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Body Piercing: Safe Jewelry Choices

Topic Overview

Appropriate jewelry for body piercing sites

  • Is removable. If you have your mouth pierced and you use oral jewelry, make sure it can be removed. For example, you should be able to unscrew the ball on one end of a barbell-shaped device to make the device easy to insert and take out.
  • Allows for full cleaning of the piercing site. Ear studs or other jewelry designed for the ears are not appropriate for other body sites. Other body sites are hard to clean or may easily tear or snag if you use jewelry designed for the ear in them.
  • Is smoothly polished, free of nicks, scratches, or jagged surfaces that might damage the skin. The back of an earring can pinch and damage tissue when used in places other than the earlobe. Backs of earrings are not smooth enough to prevent skin and tissue damage.
  • Is the right thickness for the body site being pierced.
    • Jewelry that is too thin can act like a "cheese cutter" and tear right through the skin. The thickness of the average ear stud is 16- to 20-gauge, which is too small for most other body piercing sites.
    • Jewelry that is too thick for the site can cause an abscess, a cyst, or scar tissue formation.
    • Jewelry that is too large can easily catch on clothing.
    • Jewelry that is too small can be "sucked" into the body tissues.
  • Is made from metals that do not cause allergic reactions. Only use nonallergenic jewelry. Surgical stainless steel, gold, platinum, niobium, and titanium are the only types of jewelry you should use in a new piercing. Do not use nickel or brass-plated jewelry.
  • Is sterilized before it is put into the piercing site. Choose jewelry that has not been used or worn or that has been sterilized in an autoclave.

Related Information

Credits

By Healthwise Staff
William H. Blahd, Jr., MD, FACEP - Emergency Medicine
H. Michael O'Connor, MD - Emergency Medicine
Last Revised May 3, 2012

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