Piercing Guns Vs. Needles: Which Is The More Hygienic Option?

For a lot of us who have our ears pierced, it seems like a really simple process and there probably wasn't a lot of thought that went into it. If you got your ears pierced as a baby or little kid, you probably don't even remember it. And if you got it done as a teen or adult, piercing your lobe is a pretty common and seemingly simple thing to go out and do, whether with a piercing gun or a needle. 

Plus, a lot of people have it done. According to a Statistic Brain report via Reference, about 83% of Americans have pierced ears, and another 14% have additional piercings. That's a large portion of Americans, and the number has likely grown in the nine years since that study was taken. But the fact of the matter is that getting anything pierced, even your earlobes, can pose great health risks if not done in a properly sterilized way. So when going out for your next ear piercing — because it might not be the best idea to pierce your own ears — which process is more hygienic: piercing guns or needles?

What's the ear piercing process?

Ear piercings are really common cosmetic procedures people get done. It's nice to add a bit of bling to your earlobe and it adds another element to your body that you can accessorize. Finding the perfect constellation of earrings and hoops is one of the cutest looks. But what goes into getting your ears pierced to begin with?

After finding a reputable piercer or studio, you have to fill out a consent form (per Healthline). You of course get to choose your jewelry and the piercer marks where the piercing will go with a body-safe pen after cleaning the area. After finding the perfect spot on your lobe, they'll get ready to do the actual piercing. If they're using a needle, there will usually be a clamp involved. The piercer will clamp your ear over the marked spot and stick the needle through quickly. Then they'll thread the jewelry in right away and put the backing on. If you go with a piercing gun, the gun will sort of be its own clamp and go over the marked area. Then the piercer pulls the trigger and your ear is pierced with the jewelry in one go. It's cleaned and you're good to go and do your own piercing aftercare.   

Needles don't give your ears trauma as piercing guns do

According to piercing aftercare product company Dr. Piercing Aftercare, piercers use piercing guns because of convenience and quickness. Places that are more commercial, like Claire's or Target, use guns because they're easier and quicker to train people to use. There's also a draw for customers because it's going to be relatively cheaper.

However, as they also point out, piercing with a gun will cause a lot of trauma to the ear. It isn't super noticeable, and a lot of people don't have any aftercare problems, but if they're using a blunt stud, the amount of force needed is more than if you were using a pointy needle. That leaves the ear a lot more hurt in the long run. It causes more blood and a tougher aftercare process. And, a lot of times the gun causes the earring to be tight, which isn't good for healing either. Though it might seem nice that minimal training is needed, because mall employees typically only need to train for a couple of weeks, the odds of them not really knowing what they're doing or making a painful mistake are pretty high. 

If you're looking to get cartilage or your body pierced, stay far away from piercing guns. With the trauma aspect already established, a needle is far more gentle and easier to get through thicker places like the nose or helix. As Healthline recommends, a needle piercing is safer overall.

Piercing guns aren't as sterilized as needles are

On top of the fact that piercing needles are safer and gentler on your earlobe, they're a lot more hygienic than piercing guns (per Healthline, via The Association of Professional Piercers). Studios or piercers who use needles have to open a new package for every client. Along with cleaning the area and their workspace, needles are sterilized and completely cleaned for every new person who gets pierced. However, piercing guns are not usually disposable. So while they might clean the earring going into your ear, a lot of the instrument that is touching you isn't sterile.

Piercing guns seem like a fast and cheap option (and they are) but it's important to note they aren't as sterile, and if that sounds highly unsanitary, it is. These guns aren't always cleaned in a medically approved way, swapping blood and other bodily fluids between clients. Basically, because a lot of piercing guns are plastic, they can't be properly sterilized. And wiping the piercing gun with antiseptics won't kill the pathogens and bacteria that can cause blood-borne diseases like Hepatitis.

While finding a piercer who uses needles might involve a tad more research and be more expensive, it's the best way to ensure you don't get an infection or disease and have the healthiest, happiest ears possible.