Body piercing

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Learn about considerations for discussing body piercings with your teen, including how to identify a trusted piercing studio and how to care for a body piercing.

Key points

  • A body piercing is the combination of a piece of jewellery and the hole that it rests in on the 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 your teen wants to get a piercing, speak with them about the importance of getting their 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 a body piercing?

A body piercing is the combination of a piece of jewellery and the hole that it rests in on the 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 a person can get a piercing as well, including the lips, tongue, eyebrows, cheeks, nipples and genitals.

Why do teens get body piercings?

Teens get body piercings for a number of different reasons. For example, some teens get a body piercing:

  • to express their identity or make a fashion statement
  • because their friends or people they look up to have body piercings
  • as part of a cultural tradition or rite of passage

What is the minimum age for getting 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, such as genital piercings, unless the person is above the age of 19.

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

What if my teen wants a piercing?

If your teen tells you they want to get a body piercing, talk with them about why they want the piercing, the risks of piercings and how to identify a safe piercing studio.

Tips for a positive conversation with your teen

Try to find a time when you and your teen are relaxed, in a private place for a conversation and when there will be no interruptions. Ask your teen about what type of piercing they want and why and listen to their thoughts and feelings without judgment. Whether you agree or disagree with their point of view, try to avoid imposing your own values or dismissing their feelings. Teens are more likely to be receptive if they feel heard and if you calmly share your own feelings and concerns.

If you do not want your teen to get a piercing at this time, consider setting a date to revisit the discussion or agreeing on an age or goal your teen must reach before getting a piercing. This can help delay the piercing until a time you consider more appropriate for your teen. It can also give your teen time make sure they are certain about the piercing and to do research about the type of piercing they want.

What are the risks of piercings?

Although many people have body piercings, a piercing can impact the way people respond to your teen. This may matter to some people, and it may not matter to others.

  • Infection at the site of the piercing, which can cause pain, redness and swelling. While the skin is healing around the jewellery, dirt and bacteria can get inside the piercing hole. Your teen can avoid infections by keeping the piercing site clean. If the site does become infected, your teen should contact their health-care provider. There are antibiotic medications that can help treat the area.
  • Allergic reaction, which can cause itching, redness, bumps or blisters where the jewellery touched the 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 your teen has an allergic reaction, they should remove the jewellery piece that is causing the issue.
  • Scarring or overgrowths of scar tissue (keloids). If your teen knows that their body is prone to keloids, they should probably not get piercings.
  • A blood infection such as HIV, hepatitis B or hepatitis C. This is usually from contaminated piercing equipment. You can help protect your teen by making sure their hepatitis B and tetanus vaccines are up to date.
  • If your teen has any piercings inside their mouth, there is a risk of dental problems including tooth chipping and gum issues. They may also have difficultly speaking, chewing or swallowing.
  • There is a risk your teen will accidentally catch and tear their piercing(s), especially if they play contact sports or get into a physical altercation. Advise your teen to always remove their jewellery before engaging in physical activities.

If your teen has a medical condition or is taking a medication that may increase their risk of infection or other complications, they should speak to their health-care provider before getting a piercing.

How to identify a safe piercing studio

Your teen should make sure that they get their 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 the 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 in detail and provide instructions on how to properly care for the piercing(s) at home
  • will deny your teen service if they are under the influence of drugs or alcohol

Consider scheduling a consultation with the piercer before your teen gets their piercing. This will give you a chance to visit the studio, meet the piercer and ask questions about the piercing process.

How to care for a piercing at home

If your teen gets a body piercing, they should follow the care instructions provided by their piercing studio. After-care instructions may differ depending on the type and location of the piercing. In general, your teen should follow the tips below after they have received their piercing for the next six to eight weeks. If their piercing is in an area with cartilage, such as the stiff parts of the ears and nose, they may need to follow these care instructions for up to four months:

  • Wash hands before touching the piercing for any reason and avoid touching it unless 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 the piercing with a cloth. A cloth 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 teen’s piercing is infected or is not healing properly, they should see their health-care provider.
Last updated: March 24th 2023