healing process and beyond. An ethical piercer will insist you have parental consent if you are under 18 years old. If you are under 18 years old and wish to get pierced, talk to your parents and present them with factual information. Give your parents time to make their decision and honor it either way. If they say yes, seek out a professional. If they say no do not do it yourself, it is not worth the risk of scarring, infection, pain, illness, disease, and possibly your life. Wait until you are 18 and seek out that professional. In the long run you will be happy you did!