The Mall is Still the Worst Place To Get Your Ears Pierced

I didn’t get my ears pierced until I was 13-years-old. I remember going to the Piercing Pagoda kiosk in my hometown mall and feeling embarrassed my parents took so long to let me get my ears pierced. I felt as if everyone was watching me.

Now that I am ten years wiser, I realize that the concern shouldn’t have been that everyone knew I had killjoy parents, but the fact that I was getting my ears pierced in the worst possible way: with a piercing gun at the mall by someone not significantly older than myself.

On Tuesday, February 21st, Racked’s Tiffany Yannetta promoted Claire’s boutique as the Mecca of cheap piercings. Half of me–a communications professional– realizes there is a pretty good chance that this is a sponsored article. The other half of me–fascinated with piercings and tattoos with plans to get more in the future– is appalled that there is a grown woman telling other grown women to get piercings at the mall.

“They use a gun at Claire’s, but it was more like a small white stapler. When I sat down, I was… kind of terrified?” Yannetta says. She goes on to claim that not only did they heal better than she expected, but they were cheap.

Although I did not get my ears pierced at Claire’s, my experience was very similar to anyone who did. With that said, I will be the first to tell you, if you are considering getting any piercings at all, to go to a piercing studio.

Going Under the Gun

The difference between Claire’s and a piercing professional is a very important one. A professional piercer uses a needle. A piercing specialist at Claire’s uses a piercing gun.

Piercing guns use blunt force and could harm the area around the piercing. Some stores even offer to perform cartilage piercings. However, the piercing gun is not designed to do this. The Association of Piercing Professionals actually condemns this practice, as it can cause tissue damage.

A needle is more precise and is going to be less traumatic on your body, especially considering a trained professional will be performing the piercing.

Regardless of the method, it could still hurt, depending on your level of pain tolerance. After all,  you’re puncturing a hole on your body.


If you go to the mall,  it’s unlikely that any of the piercing specialists are actually trained on a professional level.

According to the AAP,  businesses may train their employees, but they could be limited to watching a video, reading an instruction manual, practicing on objects and/or coworkers. Other piercing and tattoo artists attest to this as well.

The training for a piercing professional, however, is much more intensive. The AAP strongly recommends that an aspiring piercer goes through an apprenticeship to learn the art, which is significantly longer.

If you want a piercing, but needles terrify you, please don’t risk going to Claire’s. You’re better off going to a parlor where the piercer is certified and trained, rather than a store where you risk not only being someone’s first guinea pig but your health.


Claire’s promises that the specialist will clean the gun before each use. The APP warns that “despite bloodborne pathogens dozens of times in one day, ear piercing guns are often not sanitized in a medically recognized way,” putting anyone who has ever had a piercing from a piercing gun at risk for transmitting a blood-borne disease.

For this reason, some states require piercing equipment to be sterilized. The law may not necessarily be enforced, however. The state of Indiana, for example, defines a piercing as any modification other than the earlobes. Thus, people who pierce earlobes –needle or otherwise– are not subject to this law. But Claire’s employees who pierce cartilages, as many do, are in violation of this law.

As previously mentioned, an employee at the mall likely has minimal training. This also includes information regarding cross-contamination prevention and the appropriate way to sterilize materials.

Unlike piercing guns, piercing needles are sterilized and single use. Thanks to extensive training, a professional piercer also has extensive knowledge of cross-contamination prevention and appropriate sterilization techniques.


Taking care of my piercing was an event. I had to clean it with the “special” solution I was given twice a day and I had to twist it around after. I was told the hole would close up if I didn’t.

Evidently, both rituals were actually unnecessary.  Katrina Storm, a mother from Columbia, South Carolina took her daughter to a piercing studio. She found that all she needed was salt water, twice a day. No twisting or special solution necessary. Former Time Health contributor Bonnie Rochman found the same information.

As it turns out, you shouldn’t twist your earrings at all, as they can slow down the healing time. Claire’s likely recommends this because of the lack of training and poor quality of the piercing.

If you’re looking to get a new ear piercing, or if you’re trying to get one for the first time: do some research on the best piercing studios in your city. No matter the cost, it’s just not worth it.

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