Piercing Guns

Although piercing guns seem like a quick and painless way of piercing an ear, there is a lot more to them than first meets the eye.


Piercing guns are bad

They can not be adequately cleaned from the last client’s bodily fluids

Every time a piercing gun is used on a client, a fine mist of blood can become airborne and enter the mechanics of the gun. The next client’s tissue and jewellery can then become in contact and with every client, an increased chance of microorganism and bloodborne pathogen transmission occurs.

Plastic piercing guns are unable to be sterilised by a medically recognised method, such as an autoclave. Even if the surface of the gun is wiped with an antiseptic, the workings may still be harbouring blood particles.

They cause significant tissue damage

Piercing guns use an excessive amount of pressure to force the dull object through the tissue, causing what is referred to medically as a blunt force trauma.

Sometimes the gun’s spring-loaded mechanism is not strong enough for the blunt jewellery and the mechanism may get stuck. This can result in unnecessary pain, discomfort and damage to the client as well as a potential risk to the operator while trying to correct the problem. Although there is no documented failure rate, some gun operators report that it is frequent.

When guns are used on cartilage and other more structural tissue, more serious complications can occur, including shattering of the cartilage and severe scarring.

Due to the reduced circulation in cartilage, healing times and risks of infections are significantly higher – especially with the use of a non-sterile instrument.

The jewellery shape is not designed for a healing piercing

The “butterfly back” design of studs trap bodily fluids and cellular discharge, and creates a sticky mass behind the piercing. Bacteria builds up and can get trapped around the hole, increasing the chance of infection.

Often people’s anatomy has different thicknesses and swelling, requiring different lengths and downsizing during healing – however, ear piercing studs are one length, and the compressed tissue can lead to prolonged and complicated healing.

The material is not suitable for a healing piercing

Medical literature considers only implant grade (ASTM F138) steel and titanium (ASTM F67 and F136) to be appropriate for piercing stud composition.

Butterfly back ear piercing studs are not made from metals certified by the ASTM, and even when plated in non-toxic materials like gold, the underlying alloys can leach into the tissue through corrosion, scratches, and defects.

The misuse of piercing guns is very common

Despite local regulations and manufacturer’s instructions specify hygienic cleaning in between every use, very few establishments follow these guides.

Although most stores will train their staff on how to use the guns, they do not need to follow the same skin penetration guidelines that body piercers are held accountable for.

Cassette and hand pressure systems

Although the use of encapsulated handheld devices is technically an improvement over a spring-loaded mechanism – the fact is that it uses the same dull jewellery means that it inherently has the same flaws of blunt force trauma and poor jewellery design.


References Cited:

  • Pediatric Emergency Care. 1999 June 15(3): 189-92.
    Ear-piercing techniques as a cause of auricular chondritis.
    More DR, Seidel JS, Bryan PA.
  • International Journal of Pediatric Otorhinolaryngology. 1990 March 19(1): 73-6.
    Embedded earrings: a complication of the ear-piercing gun.
    Muntz HR, Pa-C DJ, Asher BF.
  • Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery. 2003 February 111(2): 891-7; discussion 898.
    Ear reconstruction after auricular chondritis secondary to ear piercing.
    Margulis A, Bauer BS, Alizadeh K.
  • Contact Dermatitis. 1984 Jan; 10(1): 39-41.
    Nickel release from ear piercing kits and earrings.
    Fischer T, Fregert S, Gruvberger B, Rystedt I.
  • British Journal of Plastic Surgery. 2002 April 55(3): 194-7.
    Piercing the upper ear: a simple infection, a difficult reconstruction.
    Cicchetti S, Skillman J, Gault DT.
  • Scottish Medical Journal. 2001 February 46(1): 9-10.
    The risks of ear piercing in children.
    Macgregor DM.