Because so many of you love body piercings, we wanted to give you some insights from an actual piercer about what to expect when you get yours. We asked tattoo artist and piercer Dominic Cordoba from tattoo studio The Inkuisition in Egg Harbor Township, New Jersey, to give us the lowdown on all things body piercing and jewelry. Dominic has worked in this field for over a decade and has seen it all.
Body Piercing Trends
What are the most popular piercing trend you’re seeing and why are they so popular right now?
Everything seems to come in waves. It usually depends on what celebrities are doing. You always have your staple piercings, nose rings, belly button and ear, those are always popular. Usually when a celebrity gets something, there’s an influx of it, everyone wants it. I’ll see stuff on Facebook and I assume that. Sometimes people will say this person has it, or they’ll show me a picture of it and say I want to look like her, and I’ll say that’s Rihanna or Scarlett Johansson. Usually it depends on what’s popular in the media.
Are there any in the last few months you’ve seen more of?
Septum piercings are a lot more popular than they used to be because a lot more celebrities are getting them. It’s a piercing that you can hide. With different jobs people have, they can’t always be pierced the way they want to. They can put it [on] on the weekends.
Is that a good piercing to start with or do you think they should start with something else?
I don’t think that’s the best piercing to start off as the first piercing but there’s been multiple times where I pierced people with that. As long as you know proper aftercare and how to take care of your particular piercing, it should be okay. It’s just that usually when you have more of the easier piercings, like the ear and belly button and nose, then you’re experienced, you don’t worry when certain things happen that are a little bit different. Each body part acts a little differently when it’s healing.
Is there any piercing trend or style that you’d like to see get more popular, that’s your favorite or you think has fallen by the wayside that you think should get another shot?
Symmetrical piercings, when they don’t get just one side of the nose pierced, they get both sides done, or both sides of their lip done. I think symmetry is really pretty, so it’s nice when that happens. That doesn’t happen all too much, but it does happen for nipples. When I first started, usually people would get one nipple, they didn’t get a pairing that often. I still did those, but not as much. Now it’s nipples are always in pairs, all the time. It’s rare that anybody asks for one side to get done. Anything directly on the face, I think symmetry’s always good or something that lines up in the middle, like a medusa. The spot underneath your nose, right above your lip, in the center. Anything that makes the face more symmetrical is a nice add on.
Piercing Safety: What to expect when you get your body pierced
Before someone’s going to do it, what kind of research should they do? Are there things that you’d advise them to do so they don’t regret it?
The best thing is to shop around for shops. A lot of people will go online and look up if they want to get their nose pierced, they’ll just look up nose piercings. I don’t know how many times I’ve heard where people say I was watching videos on YouTube and this person screamed and this person is freaking out. It’s not as scary as some of those videos makes it seem. People get all amped up and they get pumped up and they’re in here and they’re freaking out and I try to calm them down. Then they say, “It’s not as bad as I thought it was going to be.” That’s because you filled your head with all this other stuff and that’s no good. The best thing is to go into the shop and talk to somebody at the shop because they’re going to know best.
Are you open to people coming in to ask questions beforehand?
Plenty of times people come in and ask questions about piercings. Everyone here is knowledgeable to answer the basic questions and if it’s something crazy complicated, I or another piercer will answer it.
What are the most common questions people ask before getting their first piercing?
“Is it going to hurt?” Over the years I’ve gone where yeah it’s not so bad, or yeah it does hurt, I can only say what people have told me and what actually I’ve had pierced. Because no matter what I say, people always believe the opposite, if I say it doesn’t hurt, they’ll say yeah you’re lying. It’s always the opposite, but at the end of the day, they always say it’s not as bad as I thought it was going be.
Sometime told me that some people drink because they think it’ll increase their pain tolerance. Is that a good or bad idea?
Don’t drink beforehand. If you have one drink, it wouldn’t be so bad, but if you’re coming in there wasted, you’re just a pain in the ass to deal with. I’m trying to calm them down, when somebody’s drunk everything is amped up 10 times. Also, alcohol thins your blood so you’re going to bleed a lot more, which freaks people out. I know it’s not enough to kill but…especially if it’s on your face because your face always bleeds a lot. If you’re drinking and you don’t stop bleeding….
Is there anything they can do to lessen the pain from a body piercing?
Sometimes support helps; bring a friend. I wouldn’t suggest taking anything. All the buildup and setting up and picking out jewelry, all that stuff leading up to it is what’s pumping them up. The actual piercing procedure takes seconds.
