Body piercing

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Learn about the age restrictions for piercings, how to identify a trusted piercing studio, and about important things to think about before getting a body piercing.

Key points

  • A body piercing is the combination of a piece of jewellery and the hole that it rests in on your body, made by a needle.
  • Common piercing sites include the ear, nose and bellybutton.
  • There is no legal age minimum for getting a piercing in Canada, but most piercing studios will not perform piercings on teens under the age of 16 without parental consent.
  • If you choose to get a piercing, make sure that you get your piercing(s) from a studio that has been inspected and approved by public health.
  • Complications from body piercings can include infection of the piercing site, allergic reaction, scarring or overgrowths of scar tissue (keloids), blood infections, dental problems and accidental tearing.

What is body piercing?

A body piercing is the combination of a piece of jewellery and the hole that it rests in on your body. A needle is pierced into a part of the body—typically the ear, nose or bellybutton—and the jewellery is inserted into the hole made by the needle. There are many other places you can get a piercing as well, including your lips, tongue, eyebrows, cheeks, nipples and genitals.

How old do I have to be to get a piercing?

There is no legal age minimum for getting a piercing in Canada, but most piercing studios will not perform piercings on teens under the age of 16 without parental consent. Some studios will not allow certain piercings, like genital piercings, unless the person is above the age of 19.

You will likely be asked to show proof of identity and sign something to say you understand the risks of a piercing before getting one.

What should I know before getting a piercing?

It is important to do your research before getting a piercing. Although many people have body piercings, piercings can have an impact on the way people respond to you. This may matter to some people, and it may not matter to others.

Make sure that you get your piercing(s) from a studio that has been inspected and approved by public health. A studio that is in good standing will have piercers who:

  • wash their hands with soap and water, and wear new gloves, before starting the piercing.
  • clean your skin with an antiseptic such as 70% alcohol before the piercing begins.
  • use single-use, clean and sterile instruments that are intended to go through the skin.
  • use sterile jewellery made for piercing.
  • dispose of needles in the proper biomedical waste containers.
  • explain the piercing process to you in detail and provide instructions on how to properly care for your piercing(s) at home.
  • will deny you service if you are under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

Possible complications from piercings and what to do if you develop one

Because piercing needles break the skin, there are several complications that can occur from body piercings:

  1. You can get an infection at the site of the piercing, which can cause pain, redness and swelling. While your skin is healing around the jewellery, dirt and bacteria can get inside the piercing hole. You can avoid infections by keeping the piercing site clean. If the site does become infected, there are antibiotic medications that can help treat the area.
  2. You might have an allergic reaction, which can cause itching, redness, bumps or blisters where the jewellery touched your skin. Nickel allergy is a very common allergic reaction from piercings. Try to avoid jewellery that contains nickel or is of otherwise poor quality. If you have an allergic reaction, remove the jewellery piece that is causing the issue.
  3. Piercings can cause scarring or overgrowths of scar tissue (keloids). If you know that your body is prone to keloids, you should probably not get piercings.
  4. You could get a blood infection such as HIV, hepatitis B or hepatitis C. This is usually from contaminated piercing equipment. You can help protect yourself by making sure your hepatitis B and tetanus vaccines are up-to-date.
  5. If you have any piercings inside your mouth, there is a risk of dental problems including tooth chipping and gum issues. You may also have difficultly speaking, chewing or swallowing.
  6. You may accidentally tear your piercing(s). There is a risk of accidentally catching and tearing your piercing(s), especially if you play contact sports or get into a physical altercation. It is always best to remove your jewellery before engaging in physical activities.

How do I care for a piercing at home?

Always follow the care instructions provided by your piercing studio. In general, the tips below should be followed after you have received your piercing for the next six to eight weeks. If your piercing is in an area with cartilage, like the stiff parts of your ears and nose, you may need to follow these care instructions up to four months:

  • Wash your hands before touching your piercing for any reason and avoid touching it unless you are cleaning it.
  • Without removing it, clean the piercing with either rubbing alcohol, a saline solution, or antimicrobial soap twice a day. Gently pat the piercing dry with a clean paper towel or tissue.
  • Avoid drying your piercing with a cloth, since it can carry germs or catch on the jewelry.
  • Avoid contact with bodily fluid, including saliva.
  • Avoid open or public water, including lakes, rivers, pools and hot tubs.
  • Take showers instead of baths, as bathtubs can spread bacteria.
  • Avoid makeup, lotions, sprays, and powders.
  • If you think your piercing is infected or isn’t healing properly, go see your doctor.
Last updated: May 10th 2022