DIY Piercing - Brilliant or Brainless?

Why Body Art Ought to be Left to the Professionals

Johanne/Flickr/CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

D.I.Y. or Do It Yourself is becoming a household phrase. Why pay someone when you can do it yourself? Of course, it's not just a cost issue, but also a matter of pride! To do something with your own two hands brings a sense of self-worth and satisfaction. DIY book sales have soared in recent years, featuring handyman instructions for everything from small craft projects to building your own home.

However, tattoos, piercings, brandings, scarifications and other body modifications are not do-it-yourself projects.

Why not? For the same reason that you will not find DIY instructions for surgery or any other similar medical procedure. Oddly enough, though, people seem to have no problem going to a professional for stitches or a root canal. But when it comes to sticking a needle through their body, the urge to do it themselves is irresistible.

Not as Easy as it Looks
Maybe it's because the procedure seems too simple. What could be easier than sticking a needle through your skin? Girls started piercing their own ear lobes with nothing but a straight pin and a cork over 50 years ago. Of course, what you don't hear about are all the botched jobs, uneven holes and infections that resulted from these home piercings.

Another thing you need to consider is the evolution of body piercing that has occurred over the years. Body parts are being pierced now that were never even a consideration in earlier days. The more adventurous the piercings become, the more risk and danger goes along with it.

Some piercings come dangerously close to major arteries and nerves that are essential to your health and possibly even your life. Are you really willing to risk either for the sake of vanity?

Do You Have The Three E's?
A professional piercer has so many advantages over a DIYer - the three E's: education, the proper equipment and experience.

Education involves knowing the parts of the body, where important vessels and nerves lie and how to avoid them. Proper equipment means you get a safe and sterile piercing. Experience means he or she is someone who is professional and confident, which will greatly minimize the trauma and pain of the experience.

Why do you think professional piercers go through all the trouble to learn how to do their job properly and work in a professional environment? Many of them pay thousands of dollars to learn how to pierce, and then give a percentage of their earnings to the shop owner where they work. It would be a lot easier for them just to start poking people out of their homes and forget all that other stuff. The reason they don't is their respect for you, the potential customer, and for your safety. It's pretty sad if they care more about your health than you do.

Don't Take it from Me
Here's an ABC news video about a Missouri teen who was fighting for his life after piercing his own lip. This is just one of many - every year I see at least a handful of stories just like this, and sometimes they end very badly.

Here's some interesting statistics for you. TimesOnline says, "Doctors said...that piercing should not be carried out by amateurs, as a survey showed that almost a third of piercings in people aged 16-24 resulted in complications, half of which needed medical attention."

Unsurprisingly, msnbc reports, "doctors and nurses...have seen a spike in young people with infections caused by amateur work, sometimes done by friends or unlicensed operators."

Hellbent Tattoo wisely advises, "Never attempt to pierce yourself even with the help of one of those piercing kits. And never let your untrained friend to do it either. Do-it-yourself piercings are not sterile and if you accidentally pierce the wrong place, you could cause severe bleeding or permanent nerve damage."

For Those Not Paying Attention
If you are dead set on sticking a needle through your body, for whatever reason that may be, use some common sense. Bill Whitlow, who has successfully pierced his own nipples and apadravya, provides some advice for those venturing down this path:


  • Do a [thorough] search about the area you are going to pierce
  • Research, research, research!
  • Read and learn as much as you can; learn the proper way to sterilize
  • Make sure everything is sterile before you begin, including the room you will be doing it in
  • If there may be blood, tile floors are good
  • Mentally do it over and over
  • Plan for what to do if something goes wrong
  • If you don't like pain, don't do it! Bill also cautions, "when you go to a piercer, it is usually over with very quickly, [but] when you do it yourself, it is going to take a lot of time. So, if you want to get it done quickly, don't do it yourself."

Sound advice. Actually, "don't do it yourself" is the ultimate advice.