What’s the most common piercing that your shop does?
I’d say noses and nipples.
You said earlier aftercare is important. I assume you guys give instructions for that.
Every piercer gives instructions on aftercare.
Is it different for different types of piercings?
Slightly. The normal aftercare uses some type of saline wash. It doesn’t matter what type of saline wash it is. You’re going to clean it three times a day, sometime in the morning, sometime in the middle of the day, then before you go to bed. You clean both sides of the piercings. You schedule one of your cleanings after you take a shower.
The difference between the piercings is healing time. For an ear piercing you might have to pay attention if you wear glasses or have ear buds. Use an alcohol pad and wipe them down first before you stick them in your ear. At the end of the day, you’ve got a booboo so you don’t want to get cooties in there.
With mouth piercings, they have to worry about smoking, oral sex and kissing—any kind of suction. You don’t want any germs in there. It’s really kind of a pain but you have to watch what you’re eating, just for a couple of weeks and then you’re okay.
Each healing time is different, some healing periods are three to four months and some could be six months, nine months, maybe even a year. Some people say, “It healed in two weeks.” No, it didn’t. It may look nice and it’s not red, but piercings take a long time to heal because they heal on both sides and they heal from the inside out. So you can’t see what’s happening on the inside of your piercing. It may look like it’s healed because the outside heals first.
What is the age limit?
18 to get pierced for anything. You can come in by yourself at 18. It’s a little bit different depending on the insurance and the state.
Also depending on what the piercer’s comfortable with. My sister got her belly button pierced at 13, I think that’s extremely young but a lot of girls get it. It’s pretty common. That’s one of the piercings we bend on because it’s such a common piercing. We won’t pierce any younger than 14. With 14, it’s belly button, nose and ear, nothing on the face that’s too crazy or extreme like eyebrows or lips or bridge. We don’t do that at 14. At 16, you can get some more of those crazy piercings, you can get your lip pierced, you can get your septum done, eyebrows. At 18, you can get anything you would have to take your clothes off to get pierced. You just need your license.
For those under 18, do they have to get parental permission?
If you’re under 18, in New Jersey you need parent permission. In New Jersey you also need a birth certificate and a photo ID for the child and you need a photo ID for the parent. The names have to match, and if the names don’t match, you have to have paperwork that shows why. You have to prove that this kid belongs to this adult and you’re giving permission to poke holes in them.
Are some piercings more risky or in more danger of getting infected?
A lot depends on what you do with your life. Certain piercings like cartilage are hard to heal because it’s hard tissue. Soft tissue doesn’t take that long to heal; the inside of your mouth takes two weeks. It regenerates really fast there.
Certain piercings are going to be a little more problematic than others, like cheeks. Even though the inside of your mouth heals really fast, based on the location of where that is, it takes a long time to heal. When you start with a cheek piercing you have to start with a bar that’s an inch and a quarter or an inch and a half. Then you have to downsize every two weeks for a month or so, and after that every month you have to downsize again. It takes about a year to heal. And they leak a lot too.
So it just depends based on the piercing. With genital piercings, people often say that must be the toughest, but they heal really fast because the tissue regenerates really quickly. With those, people say it hurt and was sore the first day, and then it was good.
Body Piercing Aftercare
Are there certain activities that are off limits in the days after a piercing? Can you get it wet?
You can pretty much do most normal activities, you just have to be conscious about cleaning. With oral piercings and genital piercings, we recommend you don’t do anything with other people for at least a month. It’s all about how comfortable they are with it. It’s about introducing new bacteria. You can do a little peck but straight up French kissing is not a good idea because you don’t know what they’ve got going on in their mouth.
Your body is trying to combat a foreign object. With piercings, you’re trying to trick your body into keeping something in there that doesn’t belong there. The body is programmed to push things out. Sometimes piercings reject or they get little bumps. Your body is trying to do everything to push that piercing out. You want to trick the body into thinking everything’s okay. When you agitate the piercing, it prolongs the healing period.
You can do anything you want, but a lot of times people have cartilage piercings and they do sports and it might be irritated and they say I don’t know what’s going on. We ask, are you cleaning it after you do your sport? [If they say] not right away, well, there you go. You’re sweating, you’re rubbing up against other people. A lot of it is common sense, but people don’t think about it. They just think, okay, it’s done.
You mentioned cheek piercings and updating jewelry. For other types of piercings, is updating the jewelry just a preference?
