Should You Let Your Teen Get a Body Piercing?

It's common for teens to want to get body piercings.
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While you may cringe over the notion of piercing your lip, tongue or nostril, to your teenager, these piercings may seem as common as skinny jeans and smartphones. But certainly, just because ‘everybody’s doing it,’ doesn’t mean piercings are necessarily something your teen should get.

Don’t be surprised if your teen announces she wants to get a piercing. Before you give an answer, it’s important to sit down for an open-minded – yet serious – talk.

The Legal Issues Surrounding Body Piercings for Minors

Most states also have specific regulations regarding minors and body piercings. Depending on where you reside, your teen may need your consent or for you to be physically present at the time of the piercing. In some states, however, it is illegal for minors to get body piercings regardless of parental consent.

But even if your teen can’t legally get a piercing now, or even if you don’t plan to give consent, don’t brush off the conversation. Eventually, your teen will be old enough to get whatever type of piercings she wants.

Hold a conversation with her now to help her carefully consider the pros and cons of a piercing. Your discussion may have a vital impact that influences her future decisions.

Listen With an Open Mind

Before offering your opinion about piercings, listen to what your teen has to say. Ask questions to gain an understanding of your teen’s thought process.

  • What does she want pierced? Today’s teens are getting anything from their lips to their eyebrows pierced. Find out in what area your teen wants a piercing and learn about what type of research she has done on it already.
  • Is she prepared to deal with the healing time? Depending on the site she wants to get pierced, it could take up to a year to heal. And even after it heals, body jewelry can cause problems too. So your teen will need to be prepared to care for her piercing.
  • Why does she want a piercing? Does she think it is a rite of passage into adulthood or as a means of self-expression? Or, is she dealing with body image issues or peer pressure to fit in with the other teens who are getting piercings?
  • How long has she been thinking about a piercing? It's worth noting whether this idea is just a whim or if she's been pondering it for months and has already weighed the pros and cons. Either way, it's important to discuss potential health and life issues that may arise due to piercings.

Share Your Thoughts on Piercings

Even if you're not entirely against your teenager getting a body piercing, it's worth taking the time to discuss all the potential risks and drawbacks. A piercing isn't a simple set-and-forget process--it requires continual care and maintenance while it heals.

Validate your teen’s feelings about wanting to get a piercing – even if you don’t agree. Say something like, “I know what it’s like to really want to create a change or get something new.”

Express your concerns, such as, “I worry that having a piercing in your eyebrow might interfere with your ability to get a job this summer.” Or, try saying, “I’m really worried that a piercing like that might send the wrong message to people.”

Be willing to educate yourself as well. Your teen may have heard from friends that certain piercings don’t hurt or never get infected. Do your homework so you can have an educated conversation with your teen about the risks.

You can always tell your teen that you’re going to need to do some research before you have an answer. Encourage your teen to do some research as well by looking at reputable websites that offer piercing information. If she’s really motivated to get a piercing, she’ll be willing to do the work.

Infection Risk

Any type of body piercing – even on the ears – carries with it the risk of infection. Infections can occur if the piercing equipment isn't properly sterilized or if the person doing the piercing doesn't have clean hands.

A variety of infections can occur if the pierced area isn't kept clean until the hole heals. Mouth and nose piercings are particularly prone to problems since these areas are breeding grounds for all kinds of bacteria.

Make sure your teen is aware that she could get an infection even if she has her piercing done in a reputable place. But, make it especially clear that allowing her friend with a needle to perform a piercing will greatly increase the infection risk.

Other Medical Concerns

Besides the risk of infection, there are a few other important medical concerns to consider. The piercing shouldn't be done on any skin that is irritated or that shows unusual bumps, bruises or moles.

Health conditions that make the healing process more difficult could interfere with the healing process. Talk to a healthcare practitioner if your teen has diabetes, hemophilia, a heart condition or auto-immune disorder.

Even if there are no existing health reasons to prohibit a piercing, the body jewelry could cause a few problems. Tongue piercings may damage tooth enamel or injure the gums, causing oral health issues.

Belly button jewelry rubs against clothing, so getting a piercing in this area during fall or winter may not be a great idea, as the area will undergo continual irritation from heavy clothing. A pierced navel can take from four months to a year to heal, so it's going to require a lot of extra care to protect it from irritation or infection.

Employment Issues

If your teenager has a job or is considering one in the near future, piercings may be an issue. Some employers have specific dress codes that disallow piercings beyond basic earrings; others may not allow certain forms of jewelry because it could be hazardous when operating machinery and equipment on the work site.

Even if the employer allows body jewelry, it may be in the way or cause injury performing some work-related tasks. These concerns are worth discussing before your teen follows through with a piercing, especially since the jewelry has to stay in place as a fresh piercing heals. There's no taking the jewelry out before work and putting it back afterward.

Visit the Salon and Ask Questions

If you mutually decide the piercing is still a good idea, visit a few reputable piercing salons in your area. Do they look clean? Is the staff knowledgeable? Ask as many questions as you can about the process and about the care required during healing.

Ask how the team knows the equipment is sterile, too. Employees in a shop with safe practices will have no problem explaining this in detail.

Just because someone else recommended a piercing salon doesn't mean it's right for your teen. If the place looks dirty or the person hired to do the piercing doesn't seem like the right person for this task, walk out. It's better to start your hunt for a reputable parlor all over again than to live with a job poorly or unsafely done.

Ask the person who does the work questions about the particular piercing your teen wants to get done as well. Hearing about it might actually make your teen think twice about following through. 

If you're comfortable with the salon, set up an appointment for a future date. Find out what you may need to bring with you. Depending on your state, your teen may need to show a birth certificate to document her age.

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Article Sources
  • Palo Alto Medical Foundation: Body Piercing 
  • Koenig, L. M., & Carnes, M. (1999). Body Piercing: Medical Concerns with Cutting-Edge Fashion. Journal of General Internal Medicine14(6), 379–385.