In use at malls and in beauty salons around the world, the ear piercing gun would seem to be an indispensable piece of equipment to a piercer. The ear piercing gun is based on the same instrument used to tag livestock, the only difference being a spring loading system. The guns are made of either plastic or metal-encased plastic which makes them impossible to be sterilized. It is possible to transmit infections and diseases such as pseudomonas aeruginosa and Hepatitis B when the ear piercing gun is used. When compared to needles, the ear piercing gun causes much more tissue damage and the jewellery used is often inferior to that recommended by professionals in the body modification field.
When a blunt object such as the post of an ear stud is forced through the skin, as seen with ear piercing guns, blood microspray occurs. This microspray can coat the piercer, the client and the ear piercing gun in an often unseen mist of blood and other matter. A visible spray of blood is also often seen. Between clients the ear piercing gun is usually wiped down with an ineffective disinfectant such as alcohol which does not sterilize the gun. If all it took to sterilize equipment was a quick wipe with alcohol, surely doctors, dentists and other health care professionals would use this method as it would be much quicker and cheaper than using an autoclave or chemiclave. As it stands, if there are contaminants such as disease pathogens in the microspray, transmission between clients and practitioner can easily occur.
The manufacturer’s of ear piercing gun’s claim that the microspray transmitted onto the gun will not affect clientele as the gun itself does not touch the client’s ear. However, the piercer does come in contact with both the gun and the client thereby providing an easy way for microspray to transfer to the client (contact occur’s anytime the piercer touches the client, i.e. dotting the ear, holding the ear to stabilize it etc.). Quite often the people using the ear piercing gun have not been trained thoroughly and are unaware of the principles of cross-contamination, (for example, the ear piercing gun is stored in a drawer, gloves are not worn by the practitioner and other basic precautions for sterility are not present) which further increases the risk of infection and disease transmission to both the practitioner and client.
Piercings done with gun’s are accomplished by force of a blunt object through skin. The resulting hole is often a ragged tear with lacerations that provide an excellent breeding ground for bacteria and other matter. Professional piercers use single-use hypodermic needles which produce a clean piercing with smooth edges, resulting in much less tissue damage.
The aftercare given to clients who have been pierced with a gun is often inadequate and involves turning the stud and wiping the ear with hydrogen peroxide or alcohol. These products do not promote the development of new skin cells and they tend to dry out the skin. Turning the stud does nothing to clean the piercing and is in fact detrimental (hard crusty matter often found on the stud’s post can rip the tissue, delaying healing time). The butterfly backing on ear piercing studs is also a breeding ground for bacteria as it is hard to clean, and the post on the stud is often too short to accommodate for swelling. It is common to see ear piercing studs become partially or completely embedded in the tissue of the client due to swelling.
While professional piercers always use surgical stainless steel (316L), ear piercing studs are often made of gold-plated or gold-filled metals. Often the metal underneath the plating is nickel or copper. Both these metals will quite often cause an allergic reaction or intolerance in the wearer.
The ear piercing gun would be safe if:
- The gun was made of stainless steel and could be autoclaved with no parts being damaged.
- The gun was autoclaved between each use and stored in a sterile bag between uses.
- The gun was designed to install proper jewellery in a way that causes minimal tissue damage.
- Practitioners were thoroughly trained in cross-contamination and sterilization techniques.