Some piercings you do have to update the jewelry. A lot of times with initial piercings, we’ll put the jewelry in and it’s a longer bar or bigger hoop. Sometimes people don’t want that, but it’s to accommodate for swelling because you’re going to swell. No matter what the piercing, you’re going to swell.
Some piercings you can get away with leaving the bar the same, like a belly button. With a belly button piercing, it will still swell and it will go down and you can leave that bar in; it’s okay, it’s not affecting anything. Something like your lip you always have to get longer jewelry and then you have to downsize in two weeks. That’s important, or else you’ll be catching the back of the jewelry on your teeth; you’ll be messing up your gums because the bar is too long. It’s not meant to stay in there for longer than two weeks. You have to get something that fits. It’s like wearing shoes that are too big and you’re tripping all over the place. You want something that fits you.
Once it’s healed and you want to change the jewelry, can you change it too much?
You can change it as much as you want. Acrylic is not the greatest to wear in a fresh piercing because it’s porous. But I can wear acrylic in my ears because they’re healed. Wear them for a long time and sleep on it funny, it’ll irritate my ear. I know that just because I’ve been with it for so long.
Some people say I can’t wear this or that type of jewelry or these things irritate my skin because there’s a whole array of things that can happen with the jewelry. A lot of that is knowing how your body will respond to it.
If you don’t have jewelry in it for a certain amount of time, does it close up?
Most of them, yes. I had my lip done. I’d had three years, it had completely healed. I took it out for a night and it completely closed up. The inside of your mouth regenerates so fast. When I tried to put something in the next afternoon, it wouldn’t go in. I could have shoved it through, but that’s not good. You might as well start over.
So if you’re not sure about a location like a lip, don’t take it out.
Certain areas…you’ll see people with their earlobes pierced and they won’t have anything in it for months. It was completely healed, but then as soon as they put something in there, it may be a little tight, but it’s fine, just because that tissue is different. It depends on the person and the area. I can leave my septum piercing out for a week or two and it’s like nothing happened; I can stick something right back in.
What You Need To Know About Body Jewelry Shops
Is there anything else you think people should before getting their first body piercing or things that people do impulsively that they should be more aware of? Do people come in and say “I want a piercing but I don’t know which one?”
People do that. I don’t think there’s really harm in doing that because sometimes people just want something different and unique, and they don’t know what’s actually possible. Research the shop, find a good shop with good reviews. You can even call up and ask about the piercers. I think that’s important. Then go inside and talk to them.
Because if you listen to your friend over here, they’ll say it didn’t hurt at all and then this person over here will say it’s the worst experience of my life. It could be true for both of them, because everybody’s pain tolerance is different. Some people are dramatic and some people are pretty chill. Everybody’s different.
I have different piercings I’ve had in my face and I would say hands down the worst piercing that I’ve ever had was when I had my cartilage done. A lot of people have that piercing. I’ve had so much stuff in my face and all that stuff was easy compared to my cartilage.
I think people should go into shops and talk to somebody. That’s where you get the best information. Unless they’re going on a specific tattoo website or a piercing site or something specific like that.
If they’re trying to figure out what’s a decent shop, are there other questions they should be asking to make sure it’s a good fit for them?
Usually if a shop is up it’s licensed. It’s more about people feeling comfortable. A lot of people compliment our shop because of the way it looks. They say it’s so clean. That puts people at ease.
There’s no stupid questions at all. We’ve heard the questions a zillion times, but if it puts people at ease, that’s good. There’s nothing wrong with calling up or going in. That’s ultimately what I suggest they do.
Should people get only one piercing at a time?
It depends on the person. Usually I won’t do more than four piercings just because your body has to worry about trying to heal. But certain people will get a piercing and come back a week later and get something else. Usually for me the limit is four but I have gone above that depending on the person. If I have a relationship with that person and they’ve been pierced by me for years and I know that they can handle it, then I’ll do it. A lot of piercings are quick and I don’t see the person again. Or I might not see them for a couple years.
One time I did a Jacob’s ladder and the person wanted eight of them. I said, How about we do half now and we do half later? I checked in halfway through and asked how they feel and they said I could keep going, so I kept going. But I’d pierced the person a bunch of times.
You have to worry about too much trauma to your body. It’s a lot to take care of. One piercing can be a pain to take care of, let alone four, five, six, seven.
Now that you know all about how to select your body piercing and what to expect, you can consider what kind of body piercing jewelry you want to adorn yourself with! Have questions about piercings or body jewelry? Email us at email@example.com and we’d be happy to help.
Care & Piercing Guides